Plant-Based Orange Chicken Is Finally Returning To Panda Express

It seems like plant-based products are all the rage nowadays. Burger King, for example, has been showing off its Impossible Whoppers, even going so far as to release new plant-based burgers topped with bacon to show off how popular they are with the public (via Restaurant Business Online). Even fried chicken legend KFC jumped into the plant-based meat craze with Beyond Fried Chicken, which Vox describes as being deep-fried nuggets of "plant-based poultry." While some attempts to market "impossible meat" to the public have met with less than stellar reception, such as Cracker Barrel's introduction of "impossible sausage" to its menu, plant-based meats have made a surprising impact on the world of fast food. Even places such as Panda Express, which is well-known for its Orange Chicken, have found success with these vegan alternatives.

In October 2021, Panda Express announced that it would be collaborating with Beyond Meat to roll out "Beyond The Original Orange Chicken," a plant-based Orange Chicken alternative. While this offering was for a limited time only, it seems that the sweet and savory "chicken" dish is making a comeback. According to PR Newswire, the "fan-favorite" plate will be making yet another limited-time return to Panda Express locations nationwide starting September 7.

Although the promotion boasts that the chicken alternative has the same crunchy texture and taste as one would expect the original Orange Chicken to have, is this dish truly a "fan-favorite" as they claim, or is the original version with poultry a better choice?

It seems Beyond The Original Orange Chicken is surprisingly popular

You may be a bit hesitant to try something called "plant-based chicken." After all, how can you be sure this isn't just mush tossed around in orange sauce when you could just get the original Orange Chicken? It would seem that Panda Express' take on the plant-based Orange Chicken is a pleasant surprise.

UpRoxx describes Beyond The Original Chicken as having the same flavor and crispy texture as the original Orange Chicken, except the "mouthfeel" of the chicken is somewhat denser and chewier than normal chicken. They also noted the "webby" interior texture of the plant-based chicken, which seemingly adds to the chewier texture. Aside from those minor complaints, UpRoxx claims that the dish does still taste exactly like you would expect Orange Chicken to taste and, if you didn't know what you were eating, you couldn't tell it from the real deal.

Rich DeMuro of Los Angeles' KTLA News tried Beyond The Orange Chicken for himself, claiming that it was "hard not to tell it from the real thing." DeMuro claims that the nuggets have a more uniform shape due to the manufacturing process, but notes that the "chicken" has a nearly identical flavor and texture despite "being made from fava beans and peas."

While it seems that Panda Express's take on vegan-friendly alternatives has found success even among those who aren't vegan, the original Orange Chicken will rest assured remain a key menu item for the foreseeable future.