Crispy, saucy orange chicken is one of the most beloved dishes at Panda Express. But is there a way to recreate the tangy sweet flavors of their famous orange chicken sauce at home with plant-based ingredients? We’ve got you covered.
Here’s a quick answer: While Panda Express orange chicken contains egg and is not vegan, you can make your own healthier vegan version at home by coating crispy baked tofu or seitan in an orange sauce made with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, orange juice and other vegan ingredients.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share the secrets to making tender, mouthwatering vegan orange chicken with the same addictive flavors as the Panda Express original. Get ready to enjoy restaurant-quality Asian orange chicken without the meat or dairy!
Panda Express Orange Chicken Overview
Orange Chicken is one of the most beloved dishes at Panda Express, a popular fast-food chain that specializes in American Chinese cuisine. This sweet and tangy dish has gained a cult following for its crispy chicken pieces coated in a sticky orange sauce.
Origins and Popularity of the Signature Dish
The origins of Panda Express Orange Chicken can be traced back to the founder of the restaurant chain, Andrew Cherng. He created this dish in the 1980s by combining his love for Chinese flavors with American preferences for sweet and savory dishes.
Since then, it has become a staple on the menu and a fan favorite.
The popularity of Panda Express Orange Chicken is undeniable, with thousands of people flocking to the restaurant chain to satisfy their cravings. Its success can be attributed to the perfect balance of flavors, the addictive crispy texture of the chicken, and the delightful combination of sweet and tangy orange sauce.
Ingredients That Make It Non-Vegan Friendly
Unfortunately, Panda Express Orange Chicken is not suitable for vegans due to its ingredients. The dish typically contains chicken, which is a clear non-vegan ingredient. The chicken is breaded and deep-fried to achieve its crispy texture, making it even more indulgent but definitely not vegan-friendly.
Additionally, the sauce often contains honey or other animal-derived ingredients, further excluding it from vegan diets.
If you are looking for a vegan alternative to Panda Express Orange Chicken, there are several recipes available online that use plant-based ingredients to recreate the flavors and textures of the dish.
These recipes often substitute chicken with tofu or seitan and use vegan-friendly sauces to achieve a similar taste.
Nutrition Facts and Health Considerations
Panda Express Orange Chicken is undoubtedly delicious, but it’s important to consider its nutrition facts and health implications. The dish is high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. A single serving of Orange Chicken can contain around 500-600 calories and more than half of the recommended daily intake of sodium.
While indulging in this dish occasionally is not a problem, it is essential to be mindful of portion sizes and balance it with healthier options. Incorporating more vegetables and whole grains into your meal can help offset the nutritional imbalances of Panda Express Orange Chicken.
For more information on the nutrition facts and health considerations of Panda Express Orange Chicken, you can visit Panda Express official website for detailed information.
Key Differences in a Vegan Version
If you’re a fan of Panda Express’s orange chicken but follow a vegan lifestyle, you might think you have to give up on enjoying this delicious dish. However, with a few simple substitutions and creative tweaks, you can make a vegan version of orange chicken that rivals the taste and texture of the original.
Here are the key differences in creating a vegan version of this popular dish:
Finding the Right Vegan Protein (Tofu, Seitan)
One of the main challenges in making a vegan version of orange chicken is finding a suitable replacement for the traditional chicken. Fortunately, there are several options available that can provide a similar texture and protein content.
Tofu and seitan are two popular choices for vegan protein in orange chicken recipes.
Tofu: Tofu is made from soybeans and has a mild flavor that easily absorbs the flavors of the sauce. It can be pressed to remove excess moisture and then coated in a batter before frying to achieve a crispy texture.Seitan: Seitan is a protein-rich meat substitute made from wheat gluten. It has a chewy texture that can mimic the texture of chicken. When marinated and cooked with the orange sauce, seitan can provide a satisfying bite.
Creating a Rich Orange Sauce Minus Dairy
The orange sauce is the star of this dish, providing a tangy and sweet flavor that complements the protein. To make a vegan orange sauce, dairy products such as butter or cream need to be replaced. Fortunately, there are many alternatives available:
- Use plant-based butter or margarine instead of dairy butter.
- Replace heavy cream with coconut milk or cashew cream for a creamy texture.
- Add a touch of cornstarch to thicken the sauce, if needed.
By using these alternatives, you can create a rich and flavorful orange sauce without compromising on taste or texture.
