How Panda Express Just Upgraded Its Orange Chicken Sandwich

If you're ever talking to someone about Panda Express, there's a good chance the chain's orange chicken will come up at some point in the conversation. With over 100 million pounds sold every year, the sticky-sweet entree described on the restaurant's website as "crispy chicken wok-tossed in a sweet and spicy orange sauce" is by far its most popular dish, and took the top spot in Mashed's ranking of popular Panda Express menu items, as well. Ranker and Junk Food Blog are among the various outlets that concur. (Sweety High, meanwhile, put Panda's orange chicken in the No. 3 spot. But hey, there's always going to be at least one outlier, right?)

Needless to say, customers can't get enough of Panda Express' orange chicken. Therefore, when chicken sandwiches started taking the fast-food industry by storm, it should hardly come as a surprise that the restaurant thought its signature entree was ripe for the trend. Flash forward to September 2021, when the chain introduced the world to its orange chicken sandwich, which featured a crispy chicken patty topped with shredded cabbage, bread and butter pickles, spicy aioli, and its namesake's familiar orange glaze, all in between a Kings Hawaiian bun (via Insider).

The handheld was available exclusively at the Panda Express Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena, California, and only for a limited time. Now, one year later, the sammie is back, and with a few upgrades, too.

Here's what's on Panda Express' new orange chicken sandwich

Panda Express may be leading the pack when it comes to orange chicken, but the sandwich version of its signature dish was met with mixed reviews. Upon its initial release in 2021, Insider called it "the chain's most exciting dish in years" and said it was "packed with surprisingly bold flavors." However, for the reviewer at Brand Eating, the handheld ended up being a "sticky mess to eat" and, ultimately, "a bit of a puzzle."

It seems that Panda went back to the drawing board and now, a re-vamped version of its orange chicken sandwich is finally here. Per Food Beast, the upgraded sammie features some major changes, including "the removal of the shredded cabbage" and a new, spicy Sriracha mayo in place of the aioli. Additionally, the King's Hawaiian bun has been replaced with the traditional brioche that is typical for chicken sandwiches. Perhaps the most notable change is that the entire chicken patty is coated in that famous orange chicken glaze, which should make it easier to taste with every single bite.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant's announcement this week about the new-and-improved dish generated some serious buzz on Instagram, where one person called it a "must try." However, the dish is once again available exclusively at the Panda Express Innovation Kitchen in California. So, it could take some traveling for customers to sink their teeth into these bad boys.