Succulent shrimp is velveted with cornstarch, pan fried until crispy, then tossed with a smooth shrimp glaze and candied walnuts. The process is similar to what we use to make Boom Boom Shrimp.
Panda Express Walnut Shrimp
If you love Panda Express honey walnut shrimp, you’ll love this copycat version. It’s as close to the real thing as you’re gonna get. By “real thing” I mean the American-Chinese hybrid found at fast-casual chains.
There aren’t a ton of “non-pantry” ingredients required. For the full list of honey shrimp ingredients, reference the recipe card below.
Shrimp – Raw, fresh or frozen (and thawed)
Walnut – Add as many as you like! Prefer pecans? Swap them in for the walnuts.
Sweetened Condensed Milk – Not to be confused with evaporated milk.
Rice Vinegar – If you don’t have any on hand you can substitute in apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
Honey Glazed Shrimp
This honey glaze for shrimp is a very important part of the final product! Don’t use cheap mayonnaise as you’ll taste it the first bite.
Another “no no” is swapping out the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk. The flavor of the shrimp glaze will be lacking and considerably thinner.
Making honey walnut shrimp doesn’t require much time, but it’s all hands on time. For the full recipe to make Panda Express shrimp, reference the recipe card below.
Walnuts – The candied walnuts harden as they dry, so make them first.
Sauce – Prepare the sauce so it’s ready to go as soon as the fried shrimp has been removed from the hot oil.
Prep the Shrimp- Butterfly (optional) the shrimp and dredge in cornstarch.
Cook the Shrimp – Fry the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, remove and toss with the sauce.
This honey walnut shrimp recipe is mirroring a process known as “velveting meat”. It’s a crucial step in Chinese cooking, so don’t skip it!
In short, it’s coating the meat, in this case shrimp, in eggs and cornstarch before cooking to produce a juicy and silky textured shrimp vs. tough and dry shrimp.
To streamline this version, we’ve eliminated the egg wash step. So technically not “velveting” 100%, but you’ll get the same outcome.
- Butterfly the shrimp for maximum shrimp to sauce ration.
- Make sure the shrimp is 100% dry before adding the cornstarch. You’ll find the end results will suffer as the coating won’t stick.
- Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches to avoid brining down the temperature of the oil thereby creating soggy shrimp.
- This honey walnut shrimp panda express recipe is best when enjoyed immediately.
Recipe Honey Walnut Shrimp
Originating in Hong Kong, honey walnut shrimp is considered a classic Cantonese dish. It’s a staple on most American Chinese restaurant menus; this version being closely aligned to Panda Express Walnut Shrimp.
With that said, you can create a version of your own! Here are some common variations:
Honey Walnut Shrimp Recipe Variations
Honey Walnut Chicken
Omit the shrimp and replace it with chicken. You’ll just need to add a few extra minutes when cooking the protein.
Spicy Honey Shrimp
Like some heat? Add a 1/2- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the sauce for an extra kick.
Honey Walnut Prawns
Prawns are similar to shrimp in terms of shape, texture however they’re on the sweeter side. Replace in equal parts.
More Asian Recipes to Check Out
- ¾ cup walnut halves, rinsed with water and dried (*Note 1)
- 3-4 cups canola oil
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- ⅛ tsp salt
HONEY WALNUT SAUCE
- ¼ cup high quality mayonnaise
- 3 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tsp honey
- ¼ tsp rice vinegar
- ⅛ tsp salt
HONEY WALNUT SHRIMP
- 1 lb medium raw shrimp, deveined and shelled (*Note2 )
- ⅓ cup cornstartch
- optional garnish: diced chives
PREP THE WALNUTS AND SAUCE
- Rinse the walnuts with water and let dry before proceeding. If you add wet walnuts to oil it will spit out hot oil. Do not attempt.
- Add the mayonnaise, condensed milk, honey, rice vinegar and salt to a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside (do not refrigerate).
MAKE THE CANDIED WALNUTS
- Pre-heat oil in a small saucepan (enough to cover a piece of shrimp) to 325°F. Add the dried walnuts to the oil and dry for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove the walnuts with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Set aside. Turn off the oil while you proceed with the next steps.
- Pre-heat a second small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sugar, water and salt and mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved (approx. 2-3 minutes).
- Add the walnuts to the syrup. Keep stirring until there's no liquid in the bottom of the pan and the syrup isn't dripping off the walnuts. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ensuring the walnuts don't touch.
FRY THE SHRIMP
- Place the cornstarch in a shallow bowl and lightly dredge all the shrimp. Set aside for 3-4 minutes. Do not toss out the remaining cornstarch.
- Turn the heat back on and pre-heat the oil to 350°F.
- Dredge the shrimp a second time in the cornstarch and shake off any excess. Repeat until all the shrimp have been coated twice.
- Add the shrimp to the oil, one at a time, as to avoid splashing the hot oil. Get the shrimp in there as quickly as possible to ensure even cooking. Work in batches, if needed.
- As the shrimp cooks, flip them around a couple times to ensure even cooking. Cook until golden brown, approx. 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large heat-safe mixing bowl. Pour the mayonnaise sauce over the shrimp and gently toss to coat.
- Transfer the shrimp to a serving plate or bowl and top with the candied walnuts and chives.