Getting the Crispy Batter Just Right
The crispy batter is what sets orange chicken apart from other dishes, providing a satisfying crunch with every bite. To achieve a crispy batter in the vegan version, you can use a combination of cornstarch, flour, and spices. Here’s a simple recipe:
- In a bowl, mix together cornstarch, all-purpose flour, salt, pepper, and your choice of spices.
- Dip the tofu or seitan in a wet batter made from a mixture of plant-based milk, soy sauce, and a dash of hot sauce.
- Coat the protein in the dry batter mixture and fry until crispy and golden brown.
With these tips, you can achieve a deliciously crispy batter that will make your vegan orange chicken irresistible.
Remember, cooking is all about experimentation and finding what works best for your taste preferences. Don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients and techniques to suit your own culinary style. With a little creativity and some plant-based ingredients, you can enjoy a vegan version of orange chicken that rivals the flavors of Panda Express!
Choosing Ingredients for Vegan Orange Chicken
When it comes to making vegan orange chicken that rivals the famous Panda Express dish, choosing the right ingredients is key. By carefully selecting each component, you can create a delicious and flavorful plant-based alternative that will satisfy even the most discerning taste buds.
Here are some essential ingredients to consider:
Orange Juice and Zest for Flavor
The star of the show in vegan orange chicken is, of course, the orange flavor. To achieve that tangy and citrusy taste, it’s important to use fresh orange juice and zest. By juicing your own oranges, you can ensure that you’re getting the highest quality and most natural flavor.
The zest adds an extra burst of orange essence that elevates the dish to a whole new level.
Cornstarch and Flour for Crispiness
To achieve that crispy texture that is characteristic of orange chicken, a combination of cornstarch and flour is essential. The cornstarch helps create a light and airy coating on the vegan chicken, while the flour adds a bit of substance.
This combination ensures that each bite is perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Ginger, Garlic, Soy Sauce and Other Flavors
Aside from the orange flavor, vegan orange chicken also relies on a variety of other flavors to create a well-rounded dish. Ingredients like ginger and garlic add a hint of warmth and complexity, while soy sauce provides that umami taste that is often associated with Asian cuisine.
Additionally, you can experiment with other seasonings and spices to customize the flavor profile to your liking.
Thickening Agents Like Arrowroot
To achieve that thick and glossy sauce that coats the vegan chicken pieces, a thickening agent is necessary. Arrowroot is a popular choice among vegan cooks as it is a natural and gluten-free option. It helps bind the sauce together and gives it that luscious consistency.
Other alternatives such as cornstarch or tapioca starch can also be used.
By carefully selecting these key ingredients, you can create a vegan orange chicken dish that rivals the flavors of Panda Express. Experiment with different combinations and adjust the quantities to suit your taste preferences.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own twist to this classic recipe!
Steps to Make Restaurant-Worthy Vegan Orange Chicken
Pressing and Frying the Vegan Protein
Before you start making your vegan orange chicken, it’s important to choose the right protein source. Many vegan chicken alternatives are available in the market, such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, or even cauliflower. Select the one that suits your taste preference.
To achieve that crispy texture, it’s recommended to press your protein before frying. This removes excess moisture and helps the coating adhere better. Simply place your protein between two paper towels and place a heavy object on top for about 30 minutes.
Next, prepare a batter by combining flour, cornstarch, salt, and spices of your choice. Dip each piece of pressed protein into the batter and coat it thoroughly. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the coated pieces until they turn golden brown and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Mixing Together Orange Sauce Ingredients
The secret to the delicious orange flavor lies in the sauce. In a bowl, combine orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, minced garlic, grated ginger, and a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat. Stir well to ensure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
For an extra burst of orange flavor, you can also add some orange zest to the sauce. This will give your vegan orange chicken a fresh and vibrant taste.
Tossing Fried Pieces in Orange Sauce
Now comes the fun part – tossing your fried protein in the orange sauce! Place the fried pieces in a large bowl and pour the sauce over them. Use a spatula or tongs to gently toss the pieces, ensuring they are evenly coated with the sauce.
For a thicker sauce, you can add a cornstarch slurry to the mixture. This will help thicken the sauce and give it a glossy appearance. Simply mix equal parts cornstarch and water, then add it to the sauce and stir until it thickens.
Baking to Let Flavors Meld
To enhance the flavors and allow them to meld together, transfer the coated pieces to a baking dish. Bake them in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes. This step also helps to further crisp up the coating and ensures that the sauce is absorbed by the protein.
