To many people, the concept of American Chinese cuisine doesn’t make sense. But there is a big, strong fan base for the Americanized versions of Chinese foods.
If you belong to the latter group, there is almost a 100% probability that you’re a fan of Panda Express. You can’t not love their Sweet and Spicy Orange Chicken, Chow Mein, crispy Egg Rolls, and those juicy grilled chicken thighs smothered in teriyaki sauce.
However, since you have now committed to the vegan lifestyle, most of these items are off-limits. You can’t just stop by your favorite Chinese restaurant and order anything on the menu anymore. Sadly, the luxury of ordering quickly without asking a multitude of questions isn’t available to us vegans at most food places yet.
You have to take the time to scan the menu to figure out what at Panda Express is vegan. But wait, is anything at Panda Express vegan? Let’s figure it out!
Does Panda Express Have Vegan Food?
Even though Asian cuisines are generally considered vegan-friendly or vegetarian-friendly, this was not the case with Panda Express until a couple of years ago. The largest Chinese restaurant chain in the U.S. did not have any vegan items on its menu. Even the items that were only made of vegetables either had chicken broth or meat seasonings in them.
It was only in February 2019 that they responded to vegans’ demands and promised to add a few vegan options to their menu.
Does Panda Express Have Vegan Options Now?
Apparently, they do…because that’s what they announced in February 2019.
However, when I dug a little deeper, it turned out that there’s a small twist here (I bet you knew this was coming).
Although Panda Express lists items that do not contain animal products on their website, they don’t label them as vegan; they call them plant-based dishes. And they also provide the reason for it.
As stated on the Panda Express website, they cook all their foods using shared equipment, which means that there may be cross-contamination.
So, Are There Any Panda Express Vegan Choices or Not?
There are, but only for those who do not mind cross-contamination. If you’re one of them, the following are the Panda Express vegan options for you:
- Super Greens
- Vegetable Spring Rolls
- Steamed White and Brown Rice
As per Panda Express’s announcement in 2019, they were going to make their Chow Mein and Eggplant Tofu vegan. But, it is not clear whether they have acted upon their decision or not. The statement on their website regarding these two popular dishes is vague. Here’s what it says:
Is Eggplant Tofu and Panda Express Chow Mein Vegan Then or Not?
To find a clear-cut answer, I did a little more research and came across a Reddit post (it was about a year–old post) where someone had shared a reply from the company on a query regarding Panda Express vegan items.
I also came across a Tweet reply from Panda Express…
Based on these responses, it can be said that Panda Express’ Chow Mein and Eggplant Tofu do not contain any animal product, although cross-contamination may still be there.
Is it all too confusing? I get it!
Let me simplify things for you. If you do not mind eating foods cooked in the same pots and pans used for cooking meat, you can eat the following items at Panda Express…
Panda Express Vegan Appetizers
§ Vegetable Spring Roll
There is only one vegan appetizer available at Panda Express. But, hey, who needs anything else when you have freshly cooked, crispy spring rolls?
Dip these crispy, golden-brown veggie spring rolls in sweet and sour or soy sauce for a perfect start to your meal.
Is Panda Express Sweet and Sour Sauce vegan?
Check out the list of vegan sauces available at Panda Express below.
Vegan Entrées at Panda Express
Despite high demand from vegans, Panda Express has still not modified its entrée menu. They only offer one vegan entrée – Eggplant Tofu – and that, too, isn’t available in all their outlets. Turns out, it’s a regional dish.
Is this a joke, Panda Express?
If you’re lucky to find a Panda Express near you that offers Eggplant Tofu, do give it a try. It only has eggplants, tofu (of course!), and red bell peppers, all coated in a thick, sticky, sweet and spicy sauce. Those who have had it (I am not part of the lucky ones, sadly) say IT’S GOOOOD!!
Pair it up with a vegan side to have a filling vegan meal at your favorite American Chinese restaurant.
Vegan Sides at Panda Express
§ Steamed Rice
Panda Express offers both white and brown steamed rice options, so you can choose according to your preference.
Although steamed rice isn’t something you would want to order on its own, it goes well with Eggplant Tofu.
What About Fried Rice? Is the Fried Rice at Panda Express Vegan?
As much as we all wish for it, Panda Express’s fried rice is, sadly, not vegan. As highlighted in the company’s allergen guide, their fried rice contains eggs (ugh!).
However, I recommend that you try asking if they can make the fried rice for you without eggs. You never know, it could be your lucky day.
