Panda Express items you should absolutely never order

Ah, Panda Express, the Chinese fast food joint we all have a love/hate relationship with. On one hand, Panda Express serves up incredibly fast, delicious, and sometimes addictive (we're looking at you, orange chicken), food. But on the other hand, we can't help but think that what we're eating must be some sort of chemically engineered recipe to make us want to eat more and more, packing on the calories as we indulge. And since the early '80s, Panda Express has only continued to grow in popularity, serving up their authentic Chinese-American food in thousands of restaurants. 

But just exactly how good are some of the dishes being served up at Panda Express? Some may not be a wise choice for those with severe allergies, while others may fill your calorie counter for the entire day. And some just aren't as good as you might hope. To really know, we took a deep dive to learn more about these menu items. These are the items you should absolutely never order at Panda Express.

Beijing Beef from Panda Express

If you've ever tried the Beijing Beef entree at Panda Express, you probably know it's almost as delicious as the famous Orange Chicken, and a lot of that has to do with its ingredients. According to Panda Express, the entree is a mixture of crispy (AKA fried) beef, red bell peppers, and onions all mixed up in a sweet and tangy sauce. Sounds delicious, right? 

What's not delicious is the wildly high fat and saturated fat contents in this dish, topping out at 5 grams of saturated fat for one serving, along with 26 grams of fat. A person's daily recommendation of fat, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, is typically 44 to 78 grams according to Livestrong, so this dish will definitely take up a large chunk of that. But what's really alarming is the saturated fat comparison at 13 grams recommended per day. According to the American Heart Association, it's recommended that consumers keep their consumption of saturated fat as low as possible, as it can lead to heart disease and high cholesterol. With almost half of the daily recommended amount, is that fried beef really worth it?

Fried rice from Panda Express

Fried rice, with its classic blend of carrots, peas, and green onions, is just one of those givens at Panda Express. You just get it without thinking about it, or, if you're really clever you'll grab that beautiful mixture of fried rice and chow mein if you know how to ask for it. But what are you actually getting in that rice bowl? 

According to one Panda Express employee on Reddit, if you have a shellfish or nut allergy, this is definitely not the side for you. "It's right next to the Honey Walnut Shrimp and sometimes we drop food while serving," they said. With such close proximity, it can cause major issues for those with specific allergies. 

But even if allergies aren't an issue for you, considering the freshness of the dish may be enough to convince you to skip it. According to another Panda Express employee on Reddit, in response to a customer asking why their order of rice was hard, "if it's not empty it won't get refilled." 

Teriyaki Chicken from Panda Express

When it comes to watching calorie counts at Panda Express, their Teriyaki Chicken is actually a pretty great option, with only 300 calories per serving, only 13 carbs, and a whopping 36 grams of protein. Plus, you can ask for it with the sauce on the side to grab just the grilled chicken. But what you really want to watch out for in this dish is not the calories, it's cleanliness.

When the Teriyaki Chicken is grilled, it makes its way over to the hot line to be diced up for serving. According to one Panda Express employee on Reddit, that cutting board being used in between orders may not be as clean as you think. 

"Be sure to remind the server to clean the cutting board because sometimes when we chop up the chicken and put it on the plate, pieces stay in the chopping board," they said. "It gets cold and we sometimes pick it up with the chicken with a different order." And while to some that may not seem like the end of the world, it definitely has the potential to pass along contaminates from the chicken sitting out too long. Better to be safe than sorry.  

Orange Chicken from Panda Express

Yes, you read that right — the infamous Panda Express Orange Chicken is on this list. Hold on tight while we let you in on a little secret. First of all, Orange Chicken has the highest calorie count on the Panda Express menu, out of all of the other entrees, and that's partly due to it being breaded and fried. But the crispy, fried outer texture of this entree isn't the only reason for that sky-high calorie count of 490 calories per serving (and that's without the rice!). It also has a lot to do with its sugar content of 19 grams and that infamous orange sauce. But that's not the only reason you might want to steer clear of this dish.

If you've tried Orange Chicken before, you know it's all about that wildly delicious, and crazy addictive, sauce. But unfortunately when the batch of orange chicken isn't fresh, you might be getting food that's been sitting for a long time… and the sauce is added to hide that from you. 

According to one Panda Express employee on Reddit, ordering orange chicken that isn't fresh is an awful idea. "Yeah. it might be the most popular item, but sometimes when it isn't busy, and the food gets dried up, we put uncooked sauce on it to make it more moisturized," they said. "Even my manager says it's ok, as long as I do not do it in front of the customers." Next time, if you've still got the craving, try asking for a fresh batch to be extra sure.

Shanghai Angus Steak from Panda Express

Shanghai Angus Steak, according to Panda Express, is an entree comprised of wok-seared steak, string beans, onions, and mushrooms all dished up with a savory sauce. That sounds like the perfect healthy option, doesn't it? Think again.

