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One of my favorite types of foods to recreate is copycat recipes from restaurants (looking at you, copycat Chipotle barbacoa and copycat Starbucks egg bites). Today I’d like to introduce you to a copycat Panda Express black pepper chicken recipe!
This flavorful Asian cuisine is perfect for busy weeknight dinners or to impress your dinner guests. I love the zingy flavor of the black pepper and although it looks complex, it’s surprisingly easy to put together.
What Is Black Pepper Chicken?
Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken is a flavor-packed dish of marinated chicken, bell peppers and onions, all cooked in a balanced black pepper and garlic sauce.
This homemade version captures all the same flavors, but unlike restaurant versions and many black pepper chicken recipes, this one is made with clean, natural ingredients.
Why You’ll Love This Black Pepper Chicken Recipe
- Zingy and spicy flavors
- Tender chicken and veggies
- One pan for easy cleanup
- Done in 15 minutes
- Naturally gluten-free, with natural ingredients
- Quick and easy weeknight meal that tastes like Panda Express!
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for this Panda Express black pepper chicken recipe, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Coconut Aminos – This is a low sodium soy sauce substitute that adds sweet and salty flavor. Low-sodium soy sauce is fine to use as well.
- Rice Wine Vinegar – You can also use Shaoxing wine, white wine vinegar, mirin, or dry sherry.
- Blackstrap Molasses – Although optional, I recommend using for the best flavor.
- Arrowroot Powder – This is my favorite clean-ingredient cornstarch substitute for thickening the sauce. You can also substitute the same amount of cornstarch, or use about 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum for a low carb alternative.
- Olive Oil – Used for sauteing. Feel free to substitute any neutral cooking oil, such as avocado oil.
- Chicken – I cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes, but you could use boneless skinless chicken thighs as well.
- Veggies – For this recipe, you will need a bell pepper (any color), onion, minced garlic (fresh or jarred), and celery. You can also add other veggies, like baby corn, broccoli, or carrots.
- Fresh Ginger – For a burst of spice and sweetness, I recommend 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger (or more if you love the flavor), but you can also substitute a pinch of ground ginger instead.
- Black Pepper – Obviously a must for a Chinese black pepper chicken recipe!
- Sesame Seeds – Optional, for garnish. You can use white or black sesame seeds.
How To Make Black Pepper Chicken
This section shows how to make chicken in black pepper sauce, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Mix the sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut aminos, water, vinegar, molasses, and arrowroot powder. Set aside.
- Cook the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and saute until cooked through. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.
- Saute the veggies. Add bell pepper, onion, and celery. Saute until tender.
- Add aromatics and pepper. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Cook until garlic is fragrant.
- Thicken. Add the chicken cubes back to the pan and pour the sauce mixture over everything. Stir until thickened. Adjust salt to taste if needed.
- Garnish. Remove black pepper chicken from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
- Store: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Meal prep: Cut the chicken and vegetables ahead of time, and store separately in the fridge until ready to cook. You can also prepare the entire dish ahead and divide among meal prep containers.
- Reheat: Warm the chicken slowly over low to medium heat and add a splash of liquid, such as broth or water, to keep it from drying out. Alternatively, you could warm it in the microwave.
- Freeze: Allow leftovers to fully cool before transferring to an airtight container or freezer bag. Stored in the freezer for up to 4 months, then thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
What To Serve With Black Pepper Chicken
This flavorful and easy-to-make main works with a variety of side dishes. Here are some ideas:
- Rice – Asian dishes always pair well with a side of rice (shown above) or fried rice. For lighter alternatives, try cauliflower rice, Chinese-inspired cauliflower fried rice, or simple shirataki rice.
- Side Salad – Pair this with a simple healthy salad, or opt for Asian-style choices like kani salad, 5-minute Asian cabbage salad, or easy smashed cucumber salad (the perfect pairing with spicy dishes).
- More Veggies – Try Asian-inspired options like stir fry vegetables or hakurei turnips. You can also make other neutral veggie sides like patty pan squash, perfectly caramelized sauteed eggplant, 10-minute sauteed asparagus, or garlic butter sauteed mushrooms.
More Asian Chicken Recipes
When you’re short on time, these Asian-inspired chicken recipes that are the perfect solution for busy schedules.
Black Pepper Chicken
Black Pepper Chicken (Panda Express Copycat)
This easy black pepper chicken recipe tastes like Panda Express, with tender chicken, veggies, and a zippy pepper sauce – all in 15 minutes!
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a small mixing bowl, mix coconut aminos, water, vinegar, molasses, and arrowroot powder. Set aside.
Add the chicken in a single layer. Saute for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.
Add the second tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the bell pepper, onion, and celery. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until tender.
Stir in garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
Add chicken back to pan and pour the sauce over it. Stir until thickened. Adjust salt to taste if needed.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
Last Step: Leave A Rating!
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Serving size: ~1 cup, or 1/6 entire recipe
- Nutrition info does not include optional sesame seeds.
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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