Is pandas Orange Chicken dairy free?

Panda Express is a popular American Chinese fast food restaurant chain that is well known for dishes like orange chicken. Many customers wonder whether menu items like the orange chicken are dairy free. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we will analyze the ingredients in Panda Express orange chicken to determine if it contains milk or other dairy products.

For people with food allergies or intolerances like lactose intolerance, knowing whether menu items contain dairy is important. Dairy products like milk, cheese, butter and yogurt are common triggers for people who need to follow a dairy-free diet.

Many Chinese food dishes like orange chicken appear dairy-free at first glance. However, the sauces and batter used to prepare orange chicken can sometimes contain hidden milk ingredients. At Panda Express, orange chicken is one of the most beloved menu items. Customers wanting to avoid dairy need to know if this popular chicken dish is safe to eat on a dairy-free diet.

Orange Chicken Description

Orange chicken is a sweet and tangy fried chicken dish that is crisp and coated in a vibrant orange sauce. It is made by breading chicken pieces in a batter, frying them until crispy, then tossing the chicken in a sticky orange sauce.

To determine if Panda Express’ preparation contains dairy, we need to analyze the ingredients in the chicken batter and orange sauce. Many quick-service restaurants use premade sauces and seasoning blends, so Panda Express may not make their orange chicken sauce totally from scratch.

Potential Sources of Dairy in Orange Chicken

Below are some of the potential sources of dairy that could be lurking in Panda Express orange chicken:

  • Chicken batter – The batter coating on the chicken may contain milk or eggs
  • Flour dredge – The flour mixture used to coat the chicken before battering may contain milk powder
  • Orange sauce – Many orange chicken sauces contain butter, cream or cheese
  • Seasoning blends – Premade seasoning mixes may contain milk products
  • Cooking oil – If the fryer oil is also used for dairy-containing items, it could be cross-contaminated

Now let’s investigate the Panda Express orange chicken ingredients specifically to see if any dairy is included.

Panda Express Orange Chicken Ingredients

According to the Panda Express website, here are the ingredients in their orange chicken:

  • Chicken
  • Batter (water, rice flour, modified food starch, potato starch, gluten free baking powder, salt, soybean oil, yeast extract)
  • Breading (wheat flour, leavening [sodium bicarbonate], salt, soybean oil, extractives of turmeric and paprika)
  • Sauce (water, sugar, distilled vinegar, soy sauce [water, soybean, salt, alcohol], modified food starch, chili paste [red chili, distilled vinegar, salt, garlic], orange juice concentrate, salt, natural flavor)
  • Orange Sauce (water, orange juice concentrate, vinegar, sugar, modified food starch, soy sauce [water, wheat, soybeans, salt], salt, orange pulp, garlic, ginger, citric acid, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate [preservatives], natural flavors)


The chicken itself does not contain any dairy. Plain chicken is a dairy-free protein.


The batter used to coat the chicken before frying contains: water, rice flour, modified food starch, potato starch, gluten free baking powder, salt, soybean oil, and yeast extract. None of these batter ingredients contain dairy. The batter is dairy-free.


The breading uses wheat flour, which is dairy-free. The other breading ingredients – leavening (sodium bicarbonate), salt, soybean oil, extracts of turmeric and paprika – do not contain any dairy either. The breading on Panda Express’ orange chicken does not contain milk products.


Finally, let’s look at the two parts of the orange sauce used to flavor the chicken. The sauce contains water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, modified food starch, chili paste, orange juice concentrate, salt, natural flavors and some other minor ingredients. None of these sauce ingredients are dairy-based.

Shared Fryers

While the orange chicken batter, breading and sauce appear to be dairy-free based on the ingredients list, many fast food restaurants use shared fryers. If the fryer oil is also used to prepare dairy-containing menu items, oil carryover could contaminate the otherwise dairy-free orange chicken.

Panda Express uses separate fryers for their battered chicken entrees than the fryers used for cream cheese rangoons and other dairy-containing appetizers. The orange chicken should not have cross-contact from shared fryer oil.

Answers to Common Questions

Is there milk in Panda Express orange chicken?

No, there is no milk in the ingredients list for Panda Express orange chicken. Both the batter and sauce used to prepare the orange chicken do not contain any dairy products like milk, butter or cream.

Does the orange chicken sauce have cream?

No, the Panda Express orange chicken sauce does not contain cream. The sauce is made from water, orange juice concentrate, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Could the batter contain eggs or milk powder?

The listed ingredients for the orange chicken batter do not include any egg or dairy products. The batter is made with rice flour, modified food starch, potato starch, gluten free baking powder, salt, oil and yeast extract. It is dairy-free.

