Is Panda Express Chow Mein Vegan? Analyzing The Ingredients

With its tempting Chinese food served fast, Panda Express is a go-to for many hungry diners. Their chow mein with its tender noodles, savory sauce, and crunchy veggies is a top menu item. But can vegans enjoy Panda Express’s chow mein too? Do the ingredients align with a plant-based diet?

Let’s investigate what goes into Panda Express’s chow mein recipe.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Panda Express’s chow mein is not vegan. While the vegetable topping mix is vegetarian, the chow mein sauce contains animal-derived ingredients like chicken broth powder and oyster sauce.

In this roughly 3000 word article, we’ll take a deep dive into the vegan status of Panda Express chow mein. We’ll look closely at the chow mein ingredients, explain which components are animal-derived, and provide recommendations for how to order a veganized version of this classic noodle dish at Panda Express.

An Overview of Panda Express and Their Chow Mein

Background on Panda Express

Panda Express is a popular American fast-food restaurant chain that specializes in Chinese cuisine. It was founded in 1983 and has since grown to become one of the largest Asian-inspired restaurant chains in the United States.

With over 2,200 locations worldwide, Panda Express is known for its quick service and flavorful dishes.

As a fast-food chain, Panda Express aims to provide customers with a convenient and affordable dining experience. They offer a variety of dishes, including classic Chinese favorites like Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, and Chow Mein.

Description of Chow Mein and Ingredients

Chow Mein is a popular Chinese stir-fried noodle dish that typically consists of noodles, vegetables, and protein. At Panda Express, their Chow Mein is made with wheat noodles, celery, cabbage, onions, and soy sauce.

The noodles are cooked to perfection and tossed with the flavorful sauce, creating a delicious and satisfying meal.

It’s important to note that the exact ingredients may vary slightly depending on the location and individual preferences. However, the core ingredients remain consistent, and Panda Express takes pride in using high-quality ingredients to ensure the best taste and experience for their customers.

Nutrition Facts and Popularity

When it comes to nutrition, Panda Express provides transparency by offering detailed nutritional information for their menu items. The Chow Mein from Panda Express is a relatively low-calorie option compared to some of their other dishes.

According to their website, a serving of Panda Express Chow Mein contains approximately 490 calories, 16g of fat, and 71g of carbohydrates.

Despite being a popular dish, it’s worth mentioning that Panda Express Chow Mein may not be suitable for everyone’s dietary preferences. While the dish itself does not contain any animal products, it is important to consider cross-contamination and the use of shared equipment in the kitchen.

Vegans and individuals with strict dietary restrictions may want to inquire further about the preparation process at their local Panda Express.

Analyzing the Vegan Status of Panda Express Chow Mein Ingredients

Chow mein noodles

The first ingredient we’ll analyze is the chow mein noodles used in Panda Express’s dish. Chow mein noodles are typically made from wheat flour, water, and sometimes eggs. Unfortunately, this means that the noodles used in Panda Express Chow Mein are not vegan, as they contain eggs.

Vegan alternatives to chow mein noodles can be found in specialty stores or made at home using vegan-friendly ingredients such as rice or soba noodles.


The sauce used in Panda Express Chow Mein plays a crucial role in its flavor. The sauce consists of a combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and other seasonings. While soy sauce is generally vegan, it’s essential to check the ingredients list for any animal-derived additives or flavorings.

Some brands of soy sauce may use fish or other animal products in their production process. Therefore, it’s recommended to inquire about the specific brand of soy sauce used by Panda Express to determine its vegan status.

Vegetable topping mix

Panda Express Chow Mein includes a vegetable topping mix, which typically consists of cabbage, celery, and onions. These vegetables are vegan-friendly, providing essential nutrients and adding flavor to the dish.

However, it’s worth noting that cross-contamination can occur during preparation, especially if the same utensils are used for non-vegan ingredients. To ensure a vegan option, it’s advisable to request a fresh batch or inquire about their food preparation practices.

Oils and seasonings

The oils and seasonings used in the cooking process of Panda Express Chow Mein can also impact its vegan status. While vegetable oils like canola or soybean oil are commonly used, it’s important to confirm with the restaurant if any animal fats or derivatives are used in their cooking process.

Additionally, some seasonings may contain non-vegan ingredients like chicken or beef flavorings. It’s always best to ask the staff about the specific ingredients used to ensure your meal aligns with your dietary preferences.

Animal-Derived Ingredients to Look Out For

Chicken or beef broth

One ingredient that is commonly found in many non-vegan dishes is chicken or beef broth. These broths are made by simmering animal bones, meat, or vegetables in water, extracting their flavors and nutrients.

Unfortunately, this means that dishes made with chicken or beef broth are not suitable for vegans. When it comes to Panda Express Chow Mein, it is important to note that their chow mein is made with vegetable broth, making it a vegan-friendly option.

So, if you’re looking for a vegan chow mein option, you can enjoy Panda Express Chow Mein without worrying about chicken or beef broth.

Oyster sauce

Another ingredient to be cautious about when it comes to veganism is oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes, including chow mein. As the name suggests, this sauce is made from oysters, making it unsuitable for vegans.

However, Panda Express Chow Mein does not contain oyster sauce, so it is a vegan-friendly option. If you’re dining at other establishments or making chow mein at home, be sure to check the ingredients list or ask about the sauce used to ensure it aligns with your dietary preferences.

