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Panda Express Orange Sauce

Last night, our kitchen magically morphed into healthy Panda Express:

You will want to put this sauce over everything. It's one of the most addictive recipes I've ever made... if you try it, you will totally understand why people are obsessed with this sauce! Recipe here:

I remember the exact day Panda Express showed up at our local shopping mall. I was in 7th grade—the age where girls ditch their parents, get glammed up in more makeup than kabuki performers, and hang out at the mall every single weekend, feeling incredibly cool and grown up.

After Panda Express moved in, you suddenly couldn’t set foot in the building without being hit by the addictive aroma of their orange sesame sauce. It called to us as we perused the displays of glitter eyeliner at Sephora. (Why did I ever think sparkly neon green eyeliner was a good look for me?) It beckoned to us while we debated the pink pleather pants from Wet Seal. (Sadly, I did end up buying a pair.) And then, as we purchased our much-too-short shorts at Abercrombie and Fitch, the orange sesame aroma practically screamed to us. (Perhaps it was simply trying to be heard over A&F’s ridiculously-loud music.)

Finally, we’d give in to temptation, devouring every sweet orange bite.

chocolate covered katie

Last night we thought it’d be fun to make a Panda-inspired dinner, complete with chopsticks and Chinese takeout containers from Michaels. At first I thought to make tofu. But… cauliflower just seemed way more fun! For the cauliflower, I used: this cauliflower recipe.

(If you’d prefer, you can make “popcorn cauliflower” by combining 1/2 cup any type of flour with 1/2 cup water, dipping cauliflower florets into this mixture, baking 20 minutes at 425F, then pouring the sauce on top and baking another few minutes.)

orange cauliflower

To recreate Panda Express’s “secret” sauce, I first looked at the ingredients in their bottled sauce and many copycat recipes online. Then I gathered some basic ingredients common in all of the recipes (vinegar, garlic, ginger…) and played around with the proportions until the sauce tasted just as good as better than the one from Panda Express. What follows is some really, really good sauce.

You’ll want to put it on everything!

vegan chinese

Healthy Panda Express Orange Sauce

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (120g)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot (30g)
  • 3-4 tbsp orange marmalade (45-60g)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (30g)
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp rice vinegar (45g)
  • 2 stevia packets, or 2 tbsp sugar (Liquid sweetener will work; just use a bit more cornstarch for thickening.)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or gf tamari (30g)
  • optional: 1 tsp sesame oil
  • optional: green onions for garnish, crushed red chilis for a spicy variation

Whisk broth and cornstarch or arrowroot until dissolved. Now turn on the heat to low-medium and add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it’s thickened, remove from heat. Makes 300g (about 1 1/4 cup). Serve over whatever you wish: rice, veggies, soba, tofu, etc. As noted above, here are the directions if you wish to make chicken-style cauliflower (it works with tofu as well): combine 1/2 cup any type of flour with 1/2 cup water, dip florets of one head cauliflower into this mixture, bake 20 minutes at 425F, then pour the sauce on top and bake another few minutes.

View Orange Sauce Nutrition Facts


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Published on September 15, 2012

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
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ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day!

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  1. Rebekah says

    I love Chinese Food, and Panda Express. P.F. Changs is pretty yummy too. Last night I made Asian-Style Fried Rice from better homes and gardens. It had the same “can’t eat enough” quality as take out. So good! And even healthier because I sauted in water instead of oil.

  2. Beckers says

    I can’t stop making this. It is just so delicious!

    Oh I can’t wait to get my hands on your cook book when it is finished! It is going to be everyone’s gift for every occasion!


  3. Talia says

    This sauce was amazing! Definately satisfied my craving! We made it with popcorn cauliflower!!! Wow!!!!! I think I could eat it everyday!! Love your site! I don’t think I have ever used a recipe site or even cookbook as much as yours!!!! I make something from your site once or twice a week!

  4. Marissa P says

    Made this tonight. Loved the orange sauce but the “popcorn” cauliflower didn’t work out. The batter was kind of rubbery and made all my cauliflower just taste like flour. I was really disappointed that it didn’t work because even my kids were excited with the concept of “popcorn” veggies. Any suggestions, something I missed or could do differently?

