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10 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Orange Chicken

Here's where to get the hot, extra-crispy chicken covered in a sweet citrusy sauce.
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The savory-sweet Asian-inspired delight known as orange chicken will turn 37 years old this July. Andy Kao, the executive chef of Chinese-American fast-food giant Panda Express, invented the dish on a trip to the Hawaiian islands in 1987 when he opened the state's first branch of the franchise.

According to NBC News, Kao's variation on the universally beloved staple of fried chicken was inspired by the island locals' use of citrus, as well as traditional sweet-and-spicy flavor combinations found in the Chinese city of Yang Zhou. To accommodate American palates, he used boneless, skinless, conveniently bite-sized chunks of white meat chicken and toned down the spice.

Today, orange chicken is one of the most popular menu items across a profusion of Asian-American and American restaurant chains. Here are the best places to find it right now:

Panda Express

panda express orange chicken in a red container.
Courtesy of Panda Express
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 380
Fat: 18 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 620 mg
Carbs: 45 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 19 g)
Protein: 14 g

You can't make a list of the best places to get orange chicken without mentioning the franchise credited with inventing and popularizing the dish. The California-born chain has more than 2,300 locations worldwide and raked in $3.8 billion in 2020—a good chunk of which can be attributed to its signature trademarked orange chicken. According to Eater, the chain sells more than 110 million pounds of orange chicken per year. The chicken is double-fried, tossed with the sauce in a wok, and finished with sesame oil for a pleasant glaze. Reddit is full of imitation recipes and fans who are on a quest for the perfect orange chicken, but if you're craving a quick fix, nothing tastes like the original.

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P.F. Chang's

orange chicken from pf changs in a large, white bowl.
P.F. Chang's
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 580
Fat: 29 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 910 mg
Carbs: 44 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 28 g)
Protein: 33 g

Looking to enjoy orange chicken in a slightly more upscale dining environment? P.F. Chang's offers sit-down diners a refreshing, lighter version of the Chinese-American classic with an elegant presentation. The chain's orange chicken features a lighter batter and sweeter sauce than Panda Express. It comes garnished with fresh orange slices to look more like a meal you would sit down to rather than an appetizer or something you should eat out of a takeout box (though there's a unique charm to that as well). At $19.50 per order, it's the priciest selection on this list, but the order comes with an extra rice side.

Pei Wei Asian Kitchen

pei wei orange chicken over rice on a plate.
Courtesy of Pei Wei
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 720
Fat: 23 g (Saturated Fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 1,810 mg
Carbs: 81 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 53 g)
Protein: 36 g

Marketed as a healthier, mid-range alternative to traditional Chinese-American takeout counters, the dining franchise Pei Wei Asian Kitchen serves up an array of Pan-Asian-influenced dishes. When it comes to its orange chicken, Pei Wei is giving Panda Express a run for its money. The crispy chicken tossed in its signature Sriracha-orange sauce crackles when you bite into it, and the sauce is spicier and less sweet than its forerunner (although it nets 53 grams of sugar per serving compared to Panda Express's 19 grams). Served with fresh orange slices and a choice of white, brown, or fried rice, Pei Wei's orange chicken is less expensive than P.F. Chang's and slightly more upscale than Panda Express.

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Cheesecake Factory

cheesecake factory orange chicken and white rice on a dish.
The Cheesecake Factory
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 1,870
Fat: 78 g (Saturated Fat: 13 g)
Sodium: 3,000 mg
Carbs: 239 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 77 g)
Protein: 57 g

The Cheesecake Factory's menu is like Trader Joe's frozen section—immense, culturally schizophrenic, and full of hits and misses. One lucky hit is the orange chicken, featuring large chunks of deep-fried chicken breast in a "sweet and spicy orange sauce" served with white rice and shredded vegetables. The portion size is huge (as with all of its dishes) and enough to feed two people, and the reviews are mostly positive. One Yelp reviewer commented, "My favorite entree is the orange chicken. It's well spiced and has huge portions." Another review from the real-time consumer review website Review Stream raved that "not only was the chicken tender and juicy, but the sauce was absolutely perfect. It wasn't as spicy as I thought it would be… but the orange tang of the sauce was fabulous."

