By the end of the month, Panda Express will offer vegan options at all of its more than 2,000 locations for the first time, VegNews can exclusively reveal. The new options are reformulations of existing menu items: Eggplant Tofu and Chow Mein and vegan versions of these items will be available at locations where these options are sold. Animal-rights group Vegan Outreach led a campaign (supported by 5,000 signatories) urging Panda Express to veganize the options—which previously contained chicken broth and animal-derived seasoning. “While seemingly small, this change by Panda Express will make a big impact,” Taylor Radig, Campaigns and Social Media Manager of Vegan Outreach, told VegNews. “Not only will the chain expand its customer base to include vegans, but it will also contribute less to animal suffering by using more plant-based ingredients.” Panda Express notes that while the menu options do not contain animal products, they are prepared on the same cooking surfaces as other non-vegan items.
Update: Following reports from readers experiencing difficulty in inquiring about the vegan status of Panda Express’ options, VegNews sought the following clarification from the chain.
“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,” a Panda Express spokesperson told VegNews. “Such options on our current menu include Super Greens mixed veggies, 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.”