Panda Express wasn’t always the best option for someone seriously committed to veganism. It wasn’t certainly the most appealing when two out of their six vegan options were white and brown rice.
They seemed to offer vegan dishes in the past, but vegans were outraged when they discovered that most of their dishes were flavored with chicken stock.
Currently, here are the Panda Express vegan options.
What is Panda Express?
Panda Express is one of the biggest Chinese fast-food chains in the world. Ihas over 2,200 locations and is considered the largest Asian segment restaurant chain in the entire United States.
The Panda Express first opened 37 years ago in October 1983. The founders Andrew and Peggy Cherng are Chinese immigrants who met in university.
Andrew was not new to the restaurant business, though.
He and his father opened the first variation of Panda Express called the Panda Inn, whose sales were so dismal that they often had to put out special promotions so people would dine in.
In 1983, the Cherngs were invited to open up a fast food restaurant version of the Panda Inn for Glendale Galleria in Southern California, which they called Panda Express — and the rest, you can say, is history.
How Its Plant-Based Options Came Into Existence
The vegan-friendly options at Panda Express came into existence when Vegan Outreach, a nonprofit organization, launched a petition in 2019 to remove chicken broth to make the Panda Express menu more vegan-friendly.
Thanks to PETA and a total of 234,000 signatures, the fast-casual Chinese restaurant now offers vegan options.
However, it’s important to remember that the restaurant does not offer gluten-free dishes, and all their food uses shared cooking equipment. There will always be a risk of cross-contamination.
8 Plant-Based Options at Panda Express
1. Beyond The Original Orange Chicken
The Original Orange Chicken is a classic favorite at Panda Express. And although it is delicious, it wasn’t vegan… until recently.
Panda Express collaborated with Beyond Meat, a producer of plant-based meat substitutes, to create a vegan orange chicken. Chef Jimmy Wang, head of culinary innovation, is overseeing this project.
This plant-based signature entrée has a juicy and irresistibly crunchy texture. The fried chicken is tossed in the vegan tangy orange sauce and is one of the best vegan options at Panda Express.
Beyond Meat is also working with other names including KFC , Pizza Hut, and Burger King to offer a plant-based option to customers.
2. Eggplant Tofu
Panda prepares their Eggplant Tofu with vegetable stock instead of chicken and flavors this dish with a vegan sweet and spicy sauce.
The Eggplant Tofu is one of the best vegan options at Panda. Lightly browned tofu, eggplant, and red bell peppers are stir-fried in a sweet and spicy sauce.
3. Steamed Brown Rice & White Rice
Steamed rice will always be a safe vegan option at Panda Express. It's also a great side dish to all their entrees.
Sadly, their fried rice has egg and is not vegan.
4. Super Greens
The Super Greens from Panda Express isn’t just for vegans; it’s for anyone wishing to live a healthier lifestyle. This plant-based leafy dish consists of kale, cabbage, and broccoli and has no animal products.
Panda Express uses butter in the non-vegan Super Greens, though, so you may want to be more specific.
5. Vegetable Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are a traditional Chinese dish with a filling of shredded vegetables and meat wrapped cylindrically in a wonton pastry and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy.
Panda Express forgoes all animal products in the Vegetable Spring Roll. Finely chopped cabbage, carrots, green onions, and Chinese noodles are used for the filling. They pair extremely well with the sweet and sour sauce.
6. Chow Mein
Chow Mein means stir-fried noodles in Chinese. It is prepared by stir-frying boiled noodles with some vegetables and meat or tofu.
The Panda Express Chow Mein used to be flavored with chicken broth, but they’ve long abandoned that practice.
Thankfully, many Panda Express sauces are vegan-friendly. You can order a big platter of Vegetable Spring Rolls and use the vegan sauces as dip to find out which one is your favorite.
- Teriyaki sauce
- Sweet and sour sauce
- Chili sauce
- Soy sauce
- Potsticker sauce
- Hot mustard
- Plum sauce
Panda Express offers generic drinks that are great for vegans.
- Barq’s Root Beer
- Dr. Pepper
- Minute Maid
- Fuze tea
- Black tea
- Sweet tea
- Lemon green tea
No. Panda Express used to use chicken broth in flavoring most of its dishes, but it has now switched to using vegetable broth instead for a more vegan-friendly option.
No. Panda Express’s Chow Mein does not contain eggs. Only wheat noodles, onions, celery, and cabbage are used to make this dish.
We’re glad to see that plant-based menu items are available for those who want to eat vegan at Panda Express.
And unlike other restaurants, you can leave the casual Chinese place feeling full despite the limited vegan menu items. If you ask us, a serving of Eggplant Tofu with a side of steamed white rice, Super Greens, and Vegetable Spring Rolls sounds delicious and filling at the same time!