Why the Orange Chicken is the Most Popular Item on the Panda Express Menu
What are the most popular entrees at Panda Express? Panda Express, the popular Chinese fast food restaurant, has over 1,600 locations in the U.S., many of which are filled with customers ordering the same dish over and over again. The most popular item on their menu isn’t even something you would think of as an entree—it’s something that lives in the drink aisle in supermarkets all across America.
With sales topping $1 billion annually, it’s no wonder more than 30 million people order this sweet orange concoction every year. Learn why this signature Panda Express beverage tops the list of their most popular items here!
A little background information
Panda Express, one of America’s most popular fast-food chains, has more than 2,000 locations across the country. For over 30 years, they have been serving Americanized Chinese food with a variety of homemade entrees that were carefully crafted to be popular in mainstream American culture.
The reason why these dishes are so popular has everything to do with their taste and price points. But there is more to it than just that—everything from marketing to ingredients plays a role in making these dishes so successful for business owners and franchisees alike.
To figure out why orange chicken outshines every other dish on their menu in terms of popularity—and how you can apply these principles for your own business—let’s take a look at why it tops their list of menu favorites…
The history of orange chicken
The dish was created in 1972 by an American chef at Panda Inn, a restaurant chain that was initially inspired by Chinese cuisine. Nowadays, it’s one of China’s most popular exports to America and is usually found on menus in America labeled orange chicken or sweet fire chicken.
If you search for a recipe online, though, you might find one with a few different names. The dish consists of chunks of dark meat chicken that are breaded with flour and deep-fried until crispy before being doused in a sauce made from ingredients such as water chestnuts, carrots, sweet peppers, and oranges.
Ingredients for orange chicken
It’s a simple mix of deep-fried chicken and orange marmalade glaze. There are no complex seasonings or sauces required to make it taste good; it comes from mixing ingredients that complement each other well. It all starts with tenderized, white meat chicken coated in egg whites and breadcrumbs for a crispy texture.
The breading helps amplify that orange flavor, and since there’s very little heat or seasoning in most Panda Express meals, it helps balance out flavors like spicy Kung Pao, sweet honey walnut shrimp, tangy lemon chicken, and more. A sauce made of high fructose corn syrup combines with water to create a thick glaze that coats each piece evenly before serving.
How to cook orange chicken
The secret behind orange chicken’s popularity at Panda Express lies in its simplicity. Oranges are sweet and juicy, so their flavor will stand out against a backdrop of saltiness from soy sauce and MSG. For optimal taste, cook orange chicken with fresh oranges. The natural sugars in oranges will make for an intense citrus flavor that pairs well with savory ingredients, like soy sauce and ginger.
You’ll have to add extra sugar to your dish if you go with dried or frozen oranges instead of fresh ones—but while it might not be as flavorful, there are times when convenience outweighs flavor (like if you’re out camping or at a tailgate). The steps below illustrate how to get started making your own orange chicken at home
Other things you can order at Panda Express]
Pork Egg Foo Young, Roast Pork Chow Mein, Sweet Firecracker Chicken Breast, and Honey Walnut Shrimp. We’d love to hear about your favorite Panda Express dish! It would be great to hear about your favorites. On their website, you can find additional entrees as well.
While there are other items that are very popular on their menu (like fried rice), we wanted to focus on our top 5 choices for entrees. Each of these entries will give you an option for white meat or dark meat chicken as well as an option for brown or white rice depending upon your preference.
Frequently asked questions about orange chicken
Why do people love orange chicken so much? It might be because of its versatility. You can order a whole chicken, white meat, or dark meat, or just some of it mixed in with other flavors. You can also mix up your carb choices; rice, fried noodles, or chow mein. And you have options for sides: steamed veggies, broccoli with garlic sauce, and white or brown rice are some popular choices.