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Food & Recipes

Homemade Orange Chicken Recipe Tastes Just Like Panda Express But Better (And Cheaper!)

Plus, how to get your orange sauce extra flavorful

After a long day running around, I usually find myself ordering takeout from my favorite fast-food chains. And lately, my go-to has been steaming box of orange chicken from Panda Express. Sticky, flavorful as well as crunchy — there’s a reason it’s popular. But to save some time and money, I found an easy homemade recipe that’s ready in just 30 minutes. That’s right: tender, crispy chicken and the same sweet and tangy orange sauce. With no mystery ingredients or extra fees, It’s a game changer for busy weeknights. Here’s how to make the best homemade orange chicken.

Why we love orange chicken

While it may seem like a staple of Chinese takeout menus, orange chicken is an invention of American Chinese cuisine. Developed in the 1980s by Chef Andy Kao of the Panda Express chain, it draws inspiration from Hunan chicken, a spicy dish from China that uses chilies and citrus. Orange chicken features crispy, bite-sized pieces of chicken bathed in a sweet and tangy orange sauce.

The secrets to homemade orange chicken

You can easily make orange chicken that rivals your favorite takeout spot. Here are some key tips for success.

1. Orange sauce

Use a good quality orange juice and don’t forget orange zest for a burst of fresh citrus flavor. Balance the sweetness with a touch of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a hint of sriracha for a touch of heat. Cornstarch is a great thickener for the sauce, but don’t overdo it – you want a glossy, slightly thickened consistency, not a gloopy paste.

2. Chicken prep

Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into even, bite-sized pieces. Or to save time, you can also use frozen popcorn chicken. Marinating the pieces in a mixture of soy sauce, cornstarch and ginger also helps tenderize them for frying. For extra crunch, use a double coat.   

3. Make it healthy

For a healthier cooking method, bake or air-fry your chicken, which both use less oil!

30-minute homemade orange chicken recipe

I stopped ordering takeout after trying this recipe from Cookin’ With Mima. Pair it with broccoli, white rice or spice it up with chili flakes.

Orange Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 6 whole boneless chicken thighs, or 2 lbs. of chicken tenderloins
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, or less to taste, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. ginger powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika, to add color
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Orange sauce

  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1½ Tbs. corn starch
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbs. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbs. rice vinegar, or white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • ½ Tbs. grated ginger
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • Chili flakes, optional to add heat

Directions:

  • Active Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Firstly, dice the chicken into ½-inch cube pieces and place in a bowl. Then, add the flour, corn starch, salt, black pepper, onion powder, paprika and ginger powder to coat the chicken.
  2. Then, in a deep frying pan, bring the oil to medium-high heat. Fry the chicken until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. But do not overcook or else it will become chewy.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk all the sauce ingredients and a bowl. Transfer to a hot nonstick skillet or frying pan and cook on low heat, simmering until the sauce thickens up.
  4. Transfer the fried chicken to the sauce, then mix to coat well. Let the sauce and chicken simmer together for 1-2 minutes and then remove from heat.

Storage instructions

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or also in the freezer for up to 1 month. To reheat, simply heat in the microwave or warm in a skillet.


For more Asian-inspired dishes, make these for your next weeknight dinner:

Italian Meets Korean in This Viral Gochujang Pasta Recipe That’s Creamy, Spicy + Ready in 15 Minutes

Asian Turkey Meatballs Are a Delicious Twist on a Classic Favorite: Easy 30-Minute Recipe

How to Make Corn Dogs Even Better? Coat ‘Em in Fries and Add Melty Cheese Inside

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