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Panda Express Sesame Chicken (copycat)

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This sesame air fryer chicken is a great Panda Express substitute since it has all the flavor without the calories of a traditional sesame chicken. This healthier spin on a Chinese takeout staple, made with air-fried sesame chicken, is quick and simple to make at home.

sesame chicken in a bowl with green onion garnish
perfectly crisp and juicy sesame chicken from air frying

Served with crispy golden fried chicken and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, this Air Fryer Sesame Chicken dish has an enticing yummy sauce, just like my bang bang chicken, sesame chicken and sweet chili chicken.

Panda Express sesame chicken copycat

This Asian air fryer sesame chicken differs mainly in that it is cooked using an air fryer rather than a deep fryer. The delicious sauce is still drizzled over the crispy chicken pieces. Serve it up with air fryer egg rolls for the ultimate combo!

I typically eat Chinese at least once or twice a week. It’s one of my favorite go-to meals, especially the sweet / spicy dishes. This recipe is a tad spicy, but not overpowering, and it goes great with just about any side.

ingredients for sesame chicken in clear bowls on a white table
sesame chicken ingredients

What you’ll need:

  • chicken breast fillets
  • eggs
  • cornstarch
  • all-purpose flour
  • soy sauce
  • minced garlic
  • minced ginger
  • Oil for brushing
sauce mixture in a bowl

sauce ingredients

  • sesame oil
  • minced garlic- fresh is best
  • honey or brown sugar
  • soy sauce
  • ketchup
  • hoisin sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • Chilli paste
  • cornstarch (mixed in water)

how to make sesame chicken in the air fryer

marinating chicken
chicken in an air fryer
air fry
golden air fryer chicken bits
remove when golden

You can make crispy, juicy chicken by coating it with corn starch, spraying it with cooking spray, and then air frying it until golden.

sesame chicken sauce

Finally, we’ll need something to top it all off: a great sauce.

sautéing garlic in a frying pan
oil + garlic
sauce in a frying pan
sauce ingredients + boil
coating chicken in sesame sauce
  1. Combine soy sauce, ketchup, rice vinegar, chili paste, hoisin sauce, honey or brown sugar, and cornstarch mixture in a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pan and add minced garlic; cook for a few seconds.
    Cook for a few minutes, or until the sauce thickens/ is boiling, before adding the sauce mixture.
  3. Finally, add the air-fried chicken and toss the pieces in the sauce until the sauce thickens and the chicken is thoroughly covered.

The sauce achieves just the right amount of thickening with more corn starch to create that beautiful sesame sheen.

spoon scooping up a yummy bite of glazed sesame chicken
don’t forget the sesame seeds


How to prevent sticking: Line your air fryer basket with parchment paper for optimum results.

How to garnish: Sprinkle sesame seeds and scallions on top, and now your dish is the perfect copycat recipe of your fave Chinese takeout.

a bowl of rice served with sesame chicken and cilantro garnish
Best served with veggies and rice


  • extra flavor: The more time you let the chicken sit in the marinade, the more flavorful it will turn out.
  • For the best sauce: Boil the sauce right before serving, even if you’ve already combined everything together. You don’t want the sauce to over-thicken if chilled ahead of time. 
table set with rice and sesame chicken in a bowl

Keep the chicken and sauce separate until you are ready to serve it. To serve, remove the hot chicken from the air fryer, pour the hot sauce over it, and mix to combine. This method ensures that the chicken coating will maintain its irresistible crunch.

bowl of sesame chicken with rice

what to serve with sesame chicken

When I order this chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant, they always serve it with broccoli, which is just how I want it. And, it’s the perfect simple dinner with a side of sticky white rice, fried rice or other healthy steamed veggies.

In addition, I’ve used this chicken as a chicken poke bowl, and it’s delicious. Make a bed of edamame and pile on the toppings, such as sliced carrot sticks, wonton strips, and scallions.

sesame chicken in a bowl with sesame seed topping and garnish

Air Fryer Sesame Chicken

This air fryer sesame chicken is sprinkled with yummy glaze, sesame seeds and scallions on top. Now air fry your favorite Chinese takeout right at home!
4.86 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Calories: 643kcal
Author: Amber


  • Air fryer


Chicken Ingredients

Sauce Ingredients



Chicken instructions

  • In a bowl, mix chicken pieces with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, minced ginger, garlic, and soy sauce and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  • Take a separate bowl and mix all-purpose flour and cornstarch, season with remaining (1/4th tsp) salt and pepper.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and dip the chicken pieces in the egg. Roll the egg coated chicken in the cornstarch and all-purpose flour mixture and place it on a plate.
  • Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 180-degree C / 350-degrees F. Brush the basket with little oil and put the coated chicken pieces in it. Brush some oil on the top. Cook for 6-7 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. Set aside.

Sauce instructions

  • In a bowl, stir together soy sauce, ketchup, rice vinegar, chili paste, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, and cornstarch mixture.
  • In a pan, heat sesame oil and add minced garlic, sauté it for a few seconds.
  • Add the sauce mixture and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens.
  • Finally, add the air-fried chicken and toss the chicken pieces until the sauce thickens and the chicken is well coated in the sauce.
  • Garnish with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro and serve hot with steamed or fried rice.


Storage: You can store the sesame chicken in an airtight container for 5 days in the refrigerator or around 3 months in the freezer.


Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 96g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 137mg | Sodium: 2170mg | Potassium: 600mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 231IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 6mg

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