Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken Copycat

4.50 from 368 votes
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Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken Copycat Recipe – a delicious Chinese inspired dish based off Panda Express’ popular black pepper chicken!

Tastes just like it is from Panda Express but a million times better with tons of garlic and black pepper chicken flavor for dinner the whole family will love – faster than it takes to pick up takeout! 

chicken and vegetables in black pepper sauce in a white bowl
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Easy Copycat Black Pepper

My daughter’s absolute favorite fast food on earth, hands down, is Panda Express.

She loves the chow mein, the orange chicken, the broccoli and beef – and she really, really loves the Black Pepper Chicken. It’s full of flavor, gluten free, lower calorie, and low carb – making it one of my favorite Panda Express dishes too.

This Copycat Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken recipe, complete with celery and onions and a thick, rich, and tangy black pepper sauce is my go-to now anytime we’re craving Panda Express!

This easy Black Pepper Chicken recipe can be made in less time than it takes to drive to a Panda Express – and tastes about a million times better than takeout. It can also be made to work into a paleo diet or keto diet, since it is naturally gluten and grain free, and low carb – making this a healthy and delicious Copycat Panda Express Recipe!

chicken and vegetables in black pepper sauce in a white bowl. Orange and white patterned dish towels.

How to MAke Black Pepper Chicken

First assemble the following ingrdients:

  • Chicken thigh (6) – Chicken thigh, juicy and tender, serves as the hearty foundation of the dish.
  • Sea Salt (pinch) – Sea salt is used to season the dish, enhancing the natural flavors of the chicken and vegetables.
  • Corn starch (2 tablespoons) – Cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce, giving it a silky, cohesive texture.
  • Stalks celery (3) – Celery adds a refreshing crunch and subtle bitterness that balances the flavors.
  • White onion (1) – Onion introduces a sweet and aromatic depth to the dish’s overall profile.
  • Bell Pepper (1) – Bell pepper adds a sweet and slightly tangy crunch that contrasts the tender chicken pieces in Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken.
  • Peanut Oil (2 tbsp) – Peanut oil, with its high smoke point, is ideal for stir-frying, imparting a subtle nutty flavor to the dish.
  • Ginger powder (2 teaspoon) – Ginger powder infuses the dish with a warm, spicy kick that complements the other ingredients.
  • Garlic Powder (1 tbsp) – Garlic powder infuses the dish with a concentrated, earthy garlic flavor, enhancing the overall savoriness.
  • Onion Powder (1/2 tsp) – Onion powder contributes a mild, sweet flavor that complements the other aromatic ingredients without overpowering them.
  • Chicken Stock (1/2 cup) – Chicken stock adds a rich, umami depth, serving as the base for the sauce that coats the chicken and vegetables.
  • Oyster Sauce (1/4 cup) – Oyster sauce brings a unique combination of sweetness, saltiness, and umami, adding a complex layer to the dish’s flavor profile.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar (1/4 cup) – Rice wine vinegar introduces a mild acidity that balances the richness of the sauce, adding a subtle brightness.
  • Garlic (1/2 tbsp) – Fresh garlic is a key ingredient, providing a pungent and aromatic quality that is fundamental to the dish’s flavor.
  • Chili Powder (1 tsp) – Chili powder adds a gentle heat that complements the black pepper, giving the dish its characteristic warm spice.
  • Black pepper (2 teaspoons) – Black pepper offers a sharp, earthy heat that is the namesake of the dish.

Use this Method

Mix Sauce. In a large bowl, mix sauce ingredients together and set aside. 

Prep Chicken. Pat chicken dry and cut into 1″ cubes. Place chicken in bowl, and toss well in cornstarch, pepper, and salt. Heat peanut oil over medium heat in a large skillet on medium high until shimmery.

Cook Chicken. Add chicken to oil in small batches so it can cook quickly – don’t overcrowd pan. Remove chicken from pan, place on a plate and repeat the sauteing process with the rest of the chicken in batches until done. 

Cook Vegetables. Place all the chicken back into the pan and add vegetables, sauté for about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the ginger powder, garlic powder, and onion powder, stir to combine.

Combine. Add sauce and broth to pan, bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve over a large bowl of rice and enjoy! 

A white bowl with chicken with celery, onion, and black pepper sauce

Tips and Tricks for Making Panda Express Chicken

Marinate the Chicken: For deeper flavor, marinate the chicken pieces in a mixture of soy sauce, a touch of sesame oil, and a sprinkle of cornstarch for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Velveting Technique: To ensure the chicken remains tender and juicy, employ the Chinese velveting technique by briefly blanching the marinated chicken in hot oil or water before stir-frying.

Freshly Ground Black Pepper: Use freshly ground black pepper for a more vibrant and aromatic flavor, adjusting the amount to your preference for heat.

Control the Heat: Cook the chicken and vegetables over high heat to achieve a slight char and seal in the flavors, but be cautious not to burn the garlic or ginger.

Soy Sauce Balance: Use low sodium soy sauce to control the saltiness of the dish, allowing the black pepper’s flavor to shine through without the dish becoming too salty.

Thickening the Sauce: Dissolve cornstarch in a little water to make a slurry before adding it to the dish, ensuring the sauce thickens evenly without lumps.

Vegetable Crunch: Add the celery and onions towards the end of cooking to maintain their crispness and vibrant color.

Serving Suggestions: Serve the dish immediately after cooking to enjoy the contrast of textures, from the tender chicken to the crisp vegetables.

