It’s Saturday night, and you’re looking to treat yourself to some top-notch American-Chinese food, but don’t want to break your diet plans.
We hear ya, counting calories is easy when you’re cooking for yourself, but when you want to go out to eat – what options do you have? Don’t worry, you CAN still treat yourself!
Because as it turns out, Panda Express has a lot of options for anyone looking to keep those calories down and still enjoy a hearty meal out. But as Louisa Smith found out, there almost seems to be too much choice!
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Panda Express claims that more than half of their entrees come in under 300 calories, but which half? And am I going to double that with side dishes? These are all valid questions my friends, and in our in-depth guide to Panda Express calories, you’re about to find out.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Panda Express is a family-owned American-Chinese food chain that has been serving delicious and healthy Chinese food since 1983. They opened their flagship store in Glendale, CA, and now they have since opened over 2,200 restaurants across the U.S. and the world.
They pride themselves on serving appetising food that is not only good for the soul but the body as well. Panda Express uses fresh ingredients, every day, prepared in a ‘health-friendly’ wok. They claim that more than half of their entrees come in under 300 calories and contain at least 8 grams of protein. A bold statement, and we’ll be judging all of those entrees in this guide today!
On top of that, they have been gradually reducing the amount of sodium in their food and are committed to cutting down the amount of salt and sugar on the menu by 2025. Also by this time, they want to ensure that all their eggs come from cage-free sources and that all entrees, sides, and appetizers are served without artificial colours or flavourings.
While they are still in the process of changing all this, they have already made big changes already. In 2021, they completely cut out high-fructose corn syrup from the menu and they now only serve chicken that has been raised without antibiotics.
So the short answer to whether Panda Express is healthy; well, from the sounds of it, yes Panda Express is quite healthy. But more importantly, they are working hard to ensure that their menu not only stays healthy but becomes healthier throughout the years to come.
Now that’s something to get excited about.
Let’s Talk Side Dishes…
Now, chances are, if you’re in the US you already know this, but just in case, any of our UK readers are off to the US on holiday and haven’t been to Panda Express before, you can order your meal either as one of their ready made bowls which is an entree and a full serving of rice, or, a combo with either one dish and side, two dishes and a side or three dishes and a side.
This obviously adds to your calories and so you need to factor in the sides to your choices…
Of the five Panda Express side dishes on offer, the lowest calorie is, not suprisingly, the Super Greens at just 90 calories a serving. The others, however, can bump things up quite considerably…
The Panda Express Fried Rice is 520 calories for a full portion
The Panda Express Chow Mein is 510 calories for a full portion
The Brown Steamed Rice is 420 for a full portion
The White Steamed Rice is 380 calories for a full portion
The Secret is to Go Half and Half
However, if you order a plate you can make the sides half and half… and, if you pick rice or noodles and a serve of Super Greens that gives you a lot more calories to play with.
In fact, you can even go for the double entree option if you do this and actually end up with fewer calories than having on entree and a full serve of carbs!. Plus you get a serving of veg, without sacrificing some carby yummyness to mop up your sauce. Sp how many calories are in the sides if you do this…
Half Steamed White Rice and half greens will add just 235 to your entree
Half Steamed Brown Rice and half greens is 255 calories
Half Chow Mein and half greens will come to 300 calories
Half Fried Rice and half greens comes to 305 calories
So now you know that, let’s get on with the fun bit – adding the entrees…
The Lowest Calorie Entree at Panda Express
If you’re looking for the quickest low-calorie option, then we won’t hesitate to introduce to you the lowest-calorie entree at Panda Express, the Firecracker Shrimp Entree at just 110 calories.
Add to this our half and half side and you’re looking at 345 calories for your meal – which is actually a bit too low. Main meals should be between 400-600 calories – so, you could add a second serving of an entree or go for a full serving of rice instead of half (but, then you lose the veggies so….!).
The Lowest Calorie Double Combo
Can’t choose just one main course. We hear you. We’re definitely Double Plate Panda Express orderers. And, you can do this under 600 calories easily.
If you want the absolute lowest calorie double combo at Panda Express though you’re going to pick the Firecracker Shrimp Entree served with Broccoli Beef (150 calories) and a half and half Steamed White Rice and Super Greens side. That’s only 495 calories which is fantastic for so much food.