Once baked, remove the vegan orange chicken from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Serve it over steamed rice or noodles, and garnish with some sliced green onions or sesame seeds for added flavor and presentation.
Now you can enjoy your homemade vegan orange chicken that rivals the taste of Panda Express! With these simple steps, you can recreate this popular dish in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Vegan Orange Chicken Recipes
Craving the delicious taste of orange chicken but want to stick to a vegan diet? Look no further! These vegan orange chicken recipes will satisfy your cravings and leave you amazed at how close they come to the popular version served at Panda Express.
Whether you prefer a basic baked version, a crispy air-fried or deep-fried option, or even a gluten-free and soy-free variation, we’ve got you covered!
The Best Basic Baked Vegan Orange Chicken
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the traditional fried orange chicken, this basic baked version is perfect for you. Made with crispy breaded seitan or tofu and a tangy orange glaze, it’s a crowd-pleaser that even non-vegans will love.
Simply marinate your protein of choice in a mixture of orange juice, soy sauce, and a hint of ginger, then bake it in the oven until golden brown and crispy. Toss it in the homemade orange glaze, and you’ll have a delicious meal that rivals Panda Express.
Crispy Air Fryer or Deep Fried Vegan Orange Chicken
If you’re a fan of that extra crispy texture, then the air fryer or deep-fried version is the way to go. Using a plant-based protein like soy curls or tempeh, you can achieve that signature crunch without the need for deep frying.
Simply coat your protein in a mixture of cornstarch and spices, then cook it in an air fryer or deep fryer until crispy. Toss it in the orange glaze, and you’ll have a mouthwatering vegan orange chicken that’s sure to impress.
Gluten Free and Soy Free Variations
For those with dietary restrictions, there are still options to enjoy vegan orange chicken. To make it gluten-free, simply substitute the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos and use a gluten-free flour or cornstarch for the breading.
You can also make it soy-free by using protein alternatives like seitan or tempeh instead of tofu. These variations ensure that everyone can indulge in the deliciousness of vegan orange chicken, no matter their dietary needs.
For more recipe inspiration and detailed instructions on how to make these vegan orange chicken variations, check out websites like Vegan Richa or Rabbit and Wolves. They offer a wide range of vegan recipes that are sure to satisfy your cravings and help you create delicious meals at home.
Serving Suggestions and Meal Pairings
Fluffy White or Brown Rice
No meal is complete without a side of rice, and vegan orange chicken is no exception. Whether you prefer the classic fluffy white rice or the nutty and nutritious brown rice, both options pair beautifully with the tangy and flavorful vegan orange chicken.
The rice not only adds a satisfying texture to the dish but also helps balance out the bold flavors of the orange sauce.
Pro Tip: For an extra burst of flavor, try cooking your rice with vegetable broth instead of water. This simple swap will infuse the rice with a delicious savory taste.
Fresh Vegetables Like Broccoli or Bell Peppers
Adding some fresh vegetables to your vegan orange chicken not only enhances the nutritional value of the meal but also adds a vibrant pop of color to your plate. Vegetables like broccoli or bell peppers are excellent choices as they hold up well in the sauce and provide a satisfying crunch.
Simply sauté them briefly in a hot pan before adding them to the orange chicken, ensuring they retain their crispness and bright color.
Pro Tip: To save time, you can opt for pre-cut frozen vegetables. Just make sure to thaw them before cooking to remove any excess moisture.
Vegan Fried Rice for a Complete Meal
If you’re looking to turn your vegan orange chicken into a complete meal, consider serving it alongside some delicious vegan fried rice. This flavorful rice dish is packed with vegetables, protein-rich tofu, and a savory soy sauce-based seasoning.
The combination of the crispy orange chicken and the fragrant fried rice creates a delightful harmony of flavors and textures.
Pro Tip: To add an extra layer of umami to your fried rice, consider using tamari or liquid aminos instead of regular soy sauce. These options are gluten-free and offer a more complex and robust flavor.
For more recipe inspiration and ideas, you can visit websites like Love and Lemons or Minimalist Baker. These websites offer a wide range of vegan recipes, including tasty side dishes that will complement your homemade vegan orange chicken.
Panda Express struck gold with their sticky-sweet orange chicken, but you can easily recreate that signature flavor at home with plant-based ingredients. Crisp-fried tofu or seitan coated in a flavorful vegan orange sauce makes for a complete meal when served over rice and veggies.
So leave the egg and dairy behind, and satisfy your Chinese food craving with better-for-you vegan orange chicken.