Egg noodles

Egg noodles are another ingredient that may not be vegan-friendly. As the name implies, these noodles are made with eggs, which are an animal product. However, when it comes to Panda Express Chow Mein, their noodles are made without eggs, making them suitable for vegans.

This is great news for those following a vegan diet or looking for plant-based options.

Lard or chicken fat

Lard or chicken fat are ingredients often used to add flavor and richness to various dishes, including chow mein. Unfortunately, these ingredients are derived from animals and are not vegan-friendly. When it comes to Panda Express Chow Mein, they do not use lard or chicken fat in their recipe, making it a suitable option for vegans.

It’s always a good idea to check the ingredients list or ask about the cooking methods used when dining out to ensure that your meal aligns with your dietary preferences.

How to Order Vegan Chow Mein at Panda Express

If you’re following a vegan diet or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based options into your meals, you may be wondering if Panda Express offers any vegan-friendly dishes. One of the most popular items on their menu is the Chow Mein, but is it suitable for vegans?

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients and how you can modify your order to make it vegan-friendly.

Ask for veggie stock

By default, Panda Express prepares their Chow Mein with chicken stock. However, you can request to have it made with veggie stock instead. Veggie stock is made from a blend of vegetables and seasonings, giving the dish a rich and savory flavor without the use of animal products.

When ordering at the counter, simply ask the staff to substitute the chicken stock with veggie stock to make your Chow Mein vegan.

Substitute tofu

Another way to make your Chow Mein vegan is by substituting the protein. Panda Express offers tofu as a protein option, which is a great plant-based alternative to meat. Tofu is made from soybeans and is a good source of protein and other essential nutrients.

You can request to have tofu added to your Chow Mein instead of the traditional meat options like chicken or beef. Not only does this make your dish vegan, but it also adds a delicious and hearty element to your meal.

Omit non-vegan toppings

When ordering your vegan Chow Mein at Panda Express, it’s important to be aware of the toppings that may not be suitable for a vegan diet. Some of the non-vegan toppings commonly found in Chow Mein include oyster sauce and certain types of sauces that may contain animal products.

Be sure to inform the staff that you’d like to omit these non-vegan toppings from your order to ensure that your Chow Mein is completely vegan.

Request clean prep

To further ensure that your vegan Chow Mein is prepared to your dietary preferences, you can also request for clean prep. This means asking the staff to use separate utensils and cooking surfaces to avoid cross-contamination with non-vegan ingredients.

By doing so, you can have peace of mind knowing that your dish is prepared with care and adheres to your vegan lifestyle.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to communicate your dietary restrictions and preferences to the staff at Panda Express. They are usually accommodating and willing to make modifications to their dishes to cater to different dietary needs.

Enjoy your vegan Chow Mein and explore the other plant-based options available at Panda Express!

The Future of Vegan OPTIONS at Panda Express

Panda Express, one of the largest fast-food chains in the United States, has gained popularity for its flavorful and convenient Chinese cuisine. However, for those following a vegan lifestyle, finding suitable options on the menu can be a challenge.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for plant-based dining options, prompting many restaurants to expand their vegan menus. This article explores the future of vegan options at Panda Express and analyzes the ingredients of their popular dish, Chow Mein, to determine its vegan-friendliness.

Plant-based dining trends

The rise of plant-based dining is undeniable, with more people adopting vegan and vegetarian diets for various reasons, including health, environmental concerns, and animal welfare. According to a study conducted by The Good Food Institute, plant-based food sales in the United States have increased by 27% in the past year.

This growing trend has pushed restaurants to reevaluate their menus and cater to the needs of this expanding customer base.

Panda Express has recognized the importance of offering vegan options to its customers and has made some strides in this direction. Currently, they offer a few vegan-friendly dishes, such as Super Greens and Steamed White and Brown Rice.

However, the popular Chow Mein dish, which traditionally contains egg noodles, poses a challenge for those looking for vegan options.

Potential for vegan menu expansion

While Panda Express has made some progress in accommodating vegan diners, there is still room for improvement. The company has the potential to expand its vegan menu by introducing alternatives to animal-based ingredients.

For example, replacing egg noodles in the Chow Mein with plant-based alternatives like rice noodles or zucchini noodles could make it a suitable option for vegans.

It is worth noting that several fast-food chains have successfully added plant-based options to their menus. Burger King, for instance, introduced the Impossible Whopper, a vegan burger made with plant-based meat, and it has been well-received by customers.

This success demonstrates the market potential and demand for vegan options in the fast-food industry.

Outlook and predictions

The future looks promising for vegan options at Panda Express. As more consumers embrace plant-based diets, there is a growing demand for vegan-friendly choices at fast-food establishments. By expanding their vegan menu, Panda Express can tap into this market and attract a wider range of customers.

Moreover, collaborating with suppliers who specialize in plant-based ingredients can help Panda Express create innovative and delicious vegan dishes without compromising on taste. This would not only cater to the needs of existing vegan customers but also attract new ones who are curious about trying plant-based options.


While Panda Express’s classic chow mein contains animal products, customers can request modifications to make a customized vegan version. With the rise of plant-based eating, perhaps Panda Express will expand their menu to include more labeled vegan dishes in the future.

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