Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken is one of our favorite quick meals to pick up but here’s the BEST homemade version! You’ll never doubt what kind of chicken or ingredients are in your Panda Express orange chicken or frozen orange chicken when you make it at home. This recipe is easy and delish!

Orange Chicken over white rice on a round white plate. There is a sprinkle of slice green scallions on top of the chicken. This is a Trader Joe's copycat recipe that you can make at home.

When ordering Chinese take-out, I feel like there are two schools of thought regarding that ridiculously long menu:

1. You have your regular favorite that you order every time, or

2. You’re either adventurous or completely indecisive and always order something different. 

I’m of the first school. We have a standing order for our favorite Chinese food place that I could recite in my sleep.


But!! I would love to be more adventurous when ordering.

Take orange chicken, for example. Our favorite Chinese food place offers a dish called House Special Chicken.

It’s described as, “Sliced chicken with mixed vegetable in orange flavor sauce.” Do I assume this is the orange chicken I’d be looking for?

And in all honesty, the orange “flavor” in the description didn’t sound all that appealing to me. Is the dish flavored with actual orange? Or with something like imitation orange extract?

So when I came across this recipe months ago, I was all over it like…white on rice. Ha!

Orange Chicken Sauce

In my opinion, the sauce for orange chicken should be thick, sticky, and bursting with spicy orange flavor. And does this sauce ever deliver on all of those things!

It’s an OUTSTANDING sauce that beautifully coats the chicken pieces, just as I hoped it would.

And let me tell you, it’s WAY WAY better than Trader Joe’s orange chicken or what you can get at your favorite Chinese food restaurant. 

There is plenty of natural orange flavor that combines with just the right amount of heat from some cayenne pepper and while I don’t usually eat any rice when we order Chinese, I loved having it with this meal to soak up some of the sauce’s goodness.

Image with Pinterest Text Overlay: Orange Chicken over white rice on a round white plate. There is a sprinkle of slice green scallions on top of the chicken. This is a Trader Joe's copycat recipe that you can make at home.

Homemade Orange Chicken Ingredients

Here’s the shopping list for this orange chicken recipe. Be sure to keep scrolling to check out the full ingredient list in the recipe card below.

If the list seems a little long, I’m willing to be that you probably already have almost everything you need in your kitchen already. I usually just have to pick up some fresh ginger and a couple of oranges when I want to make this recipe.

  • low-sodium chicken broth
  • oranges
  • white vinegar
  • low-sodium soy sauce
  • brown sugar (dark or light)
  • fresh garlic
  • fresh ginger
  • cayenne pepper
  • boneless chicken thighs or breasts (or a mix of both)
  • cornstarch
  • cold water
  • egg whites
  • baking soda
  • peanut and canola oil

Kyle and I both flipped out over this take-out fake-out orange chicken! We almost fought over the leftovers!

Given this reaction to this meal, I promise you that it will definitely satisfy any Chinese take-out craving you have. And what’s better than being able to make a restaurant meal at home?

And speaking of cooking restaurant meals at home…

If you’re looking for more ideas for take-out fake-out meals you can cook at home, I have a bunch on the site!

Chinese Food

If you want to cook other Chinese take-out fake-out dishes, you need to try some veggie fried rice or this shrimp lo mein. Both are insanely delicious vegetarian options too!

Indian Food

For Indian food meals to cook at home, I’ve got you covered with butter chicken, chicken tikka masala (in the crock pot!), and easy homemade naan or garlic butter naan. The spicy level in both of the chicken dishes can be adjusted to your preferences and they’re both really kid-friendly!

Mexican and Tex-Mex Food

I might lose you if I go down the Mexican take-out route because I have SO many awesome meals on the site. So, I’ll point you to my full Tex-Mex recipes page and highlight a few of our very favorite meals: the best chicken enchiladas ever, Mexican street corn, grilled corn guacamole, and queso fundido with chorizo.

Italian Food

And finally, for Italian take-out, our biggest faves to cook at home are penne alla vodka, 3 cheese rosemary and pepperoni pizza, fettuccine alfredo, and garlic bread spicy meatball parm subs. Some garlic knots on the side would be perfect for any of these meals! We’ve made these recipes more times than I could possibly count!

Orange Chicken (Trader Joe's Copycat)

Orange Chicken (Trader Joe's Copycat)

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Trader Joe's orange chicken is SUPER simple to make at home with my homemade spicy orange sauce. You'll never need to question what kind of chicken or ingredients are in your orange chicken again when you make it at home. This recipe is easy and delish!


For the marinade and sauce:

  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 6 tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For the coating and frying:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups each peanut and canola oil


  1. To make the marinade and sauce: Combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. 
  2. Add the remaining mixture to a saucepan on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.
  3. To prepare the coating: Place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  4. To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  5. Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.


adapted from Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen via Everyday Annie

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Leave a Comment

  • December 30, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this as much as we do. I just thought of it the other day and was craving it, and now you’re pushing me further over the edge. Yum!

  • December 30, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    I saw this on Annie’s Eats and I’ve been meaning to make it. Now that I see it here, I HAVE to make it- soon! 🙂

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    I love orange chicken. This looks just like something from a restaurant. I am drooling and it’s only 7 am!

