I Tried Making “Panda Express Orange Chicken” and Here’s What Happened

Spoiler alert: it went really well!

Kiley at SideChef
March 21, 2019

Panda Express: The OG Orange Chicken

When I came across this recipe, I knew it was one I had to try out. First off, who doesn’t love orange chicken?! My favorite orange chicken came from “China Village,” our go-to Chinese takeout spot growing up. As I got older, I learned the sad reality that orange chicken was so very far from authentic Chinese cuisine, but it’s legendary hold on the heart’s of millions of Americans is undeniable. As it turns out, Panda Express’ executive chef is actually accredited as being the INVENTOR of orange chicken.

Another reason this recipe called to me was the fried chicken element. My fiancé LOVES fried chicken and he has probably cooked 95% of our meals this past month so I owed it to him to cook us up something delicious while he lounged on the couch.

There were four ingredients on the list that we did not have at home. Be sure to take extra caution when reading these ingredients. I originally read “rice wine” as “rice vinegar” which are quite different. I also did a quick search and learned that “corn starch” is not an appropriate substitute for “corn flour,” so it was off to Safeway for me.

I was excited to purchase distilled white vinegar because we’ve been meaning to make pickles! I’ll definitely be using the extra vinegar for some future fermentation. As I roamed the aisles I quickly realized that rice wine is sake, DUH! On the baking aisle, I discovered that Safeway did not carry corn flour, so Google let me know that rice flour will work just as well.

I got home, asked Alexa to show me SideChef’s recipe for Panda Express Orange Chicken chicken, and off I went!

Lessons learned in this recipe:


The recipe says to cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and I think I always overestimate how big an inch is. Smaller pieces means more crispy goodness :)


Corn flour is listed twice with two different quantities which gave me pause. ½ cup should go in the flour mixture, while the teaspoon goes in the sauce (don’t accidentally use a tablespoon like I did and then have to dig out the flour before it dissolves!)


I don’t have a frier so I used my cast iron pan and just put a nice thick layer of oil along the bottom. I realized I only had canola oil so I used that instead of vegetable oil.


I am very happy to say the execution went very smoothly! I couldn’t believe how perfectly golden brown the pieces of chicken became right before my eyes! The teansiest bit of orange rind gave the sauce a glorious citrus flavor. Since I wasn’t using a deep fryer, I used tongs to flip the chicken after 8 minutes. Since they weren’t fully submerged in the oil, I added 5 - 8 minutes to the cook time, keeping an eye on the crispiness level, and moved the chicken that was positioned in the center of the pan to the outer edges since the middle is always hottest. I warmed up some leftover Chinese food to use as our sides and skipped the white rice serving suggestion.

WOW, was my fiancé impressed! At first we opted to dip the chicken into the orange sauce to maintain the chicken’s crispiness but soon discovered completely drenching the chicken in the sauce was really the right move. YUM. I did drizzle a bit of Chinese hot sauce onto the chicken and it was a delicious little addition for those of you who like a kick. The leftover sake made for a fantastic beverage to accompany this dish. I recommend this recipe to everyone looking for a bit of an indulgence. I can honestly say I never need to purchase orange chicken from Panda Express again! Five out of five chopsticks!

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