Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

Panda Express Orange Chicken is a beloved dish that has gained a cult following for its sweet and tangy flavors. This popular American Chinese dish features crispy chicken pieces coated in a sticky orange sauce, making it a favorite among both children and adults. The combination of the crispy chicken and the flavorful sauce creates a perfect balance of textures and tastes that keeps people coming back for more.

The inspiration behind creating a copycat recipe for Panda Express Orange Chicken comes from the desire to recreate this delicious dish at home. Many people love the convenience of being able to enjoy their favorite restaurant dishes in the comfort of their own kitchen. By making a copycat recipe, you can have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what ingredients are going into your meal and have the freedom to customize it to your liking.

Key Takeaways

  • You can make a copycat version of Panda Express Orange Chicken at home.
  • The dish originated in the United States in the 1980s.
  • The recipe requires chicken, cornstarch, soy sauce, orange juice, and other ingredients.
  • Follow the step-by-step instructions carefully to ensure the best results.
  • You can modify the recipe to make it spicier or healthier.

The History and Origin of Panda Express Orange Chicken

The story behind the creation of Panda Express Orange Chicken dates back to 1987 when Chef Andy Kao, a chef at Panda Express, decided to experiment with a new dish. He wanted to create something that combined the flavors of sweet and tangy orange with crispy chicken. After several attempts, he finally perfected the recipe and introduced it as a limited-time offering at Panda Express.

The dish quickly became a hit among customers, with its unique combination of flavors and textures. The popularity of Panda Express Orange Chicken led to it becoming a permanent menu item at the restaurant. It has since become one of their most iconic dishes, loved by millions of people across the United States.

Panda Express Orange Chicken has also had a significant impact on American Chinese cuisine. It has become synonymous with the concept of Americanized Chinese food, which often features bold flavors and generous portions. The success of this dish has inspired other restaurants to create their own versions of orange chicken, further cementing its place in American culinary culture.

Ingredients Required for Making Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

To make a copycat version of Panda Express Orange Chicken, you will need the following ingredients:

– Chicken breast: Boneless, skinless chicken breast is typically used for this dish. It is important to cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.

– Cornstarch: Cornstarch is used to coat the chicken before frying, giving it a crispy texture.

– Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil is used for frying the chicken. It is important to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola or peanut oil.

– Orange juice: Freshly squeezed orange juice is preferred for the best flavor. If you don’t have fresh oranges, you can use store-bought orange juice.

– Soy sauce: Soy sauce adds a savory umami flavor to the dish. You can use regular soy sauce or low-sodium soy sauce depending on your preference.

– Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar adds acidity and tanginess to the sauce. If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can substitute it with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

– Sugar: Sugar is used to sweeten the sauce and balance out the acidity from the orange juice and vinegar.

– Garlic and ginger: Fresh garlic and ginger add depth of flavor to the sauce. You can mince them finely or grate them using a microplane.

– Red pepper flakes: Red pepper flakes add a hint of spiciness to the dish. Adjust the amount according to your preference.

– Green onions: Green onions are used as a garnish for added freshness and color.

These ingredients can be found at most grocery stores. If you’re unable to find any of them, there are some possible substitutions you can make. For example, if you don’t have cornstarch, you can use all-purpose flour instead. If you don’t have orange juice, you can use orange marmalade mixed with water. And if you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar or lemon juice.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Preparing the Dish

1. Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and pat them dry with a paper towel.

2. In a shallow bowl, mix together cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Coat the chicken pieces in the cornstarch mixture, shaking off any excess.

3. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the coated chicken pieces in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.

4. In a separate saucepan, combine orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.

5. Return the fried chicken to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the chicken is fully coated and heated through.

6. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve hot.

Tips and Tricks for Perfecting the Recipe

To ensure that your copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken turns out perfectly every time, here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind:

1. Use a meat thermometer: To ensure that your chicken is cooked through, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The chicken should reach 165°F (74°C) before it is considered safe to eat.

2. Double-fry for extra crispiness: For an extra crispy coating on your chicken, you can double-fry it. After frying it once until golden brown, remove it from the oil and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, fry it again for another 2-3 minutes until it reaches the desired level of crispiness.

3. Adjust the seasoning to taste: The recipe provided is a basic version of Panda Express Orange Chicken. Feel free to adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more soy sauce for saltiness, more sugar for sweetness, or more red pepper flakes for spiciness.

4. Make it spicier or milder: If you prefer a spicier version of orange chicken, you can add more red pepper flakes or even some chili paste to the sauce. On the other hand, if you prefer a milder version, you can reduce or omit the red pepper flakes altogether.

5. Serve immediately: Orange chicken is best enjoyed when it is hot and fresh. Serve it immediately after cooking to ensure that the chicken stays crispy and the sauce remains sticky.