§ Super Greens
If you have never had this dish, let me warn you not to get your hopes high. Super Greens is just a combination of a few green vegetables – cabbage, kale, and broccoli, to be specific. It’s not a dish you’re excited to try, but it makes a good, healthy, and nutritious side with rice and, if you’re lucky, Eggplant Tofu.
§ Chow Mein
These Chinese stir-fried noodles often come with meat, but thankfully, not at Panda Express. As discussed above, Panda Express representatives have confirmed on multiple platforms that their Chow Mein is now vegetable-based (it used to have chicken broth and probably meat seasonings).
Even though Chow Mein is technically a side dish, I don’t mind having it as an entrée. If you’re like me, you might consider ordering a serving of Chow Mein (or perhaps two, if you’ve got a big appetite) on your next visit to Panda Express.
You may also try asking if they can add tofu to your Chow Mein to make it more filling and satisfying.
Vegan Sauces at Panda Express
Make up for all those delicious sauces they use in their meat-based dishes by adding any of the following Panda Express’ vegan sauce to your food:
- Sweet and sour sauce (yay!!)
- Plum sauce (yum!)
- Potsticker sauce (hmm…interesting)
- Hot mustard
- Chili sauce
- Soy sauce
Some online sources also list teriyaki sauce as vegan, as all the sauce’s core ingredients are plant-based. However, I suggest that you confirm first before ordering because some teriyaki sauce recipes include honey, which the majority of vegans avoid.
Don’t know what the issues are with honey? Refer to my article entitled Are Bagels Vegan to find out!
Vegan Drinks at Panda Express
Like most other restaurants, you can find all the standard sodas and drinks at Panda Express. These include:
- Coke – regular, diet, zero, cherry
- Fanta – orange, strawberry, fruit punch
- Sprite – regular and zero
- Dr. Pepper
- Minute Maid lemonade
- Vitamin water
- Powerade fruit punch and mountain berry blast
- Hi-C Flashin Fruit Punch
- Fuze Tea – lemon black, raspberry
- Black tea – sweet, unsweetened
- Ginger ale
- Root Beer
Panda Express also offers an extensive range of delicious vegan beverages at their tea bars.
Vegan Beverages at Panda Express Tea Bars
If you didn’t already know, Panda Express offers Asian-inspired, handcrafted beverages at their tea bars. And you’ll be delighted to know that many of them are vegan-friendly.
For your convenience, here’s a list of all the vegan beverages you can get at a Panda Express tea bar:
- Fruit Teas – strawberry, raspberry, passion fruit
- Lemonades – classic, strawberry, ginger, raspberry, hibiscus, pomegranate pineapple
- Green tea – classic, lemon, hibiscus
- Black tea
They also offer a range of milk teas and smoothies at Panda Express tea bars. However, you will have to ask if they have the option for non-dairy milk.
You may also find many other varieties of drinks at various Panda Express tea bars because they say they always have something new brewing at their Tea Bar.
Is There Any Vegan Dessert Available at Panda Express?
Can you imagine a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t offer fortune cookies? I can’t; not in the U.S. at least!
Like most other Chinese restaurants in the country, Panda Express does offer fortune cookies.
But are fortune cookies vegan at Panda Express?
Yes, they are!
While many restaurants use eggs in fortune cookies, those eggs available at Panda Express are vegan-friendly. So, do not miss the opportunity to end your meal at Panda Express with a little fun by ordering fortune cookies for dessert.
Is Panda Express Worth Visiting for Vegans?
To sum up the whole discussion, Panda Express isn’t an ideal place for vegans. However, it isn’t the worst place either. You can have a decent meal here. So, if you have been craving for some good American Chinese food and couldn’t find any place that offers a full vegan menu, you can satisfy your craving at Panda Express.
If you ask me, I wouldn’t mind going to Panda Express just for their Vegetable Spring Rolls and Chow Mein. If this sounds like your kind of order, go ahead and visit a Panda Express nearby. Do not forget to order some vegan sauces, a drink, and some fortune cookies to enjoy a complete meal.
Not convinced? Check out this video to see what other vegans think about Panda Express vegan options!
That being said, if you’re a vegan who does not eat foods that have been cooked in shared pans (at least where you know about it), sadly, Panda Express isn’t the place to be. The company clearly states on its website that Panda Express vegan items are prepared and cooked in the same facility and equipment used for non-vegan foods.
Want to learn about the vegan options available at other restaurants? Read my article Cracker Barrel Vegan Options to figure out if their traditional Southern food menu includes any vegan options!