You can also choose any combination of Firecracker Shrimp or Broccoli Beef and add Black Pepper Angus Steak, Potato Chicken, Steamed Ginger Fish or String Bean Chicken with any half and half rice-based side and still be under 600 calories
If you love Asian food, you might also want to check out our guide to Noodles and Company calories. We’ve found the 37 lowest calorie choices to order.
The Lowest Calorie Triple Combo
Okay, to do this under our 600 calorie limit means doubling up on your veggies.
You can pick the Shrimp and Beef combo above and add an entree sized servings of Super Greens which will take you up to 540 calories.
If, however, you were planning on trying another meat or fish based entree, you’re going to sneak over 600 calories – but not by too much. So, here goes…
Order, as above, Firecracker Shrimp Entree served with Broccoli Beef (150 calories) and a half and half Steamed White Rice and Super Greens , then add Black Pepper Angus Steak (180 calories) – your meal is now 675 calories.
For chicken lovers, there are plenty of low-calorie chicken options at Panda Express. The lowest calorie chicken option is the Potato Chicken at 190 calories.
Even if you add the highest calorie half and half side (Fried Rice and Greens) you’re still under our 600 calorie cut off at 495 calories a serving (you can even add Firecracker Shrimp and only just bust our budget!)
Now if you’re someone who loves chicken and is counting the calories, you’ll be really pleased to know that Panda Express does quite a few low-calorie chicken options. The popular Mushroom Chicken is just 220 calories, and one of our personal favs, the Black Pepper Chicken is still only 280 calories.
Thank you, Panda Express! Scroll down to our ‘at a glance’ section for the full list of low-calorie chicken dishes.
The Lowest Calorie Chicken Breast Meal at Panda Express
If it’s chicken breast you are after, which we all know is the best part of the chicken, then don’t worry because this comes under a separate section of the Panda Express menu.
The lowest calorie chicken breast option at Panda Express is the String Bean Chicken Breast at 190 calories.
A very popular dish by Western standards is the Sweet and Sour Chicken Breast, which fans will be pleased to know is a wonderful 300 calories – bang on the claim by Panda Express. My waistline says thank you.
Are you watching your sodium intake – then, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Sweet & Sour Chicken Breast is also the lowest sodium meal at Panda Express. If you want to see what else you can order on the menu when cutting salt, check out our guide to eating low sodium at Panda Express.
The Lowest Calorie Beef Meal at Panda Express
If you are pursuing the beef options, then you’ll be interested to know that the beef is actually lower in calories than the chicken at Panda Express. Make no misteak (sorry), these beef options are going to make your waistline very happy.
Without further ado, the lowest-calorie beef meal at Panda Express is the Broccoli Beef at a modest 150 calories.
If you fancy steak, you can have that too! The delicious Black Pepper Angus Steak Entree is only 180 calories. Nice one!
The Lowest Calorie Seafood Meal at Panda Express
For seafood lovers, there are plenty of options for you at Panda Express. The lowest calorie seafood dish at Panda Express is the Firecracker Shrimp Entree at 110 calories.
If you want to avoid shellfish, then the second-best option would be the Steamed Ginger Fish at just 200 calories per entree.
If you’re a fan of seafood, you might also want to check out our guide to the lowest calorie dishes in Red Lobster.
The Orange Chicken Calories
While Panda Express may be aiming to go a bit healthier with their options – and they’re definitely managing it – we know there’s one thing you want to know – how many calories are in the Panda Express Orange Chicken?
Well, the bad news is, it’s the highest calorie entree on the menu. But, the good news is it’s still only 490 calories per serving – which means, you can order it and still be under 600 calories if you have the Super Greens as your side dish.
When it comes to appetizers, Panda Express has you covered. The lowest calorie appetizer is the 3-piece Chicken Potstickers at 160 calories.
However, this is not their only low-calorie appetizer. No siree! The second lowest-calorie options are the Cream Cheese Rangoon (3 pieces) and, for the vegetarians, the Vegetable Spring Rolls (2 pieces) – both at 190 calories per serving.
The Lowest Calorie Soups at Panda Express
While Panda Express doesn’t really do starters, they do have one soup option. Fortunately, the soup on offer is low in calories. The Hot and Sour Soup comes in either a cup or a bowl. If you order a cup, it is only 120 calories, whereas a bowl is 170 calories.