Nutritional Information and Health Benefits of Orange Chicken

While Panda Express Orange Chicken is undeniably delicious, it is important to be mindful of its nutritional content. Here is a breakdown of the approximate nutritional information per serving:

– Calories: 400-500 calories
– Fat: 15-20 grams
– Carbohydrates: 40-50 grams
– Protein: 20-25 grams

The exact nutritional content may vary depending on the specific ingredients and cooking methods used.

While orange chicken is not typically considered a health food, it does have some nutritional benefits. Chicken breast is a lean source of protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which supports immune function and collagen production. Garlic and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties and may help boost digestion.

To make the dish healthier, you can make a few modifications. Use skinless chicken breast instead of dark meat for a lower fat content. Reduce the amount of sugar in the sauce or use a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup. You can also add more vegetables to the dish, such as bell peppers, broccoli, or snap peas, to increase the fiber and nutrient content.

Serving Suggestions and Pairings for Orange Chicken

Panda Express Orange Chicken is typically served with steamed white rice or fried rice. The fluffy rice helps to balance out the flavors of the sweet and tangy chicken. You can also serve it with noodles or quinoa for a healthier alternative.

To plate the dish, place a scoop of rice on a plate and top it with the orange chicken. Garnish with sliced green onions for added freshness and color. You can also sprinkle some sesame seeds on top for extra flavor and texture.

When it comes to beverage pairings, orange chicken pairs well with a variety of options. For a refreshing choice, you can serve it with iced tea or lemonade. If you prefer something bubbly, try pairing it with a sparkling water or soda. For those who enjoy alcoholic beverages, a light beer or a fruity cocktail would complement the flavors of the dish nicely.

Variations and Modifications to the Recipe

If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, there are several variations and modifications you can make to the copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken recipe:

– Gluten-free: To make the dish gluten-free, replace the regular soy sauce with tamari or gluten-free soy sauce. Make sure to check that all other ingredients are also gluten-free.

– Vegetarian or vegan: To make a vegetarian version of orange chicken, you can substitute the chicken with tofu or tempeh. For a vegan version, use plant-based alternatives for the sauce ingredients, such as tamari instead of soy sauce and maple syrup instead of honey.

– More vegetables: To add more vegetables to the dish, you can stir-fry some bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, or carrots along with the chicken. This will not only increase the nutritional content but also add more color and texture to the dish.

Frequently Asked Questions about Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken

1. Can I make this dish ahead of time?
While orange chicken is best enjoyed fresh, you can make it ahead of time and reheat it when ready to serve. Keep the fried chicken and sauce separate until you are ready to eat. Store them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, reheat the chicken in a hot oven or skillet until crispy, then toss it with the sauce.

2. How long does it keep in the fridge?
Orange chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing any odors from other foods.

3. Can I freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze orange chicken for future use. Allow the cooked chicken to cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in a hot oven or skillet until crispy. Make the sauce fresh before serving.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts on the Recipe

In conclusion, copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken is a delicious dish that can be easily recreated at home. With its crispy chicken and sticky orange sauce, it is no wonder that this dish has gained such popularity among food lovers.

The history and origin of Panda Express Orange Chicken showcase how a simple experiment by Chef Andy Kao turned into a beloved menu item at one of America’s most popular Chinese fast-food chains. Its impact on American Chinese cuisine cannot be understated, as it has become an iconic dish that represents the fusion of flavors and cultures.

By following the step-by-step instructions and tips provided, you can make your own version of this dish that rivals the original. Whether you choose to make it as a special treat or as a regular weeknight meal, copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken is sure to satisfy your cravings for sweet and tangy flavors. So why not give it a try and experience the joy of making this beloved dish in your own kitchen?

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What is Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken?

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken is a recipe that mimics the popular dish served at the Panda Express restaurant chain. It is a sweet and tangy chicken dish that is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

What are the ingredients needed to make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken?

The ingredients needed to make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken include chicken breast, cornstarch, egg, oil, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.

How do you make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken?

To make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken, you first need to coat the chicken in a mixture of cornstarch and egg, then fry it until crispy. Next, you make the sauce by sautéing garlic and ginger in oil, then adding soy sauce, orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Finally, you toss the chicken in the sauce until it is coated.

Is Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken healthy?

Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken is not considered a healthy dish due to its high calorie and sodium content. However, you can make healthier versions of the dish by using leaner cuts of chicken and reducing the amount of sugar and sodium in the sauce.

Can you make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken ahead of time?

Yes, you can make Copycat Panda Express Orange Chicken ahead of time by frying the chicken and making the sauce separately, then storing them in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, simply reheat the chicken and sauce and toss them together.

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