Panda Express Adds Plant-Based Dishes to Its Menu Worldwide
If you adhere to a plant-based lifestyle, listen up—Panda Express is about to make dining out even more simple. Despite having some veggie-centric meals on the menu, like eggplant tofu and vegetable spring rolls, the chain’s nutrition information disclaimer (found online, at the bottom of dish descriptions) clearly states “Panda Express does not have any vegetarian or gluten-free dishes.” That’s because said dishes use chicken broth or involve some form of an animal seasoning, making them off-limits for vegans. This week, Panda Express added a slew of plant-based menu items to all 2,000-plus of its locations around the world. While a VegNews report stated that the new dishes were vegan, Panda Express clarified to Food & Wine in a statement that the dishes, while free of animal byproducts, are made in the same facility as everything else on the menu, so they cannot claim the items as vegan.
"All items at Panda Express are cooked and prepped in the same shared facilities and equipment in store, so we have not claimed that our menu is vegetarian or vegan," read the statement.
It continued, "Over the past few years, our teams at Panda Express have been hard at work to make recipe adjustments and scale them nationwide to provide a variety of American Chinese dishes for our guests who live a plant-based lifestyle. Such options on our current menu include Super Greens mixed veggies, Vegetable Spring Rolls, Eggplant Tofu, Chow Mein, and Steamed White and Brown Rice. While these dishes do not have animal product or byproduct, all items at Panda Express are cooked and prepped in the same shared facilities and equipment in store, so we have not claimed that our menu is vegetarian or vegan. We listen closely to guest feedback, and we will continue to be transparent in our brand communications out of the utmost respect for their lifestyle and dietary choices. To reiterate, the shared kitchen prep is an important factor to note—and one that we always disclose—in case there are any allergens and dietary restrictions/preferences."
Panda Express joins the rankings of Carl’s Jr., White Castle, and most recently, Muscle Maker Grill in offering more vegetarian-friendly fast-food options. Carl’s Jr. has the Beyond Burger (dubbed the “Beyond Famous Star”) on its menu until this spring; Muscle Maker Grill will now carry the Impossible Burger at select locations around the U.S., a product White Castle adopted nationwide last year. And while McDonald’s vegan Happy Meal, the “McFalafel,” is only currently available in Sweden and Finland, with this plant-based trend, perhaps it’ll make its way stateside eventually.
Updated 9:12 p.m., February 26, 2019: A previous version of this article stated that the new Panda Express items were vegan. The chain has since clarified that the dishes, while free of animal byproducts, are cooked in the same facility as the rest of the dishes and were never meant to be considered completely vegan.