Craving that crispy sesame chicken from Panda Express but don't want to head out to the restaurant? This easy panda express honey sesame chicken copycat recipe recreates the crunchy fried chicken, tangy sesame sauce, and veggie medley of everyone's favorite Chinese chicken recipes and takeout meal.
With just a few simple ingredients, you can have restaurant-quality sesame chicken on the table in under 30 minutes. Keep reading for the complete step-by-step recipe!
Craving crisp, saucy sesame chicken? This easy homemade Panda Express honey sesame chicken recipe gives you all the sweet, salty flavor of your favorite takeout! Keep a batch of the flavorful sauce on hand for anytime chicken cravings hit!
Now you can recreate Panda Express' famous crispy sesame chicken in your own kitchen thanks to this copycat recipe. With juicy fried chicken, a sweet and savory sesame sauce, and fresh vegetable medley, this easy homemade version tastes just like the mall food court favorite.
Keep the ingredients stocked in your pantry so you can whip up this sticky Asian chicken any night of the week. Serve over rice for a no-fuss dinner the whole family will love. If you like this recipe, you might also like my recipes for Easy Instant Pot Fried Rice Recipe, Air Fryer Frozen Egg Rolls or my Mini Wontons in Air Fryer!
- 📋 Why You'll Love This Recipe!
- ❓ What is Honey Sesame Chicken from Panda Express?
- 🍯Ingredients for Panda Express Honey Sesame Chicken
- ✔️ Ingredient Substitutions
- 📖 How to Make Honey Sesame Chicken Like Panda Express
- 🥘 Variations
- 🧂Serving Suggestions
- ⏲ Equipment
- 🍶 Storage and Reheating
- 🙋🏻♂️ FAQs
- 👨🏻🍳 Top tips
- 📒 Recipe Card
- Panda Express Sesame Chicken Recipe
- 🍳 Related Recipes
📋 Why You'll Love This Recipe!
What makes this easy copycat recipe just as delicious as the mall food court classic? Here's why homemade sesame chicken hits the spot:
- Simple Pantry Ingredients: No obscure sauces needed! With soy sauce, honey, vinegar and chili sauce you can whip up the savory-sweet sauce.
- Crispy Fried Chicken: A thin cornstarch and flour coating gives the chicken a light, crispy exterior.
- Flavorful Sticky Sauce: Brown sugar, garlic, and sesame add complex flavors and it coats each piece evenly.
- Quick Stove-Top Method: No deep frying required! Cooks in just one skillet in 30 minutes.
- Easy Veggie Additions: Bell pepper and green beans cook in minutes and add freshness.
- Customizable: Make it more savory, spicy or sweet with stir-ins and condiments.
- Perfect Over Rice: Serves as an easy, complete meal when served with steamed white or brown rice.
- Fridge and Freezer Friendly: Sauce keeps for a week, chicken keeps for 4-5 days for easy make-ahead meals.
❓ What is Honey Sesame Chicken from Panda Express?
Honey sesame chicken was a popular dish on the Panda Express menu. This recipe is from one of the most popular Chinese restaurants chain is known for its tasty asian food, especially the signature sticky honey sesame sauce coating crispy fried chicken pieces. It was a sweet and savory favorite at Panda Express locations across the country.
The honey sesame chicken is made with boneless chicken chunks that are battered and fried until crispy. The fried chicken is then tossed in a sticky sauce that is a combination of soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and other Asian flavors. The end result is a dish of crunchy, juicy chicken glazed in a rich honey sesame sauce. It's become one of the most beloved menu items at Panda Express over the years.
🍯Ingredients for Panda Express Honey Sesame Chicken
Recreating the flavors of Panda Express sesame chicken starts with gathering the right ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breasts are cut into 1 inch chunks or bitesize pieces. Chicken thighs can also be used. Pound the chicken to an even thickness so it cooks evenly.
- Eggs: Eggs work to adhere the spice coating to the chicken. Whisk an egg together before dipping the chicken.
- Corn Starch: For crispiness, the chicken is coated in a cornstarch and flour mixture before frying.
- All Purpose Flour: A small amount of flour is combined with the cornstarch to create the crispy coating.
- Vegetable Oil: For frying the chicken, use a neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil.
- Sweet Chili Sauce: This condiment adds both sweetness and a slight heat to the sauce.
- Honey: To balance the sweet chili sauce, honey is used for even more sweetness.
- Soy Sauce: A small amount of soy sauce adds saltiness and savoriness.
