A copycat of Panda Express's version, this Crispy Almond Chicken Breast hits all the notes! Juicy, tender chicken breast is covered in a crispy and puffy rice coating that is satisfyingly crunchy yet light. It's smothered in a savory and tangy glaze, then tossed with almonds for the ultimate flavor combo!
🍗 Better Than Take-out
In 2021, Panda Express debuted a new dish called Crispy Almond Chicken Breast. It was described as chicken "coasted in puff-rice breading and wok-tossed with almonds and scallions in a savory soy garlic sauce". Sadly, it was discontinued but that doesn't mean you can't get a taste of it at home!
This recipe for Crispy Almond Chicken Breast is a copycat recipe of the original favorite from Panda Express. Luckily, you can easily recreate the taste and texture at home with simple pantry staple ingredients!
Fried chicken recipes like Korean Popcorn Chicken and Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wings are always a crowd favorite. But this Crispy Almond Chicken Breast may take the crown for everyone's number 1 favorite. Because I have the secret to a deliciously light yet crispy exterior... Rice Krispies cereal! 😱 It creates craggly edges that looks heavy, but the puffy, airy interior of the cereal keeps it light. And when combined with the sweet crunch of sliced almonds and savory, tangy, umami-rich sauce, it's truly a combo from Chinese take-out heaven!
Why You'll Love It
- Crispy: The blend of rice cereal and flours that dusts the meat creates an irresistibly crunchy masterpiece. Not to mention, the almonds add a second layer of crunch, making this fast food crispy chicken unbelievably delicious!
- Versatile: Serve this Panda Express Crispy Almond Chicken as an after school snack, game day or Super Bowl appetizer, or tasty dinner alongside with Shrimp Fried Rice and Vietnamese Chayote Squash with Beef. It's sure to satisfy any time of day!
- Flavorful: There's no shortage of flavor here. Thanks to the soy sauce marinade, puffy rice coating, savory umami sauce, and sliced almonds, there's layers of flavors that'll leave everyone licking their lips and begging for seconds.
- Chicken: The original Panda Express recipe uses chicken breast, so I do as well. But you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs if preferred.
- Egg: Crucial to allow the flour dredge to cling to the meat. It also helps create a crispy exterior and beautiful golden brown color.
- All-purpose flour: The base of our dredge for Crispy Almond Chicken Breast. All purpose flour provides structure and helps with browning.
- Almond flour: Reinforces the almond flavor in the dredge. You can substitute with additional all-purpose flour if needed.
- Rice cereal: Any rice cereal like Rice Krispies or brown rice crisps will provide the perfect crispy texture for this fried chicken recipe. It also creates a lot of texture and craggles to better catch the sauce.
- Baking soda: Adding baking soda to the marinade helps to tenderize the meat before frying, keeping your meat extra juicy.
- Soy sauce: Seasons and flavors the meat.
- Frying oil: Make sure to use a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point for frying, like avocado, peanut, or canola oil.
For The Sauce
- Almonds: Sliced almonds provide the best floral sweetness. However, you can also chop whole almonds if you don't have any.
- Garlic and ginger: These aromatic components help amplify this Chinese baked Almond Chicken with a fresh and fragrant taste.
- Soy sauce: I always recommend low sodium when possible for better control of the seasoning.
- Oyster sauce: A staple in Asian pantries. This thick, dark brown sauce is full of savory and umami flavor with a hint of sweetness. I use it in several of my recipes, including Vietnamese Crispy Pan Fried Noodles, Spam Musubi with Egg, and Vietnamese Pork Skewers.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar adds a sweet element to balance out the tanginess. Feel free to use brown or coconut sugar in its place.
- Corn starch: Classic thickening agent in Chinese-American sauces.
- Chicken broth: I cook exclusively with bone broth. It's rich in collagen, supports digestion, and has anti-inflammatory components. If using regular boxed broth, use low or no-sodium when possible.
- Green onion: for garnish.
Substitutions & Variations
- If you don’t have almond flour on hand, use a 1:1 swap of all-purpose flour or corn starch. The benefit of almond flour is that creates a cohesive nutty flavor, but substituting it will not make it any less scrumptious!
- The classic Panda Express Crispy Almond Chicken recipe uses chicken breasts cut into large nuggets, but you could also use thighs if preferred. The important part is cutting the meat into approximately 2-inch chunks. If you end up cutting the chicken pieces smaller, you may need to make more dredge since there will be more surface area to cover.
- For a gluten free crusted chicken recipe, feel free to use a 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour for the coating. Also be sure to use gluten free oyster sauce and tamari in place of soy sauce.