This entree only tops out at 310 calories, which looks appealing at first glance, but what about when you dive a little deeper. As it turns out, it's packed with 19 grams of fat, and that means 170 of those 310 calories are coming from fat. 

In addition to the insanely high fat content, the Shanghai Angus Steak is serving up 790 milligrams of sodium, AKA more than half of the 1,500 grams per day recommended by the Institute of Medicine. So the next time that beef and veggie option seems like a great idea compared to calorie kings like Beijing Beef or Orange Chicken, look a little closer to check out the other counts on the nutrition chart.

Cream Cheese Rangoon from Panda Express

Wontons are one of the quintessential Chinese-American food appetizers, serving up the most perfectly crispy, golden, fried vessel to eat sweet and sour sauce with. Some restaurants use their wonton wrappers to serve up just the fried dough, while others combine cream cheese and crab for their rangoon. Panda Express doesn't take either of those routes. Actually, there isn't much more to this appetizer than just a wonton wrapper filled with plain, boring cream cheese, and customers can tell. One YouTube review from Happy Man Snacks shares just how bad this appetizer choice really is, noting they didn't seem fried all the way, and in comparison to other restaurants, they were "a lot worse than others." 

A good wonton should be crisp and golden, right out of the fryer, but one Redditor says Panda Express' version will dry out after being left out too long if they're not fresh. Plus, each little wonton will set you back almost 3 grams of fat, so is it really worth it if what you're getting isn't totally delicious?

Mushroom Chicken from Panda Express

If you're looking for the delicious flavor that mushrooms can bring to a dish, don't get your hopes up too high at Panda. Mushroom Chicken may just be one of the most boring options on the Panda Express menu.

The entree is served up with mushrooms and zucchini, along with a light ginger soy sauce, which sounds like an ideal combination. But according to Thrillist, the chicken is subtle and the mushrooms are mushy, and that's definitely not the standard of great texture and amazing flavor we're looking for in a dish. 

But that's not all that's wrong with it. The Panda Express Mushroom Chicken only has 220 calories, which is awesome for those looking to keep that count down, but it comes with a whopping 840 milligrams of sodium per serving. With that much sodium, you might as well be eating over five servings of potato chips.

Eggplant Tofu from Panda Express

The popularity of tofu is on the rise as people realize the many benefits to eating it. According to Healthline, incorporating tofu into your diet can help with bone health, brain function, and even weight loss. All great things to hop on board with, right?! 

Well, unfortunately the product you're finding at Panda Express may not give you quite the same health boost. 

Panda Express says their Eggplant Tofu is a mixture of browned tofu, eggplant, and red bell peppers all in a proprietary sweet and spicy sauce. Sounds promising right? Try again. This "healthy" option comes pack with a fat punch to the name of 24 grams, which is one of the highest counts on their entire menu — even higher than cream cheese rangoon. If you're able to eat fried cream cheese and still come in lower on the fat count for the day, than this tofu dish is not as healthy as it seems.

Honey Walnut Shrimp from Panda Express

For many Panda Express enthusiasts, you either love the Honey Walnut Shrimp or you hate it. This dish, served up as tempura battered shrimp, fried, and then tossed in a honey sauce with glazed walnuts, is an absolute syrup bomb. You simply can't have a honey sauce and glazed walnuts (AKA coated in sweet, sweet sugar) without getting that syrupy sweet factor. 

According to Thrillist, the Honey Walnut Shrimp is too sweet, and the texture is pretty off. Because the fried shrimp sit in the syrupy sweet sauce, it ends up losing its crunch, so you're left with something sweet, goopy, and soft. 

And is that really worth a premium price? Panda Express charges an extra $1.25 for this entree because it's a premium shrimp option. And truth be told, if it were delicious, it would be totally fair and acceptable because they're serving up shrimp, but it doesn't seem like paying a premium for syrupy goop is worth that extra dollar and a quarter. 

Black Pepper Chicken from Panda Express

If you're hitting Panda Express for lunch or zipping through the drive-thru on the way home, you know you're going to add a lot of sodium to your diet that day. It's just a fact. But is it really reasonable to grab the item with the highest count of sodium on the entire menu? Panda's Black Pepper Chicken is a pretty simple dish, made up of chicken, celery, and onions, but that dish packs a salty punch. 

With 1130 milligrams of sodium per serving, it's astonishing this entree is even on the menu with that amount. According to Healthline, the World Health Organization recommends 2,000 milligrams per day, while the Institute of Medicine suggests 1,500 milligrams. And while there's differing opinions on how much you should be consuming, within a 500 milligram range, the answer is clear that this dish is just way too much. A few pieces of chicken will easily get you past the half-way mark for your day's consumption, and that's not even counting the additional 860 milligrams for chow mein or 850 milligrams for fried rice to bring you well over your daily limit. Better to just skip this option altogether.