- Vinegar: White vinegar and lemon juice replicate the bright tang in the Panda Express sauce.
- Garlic: Minced garlic provides aromatic flavor.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Just a small amount of sesame oil gives the sauce nuttiness.
- Sesame Seeds: Garnish the finished chicken with white sesame seeds.
- Yellow Bell Peppers: Sliced bell peppers are stir fried with the chicken and sauce.
- Green Beans: Fresh, crisp green beans also get tossed with the chicken.
See the recipe card for precise quantities and complete instructions.
✔️ Ingredient Substitutions
Certain ingredients make this recipe taste just like the Panda Express favorite, but there's room for creativity too. Try these substitutions and flavor twists to make this honey sesame chicken dish your own:
- Chicken: Instead of breast meat, use boneless skinless chicken thighs for more moist and tender pieces. Or swap chicken for boneless pork chops or shrimp.
- Vegetable Oil: Peanut, avocado oil or olive oil can be used instead of vegetable oil for frying.
- Sweet Chili Sauce: For less sweetness, substitute sriracha or chili garlic sauce.
- Honey: Replace all or half the honey with maple syrup or agave nectar.
- Vinegar: Use rice vinegar instead of white vinegar. A small amount of apple cider vinegar can also be used!
- Bell Pepper: Swap out yellow bell pepper for orange, red or green bell peppers.
- Green String Beans: Try snap peas, broccoli or asparagus instead of green beans.
- Coconut Flakes: For extra crunch, add toasted coconut flakes to the chicken coating.
- Sesame Seeds: Use black or mixed sesame seeds for more visual appeal.
📖 How to Make Honey Sesame Chicken Like Panda Express
Recreating this Chinese takeout favorite at home takes just a few easy steps:
To coat the chicken breast, add the egg, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil into a medium bowl and whisk together well. In a second bowl, add ½ cup cornstarch and ½ cup flour and mix.
Dip chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture. In a separate small bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients.
Fry the chicken in batches for 6 - 8 minutes or until golden and crisp then remove with a slotted spoon, draining the oil well. Place chicken on a paper-towel lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Then add in the cooked chicken, and the honey sesame sauce and toss quickly to combine. The sauce will thicken in a minute or two so keep mixing.
In a large work over high heat, add two tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the string beans and bell pepper strips for 30 seconds. Keep stirring the vegetables as they will cook quickly.
Toss to coat and cook for 2-3 more minutes until sauce thickens. Garnish with sesame seeds.
Hint: Add whatever vegetables you like to this simple sesame chicken stir fry - snap peas, mini corn, baby carrots, sliced peppers all work well!
Put your own spin on this copycat panda express recipe with these fun sesame chicken variations:
- Amp Up the Heat: For spicy sesame chicken, add 1 tablespoon sriracha or chili garlic sauce to the sauce. Garnish with diced red chili peppers. Or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce to suit your spice level!
- Give It Citrus Zing: Add orange or lemon zest and juice to the sauce. Use broccoli instead of green beans for a fresher flavor.
- Go Tropical: Substitute pineapple chunks for bell pepper. Serve over coconut rice.
- Make It Extra Crispy: If the crispy chicken pieces aren't giving you the crispiness you desire, use panko breadcrumbs or crushed tortilla chips instead of flour for extra crispy chicken. Add some freshly chopped green onions for a fresh crunch!
- Get Nutty With It: Add 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter to the sauce. Garnish with chopped peanuts.
- This flavorful honey sesame chicken Panda Express recipe works well served over rice, cauliflower rice or quinoa. Pair it with steamed broccoli, chow mein or an Asian salad for a complete meal.
- For a fun appetizer, cut the chicken into smaller pieces and serve inside lettuce wraps. Try adding hoisin sauce, sriracha mayo or peanut sauce for more flavor options!
A large wok or deep frying pan is necessary for frying the chicken. The high sides and wide surface area allow you to safely fry the chicken without overcrowding the pan. Be sure to use a heavy-bottomed wok or Dutch oven so the oil heats evenly.
Second, you will need a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to remove the fried chicken from the hot oil. The slots allow the excess oil to drain off, preventing the chicken from getting too greasy. Look for a slotted spoon with a long handle to keep your hand away from the heat and splatter. Stainless steel or heat-resistant plastic are good spoon materials.
Finally, if you don't have a wok, a large deep frying pan works well too. Choose one that is at least 12 inches wide and 4 inches deep. This allows you to submerge the chicken pieces fully in oil to get them crispy. The high sides prevent oil from splattering too. A heavy-based pan works best for even frying. Having the right cookware helps make quick work of frying up perfectly crispy sesame chicken.