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    Oh my…I should make this before our new year’s diet starts. YUM!

  • December 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    I used to love the orange chicken at panda express. This looks so much better and better for you. Great recipe!

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Looks great and just as easy and quick as calling for delivery. Cheers!

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    I love the title of this blog post – Take-Out Fake-Out – terrific. I adore orange chicken, but would much rather make it at home where I can control the ingredients. Often take out is so loaded with fat and sodium. Thanks for the recipe!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    That just looks amazing! Thanks for sharing it. I bet it is much better than take-out!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Oh my gosh, that looks delicious! I’m gonna have to try this one!

  • December 30, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    This looks AMAZING! I will definitely be trying it out soon…

  • December 30, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Beautiful job on this. I love orange chicken and it’s been too long since I’ve had some. I usually go for my favorites when ordering chinese…any experimentation usually starts with me asking my husband if he will eat if I don’t like it. 😉

  • December 30, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    This looks divine. My husband and I adore Orange Chicken. I buy one from Trader Joe’s but now I have a recipe to make from scratch. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year and much happiness!

  • December 30, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    I like the Mandarin Orange chicken from Trader Joe’s, and this looks exactly like it. I might have to try making this. Have you tried adding pineapple chunks to this at all?

    • smellslikehome
      December 30, 2010 at 9:37 PM

      Jenna: No, I only made this once but I can’t imagine that pineapple would be a bad addition.

  • December 30, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Orange chicken is one of my faves and this looks like a great recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  • December 31, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    This looks awesome, I’m making it tonight!!!

  • Chris
    January 2, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Hey, I made this tonight and it was awesome. Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

  • Jake
    January 30, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    I finally got around the making this tonight. Great recipe, so delicious! Thank you for sharing. I had some broccoli on hand, so I lightly steamed it and tossed it in with the chicken and sauce (and green onions). It went perfectly and helped the dish feel a little healthier 🙂

  • February 3, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    I finally made this tonight, seriously my husband asked a couple times to make sure it wasn’t take out 🙂

  • Liz
    March 15, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Oh, my! This was incredible!! Thank you for sharing!

  • February 19, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    […] Orange Chicken from Smells Like Home Sweet and Sour Chicken from Taste and Tell Honey Walnut Shrimp from Handle the Heat Vegetable Chow Mein from Food52 […]

  • Anne
    April 13, 2020 at 7:43 PM

    We love this recipe so much that it has become our every Monday night meal. I don’t think we will ever get tired if it. Thank you!

    • Tara
      April 19, 2020 at 2:16 PM

      Hi Anne! You have no idea how much seeing this made my week! I love that this meal has become a tradition for your family!! Thank you so much for coming back to leave a review!

  • John
    November 7, 2021 at 8:56 PM

    This is the OPPOSITE of quick and easy. I’m 30 minutes in and just putting the chicken in the fridge to marinate, much less done with the clean up of battering and frying the stuff. My fault for getting this off of a meal prep website and not reading ahead. 16 bowls/cups/measuring spoons to clean and 3 hours later I’m sure it’s going to be delicious.

    • Tara
      November 6, 2023 at 9:30 AM

      Hope you loved it!

  • Tiffanie
    September 13, 2022 at 6:50 PM

    This looks like a great recipe! Could you make a big batch of the sauce to store it in the fridge or freezer?

    • Tara
      October 13, 2022 at 10:12 AM

      I don’t see why you couldn’t! Great idea, Tiffanie!

  • michele
    April 20, 2023 at 8:00 AM

    Have you tried freezing this recipe after the chicken is fried? would like to make a big batch, then take out as needed. what do you think?

    • Tara
      November 6, 2023 at 9:29 AM

      I haven’t tried freezing the chicken at that point in the recipe but I think it should work fine and it’s a great idea!

  • Suzin
    November 19, 2023 at 6:24 PM

    My family absolutely loves TJ’s mandarin orange chicken.
    The only complaint is that there is not enough sauce.

    This “copy cat” recipe allows me to simply supplement the TJ orange chicken package with the additional sauce that makes my family happy! I only use the sauce recipe. (I’m lazy enough to want to use the TJ chicken — coated – rather than doing it myself!)

    Thanks so much for this recipe!!! It’s spot on!

    • Tara
      November 21, 2023 at 3:11 PM

      LOL I love your lazy cheat method, Suzin! We love the TJs chicken too but the sauce is too spicy for my daughter. You’re right, this sauce is a great sub for the packaged sauce. Thanks so much for coming back to leave a review!

  • Susan
    June 4, 2024 at 6:21 PM

    I absolutely love trader joe’s orange chicken — the only thing wrong with it is there’s never enough sauce!’

    To the rescue — this recipe!

    What I do is make a double batch of the sauce from this recipe (which is super good, btw). I’m into easy, so I use the chicken from the trader joe orange chicken. I add the trader joe’s sauce to the sauce I make from this recipe and “voila” — more than enough sauce.

    Thanks so much for this recipe!! My family loves it and loves having heaps of sauce to be soaked up by the rice I cook to accompany this dish!!

    I’m particularly happy that you clearly defined the sauce preparation separate from the chicken. That’s what has made it so easy for me to use!!