If you’re craving Chinese, staying keto at Panda Express is a great option. You just have to know the low-carb options that are right for you before ordering. The good news is there are quite a few keto-friendly items to choose from.
Even though fast food chains aren’t the best choice when it comes to getting the best results – sometimes a girl just needs a break from the kitchen. Sometimes a little bit of Kung Pao Chicken is all you need to stay on track with a keto diet.
Keep reading to learn all of the low carb options at Panda that can fit into your ketogenic diet.
Is Chinese Food Keto-Friendly?
Most Chinese takeout isn’t suitable for keto since Chinese restaurants typically fry their entrees, or smother meat and vegetables in a sugary sauce. So what about everyone’s favorite large fast-food chain?
Is Panda Express keto friendly?
Thankfully their menu has quite a few entree options where the meat isn’t fried and the sauce is limited. Keep in mind, just because you find a classic Chinese dish that isn’t fried, that doesn’t mean it automatically fits into your keto macros.
So what at Panda Express is keto friendly?
How to Choose a Keto-Friendly Meal
Before you decide the best keto options at Panda Express – you need to ask yourself two questions:
- What is the daily carb intake where you get results?
- What are the nutrition facts of your chosen entree?
Even though several menu options are low in total carbs, that doesn’t mean they’re all suitable for all keto dieters.
This article will arm you with the nutritional information you need to make a good choice. Before you get there, you have to determine which of these delicious items fit into your total carb allotment for the day.
How Many Carbs Can YOU Eat?
First, determine how many carbs you can eat each day and still get results on keto. Keep track in an app like Cronometer for best results.
What you choose from the Panda Express menu will be determined by how many other carbs you eat that day, plus how many carbs you eat on a daily basis.
Low carb Panda Express meals can vary greatly from keto friendly Panda Express options.
For example, some low-carb plans allow between 100 – 150 total carbs each day while still getting results. On the other hand, many keto dieters restrict total carb intake to only 20 – 30 carbs per day.
As you will see, even some of the lowest carb entrees won’t fit into a strict keto plan. Determine where you fall with daily total carbs, and then adjust your order accordingly.
Once you know how many carbs you have left for the day, the best way to be prepared is to check the Panda Express website ahead of time. That way you go in knowing what to order.
Going in prepared helps you have less weak moments where you find yourself with a mouthful of orange chicken, when you really meant to order the string bean chicken entree.
Looking at the website ahead of time can help you build the appropriate meal. You can either order entrees ala carte, or you can build a meal.
Here are the different meal options:
- Bowl: one entrée + one side
- Plate: two entrees +one side
- Bigger plate: three entrees + one side
- Family Meal: three large entrees + one large side
Keep in mind, if you order double the entree with a plate option – that doubles the carbs in your meal.
If math isn’t your thing, check out this online nutrition calculator. You can build your meal right on the screen. This helps you gather the nutrition information for your entire meal without having to keep track of all the numbers in your head.
Of course, you can add it all into your carb tracker ahead of time as well. Take note that the best time to calculate carbs is before you eat. This helps you avoid carb regret after eating tons of carbs in a dish you assumed would be OK.
The Best Panda Express Options
When it comes to staying keto at Panda Express, the best place to start is with the Wok Smart Menu. According to their website, the Wok Smart menu items contain more protein and are less than 300 calories per serving.
Even though the total carb count is what matters on a keto diet, and low calorie options aren’t always the best choice, your best bet is to order from this menu since these are the dishes that aren’t fried. Pay close attention to any entrees with a green wok sticker since these are the best low carb options at Panda Express.
There’s one more thing to consider before ordering. When it comes to keto meals, the lowest carb option isn’t always the best choice. You need to choose filling meals so you’re not hungry soon after eating. This sometimes means a few extra carbs if that option also comes with more grams of protein and fat.
For example, the mushroom chicken only has 11 total carbs per serving, with 12g of protein and 14g of fat. A more filling option may be the grilled teriyaki chicken, even though the total carb count is higher at 14 carbs. The fat content is similar at 13g of fat.