- Feel free to add extra flavor with the addition of spices and seasonings into the marinade. Garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, or paprika would be great.
- Almonds are necessary to create Crispy Almond Chicken that tastes just like Panda Express's. However, you can easily replace them with cashews or walnuts, if preferred.
- For a slightly heavier coating and thicker texture, use regular or gluten free breadcrumbs instead of the crispy cereal coating.
👩🏻🍳 How To Make Crispy Almond Chicken Breast
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, make the marinade. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, soy sauce, baking soda, salt, and pepper.
STEP TWO: Add the chicken nuggets and thoroughly mix together. Let marinade for at least 30 minutes. If marinading for more than 2 hours, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before frying.
STEP THREE: Make the dredge by combining almond flour, all purpose flour, rice creal, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
STEP FOUR: Take a marinaded piece of chicken and let excess drip off. Transfer to bowl of dredge and lightly press meat in so the rice cereal can adhere. Roll until each side is thoroughly coated. Repeat with all the chicken pieces and transfer to baking sheet or plate.
STEP FIVE: Next, get ready to fry. Set up a heavy-bottomed pot (I recommend a Dutch oven) and fill with 1-2 inches of frying oil. Heat oil to 350ºF - use a candy/frying thermometer for best results. Then add a couple pieces of chicken, making sure to not overcrowd the pot since bubbling or frothiness will occur from the moisture in the almond flour. Fry for 3-4 minutes, gently stirring and rotating the pieces, until golden brown with an internal temperature of 155-160ºF (residual heat will bring it up to 165ºF).
STEP SIX: While the crispy chicken is resting, start on the sauce. Heat a skillet or wok over medium heat and add the sliced almonds. Toast, stirring often, for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Transfer to a bowl or plate and set aside.
STEP SEVEN: In a new bowl, whisk together garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, corn starch, broth, salt, and pepper. Thoroughly whisk until light brown and even in color. This is your cold starch slurry sauce.
STEP EIGHT: Pour the sauce into the same skillet used for the almonds, making sure to get all of the starch. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until glossy and dark brown, about 2-4 minutes. Season to taste.
STEP NINE: Get ready to assemble. Combine fried chicken, almonds, and half the green onion. Toss with the sauce in the pan or wok over medium-low heat, or leave it on the side for each guest to drizzle. Then garnish with more green onion and serve.
💭 Top Tips
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl first. This will ensure that the corn starch is thoroughly whisked in with the other ingredients. Adding them directly into the pan instead will result in an uneven mixture - the starch will clump together and you'll have to strain the sauce.
- Watch the sliced almonds very carefully while toasting. Nuts contain lots of natural oil that causes them to burn easily. Keep an eye on them, and stir continually to create perfectly golden toasted nuts.
- Lightly sprinkle a pinch of salt over your crusted chicken pieces immediately after frying. Oil “absorbs” seasoning better when it’s hot. So, this simple step will enhance the rest of the flavors, taking your Chinese fried chicken from good to great.
- If you plan to marinate the chicken for longer than 2 hours, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge up to overnight. Then, let the meat come back to room temperature before frying.
- You can either discard or recycle the frying oil. Let cool completely before handling. If you're planning to re-use, it'll have more fine particles from the cereal and almond flour so make sure to strain with a fine mesh sieve. Store in a dark, cool area and use 1-2 more times. To discard, pour the cooled oil into a plastic bag or container and throw away in the garbage - never pour oil down the drain!
- To make Crispy Almond Chicken Breast in the air fryer, preheat the air fryer to 400ºF first. Then generously spray the basket with oil and add a single layer of chicken. Air fry for 6-8 minutes, shaking and spraying with more oil halfway, or until internal temperature is 155ºF.
- If you want to bake the chicken in an oven, place a wire rack inside a foil-lined baking sheet. Generously spray the rack with oil and place breaded chicken on it, leaving space between each one. Spray the chicken with oil, then bake at 425ºF for 15-20 minutes. If you don't have a wire rack, bake it directly on a foil-lined baking sheet but spray the foil with oil and flip halfway.
What To Serve With Crispy Almond Chicken Breast
Serve it with all your favorite snacks, sides, and appetizers! Some of my favorite pairings include:
- Almond Milk Tea or Strawberry Milk Tea or a satisfying snack.
- Air Fryer Parmesan Potato Wedges or Air Fryer Potato Croquettes for a light, kid-friendly meal.
- Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Glaze or Roasted Carrots and Green Beans for a well-rounded lunch or dinner.
- Pork Pâté Chaud, Air Fryer Cheese Quesadilla, and Bulgogi Udon for a crowd-pleasing game night spread!
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: First, let the Crispy Almond Chicken Breast cool completely. Then store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
If possible, I recommending storing the cooked chicken separately from the sauce to maintain its crispy texture.
Freezing: While this fried chicken is best served fresh, you can freeze it for a quick meal in the future. Flash freeze it first by transferring cooled chicken to a lined baking sheet, leaving space between each nugget. Freeze for 30-60 minutes until solid, and then store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers in the freezer for up to 4 months.
However, the sauce will not freeze as well. So, for the best results, I recommend making a fresh batch of gravy.
Reheating: Bake at 350ºF for 10-15 minutes or until crispy and warm. Alternatively, you can toast or air fry at 375ºF for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep an eye on it as each appliance is different. Microwave the sauce in 30 seconds intervals until smooth.
To reheat from frozen, let thaw overnight in the fridge first. Then follow the same directions as above.
Make Ahead: I'd recommend making this dish 1-2 days in advance. Prepare the Crispy Almond Chicken Breast as directed but fry for only 2-3 minutes, then let cool and store in the fridge. The day-of, fry one more time for 1-2 minutes. It'll be extra crispy and taste like it was just made!
📖 Recipe FAQs
Crispy Almond Chicken Breast is a recipe originally introduced by the fast food chain known as Panda Express. The recipe features large chunks of chicken breast coated in puffed rice breading tossed in a wok with almond pieces, scallions, and a savory soy sauce.
Simple yet flavorful, Panda Express Crispy Almond Chicken has a fairly savory taste that is accentuated with a hint of tang and a bit of sweetness.
No, but you can easily adjust the spice level with your choice of toppings. Add red pepper flakes, sliced jalapeno or Thai bird chiles, or Sriracha!
A dredge is a light coating made out of a dry ingredient like flour, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs. Most commonly used to coat meat before frying, it helps breading stick to whatever is being fried and creates the crisp, crunchy texture we all love.
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Crispy Almond Chicken Breast
- Marinade the chicken. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, mix together, and let marinade for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
- Prepare the dredge. In another large bowl, combine almond flour, all purpose flour, rice cereal, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix together.
- Batter the chicken in dredge. Once chicken is done marinating, take a chicken nugget and let excess marinade drip off. Roll and press into cereal mixture, then place onto a plate or baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken is dredged.
- Fry the chicken. Pour 1-2 inches of frying oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and heat to 350°F. Add a couple pieces of chicken, making sure to not overcrowd the pan. Bubbling is normal but adjust the heat as needed to maintain a frying temperature of 315-350°F. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until deeply golden brown with an internal temperature of 155°F. Transfer chicken to a cooling rack and option to lightly salt. Repeat with the rest of the chicken, frying in small batches.
- Toast the almonds. Add almonds to a skillet or wok over medium heat. Toast for 5 minutes, stirring often, until lightly golden and fragrant. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
- Make the sauce. In a small bowl, add garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, corn starch, broth, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Whisk until homogenous, then pour into same skillet used for almonds. Simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly, until dark and thickened.
- Assemble. If serving immediately, add chicken, almonds, sauce, and half the green onion to the wok or large bowl. Toss until chicken is evenly coated in sauce. Transfer to serving bowl, top with remaining green onion, and serve.
- If marinading for more than 2 hours, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge. Let come to room temperature before frying.
- Almond flour has more moisture so once it hits the oil, it'll bubble a lot. Make sure to fry in small batches and carefully monitor the oil temperature so it doesn't rise above 350ºF.
- For best results, use a frying thermometer to monitor the oil temperature and a meat thermometer to know when the chicken is cooked.
- To make this in the air fryer, preheat the air fryer to 400ºF first. Then generously spray the basket with oil and add a single layer of chicken. Air fry for 6-8 minutes, shaking and spraying with more oil halfway, or until internal temperature is 155ºF.
- To bake, place a wire rack inside a foil-lined baking sheet. Generously spray the rack with oil and place breaded chicken on it, leaving space between each one. Spray the chicken with oil, then bake at 425ºF for 15-20 minutes. If you don't have a wire rack, bake it directly on a foil-lined baking sheet but spray the foil with oil and flip halfway.
- The original Panda Express recipe uses chicken breast, but feel free to use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead.
- Skip the almond flour and replace with an equal amount of all-purpose flour or corn starch.