Panda Express is a fast-food restaurant chain that serves American-Chinese cuisine and is likely the biggest Asian restaurant chain in the United States with over 2,200 locations.
Panda Express restaurants have always been easy to find in shopping mall food courts, but now you can see them in all sorts of environments, including standalone restaurants, universities, military bases, amusement parks, and other venues.
They offer a variety of Chinese inspired dishes often served with sides such as fried rice, brown or white steamed rice, chow mein, and super greens. While these sides are currently vegan, they weren’t always vegan. Panda Express was preparing them using meat-based flavoring.
However, thanks to Peta’s persistence, that did change in 2019.
Does Panda Express Now Serve Vegan Dishes?
Indeed. PETA urged Panda Express to make their vegetable-based dishes vegan by ramping up 234,000 petitions from their vegan supporters.
In response, Panda Express agreed to offer vegan options by releasing vegan versions of its Eggplant Tofu, spring rolls, brown and white rice, Super Greens (a side of broccoli, kale, and cabbage), and Chow Mein dishes.
Fortunately, Panda Express did what many other chains did in the wake of an exponentially growing movement that isn’t showing any signs of stopping. They must adapt as a result.
List of Every Vegan Option at Panda Express
1 – Eggplant Tofu
Perhaps the most appealing option a vegan could hope for in a non-vegan American-Chinese restaurant is the Eggplant Tofu. Originally made using chicken broth, thanks to PETA, this dish is now fully vegan and is here to stay.
According to Panda Express, this dish consists of lightly brown tofu, eggplant, and red bell peppers dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce. Hands down the best option available.
Add some white or brown rice on the side (or below) and you can have a fulfilling meal.
2 – Chow Mein
Chow Mein is Chinese stir-fried noodles with vegetables, and sometimes, you can find them with Tofu (or meat). I don’t know how open to requests Panda Express is, but perhaps you could ask them to add in a few chunks of Tofu to make it a full meal.
As mentioned before, the dish is no longer cooked in chicken broth, so it’s 100% vegan.
3 – Vegetable Spring Roll
In traditional Chinese cuisine, spring rolls are rolls with cabbage and other vegetable fillings stuffed inside a thinly wrapped cylindrical pastry. Sometimes, these rolls may contain different meat varieties, but Panda Express’s spring roll only contains vegetables and is fully vegan.
They’re absolutely delicious, especially when dipped in soy or sweet and sour sauce.
4 – Super Greens
The Super Greens at Panda Express is a mixture of broccoli, kale, and cabbage. It’s a healthy side to add to a plate with Eggplant Tofu and rice, making it a wholesome nutritious offering.
5 – Steamed Brown and White Rice
As I’ve mentioned above, steamed white or brown rice is also one of the vegan options available that is no longer cooked with meat-flavoring. As a result, it’s fully vegan.
Don’t order fried rice since eggs are used (according to their allergen menu).
6 – Vegan Sauces
One of the greatest surprises of Chinese-based cuisine is that a lot of their sauces are actually plant-based. You can find a diverse number of them:
- Soy Sauce
- Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Chili Sauce
- Hot Mustard
- Plum Sauce
- Potsticker Sauce
There is also the possibility that teriyaki sauce may be vegan but it depends on the brand. While the core components of the teriyaki are plant-based, there are recipes that may contain ingredients such as honey. Some options may use white sugar as a component, but some North American vegans may hesitate because the sugar may have been filtered using animal components.
Though at the same time, if you’re not the strictest of vegans, that won’t really be an issue.
7 – Drinks
Panda Express has handcrafted, Asian-inspired drinks, though you can only find them in Panda Express Tea Bars. You can find their locations through Panda Express’s website.
In Panda Express’s Tea Bars you can find specialty/cool drinks such as the following:
- Strawberry Fruit Tea
- Raspberry Fruit Tea
- Hibiscus Green Tea
- Passion Fruit Tea
- Classic Lemonade
- Strawberry Lemonade
- Raspberry Lemonade
- Ginger Lemonade
- Pomegranate Pineapple
- and Hibiscus Lemonade
They also have Panda, Thai, and Matcha Milk Tea but you’d have to check if they can use a vegetable beverage to substitute the dairy-based option.
In regular Panda Express restaurants, you’re able to find a lot of the drinks you can find in most fast-food chains, namely carbonated drinks.
Here is a list of vegan-friendly drinks available at Panda Express:
- Root Beer
- Black Tea
- Cherry Coca-Cola
- Coca-Cola Zero
- Diet Coke
- Dr. Pepper
- Fanta Fruit Punch
- Fanta Orange
- Fanta Strawberry
- Fuze Lemon Black Tea
- Fuze Raspberry Tea
- Vitamin Water
- Unsweetened Tea
- Hi-C Flashin Fruit Punch
- Lemon Green Tea
- Minute Maid Lemonade
- Minute Maid Light Lemonade
- Passionfruit Mango Black Tea
- Powerade Fruit Punch
- Powerade Mountain Berry Blast
- Ginger Ale
- Sprite Zero
- and Sweet Tea
Is Panda Express a Good Vegan-Friendly Option?
Although Panda Express is what you’d call a non-vegan restaurant, it has some vegan-friendly options, so much so that you can leave the restaurant feeling like you had a good meal.
By combining Eggplant Tofu with steamed rice and super greens, plus additional vegetable spring rolls on the side, you can have a well-balanced, plant-based meal.
On top of that, you have several vegan-friendly sauces that you can use to either dip the spring rolls in or to enhance the overall flavor of your dish. Not to mention, if you want to keep it healthy, Panda Express has a selection of teas that are free of sugars.
So is Panda Express a good vegan-friendly option? Yes, it’s better than most!
Two Recommendations For Vegans
Allow me to make two quick recommendations that have helped me in my vegan journey by ensuring I’m always healthy and deficiency-free.
- The first recommendation is my favorite vegan multivitamin supplement. It was created with vegans in mind. It contains vitamins B12, D, and Omega 3. In other words, it contains nutrients that vegans are generally low in.
- The second recommendation is this amazing vegan starter kit that is actually a bundle with 9 e-books that will help you lead a healthy, vegan lifestyle without running into any dietary deficiencies. It has great advice, and it includes print-outs and checklists that will make the theory easy to implement. This is something I’ve included in my recommended products page as well.