Panda Express adds vegan option to menu

On July 26, Panda Express plans to launch a meatless take on an already popular dish. The plant-based chicken — called Beyond the Original Orange Chicken — will be tossed in Panda Express’ sweet and tangy orange chicken sauce. The sauce is also vegan. 

Beyond the Original Orange Chicken

FILE-Beyond the Original Orange Chicken flyer.CREDIT: Panda Express

Panda Express is partnering with Beyond Meat, a producer of plant-based substitutes, to help create this new menu item. 

Beyond Meat is also working with other restaurants around the country to unveil its plant-based chicken tenders. They’re crafted to look, cook and taste like traditional animal-based chicken tenders. KFC has tested Beyond Meat’s chicken in certain markets in the past. 

The insertion of plant-based items into major chain restaurant menus likely comes as welcome news to people looking to cut down on animal protein consumption — and Panda Express isn’t the first to make a foray into vegan options.

Starbucks added an Impossible Breakfast Sandwich to its menu in June 2020. The sandwich is made from plants and cage-free fried eggs. McDonald’s announced plans in 2020 to begin testing its "McPlant" offering — made with its own proprietary plant-based meat — in 2021.

RELATED: McDonald’s to introduce 'McPlant' meat alternative, drive-thru-only restaurants, new food packaging

Burger King has had an Impossible Whopper on its menu since 2019, though a group of vegans later filed a lawsuit against the fast-food chain alleging that the Impossible Whopper – a plant-based alternative to the chain’s classic beef Whopper – was contaminated by meat byproducts because it was cooked on the same apparatus as beef Whoppers, according to court documents.

RELATED: Vegans sue Burger King over Impossible Whopper, claim patty was contaminated by meat in class-action lawsuit

Disney World added plant-based cookies to its menu in the midst of the pandemic. Disney even provided instructions on how to make the dessert at home. 

RELATED: Disney World releases plant-based cookie fries recipe from Beaches & Cream Soda Shop during closure

Panda Express’ Beyond The Original Orange Chicken will be available in select locations throughout New York City and Southern California starting July 26, while supplies last.

RELATED: Panda Express pledges $5 million to CHOC Children's Hospital

This story was reported from Baltimore.