Orange Chicken patterned after Panda Express’ signature dish will make you totally forget about takeout. With this Copycat recipe, tender chicken thigh pieces are battered and fried to perfection. Then they are coated with in an amazing tangy orange sauce. Serve it over rice with an egg roll on the side and you have a feast that will keep you coming back for more.
This copycat recipe was inspired by Tasty’s Original Orange Chicken by Panda Express Recipe. After some experimentation, I made some modifications that turned this recipe into an unforgettable dish.
Making the Chicken
For the Orange Chicken, I used tender boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Rather than breading the chicken, I made a batter consisting of all-purpose flour, corn starch, salt, egg, vegetable oil and water.
After I trimmed the chicken thighs of excess fat, I cut them into 1-inch pieces.
Then, I made the batter by first whisking together the flour, corn starch and salt to combine the ingredients. I added the egg, oil and water, and whisked the batter until it had the consistency of a pancake batter.
Next, I added the chicken pieces to the batter and stirred to thoroughly coat the chicken. After that, I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerated the chicken for about 30 minutes.
When it was time to fry the chicken pieces, I set my wok over a medium-high heat and heated the vegetable oil to 375°F. The reason for choosing this higher temperature was that the oil temperature would be reduced when I added the cold chicken pieces.
Once the oil reached temperature, I added the battered chicken pieces in batches. I let the excess batter drip off the chicken before adding it to the hot oil.
I cooked the chicken pieces for about 10 minutes, until they were golden brown. Then I removed the chicken from the oil and let it drain on paper towels while I cooked the rest of the chicken.
Making the Sauce for the Orange Chicken
Once all of the chicken was cooked, I poured all but a tablespoon of oil from the wok. Then, I made the sauce.
The ingredients for the sauce for the Orange Chicken included oil, crushed red pepper, fresh ginger, garlic, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, orange juice, white vinegar and soy sauce. It also included corn starch and water for a thickening slurry.
I set the wok over medium-high heat and added the crush red pepper, ginger and garlic. I cooked the ingredients, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds until they were fragrant.
Next, I added the granulated sugar and brown sugar and stirred to combine everything. Then, I added the orange juice and cooked the mixture until the sugars began to dissolve.
After that, I added the vinegar and soy sauce and stirred to combine everything.
I brought the mixture to a boil. Then, stirring constantly, I added a slurry of corn starch and water a little at a time, and cooked the mixture until it had reached a thickened syrupy consistency.
Finishing the Orange Chicken
To finish the Orange Chicken, I added the cooked chicken to the sauce. I stirred everything together to completely coat the chicken with the sauce. I continued heating the dish for several minutes to ensure that the chicken was heated through.
I served the Orange Chicken with white rice. To say that it was restaurant quality was a definite understatement. The tender chicken was battered and fried to perfection with amazing orange sauce coating each piece.
Forget about takeout. You should definitely try this amazing recipe. Yum!
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Orange Chicken (Panda Express Copycat)
- 1 ¼ pounds skinless and boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat (See Tip 1)
- 1 cup (5-ounces) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (2 ½-ounces) corn starch
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water
- 4 cups vegetable oil (See Tip 2)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons water
- 1 ½ Tablespoons corn starch
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- ¼ cup (1.75-ounces) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (1.875-ounces) light brown sugar
- ¼ cup (2-ounces) orange juice
- ¼ cup (2-ounces) white vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons (1-ounce) soy sauce (See Tip 3)
- Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces.
- Whisk together flour, corn starch and salt. Add egg, oil and water. Whisk until the batter is smooth and the consistency of pancake batter. (See Tip 4)
- Add chicken pieces to batter; stir to coat chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in a wok or a heavy bottom pan to 375°F. Add chicken, allowing excess batter to drip, to hot oil in batches. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Cook remaining chicken.
- Combine water and corn starch in a small bowl; set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil to wok or pan over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add orange juice; cook until sugars are dissolved, a minute or two.
- Add vinegar and soy sauce; stir to combine. Heat to boiling. Stirring constantly, add corn starch slurry in stages until consistency of a syrup is reached. (See Tip 5)
- Add cooked chicken; stir to completely coat chicken. Heat for several minutes until chicken is heated throughout.
- Yield: 4 servings.
Chula's Expert Tips
- Chicken thighs work best in this recipe because of their tenderness and moisture. Chicken breasts tend to dry out.
- I like to use peanut oil when cooking the chicken because of its high-heat tolerance. If you don't have peanut oil, you can use vegetable oil. However, I would definitely not recommend using olive oil.
- I use low-sodium soy sauce.
- If necessary, add more water or flour to achieve the desired consistency of the batter.
- If the orange sauce is too thick, add additional orange juice to achieve the desired consistency. If the orange sauce is not thick enough, add additional corn starch slurry.