Thai Express

a plate of orange chicken and rice at Thai Express restaurant
Thai Express/Facebook
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 280
Fat: 15 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 580 mg
Carbs: 36 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 30 g)
Protein: 2 g

Canadian quick casual chain Thai Express is bringing the heat to more than 300 locations worldwide with Thai staples like pad thai, curries, and tom yum soup. Though the menu is mostly focused on Thai food, it also includes the Pan-Asian crowd-pleasers of orange chicken and Mongolian beef. Served over a bed of white Jasmine rice, the orange chicken at Thai Express doesn't skimp on the spice, so if you're looking for orange chicken with a bit more of a kick, this is the spot for you. Plus, the chain uses real jasmine rice, which is more fragrant and robust compared to the tasteless mush that is often the standard at many Asian-American restaurant chains.

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Teriyaki Madness

teriyaki madness orane chicken, rice and broccoli in a takeout container.
Teriyaki Madness
Nutrition (Per Regular Size Bowl):
Calories: 429
Fat: 20 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 680 mg
Carbs: 40 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 16 g)
Protein: 23 g

Since its inception in 2003, Las Vegas-based fast-casual franchise Teriyaki Madness has rapidly expanded to more than 130 locations around the country, serving up Japanese bento-inspired rice and noodle bowls topped with generously sauced proteins. The orange chicken bowl served with steamed or stir-fried veggies over your choice of white, brown, or fried rice or noodles is a popular choice, with a reporter from the Marquette Wire writing: "The orange chicken was great, it was covered nicely in sauce and the chicken was cooked perfectly. I would rate the orange chicken overall a 4/5."

Pick Up Stix

A bowl of orange chicken and rice at Pick Up Stix restaurant
Pick Up Stix/Facebook
Nutrition: (Per Serving):
Calories: 570
Fat: 28 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 880 mg
Carbs: 53 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 26 g)
Protein: 23 g

Pick Up Stix is a popular Southern California fast-casual dining chain offering a range of simple Pan-Asian standards such as wonton soup and pad thai featuring "fresh Asian flavors." The best part of the menu is the chicken entrées, which include several breaded, fried, and/or glazed chicken dishes like kung pao chicken, Firecracker chicken, and, of course, orange chicken. Its orange chicken has a satisfyingly crispy skin and not-too-sweet sauce, and portions are ample. For those looking to up the sweetness level, try the phenomenal crispy honey chicken. The chain claims to wok cook with only trans-fat-free oil, and all entrées come with a side of steamed white or brown rice.

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HuHot Mongolian Grill

huhot orange chicken on a white plate.
HuHot Mongolian Grill/Facebook
Nutrition:
Breaded Chicken With Mongolian Sunburn Sauce (Per Serving):
Calories: 185
Fat: 6 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 670 mg
Carbs: 24 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 11 g)
Protein: 7 g

Founded in Montana in 1999, HuHot Mongolian Grill now offers a "customizable Asian restaurant experience" at more than 50 locations around the U.S. The chain specializes in a live-cooking setting where customers can mix and match their proteins, sauces, and entrées and then watch a staff member grill the creation. One popular offering is the Mongolian Sunburn sauce, which features a sweet citrus tang and medium spice level. It's meant to be paired with the breaded chicken entrée so guests can create their unique take on orange chicken.

Lao Sze Chuan

A plate of orange chicken at Lao Sze Chuan restaurant
Lao Sze Chuan/Facebook
Nutrition information unavailable.

Chicago-born dining chain Lao Sze Chuan is known for authentic Sichuanese fare, but its huge menu also encompasses quite a few Chinese-American options. The chain's orange chicken strikes an ideal balance between tartness, sweetness, and spice to appeal to both Chinese and Western palates. Lao Sze Chuan's orange chicken leans more towards the original spicy Yang Zhou version (which is unsurprising considering that Sichuan province is the land of numbingly hot chilies). Still, if you can't take the heat, you can customize your spice level and let them know how hot you want it.

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99 Ranch Market

orange chicken at 99 ranch market
99 Ranch Market/Facebook
Nutrition information unavailable.

This Asian supermarket chain, with 57 locations around the U.S., carries a huge selection of staples, vegetables, specialty items, seafood, and cuts of meat for all your Asian food needs. However, it's a mistake to sleep on the hot deli counter, which serves an array of dim sum, roasted and barbecued poultry and pig, and Chinese and Chinese-American dishes, including orange chicken, which has garnered positive reviews on Reddit. The orange chicken from 99 Ranch Market is more reminiscent of its Hunan-inspired cousin, General Tso's chicken, and it uses more chilies. However, the crispy battered meat is still glazed with an appreciable citrusy tang.

Clara Wang
Clara Wang is a freelance writer based in Austin, TX who mostly muses about food, culture, sex, and the unbearable lightness of being a 5’0” Yellow girl quicker on her feet than Borat’s lawyers. Read more about Clara
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