To be completely honest, I was about today years old when I learned that Panda Express’s plant-based options aren’t 100% vegetarian. Turns out that in the past, their chow mein and eggplant tofu, amongst other items, have included chicken broth or chicken-based seasonings inside of them, meaning while they may look meat-free at a glance, they’re not.
Moving forward, though, that won’t be the case, as Panda Express has been making changes to their menu to ensure that those items are free from animal products.
For the past few years, according to a Panda Express representative, they’ve working to eliminate animal byproducts from several of their dishes while keeping taste and quality the same. These include the chow mein, Super Greens mixed veggies, eggplant tofu, and steamed brown and white rice. Panda has been able to scale these changes to a national level, and began rolling out the new recipes in late 2018. They’ll be in all restaurants nationwide by the end of this year.
While these dishes are suited for those who live a plant-based lifestyle, Panda Express will still avoid calling them “vegan” or “vegetarian.” Since all of the dishes are cooked on the same kitchen equipment, potential exists for leftover bits of meat and animal products to intermix with the meat-free dishes.
So, while the items are technically plant-based friendly, there is no guarantee that there won’t be meat inside them. Nonetheless, it’s a huge step forward for Panda Express to begin renovating their menu to accommodate vegetarian and vegan guests better. In the future, perhaps they will be able to prevent that cross-contamination as well.