Panda Express’ Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena, CA is experimenting with new plant-based meals prepared with Beyond Beef from now until February 23. The first dish, Mapo Tofu with Beyond Beef, consists of Beyond Meat’s plant-based beef and firm tofu bites wok-tossed in a spicy Sichuan garlic sauce and served over steaming rice. After Eggplant Tofu, the Mapo Tofu is Panda’s second tofu-based entrée, with a hotter taste profile. String Beans with Beyond Beef, a vegetable-forward entrée created with hand-cut fresh string beans wok-fired with plant-based Beyond Beef in delicious garlic sauce, is the second dish. Panda suggests serving this meal with Chow Mein and Eggplant Tofu.
“These dishes are traditionally made with minced pork or beef, but we are now offering a plant-based version with Beyond Beef from Beyond Meat… Guests can expect the bold American Chinese flavors that they know and love from Panda with the added benefits of plant-based meat,” stated Chef Jimmy Wang, Executive Director of Culinary Innovation at Panda Express.
The Pasadena test facility is a real-time testing environment where Panda Express cooks may experiment with new meals to meet changing consumer preferences. “We’re continuously looking for ways to innovate and provide new offerings to our guests and sometimes use the Innovation Kitchen to test these dishes first… We’ll gather insight first and then determine if it makes sense for a potential future roll out,” said Wang.
Because these meals are made on shared equipment with other menu items, Panda does not claim that they are vegan.
Panda Express Offering Vegan Chicken and Beef
After a spectacularly successful sell-out debut of Beyond The Original Orange Chicken (BTOOC), Panda Express is putting its new Beyond Beef-centered meals to the test. The vegan orange chicken was created to look like Panda’s most popular dish, Original Orange Chicken, which has been on the menu since 1987 and currently contributes one-third of the company’s revenue. The plant-based version uses Beyond Meat chicken and is covered in the same spicy and tangy sauce as the original, but without the use of animal products.
Last July, Panda began testing this vegan version of their most famous dish in a few California and New York restaurants. The BTOOC was an instant hit, with Panda selling over 1,300 pounds of the vegan orange chicken in one day and the California test markets fully sold out within two weeks. Panda expanded the BTOOC test to 70 sites across ten states in October after a successful test launch, with an eye toward a countrywide debut.
“Beyond the Original Orange Chicken was one of our most successful regional launches ever, and we are thrilled to be working with Beyond Meat to diversify our plant-based offerings with these new dishes incorporating Beyond Beef,” Wang stated.
Panda had limited plant-based alternatives prior to these test launches with Beyond Meat, since many of its veggie meals were cooked with chicken broth and animal-derived spice. Panda redesigned several of its dishes to eliminate animal-derived components after working with Vegan Outreach, including its first vegan entrée: Eggplant Tofu (available at select locations). Super Greens Mixed Vegetables, as well as chow mein, white rice, and brown rice, are vegan-friendly options at Panda Express.
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