Is the flour dredge dairy-free too?

Yes, the flour coating used to dredge the chicken before battering only contains wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, salt and seasoning extracts. No dairy products are included in the flour mixture.


Based on a careful review of the provided ingredient lists, Panda Express orange chicken appears to be dairy-free. None of the components – the chicken, batter, breading or sauce – contain milk, cream, butter or any other dairy ingredients.

The batter and breading are made without egg or milk products. The sauce gets its creamy, rich texture from modified food starch, not from cream or milk. Panda Express also uses dedicated fryers to prepare the breaded chicken items, avoiding cross-contact with dairy-containing menu items.

Those following a vegan diet will need to avoid the Panda Express orange chicken, since the breading contains egg. However, people with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance do not need to be concerned about consuming this popular chicken dish. Panda Express orange chicken can be enjoyed as part of a dairy-free meal.

Nutrition Information

Here is the nutrition information for Panda Express orange chicken, based on a serving size of 151g:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 280
Fat 12g
Carbohydrates 24g
Protein 14g
Cholesterol 45mg
Sodium 730mg

The orange chicken provides protein and various vitamins and minerals, though it is high in sodium. Those on low sodium diets may want to limit intake of this menu item or request lower sodium preparation.

Finding Other Dairy-Free Options at Panda Express

In addition to the dairy-free orange chicken, here are some other menu items at Panda Express that can be enjoyed on a dairy-free diet:

  • Steamed or fried rice dishes
  • Beef or chicken entrées made without batter or sauce
  • Chow mein with tofu or no protein
  • Eggplant tofu
  • Mixed veggies
  • Super Greens side

Panda Express has a dedicated fryer for the battered meat, so cross-contact is minimized. However, as a precaution those with severe dairy allergies may want to avoid dishes like honey sesame chicken or crispy shrimp, which share a fryer with cream cheese rangoons.

It is still important to confirm ingredients and preparation methods with a restaurant employee when ordering, as recipes can change over time. But in general, Panda Express offers a decent selection of dairy-free menu items, including the popular orange chicken.

Dining at Panda Express with a Dairy Allergy or Intolerance

Here are some tips for safely dining at Panda Express with a dairy allergy, intolerance or sensitivity:

  • Review the menu online and decide what to order before arriving at the restaurant
  • Ask the cashier to change their gloves before handling your food
  • Request that your meal is prepared in a clean wok with fresh oil
  • Specify that your food should not touch any surface or utensil that has touched dairy
  • Use caution with sauces and fried items, as recipes can change

Panda Express does not list allergens on their in-store menus, so speaking with a manager is the best option for getting ingredient information. With some adjustments, those avoiding dairy can find plenty of dishes to enjoy at this popular fast-casual chain.

Is Panda Express Good for Lactose Intolerance?

Panda Express can be a good option for those with lactose intolerance, thanks to the number of dairy-free menu choices. Lactose intolerant customers can enjoy dishes like:

  • Orange chicken
  • Kung pao chicken
  • Broccoli beef
  • String bean chicken breast
  • Chow mein with tofu or no protein
  • Steamed or fried rice

The American Chinese cuisine at Panda Express is typically friendly to lactose intolerance, as traditional Chinese cooking does not rely heavily on dairy products. But it is still important to double check ingredients on the menu and with restaurant staff.

Is Panda Express Safe for Dairy Allergies?

Panda Express can be safe for dairy allergies when care is taken to avoid cross-contact with ingredients containing milk. The restaurant has separate fryers for battered meats versus cream cheese rangoons, minimizing cross-contact risk.

However, as recipes can change, the highest level of precautions must be taken when ordering with a serious dairy allergy. Those who are highly sensitive or allergic should speak to a manager about ingredients and preparation. Bringing your own food may be the safest choice for severe dairy allergies.

Is Panda Express Cruelty-Free?

Panda Express is not a fully cruelty-free restaurant. While their menu is completely dairy-free, Panda Express does use chicken, beef and eggs in their dishes. Customers looking for vegan or vegetarian menu options will find limited choices beyond sides and plant-based protein add-ins.

Dining at Panda Express on a Dairy-Free Diet

In summary, those following dairy-free diets whether for allergies, intolerances or personal preference have ample menu options to safely enjoy at Panda Express. Popular dishes like orange chicken, kung pao chicken, broccoli beef and chow mein can be prepared dairy-free.

Carefully reviewing ingredients online, asking about preparation methods, and maintaining open communication with restaurant staff can help customers ensure a dairy-free experience. With some adjustments to the standard menu, Panda Express can be a delicious option for dairy-free dining.

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