Adjusting for Spice Levels: Cater to different spice tolerances by starting with a moderate amount of black pepper, then adjusting upwards for those who prefer more heat.

Garnish and Presentation: Garnish with green onions or a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving to enhance the dish’s visual appeal and add an extra layer of flavor.

bowl of chicken with onions and celery in black pepper sauce.

FAQs

Can I make this dish gluten-free?

Yes, by using tamari or a certified gluten-free soy sauce instead of regular soy sauce, you can easily make this dish gluten-free.

How can I store and reheat leftovers?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in a microwave or on the stove with a splash of water to keep the chicken moist.

Can I add other vegetables to the dish?

Absolutely! Feel free to add bell peppers, snow peas, or any of your favorite vegetables for added color and nutrition.

Is it necessary to use cornstarch?

Cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce and give the dish its signature glossy appearance. If unavailable, arrowroot powder can be a substitute.

How can I adjust the spiciness of the dish?

The level of spiciness can be adjusted by varying the amount of black pepper and chili vinegar. Start with less and add more to taste.

What if I don’t have chili vinegar?

You can substitute chili vinegar with a mix of white vinegar and a pinch of chili flakes or a dash of hot sauce to maintain the tangy and spicy profile.

Can I use fresh ginger instead of ginger powder?

Yes, fresh ginger can be used and provides a more vibrant flavor. Grate about 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger as a substitute for the powder.

What to Serve With Black Pepper Chicken

Steamed white rice: A classic accompaniment that absorbs the rich flavors of the sauce.

Stir-fried vegetables: Adds color and variety, providing a healthy and crunchy contrast.

Noodles: Whether it’s lo mein or rice noodles, they make for a hearty and satisfying pairing. Also try miso noodle salad.

Quinoa: A great gluten-free option that adds a nutty flavor and complements the dish’s texture.

Fresh salad: A light and refreshing side that balances the dish’s warmth with crisp greens.

Naan bread: Perfect for scooping up the sauce, adding a soft and chewy texture.

Fried rice: A flavorful and filling option that utilizes the savory sauce to enhance its taste.

Soup: A simple broth-based soup can cleanse the palate between bites of the spicy chicken.

Spring rolls: Serve as an appetizer or side, adding a crunchy texture to the meal. Try this recipe.

Mango salsa: Offers a sweet and tangy contrast to the spicy and savory flavors of the chicken.

Try these Asian recipes:

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A gluten-free Chinese-inspired dish of white bowl filled with chicken and vegetables, resembling Panda Express' Black Pepper Chicken.
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Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken Copycat

Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken Copycat Recipe – a delicious Chinese inspired dish based off Panda Express’ popular black pepper chicken! Tastes just like it is from Panda Express but a million times better with tons of garlic and black pepper chicken flavor for dinner the whole family will love – faster than it takes to pick up takeout! 
Course Chicken
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword asian, black chicken, black pepper chicken, copycat, main dish, panda express copycat recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 400kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 3 celery stalks sliced
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cups cooked rice

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tbsp garlic minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, mix sauce ingredients together and set aside.
  • Pat chicken dry and cut into 1" cubes. 
  • Place chicken in bowl, and toss well in cornstarch, pepper, and a pinch of salt. 
  • Heat peanut oil over medium heat in a large skillet on medium high until shimmery.
  • Add chicken to oil in small batches so it can cook quickly – don't overcrowd pan. 
  • Remove chicken from pan, place on a plate and repeat the sauteing process with the rest of the chicken in batches until done. 
  • Place all the chicken back into the pan and add vegetables, sauté for about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  • Add the remaining garlic powder, onion powder, and ginger powder over the sauteed vegetable and chicken. Stir to combine.
  • Add sauce to pan, bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve over a large bowl of rice and enjoy! 

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 400kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 414mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 353IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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4.50 from 368 votes (363 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




41 Comments

  1. Janene says:

    5 stars
    My family loves this. Never any leftovers

  2. Janene says:

    5 stars
    My family loves this.

  3. Lisa says:

    You say that you changed the recipe back but the recipe no longer gives instructions for soy sauce, garlic powder and onion powder. I know that they were ingredients in your original recipe. Now I’m half way thru and realizing that it’s changed. Please, please repost the full original recipe for those of us that really liked it. Name the two as “original” and “revised” if needed and let cooks decide which they want to use. It was fantastic as it was!!

  4. Katherine says:

    5 stars
    Yum

  5. janene davids says:

    Hi, I see you changed your recipe. Could you possible send me the original recipe? We loved the original and the copy I have changed. I was going to make this today and was hoping you could give me your original one. thank you

    1. Katherine says:

      I can look and see if I have a revision, but I had to change the recipe since we had a lot of complaints and re-worked it. I will let you know if I have the original, this revision is very good and tastes very similar. The big difference is using chili vinegar which consolidated some of the other ingredients in flavor. If you can’t find chili vinegar you can make your own combine 1/2 cup vinegar with one jalapeno and soak for 30 minutes. Remove the jalapeno and use 1 tablespoon for this recipe.

      1. Andre Dumouchelle says:

        I’m in the same boat as the original poster. I would like the previous revision of the recipe. I don’t have some of the ingredients, and loved the original.

      2. Katherine says:

        I am sorry for the confusion, we had a lot of complains so had reworked it, by popular demand I restored it to the original recipe.

      3. Katherine says:

        I am sorry for the confusion, I am so glad you like the original recipes, I have changed the recipe card in the post back to the original recipe, enjoy!

      1. Katherine says:

        Thank you! I will make the changes to the current post so you can get to it more easily.