🍶 Storage and Reheating
The crispy texture of this honey sesame chicken panda express recipe is best right after cooking. But leftovers the next day can still be delicious!
In the Refrigerator: Leftover crispy sesame chicken can be stored in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium-low, adding a splash of water to loosen up the sauce.
In the Freezer: The sauce on its own will keep up to one week in the fridge or two months in the freezer.
Yes, bake the coated chicken on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400F for 18-20 minutes, flipping halfway. The texture won't be quite as crispy but it's still tasty!
Some classic pairings are steamed white rice or brown rice, homemade chow mein, lo mein noodles, fried rice or egg rolls.
Rice is traditional, but cauliflower rice or quinoa make fun low carb options. Zoodles or veggie noodles also pair great.
The sauces, coatings, color, garnishes and flavor profiles distinguish these two popular Chinese chicken dishes. Sesame chicken has a sweet, savory glaze while orange chicken is citrusy and orange-flavored.
After many years as a seasonal favorite, Panda Express decided to officially discontinue honey sesame chicken in 2020, much to fans' dismay. The sweet entrée is sorely missed by many, who now rely on copycat recipes to get their sesame chicken fix!
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
- Pound Chicken: Pound the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap with a meat mallet or rolling pin until they are an even ½ inch thickness. This helps the chicken cook quickly and evenly in the hot oil.
- Oil Temperature: Let the frying oil come up to the proper temperature (around 375°F) before adding the chicken. Use a deep fry or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Properly preheated oil will make the chicken extra crispy.
- Drain Excess Oil: Drain the just-fried sesame chicken pieces on a plate lined with 2-3 paper towels. The paper towels will soak up excess grease, keeping the chicken from getting too oily. Letting it rest for 1-2 minutes allows the crust to further set.
- Prep Everything: Make sure to have all the ingredients for the sauce handy before cooking the chicken. This sweet and savory sauce comes together quickly once the chicken is fried.
- Crispy Chicken: For best texture, wait to mix the chicken and sauce together right before serving. Tossing them together too early can cause the crispy chicken to get soggy.
- Orange Chicken Variation: Add a few dashes of sriracha and grated orange zest to the sauce for a spicy orange chicken variation.
- Stir Fry in Batches: To properly stir-fry, cook the chicken and veggies in batches. Crowding the pan causes steaming instead of crisp-tender stir-frying.
📒 Recipe Card
Panda Express Sesame Chicken Recipe
- Large Wok, Dutch Oven or Deep Frying Pan
- Slotted Spoon
- 1 pound chicken breast boneless skinless, cut into 1" chunks
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- ½ cup cornstarch plus more if needed
- ½ cup flour plus more if needed
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- vegetable oil for frying
Honey Sesame Sauce:
- ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- tsp. sesame oil
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 pound string beans rinsed and ends trimmed off
- 1 yellow bell pepper sliced thinly
- 1 tsp. white sesame seeds
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
- To coat the chicken breast, add the egg, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil into a medium bowl and whisk together well. In a second bowl, add ½ cup cornstarch and ¼ cup flour and mix.
- In a deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat oil to 375 degrees (about 2 inches of oil).
- Dip chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture.
- Fry the chicken in batches for 6 - 8 minutes or until golden and crisp then remove with a slotted spoon, draining the oil well. Place the cooked chicken on a paper-towel lined plate to drain any excess oil.
- When you are done with the chicken, set the deep frying pan aside and switch to another pan or wok. I switched to my large wok for the rest of the recipe as it works really well to quickly stir fry the recipe.
- In a large work over high heat, add two tablespoons of oil. Stir fry the string beans and bell pepper strips for 30 seconds, then add in the cooked chicken, and the honey sesame sauce and toss quickly to combine. The sauce will thicken in a minute or two so keep mixing.
- Remove from heat and garnish with sesame seeds before serving.
- If your chicken breast is quite thick, pound the chicken pieces to an even ½ inch thickness so they cook evenly before cutting.
- Let the oil come fully up to temperature before frying chicken for maximum crispiness.
- Drain fried chicken on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess grease.
- Keep sauce ingredients on hand so you can whip it up anytime a craving strikes!
- Toss everything together right before serving to keep the crispy texture.
- For spicy orange chicken, add sriracha and orange zest to the sauce.
- Cook chicken and veggies in batches for proper stir-frying technique.