Is Panda Express orange chicken gluten free?

Quick Answer

Panda Express orange chicken does contain gluten. While the chicken itself is gluten-free, the batter used to coat the orange chicken contains wheat flour, which contains gluten. So those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid Panda Express orange chicken.

Ingredients in Panda Express Orange Chicken

The main ingredients in Panda Express orange chicken are:

  • Chicken – The chicken itself does not contain gluten.
  • Batter – The signature crispy coating on the orange chicken is made with wheat flour, which contains gluten.
  • Sauce – The orange sauce contains soy sauce, which is typically made with wheat. However, Panda Express uses a gluten-free tamari soy sauce.
  • Sugar
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Rice vinegar
  • Chili paste
  • Sesame oil

So while the sauce itself is gluten-free, the main source of gluten in the dish comes from the wheat-based batter used to coat the chicken pieces before frying.

Cross-Contamination Risk

Even if you request orange chicken without the batter, there is still some risk of cross-contamination at Panda Express locations. The chicken is cooked in the same fryers as other menu items that do contain gluten, like the chow mein noodles. So gluten particles could get transferred to the plain chicken.

In addition, all the food at Panda Express is prepared in shared facilities and equipment. So there is always some degree of risk that gluten could make its way into the orange sauce or other ingredients through cross-contact.

Gluten-Free Menu Options at Panda Express

While the orange chicken is off limits for gluten-free diets, there are some menu items at Panda Express that are safe:

  • Mixed veggies (without sauce)
  • Super Greens side
  • Broccoli beef (without sauce)
  • String bean chicken breast (without sauce)
  • Steamed rice

Panda Express also offers soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and chili sauce in gluten-free versions upon request. So you can use those as sauces for your food.

The Eggplant Tofu and Chow Mein Noodles are also gluten-free, but they are cooked in shared fryers so there is some risk of cross-contact.

Gluten-Free Sauce Options

While Panda Express orange chicken sauce contains gluten, they do have some gluten-free sauce options:

  • Soy sauce (gluten-free)
  • Sweet and sour sauce (gluten-free)
  • Chili sauce (gluten-free)

You can request these gluten-free sauces to go with your order of steamed or grilled meats and veggies. This allows you to flavor your food in a gluten-free way.

Is Panda Express Safe for Celiac Disease?

For those with celiac disease, even tiny amounts of gluten can cause issues. And there is definitely some risk of cross-contamination at Panda Express.

Even though they take steps to avoid it, the use of shared equipment and facilities means gluten could accidentally get into gluten-free menu items.

For very sensitive celiacs, consuming the food could result in gastrointestinal symptoms or other health issues. So those with celiac disease need to weigh the risks and benefits of eating at Panda Express. Being extremely cautious is advised.

Advice for Ordering at Panda Express with Gluten Intolerance

Here are some tips for ordering gluten-free at Panda Express:

  • Avoid breaded items like orange chicken, honey sesame chicken strips and walnut shrimp
  • Get steamed or grilled protein like chicken breast, steak or tofu
  • Order sides like mixed veggies, brown rice, or super greens
  • Request gluten-free soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce or chili sauce
  • Tell the cashier you need to avoid gluten due to an allergy
  • Check that utensils and containers are clean before using

Being very explicit about your gluten allergy can help reduce the chance of cross-contact occurring. And inspecting your food when you receive it is also wise.

Panda Express Gluten-Free Menu Options

Here is a quick rundown of menu items at Panda Express that are gluten-free as prepared:

Category Gluten-Free Choices
Protein Entrees Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, String Bean Chicken Breast (without sauce), Steamed Chicken Breast, Angus Steak (without sauce)
Sides Super Greens, Mixed Veggies (without sauce), Steamed Brown Rice
Sauces Gluten-Free Soy Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Chili Sauce (by request)

This table outlines your best gluten-free bets at Panda Express. Be sure to avoid breaded items, ask for sauces on the side, and request clean prep.

Is Panda Express Good for Gluten-Free Diets?

Panda Express is not the most ideal choice for gluten-free diets, but it’s possible to eat there safely if you take precautions. You will have limited options and need to confirm the gluten-free status when ordering.

The risk of cross-contamination means it’s not the best choice for very sensitive celiacs. But for those with milder gluten sensitivities, Panda Express can work if you are careful.

Some of the naturally gluten-free dishes, like grilled chicken and steamed veggies, provide healthy options when eating out. Just steer clear of the breaded menu items and ask for special accommodations.

Tips for Eating at Panda Express Gluten-Free

Here are some suggestions for safely navigating a gluten-free meal at Panda Express:

  • Review the menu online and decide what to order before going
  • Stick to grilled and steamed entrée options
  • Ask for fresh gloves and clean containers
  • Request sauces and dressings on the side
  • Ask about ingredients and preparation if uncertain
  • Check food when served to make sure it’s what you ordered

Being knowledgeable about menu choices and speaking up about your needs helps minimize risk. You know your diet best, so use your judgement deciding if Panda Express is a good gluten-free option for your particular health needs and sensitivities.

Common Questions about Panda Express Gluten-Free

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about eating gluten-free at Panda Express:

Is the chow mein gluten-free?

No, the chow mein noodles at Panda Express contain wheat and are not gluten-free.

Can I get the orange chicken without breading?

Yes, you can request orange chicken strips prepared plain and grilled without the batter coating. But there is still some risk of cross-contact.

Is the teriyaki chicken gluten-free?

The teriyaki sauce contains soy sauce, which Panda Express makes gluten-free. So grilled teriyaki chicken is a good gluten-free choice.

Are eggs rolls gluten-free?

No, the egg rolls contain wheat in the wrapper so they are not safe for a gluten-free diet.

Is white rice gluten-free at Panda Express?

Yes, the white steamed rice and brown rice are both gluten-free at Panda Express.

Should You Trust Panda Express with Gluten-Free Needs?

Panda Express makes an effort to accommodate gluten-free diets. However, the risk of cross-contamination means it may not be suitable for those highly sensitive.

Ultimately, you have to weigh the convenience versus potential risk based on your personal health needs and tolerance levels. Many people with gluten issues do successfully eat at Panda Express using special ordering and utmost caution.

But for those with celiac disease, it’s safest to avoid Panda Express and opt for restaurants that are dedicated gluten-free facilities instead. Listen to your own body and dietary restrictions when deciding if Panda Express is a smart gluten-free option for you.

Bottom Line

While Panda Express Orange Chicken contains gluten, you can still eat at Panda Express with a gluten-free diet. Avoid breaded items, ask for gluten-free sauces, and stick to grilled proteins and sides like mixed veggies. With special ordering and clearly communicating your needs, a meal at Panda Express is possible for many following a gluten-free lifestyle. But caution is still advised, especially for those highly sensitive. When in doubt, seek out fully gluten-free restaurant choices to be 100% safe.

Leave a Comment