Why You Should Never Order Beijing Beef At Panda Express

Made of fried and crispy breaded beef, sauteed onions and red bell peppers, and a sweet, sour, spicy, and deliciously sticky sauce (via Panda Express), for obvious reasons the Beijing Beef at Panda Express is one of the fast food chain's most popular dishes.

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of Reddit content about Beijing Beef to be found. "Nothing better than a plate with Beijing Beef and honey walnut shrimp," said one Redditor. "Literally one of the best things [you] serve," another chimed in. And when Panda Express shifted to a more limited menu during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, thus temporarily discontinuing Beijing Beef, one of the dish's more dramatic fans declared "I can't go back to Panda until it's back on the menu."

Less tantalizing is the nutrition content of Beijing Beef, making it a dish to avoid at Panda Express. A 5.6-ounce serving contains 470 calories. Not terrible, but more than half of those (240) are from fat (via Panda Express). But the big problem with Beijing Beef is that it's really sugary, courtesy of that sweet, sticky sauce. The 5.6-ounce serving size contains 24 grams of sugar, one gram shy of the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 25 grams of sugar per day for women and pretty close to the 36 gram daily sugar limit for men.

Panda Express has healthier beef options

So if you love your Panda Express, but want to keep it at least sorta healthy, what do you do? The good news is there are delicious alternatives to the fried, sugary Beijing Beef.

Consider the Broccoli Beef. A 5.4-ounce serving has just 150 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and seven grams of sugar, vs. Beijing Beef's 470 calories, five grams of saturated fat and 24 grams of sugar (via Panda Express). And you won't sacrifice any of that delicious American-Chinese flavor you love about Panda Express because Broccoli Beef comes in a yummy ginger soy sauce.

Another beefy option that delivers plenty of flavor but does better in the nutrition department is the chain's Black Pepper Angus Steak, described as "Angus steak wok-seared with baby broccoli, onions, red bell peppers, and mushrooms in a savory black pepper sauce," according to Panda Express. Sounds amazing, especially given that 5.1 ounces has just 180 calories, seven grams of fat, and six grams of sugar.

But if you really have to have something sweet, opting for the Honey Walnut Shrimp is a better option than Beijing Beef. It has more calories (360) than the Broccoli Beef or Black Pepper Angus Steak, but slightly less total fat (23 grams) and saturated fat (3.5 grams) and much less sugar (9 grams) than Beijing Beef.

The bottom line? You don't have to give up your Panda to eat well — just choose carefully.