Homemade Panda Express Orange Chicken

by Barry Lewis


Chicken coating

900g (2lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

125g (1 cup) cornflour

375g (3 cups) flour

1 egg

360ml (1.5 cups) water

2 tbsp oil

1.5l (6 cups) oil for frying


Orange Sauce

1 tbsp oil

¼ tsp chili flake

1 tbsp garlic, grated or chopped

½ tsp ginger, grated or chopped

50g (¼ cup) sugar

50g (¼ cup) brown sugar

60ml (¼ cup) orange juice

60ml (¼ cup) white distilled vinegar

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp sesame oil

Not only do we not even have Panda Express in the UK so I’ve never had the chance to try it, I have to confess something. I’ve never even tried Orange Chicken before! Lemon chicken, yes, and I suppose this is a similar citrusy chicken dish, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably go for orange anyway. So it had to be done, I had to give this homemade Panda Express Orange chicken recipe a go!

This recipe uses chicken thigh, and everyone loves a good chicken thigh fact. I have two, so here we go! One: I personally prefer chicken thigh over chicken breast. Two: apparently once McDonalds started mixing chicken thigh in with chicken breast in their nuggets, but everyone complained because it looked different so they stopped doing it, who knew?! Either way, I love chicken thigh and I’m happy that this recipe uses it!

This is a fantastic weeknight recipe or a weekend treat, with the chicken thigh covered in cornflour to make a crispy batter then drenched in the delicious orange sauce. Honestly folks, it was definitely easy enough to make this Panda Express Orange Chicken at home, and if you didn’t want to deep fry at home, you could probably do this in the hair dryer (ahem, air fryer) or oven.

If you like this copycat style recipes, I’ve got loads more of them including homemade (air fryer!) KFC, a chicken Big Mac, and DIY Daim bars. Let me know if you have any suggestions for a restaurant favourite that you’d like to see me attempt at home!

So if you want to hop on board the Panda Express with me, here’s the recipe:

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat Recipe

First chop up that delicious chicken thigh into bite size chunks. 

Now mix together all the ingredients to coat the chicken. Start with the dry ingredients: the plain flour and cornflour, with a shimmy of salt and grind of pepper, then the oil, water and 1 egg. Bring the mixture together with a whisk to create a little swimming pool for the chicken thigh chunks to jump into! Dunk the chicken in, make sure it’s well coated, then cover and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

While it’s chilling, prep for the next step. Lay out a few sheets of kitchen paper in a bowl to drain the chicken when it comes out of the fryer, and fill the pan or fryer with oil. Heat the oil to 180C (350F) then carefully add the individual chunks of chicken to the hot oil one at a time, making sure not to overload the pan.

Now for the orange chicken sauce! Measure out the orange juice and white vinegar. Then heat up the oil in a pan and chuck the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes in for 30 seconds. Next the sugar goes in, stir to mix together, then the orange juice, white vinegar and soy sauce.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the water and cornflour then pour this slurry into the pan, stirring over a slow steady heat until it’s thickened to a maple syrup consistency. 

Now dollop the battered chicken into the sauce and stir to make sure it’s all covered in the delicious sticky sauce. 

Finally serve up in a bowl with a little drizzle of sesame oil to serve, and enjoy!