  5. Trish @ MyBigFatBundt says

    I made this last week as hubz is doing a 3-day meatless cleanse, and it turned out fantastic. And stupid simple, too. (Just how I like it sometimes…) I used the ‘popcorn’ cauliflower method, and wow, very interesting way to eat cauliflower! I quite liked it. Mine didn’t crisp up quite as bit as a piece of chicken would have, but it did give it a nice mouth-feel and made it very filling. My husband kept saying ‘I’m pretending that this is chicken…’, lol. 🙂 I also stir-fried some other veggies, adding half the sauce to the veggies and half the to cauliflower, and then serving with brown rice. I didn’t blog about the recipe itself, but I did include a picture of my creation plus a link to your recipe on my blog entry today:
    Sorry, for fame-whoring my blog, lol. Not that it has many readings..but it was really good and photographs well. We will probably keep this one as a regular and even when my husband does go back to eating meat, I now having something where I can prepare for both of us without having to prepare an entirely meatless dish for myself. xx

  6. Sunnie says

    Mmm, I LOVE Chinese food! Unfortunately, my homemade Chinese food always tastes rather…well…not Chinese. Still good, but nothing like the restaurant (the one I go to is crazy-authentic! Yum…) Anyways, I’m SO making this next time I get a Chinese craving! You should totally do a recipe for General Tso sauce – that is, if YOU like that kind of sauce! 🙂 I’d never waste ingredients on something I didn’t like . . . LOL 😉

  7. Lisa says

    OMG. Stop it. STOP.IT.

    This is mind blowingly amazing. I am a panda express junkie and thought I would never again taste the sweet sweet flavor of orange chicken but holy sh** this is so damn close.
    One might say better?…
    I would suggest using a sweeter brand of marmalade if you want it closer tasting to the real thing. I used a non-sweet homemade jar and had to ad extra sugar to get that “authentic” panda taste but OMG this is a life saver.

    You have restored my faith in my diet. Now if only you could whip me up a big mac… 😉

  8. Violet says

    Oh yum. I’ve never eaten at Panda Express (do they have those in the South? haha) but this is delicious. I just made some (didn’t have broth so I used orange juice instead of the brother… and grated some orange zest at the end) and is it sooooo good! It’s a pretty sauce too! I ate it over steamed broccoli (that was very tasty but wasn’t so pretty… I want to try it with the cauliflower too!) I’ve just been thinking I should eat more Asian food and I will certainly be making this again!

  9. Danielle says

    I tried a vegetable broth once and it was horrible. It didn’t taste good at all. I was wondering what kind you use and how good it is?

  10. lindsey k says

    Just made this today and…it tastes better! I love this….orange chicken is totally addictive but it makes me feel sick. This sauce doesn’t make me feel sick which is why its better. More delicious and less sick.

    Suggestions for storage…tuberware. I tried a bottle but it got very thick and it would be easier to spoon :).

    Thank you so much for this recipe…I’ve been looking for something like this!

  11. Maria B says

    The Copycat Panda Express Orange Sauce is outstanding and I wholeheartedly agree that it is better than the original! I just found your blog and can’t wait to try out more recipes. THANK YOU so much for sharing!

  12. Justin says

    Do you think maybe I could use like a jam or a jelly instead of the marmalade? I don’t have any orange marm and I dont think I can wait until I get some to make this! haha

  13. Jess says

    I’d love to hear more about your time in China! So cool!:) Thanks for this recipe, going to try it tonight!

  14. Stephanie says

    Very yummy! I used the cauliflower, unbreaded, and it is very tasty. Your recipes never lack in flavor!

  15. Winter says

    Hi Katie! Just wanted to say I LOVE your blog and I also wanted to know, because you used to live in Japan and China, did you learn the language? And if you do, do you still remember it?

  16. Emily says

    Just wanted to let you know I tried this the other night and it was amazing! I don’t even usually like cauliflower, but was really impressed with how nice it got with the flour breading baked on. I also realized that the only oil in the meal was the sesame, that’s impressive.

  17. CYM says

    …”from when I lived in China”. Ummmm, you lived in Shanghai?! That’s hilarious. I’m in Shanghai now (as I have been for the past 12 years) and just baked up a batch of your healthy blondies! I’ve read through a bunch of your recipes but never seen a peep about your China adventures! Small world! Thanks for all the amazing effort put into your blog. Look forward to trying more recipes from you, over here in my Shanghai kitchen.

  18. Amy says

    I made this this week and it is delicious!! Mixed it with chicken stir-fry and rice. Yummo!

    P.S. Can you put an FB Share button next to the Pin It button on your recipes? 🙂

  19. Rich W says

    Wonderful recipe! Katie, I am so glad to see you post recipes other then dessert. But at what point do I add chocolate to this recipe? 😉

  20. Katie says

    Made this tonight and it turned out really tasty, but, the texture was gooey. Not sure what I did wrong, any suggestions?

  21. Christina says

    I love this recipe! I’ve made it so many times. Quick question: do you use dried minced garlic (by McCormick) or jarred minced garlic? I’ve tried it both ways, but prefer it with dried garlic.

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