The Lowest Calorie Veggie Options at Panda Express
There are only two vegetable options at Panda Express and we have good news and bad news. The good news is, one of them is super low-calorie. The bad news is, it’s literally just veggies!
The lowest calorie vegetable dish is the Super Greens Entree at 45 calories. Great! But a bit dull.
The second vegetable dish, the Eggplant Tofu, is more exciting but is 340 calories per 6.1oz serving. Now that might not sound like much, but when you add side dishes, it adds up. Definitely go half and half with this one, or just stick to side order of Super Greens.
Vegan Orange Chicken
Pandra Express are trialling a Vegan version of their Orange Chicken at some branches – the calorie count isn’t listed on the Panda Express Nutritional Information and so, we can’t tell you how many calories exactly this contains – but, it uses Beyond Meat plant protein and past experience writing these calorie guides suggests it won’t be super low in calories – expect it to be around the same as the chicken version, perhaps a little bit higher.
If you are veggie you might want to check out our guide to calories in Veggie Grill.
Panda Express Calories at a Glance…
If we haven’t mentioned your favourite above, here’s where you’ll find all the low-calorie options on the Panda Express menu for under 300, 400 and 500 calories.
Don’t forget, you’ve got to add your choice of sides to this – and to come in under 600 calories, you really are best picking either the Super Greens or one of the half and half combos (235-305 calories)
Entrees Under 300 calories
Firecracker Shrimp Entree – 110 calories
Broccoli Beef – 150 calories
Black Pepper Angus Steak Entree – 180 calories
Potato Chicken – 190 calories
String Bean Chicken Breast – 190 calories
Steamed Ginger Fish – 200 calories
Mushroom Chicken – 220 calories
Wok-Seared Steak (Beef) and Shrimp – 240 calories
Black Pepper Chicken – 280 calories
Kung Pao Chicken – 290 calories
Entrees Under 400 calories
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken – 300 calories
Grilled Asian Chicken – 300 calories
Sweet and Sour Chicken Breast – 300 calories
Shanghai Angus Steak (Beef) – 310 calories
Teriyaki Chicken – 340 calories
Asian Chicken – 340 calories
Honey & Walnut Shrimp – 360 calories
Golden Treasure Shrimp – 360 calories
Sweetfire Chicken Breast – 380 calories
Entrees Under 500 calories
Honey Sesame Chicken Breast – 420 calories
Crispy Almond Chicken Breast – 470 calories
Beijing Beef – 470 calories
Orange Chicken – 490 calories
Combos Under 600 Calories
We’re not going to list every combo here, but as a guide here’s how to create double combos under our 600 calorie limit
With Super Greens as Your Base
Choose Firecracker Shrimp and you can add any other dish listed under 400 calories as your second choice.
Choose Broccoli Beef and you can add any other dish under 360 calories
Choose Angus Steak, Potato Chicken or String Bean Chicken and you can add any other dish under 315 calories
Choose Steamed Ginger Fish, Mushroom Chicken or Wok-Seared Steak (Beef) and Shrimp and you can choose any other dish under 260 calories
Chose Kung Pao Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Grilled Teriyaki Chicken. Grilled Asian Chicken or Sweet and Sour Chicken and you can choose any other dish under 200 calories
With Steamed Rice and Super Greens as a Base
This is a bit more limited as you already have 235 calories on your plate but…
Choose Firecracker Shrimp as your first option and you can add any other dish under 255 calories
Choose Broccoli Beef as your first option and you can add any other dish under 215 calories
With Fried Rice or Chow Mein and Super Greens as a Base
This cuts your options down further as you already have 305 calories on your plate, but you can have
Firecracker Shrimp with Beef and Broccoli or Black Pepper Angus Steak entree.
Firecracker Shrimp with Potato Chicken or String Bean Chicken Breast. This will just sneak you over 600 calories but we won’t tell if you don’t.
So there you have it, everything you can eat at Panda Express if you’re watching your calories. And did they live up to their promise of 50% of entrees for under 300 calories? Yes, they do. But, once you start adding side orders it can rack up.
That being said, we are thankful to Panda Express for giving us so many low-calorie options to choose from. We’ll certainly be making more visits to Panda Express now we know what we can eat for less than 300 calories per entree.
Did you find what you were looking for? Let us know in the comments!
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.