TJ’s vs. Takeout: Orange Chicken

Spoiler alert: Food from a local restaurant will always be better than food from Trader Joe’s. That being said, sometimes you don’t have the funds to eat out and need a delicious, filling meal for a couple of bucks. In this series, we’ll find out if Trader Joe’s rendition of a dish will get the job done or if it will just make you miss the real deal even more.

This week we’re trying two different versions of orange chicken: Trader Joe’s orange chicken and Panda Express orange chicken. Can the beloved Trader Joe’s fried chicken from the freezer section outdo Panda Express’ cult-classic orange chicken in taste, price, or convenience? We tried both in a side-by-side taste test to find out!

Takeout: Panda Express Orange Chicken (~$11.20 + tax & tip for a large container)
Panda Express orange chicken is what people think of when they hear the words “orange chicken.” It’s so tart and sweet and fatty. It pairs perfectly with their lo mein. Honestly, I could eat an entire large container of it by myself. Something about it is so crave-able.

The chicken itself in Panda Express’ orange chicken is forgettable, though. It’s forgettable because it’s barely there. I would say that this orange chicken is 50% chicken and 50% breading when you get a good piece. When you get a bad piece (and there were many in the container we got), it’s 100% breading.

Trader Joe’s: Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken ($4.99 for 22 oz)
I was shocked by how meaty Trader Joe’s orange chicken is. It has big hunks of chicken that are ever so lightly breaded. You’re actually sinking your teeth into meat when you enjoy this orange chicken. It’s probably some of the best quality chicken I’ve ever had from the freezer section. I also love that the bag comes with multiple sauce packets. You already know that I love sauce!

But as with any of these products, if you don’t cook all of it at once, you have to ration the sauce. I dream that they start making these packets resealable. Otherwise, it’s pretty inconvenient and messy. This also doesn’t have the deliciously greasy taste that I sometimes want when I’m craving orange chicken.

Conclusion: Both are sensationally good, but they are very different. With its bright tang, light breading, and meatiness, the orange chicken from Trader Joe’s wins this TJ’s vs. Takeout taste test. It tastes like actual chicken and the convenience of having it in the freezer just can’t be beaten. That being said, if you prefer a breading-heavy, mall food court-style orange chicken, Panda Express will be more your vibe.

About the Author

Jordan Myrick

Jordan is an L.A.-based writer and comedian who believes all food should come with extra sauce. When they're not writing for Sporked, Jordan is at the movies or sharing an order of french fries with their elderly chihuahua.

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  • Love and totally agree with this!

  • Jordan, do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this comparison! I agree with you 100%. Quick note, I love using my air fryer to cook the Trader Joe’s orange chicken. It’s a crisp element that can’t be beat in my opinion. Bon appetit!

    • This is how it’s done!