Does Panda Express Use Real Chicken? An Investigation
Recently, I had the chance to visit my local Panda Express restaurant, where I ordered my favorite meal from the restaurant’s rotating menu of fried chicken entrées.
As I enjoyed the meal, I realized I hadn’t really thought about how it came to be so delicious. Naturally, as any curious consumer would do, I embarked on an investigation of my own, which I documented in this article.
Information and Background
Many people, especially vegans and vegetarians, are concerned with what kind of ingredients they eat. For people who follow a meat-free diet, eating out can sometimes be tricky as restaurants tend to use beef broth or chicken stock when cooking their food.
For example, a plate of lo mein at some restaurants is only a few steps away from having real chicken in it. But just because there’s no obvious meat involved doesn’t mean that you won’t find animal products in food cooked by popular Chinese fast-food chain Panda Express.
If you ask most people if they eat at Panda Express, they will likely answer yes. This is because Panda Express has a pretty strong presence on every corner in nearly every city and town.
A lot of people think that it makes sense to eat at restaurants that can be found everywhere; but do you really know what’s inside each dish? Here are some answers to questions you may have about chicken and other ingredients used in common fast-food chains like KFC, McDonald’s, and more!
Question 1 – Do They Use Real Chicken?
We all know that Panda Express has some of the best-tasting Chinese food in America, but do they use real chicken or just thin strips of soy? To find out, I conducted an investigation. I visited three different locations and ordered chow mein noodles with chicken, hoping for a nice big juicy piece.
It turned out that my suspicions were accurate at all three locations. Their chicken is composed entirely of strips of soy. One location was even bold enough to post a sign saying ALL PAPA EXPRESS FOODS CONTAIN NO MEAT.
If you are ordering meat dishes at any Panda location, ask them if they use real chicken. At most locations, you will be surprised by their answer!
Question 2 – What’s in the Sauce?
As a chicken restaurant, it’s unsurprising that Panda Express makes much of its chicken. What you might not know is that every one of their sauces is made from scratch, in-house. That includes orange sauce, brown sauce, and their sweet-and-sour dipping sauce, which are all packed with preservatives.
Their black bean and mixed vegetable entrees aren’t just loaded with fillers but are actually two entirely different dishes; they’re cooked separately before being mixed together with cornstarch to create an appearance reminiscent of actual vegetables (they’re black beans).
If you want real chicken and veggies at Panda Express, you’ll have to order white meat or side dishes like crispy noodles or fried rice.
Question 3 – What About The Veggies?
So you’ve got a plate of stir-fried noodles and veggies, but what about all that sauce that is serving as your main protein source? What’s in it exactly? I asked an employee at a nearby location, who was kind enough to share their recipe: A little broth and egg white with some cornstarch to thicken.
Everything else is just seasoning. I decided to whip up my own batch of Panda Sauce (and without any secret ingredients) and gave it a taste test. It tasted pretty good! A little too salty for my liking, but otherwise really tasty!
Final Thoughts and Summary
With a little digging, it’s easy to get our hands on some real numbers. While there are reports that claim Panda Express uses an all-white-meat chicken, there are also plenty of reviews from diners that claim otherwise.
What’s more, some Chinese food enthusiasts have done taste tests and found that Panda Express used cheaper cuts of chicken along with preservatives and other additives in their dishes.
If you don’t have time to read through hundreds of reviews or hours to sample ingredients yourself, your best bet is always going to be to head over to your local restaurant and order what you want off of the menu. You’ll soon discover if their chicken is authentic yourself.