Mandarin Chicken vs. Orange Chicken: What Is the Difference?

Asian food has been extremely popular for a long time in the western world. Asian restaurants are one of the most popular, and that goes for the asian fast-food bistros as well.

Ordering Chinese or Thai food is even as common as ordering pizza today, and it is very plausible that you had some in the recent past as well.

Chances even are that at least some of you ordered mandarin or orange chicken, two of the most popular dishes in these kinds of restaurants. But, wait, what, two dishes? Aren’t those two names for the same meal?

Believe it or not, they are not, even though they share many similarities, and in some cases, they may indeed be nearly alike. So now you’re probably wondering:

What is the difference between mandarin chick and orange chicken? The most significant difference between mandarin chicken and orange chicken is that mandarin chicken usually consists of regular chicken pieces, while the mandarin chicken is fried, crispy chicken.

But this was just a brief answer because what makes mandarin chicken and orange chicken differ is a complicated topic. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

Mandarin Chicken vs. Orange ChickenPin

Is mandarin chicken and orange chicken the same?

No, mandarin chicken and orange chicken are not the same, although they share many similarities. For example, they both contain sweet sauce and fried chicken in crispy breading, but mandarin chicken is usually saltier and not rarely contains sesame.

On the other hand, Orange chicken isn’t salt and relies more heavily on the flavor of the crispy chicken itself. Additionally, no sesame can be found in orange chicken in most cases.

With that being said, though, there are no strict recipes for orange chicken and mandarin chicken, and, therefore, they can be very alike, or even nearly the same often.

The most famous mandarin and orange chicken come from Panda express, though, and these two dishes are distinct. We’re more about to get into that later, though.

What is mandarin chicken?

So, what is mandarin chicken? Well, it is an American dish consisting of fried chicken with say and sweet sauce, but it isn’t settled what precisely mandarin chicken can be.

But although everyone can make mandarin chicken a little bit differently, there indeed is one most popular version of mandarin chicken – the one from famous Asian fast-food chain Panda Express.

There, they make mandarin chicken (or Mandarin Teriyaki Chicken) by mixing pieces of chicken breasts with sweet teriyaki sauce.

What is orange chicken?

Orange chicken is a well-known Chinese food that found its second home in the United States. It’s made out of fried, crispy chicken and sweet orange sauce. 

Like with mandarin chicken, there are more recipes for orange chicken, but there’s one that stands out – yeah, we’re talking about the orange chicken from Panda Express.

In Panda Express, orange chicken is made with their famous Asian-style fried chicken, mixed with an exciting sauce consisting of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and many other things.

What is the difference between mandarin chicken and orange chicken?

Although mandarin chicken and orange chicken are both well-known foods in the asian fast-foods, they’re not the same. The biggest difference between mandarin chicken and orange chicken is in the meat itself.

Mandarin chicken usually uses regular chicken breast pieces, which are then roasted and mixed with sweet soy sauce.

Quite the contrary, orange chicken, is made out of fried chicken in crispy breading and sweet, orange sauce.

What do mandarin chicken and orange chicken have in common?

So okay, now you know mandarin chicken and orange chicken are not the same things. Nevertheless, these two popular dishes still share a lot of similarities.

The main thing mandarin chicken and orange chicken have in common is that both are made with sugar and soy sauce. The sauce used to make orange chicken is usually made out of more things, though, but we’ve already talked about that a bit above.

Which one tastes better, mandarin chicken or orange chicken?

It is hard which one of mandarin chicken and orange chicken tastes because this choice depends mainly on you and your tastebuds. 

Orange chicken is more famous, probably because of the famous Asian-style fried chicken, but that doesn’t mean you have to prefer it as well.

Quite the contrary, if you, like many others, like the fresh taste of simply roasted chicken, mandarin chicken will most likely be a better choice for you!


Mandarin chicken and orange chicken are both very famous meals that can be commonly found throughout Asian bistros throughout the United States. What makes them both very popular is the sweet sauce the chicken is mixed with.

They both use a different sauce; orange chicken usually consists of sugar and soy sauce mixed with orange and things like ginger and garlic, while mandarin chicken is mostly just soy sauce and sugar.

And even the chicken itself is different in these two because orange chicken uses fried chicken, while mandarin chicken is just roasted chicken.

Therefore, mandarin chicken and orange chicken are both very different meals. 



Image credits – Canva

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