Is teriyaki chicken healthy at Panda Express?

Teriyaki chicken is one of the most popular menu items at Panda Express. The sweet and savory chicken dish is a go-to order for many customers. But is teriyaki chicken actually healthy? In this comprehensive article, we’ll examine the nutrition facts, ingredients, and preparation methods to determine if Panda Express’ teriyaki chicken is a nutritious choice or not.

What is teriyaki chicken?

Teriyaki chicken is a Japanese-influenced dish made by cooking chicken in a sweet soy sauce marinade. The main ingredients in teriyaki sauce are soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sugar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. The chicken soaks up the flavors of the sauce as it cooks, resulting in a caramelized, sticky glaze on the meat.

Teriyaki chicken is considered a healthier option compared to fried or battered chicken dishes. Since the chicken is baked or grilled instead of deep fried, it contains less unhealthy fat and calories. The teriyaki glaze also adds lots of flavor without requiring extra butter, oil, or cream.

Nutrition facts for Panda Express teriyaki chicken

Here are the basic nutrition facts for Panda Express’ teriyaki chicken, according to the company website:

Serving size 112g (about 4oz)
Calories 160
Fat 3.5g
Sodium 730mg
Carbs 9g
Protein 21g

As you can see, a single serving of Panda Express teriyaki chicken supplies 21g of protein, which is over 40% of the daily value. It’s relatively low in fat and carbs as well. The calorie count is moderate at 160 calories for 4oz of chicken.

However, the sodium content is quite high at 730mg. That’s nearly 1/3 of the daily recommended limit! The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day. Most of that sodium comes from the teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki sauce ingredients

To get a better understanding of what’s in Panda Express’ teriyaki chicken, let’s break down the ingredients in the teriyaki sauce:

– Water
– Soy sauce (wheat, soybeans, salt)
– Sugar
– Mirin (sweet rice wine)
– Modified corn starch
– Sesame seed oil
– Garlic
– Ginger
– Onion powder
– Natural flavors

The sauce has a solid nutritional profile. It gets its sweetness from natural sugar and mirin instead of high fructose corn syrup. There are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives either. And it contains several spices and aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onion that add lots of flavor.

The two concerning ingredients are soy sauce and modified corn starch. The soy sauce contributes to the high sodium content. And modified corn starch is highly processed. Overall though, the teriyaki sauce is relatively wholesome.

Cooking methods

Panda Express prepares its teriyaki chicken by marinating sliced chicken breast in the teriyaki sauce. The chicken then goes into a wok where it is sautéed with vegetables like onions, carrots, and broccoli. No oil or butter is added during cooking.

The chicken and veggies are tossed together until the teriyaki sauce caramelizes and adheres to the chicken. This cooking method adds great flavor while minimizing the amount of added fat. The end result is a lightly browned, saucy chicken dish.

Panda Express does not bread, fry, or fry their teriyaki chicken. The chicken breast meat is simply sautéed in the sauce, making it one of the healthier preparations on the menu.

Is Panda Express teriyaki chicken healthy?

Now that we’ve analyzed the ingredients and nutrition numbers, is Panda Express teriyaki chicken ultimately a nutritious choice? Here are some key takeaways:


– High in protein, providing over 40% DV in a serving
– Lower in fat and calories compared to fried chicken
– Uses complex carbs instead of refined carbs
– Prepared without frying in oil or butter
– Sauce has no artificial ingredients
– Contains garlic, ginger, and spices for extra flavor and nutrients


– Very high in sodium, nearly 1/3 of daily limit in one serving
– Includes processed modified corn starch
– Sugary teriyaki glaze could lead to overconsumption of calories

Healthier options

There are a few tweaks you can make to improve the nutrition of Panda Express teriyaki chicken:

– Opt for steamed rice instead of fried rice to reduce carbs, sodium, and fat
– Ask for reduced sodium teriyaki sauce to cut down on salt
– Pair with non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, or salad
– Split a large serving in half to control portion sizes
– Skip sugary soda and have water instead

Overall, while not the absolute healthiest choice, Panda Express teriyaki chicken is leaner and less processed than items like orange chicken or kung pao chicken. With a few modifications and pairing with vegetable side dishes, teriyaki chicken can be part of a balanced meal.


Teriyaki chicken from Panda Express does have some healthy attributes like high protein, low fat, complex carbs, and no deep frying. However, the high sodium content in the teriyaki sauce and potential to overeat are downsides. With careful portion control and veggie pairings, teriyaki chicken can be reasonably healthy compared to other fast food options. Limiting frequency of eating teriyaki chicken is advised, as the sodium can add up quickly. Overall though, it’s one of the better menu choices at Panda Express if you’re craving something flavorful but don’t want the extra fat, carbs, and calories of fried entrees.

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