Panda Express Mushroom Chicken: What To Know Before Ordering

Though Panda Express is known for its hearty dishes, such as the classic Orange Chicken and Beijing Beef, one lighter option has remained a staple on the menu throughout the years: Mushroom Chicken.

Compared to other protein items, the poultry dish does not always get the spotlight. However, it is not to be forgotten as one of the most popular Wok Smart dishes, whose launch in 2009 became a pivotal moment for the chain's move towards more health-conscious items (via Panda Express). When the dish was first presented on Facebook in 2009, people reacted in awe to its low calorie count and macro-friendly appeal. The chain had also noted on its social media platforms that the Mushroom Chicken is authentic Chinese, based on a dish originating from the Guangdong Province on the Southern Coast of China. But what exactly has made Panda Express' version of this traditional dish such a staple?

What is Panda Express Mushroom Chicken?

As stated before, unlike many of the chain's other menu offerings, Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken is actually rooted in traditional Chinese cooking. According to Omnivore's Cookbook, the original version of the dish is made with "bone-in skin-on chicken, chopped to bite-size, then braised in a soy-based sauce with dried shiitake mushrooms."

That isn't to say, however, that Panda Expresses' mushroom chicken reflects its predecessor perfectly. Its description on the chain's website doesn't specify what types of mushrooms are used in the dish, but they don't look like shiitake, according to the picture. Furthermore, the writer of the Omnivore's Cookbook recipe states that they would traditionally use bone-in chicken chopped into small pieces, which is difficult to find in the U.S. Nonetheless, this dish still does its best to mirror many of the umami flavors of the older dish, by using a lighter ginger soy sauce to taste.

What does it taste like?

Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken combines chicken, mushrooms, zucchini, and sauce to create a flavorful, umami dish packed with protein. It is described as having a tangy flavor.

However, some might argue that there is nothing special about Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken. Thrillist described the product as "drowned in sauce and loses any semblance of texture." Furthermore, food reviewer Timmy's Takeout even states that the item "does not have flavor" in a YouTube video in which he tries Panda Express' chicken menu. He says that you can tell the chicken is covered in sauce, but the sauce "tastes like nothing." The milder flavor of the sauce makes sense — Mushroom Chicken has only 4 grams of sugar per serving, whereas the Orange Chicken has 19 grams per serving. For this reason, this dish might be better suited for those who prefer mildly flavored entrees over meals with a lot of sweetness or spice.

How much is a serving of the Mushroom Chicken?

Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken is classified as an entree, meaning it is usually assembled in a plate or bowl. A Panda Express plate comes with one side and two or three entrees, costing either $7.80 or $9.302. You can also order it as a bowl, which costs $6.30 and includes one side and one entree.

However, like other menu items, it can also be ordered a la carte. Typically, a small will cost $4.20, a medium will be $7.50, and a large will total $10.20. Recently, TikToker @how.kev.eats released a video stating that the chain currently has burritos, previously served as a secret menu item. Though its Orange Chicken version is most well-known, customers are free to build their own burrito, which Mushroom Chicken lovers can fully take advantage of (via Thrillist). The price of the burrito is not much less than that of a smaller plate, which Chew Boom reported to be $7.60 in 2017.

What's its nutritional information?

Mushroom Chicken is regarded as one of the chain's healthier options. It is featured on the chain's Wok Smart menu, consisting of meals with 8 grams or more of protein, 300 or fewer calories, and fresh-cut vegetables. To be precise, the dish has 12 grams of protein and 170 calories per serving. It also contains mushrooms and zucchini, a great vitamin B6 source that regulates glucose.

It's no doubt that the meal gets its protein from its chicken ingredient, which is a lower-fat option, via WebMD. But Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken has a high amount of sodium, with 840 milligrams per serving (via Calorie King). The American Heart Association recommends capping daily sodium intake at 2,300 milligrams, preferably keeping this number even lower, at around 1,500 milligrams. While the Mushroom Chicken's macronutrients appear to be great, those who are cautious about their sodium intake might need to take this fact into consideration.

What is the Mushroom Chicken best paired with?

Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken is known for its subtle, gingery flavor. The chain has even described this as "Wok Smart flavor" on its Instagram, alluding to it being a lighter option. Because of this, it goes well with a lot of the chain's bolder options. For example, @feastonthese on TikTok enjoyed the Mushroom Chicken on a plate alongside the Sesame Chicken.

The dish is also great for those with the goal of weight loss who want a lower-calorie alternative at the chain. However, those with these preferences don't have to enjoy this dish alone – @vsgkt on TikTok stated that she paired the protein source with power greens, a medley of vegetables. Whether mixed with another protein or a delicious side, Panda Express' Mushroom Chicken has great potential as a lighter entree and should not be forgotten among the Orange Chicken and Beijing Beef.