When you take into account the 41 grams of protein in grilled teriyaki chicken – that’s the better choice when hunger on a keto plan is a problem. Since you also don’t want to overdo protein in any given meal, you could order the chicken teriyaki and the mushroom chicken if you build a two entree plate. This provides both variety, as well as enough protein to feel satiated without going overboard.
Even though this is likely too many combined grams of net carbs for some keto plans, keep reading to learn when a meal like this is an appropriate Panda Express low carb meal combo.
Best Keto Options – Entrees
Here are the best entrees for a low carb or keto dieter. Remember – since the most popular serving size at Panda Express is a two item entree, that also means you have to double the carbs if you go with this option.
Black Pepper Angus Steak
280 calories | 19g Fat | 15g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 13g Protein – 14 Net Carbs
Black Pepper Chicken
280 calories | 19g Fat | 15g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 13g Protein – 14 Net Carbs
150 calories | 7g Fat | 13g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 9g Protein – 11 Net Carbs
Firecracker Chicken Breast*
220 calories | 9g Fat | 12g Carbs | 3g Fiber | 24g Protein – 9 Net Carbs
*not always available
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken*
340 calories | 13g Fat | 14g Carbs | 3g Fiber | 41g Protein – 11 Net Carbs
*skip the extra chicken teriyaki sauce
Kung Pao Chicken
290 calories | 19g Fat | 14g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 16g Protein – 12 Net Carbs
220 calories | 14g Fat | 11g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 12g Protein – 10 Net Carbs
String Bean Chicken Breast
190 calories | 9g Fat | 13g Carbs | 4g Fiber | 14g Protein – 9 Net Carbs
Low Carb Side Dishes
When it comes to side dishes, the only option for keto dieters is the super greens. While mixed vegetables was a great choice, this low carb Panda Express option was phased out. This leaves the super greens as the only side dish suitable for keto or low carb.
Other sides include chow mein and a variety of rice. Since these options contain tons of carbs, most aren’t even suitable low carb options at Panda Express.
If you don’t love the super greens, just skip the side completely. Eating a side you don’t enjoy isn’t worth the extra 10 total carbs this dish contains.
90 calories | 2.5g Fat | 10g Carbs | 5g Fiber | 6g Protein – 5 Net Carbs
Menu Items to Avoid
It’s important to point out which menu items to avoid so you don’t give into last minute temptations without all of the information. Not only should you avoid these items because they’re higher in carbs, but most of the entrees are deep fried – which is never a great idea on keto.
The entrees you should avoid include:
470 calories | 26g Fat | 46g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 13g Protein – 45 Net Carbs
Honey Sesame Chicken Breast
490 calories | 22g Fat | 40g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 16g Protein – 38 Net Carbs
Honey Walnut Shrimp
360 calories | 23g Fat | 35g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 13g Protein – 32 Net Carbs
370 calories | 18g Fat | 44g Carbs | 0g Fiber | 13g Protein – 44 Net Carbs
Sweetfire Chicken Breast
380 calories | 15g Fat | 47g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 13g Protein – 46 Net Carbs
Side items to steer clear from on most low carb diets include:
Chicken Egg Roll
200 calories | 12g Fat | 16g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 8g Protein – 14 Net Carbs
510 calories | 20g Fat | 80g Carbs | 6g Fiber | 13g Protein – 74 Net Carbs
520 calories | 16g Fat | 85g Carbs | 1g Fiber | 11g Protein – 84 Net Carbs
32 calories | 0g Fat | 7g Carbs | 0g Fiber | 1g Protein – 7 Net Carbs
Steamed Brown Rice
420 calories | 4g Fat | 87g Carbs | 4g Fiber | 9g Protein – 83 Net Carbs
Steamed White Rice
380 calories | 0g Fat | 86g Carbs | 0g Fiber | 7g Protein – 86 Net Carbs
70 calories | 0g Fat | 15g Carbs | 0g Fiber | 0g Protein – 15 Net Carbs
Veggie Spring Rolls
160 calories | 7g Fat | 22g Carbs | 4g Fiber | 4g Protein – 18 Net Carbs
Conclusion: Low Carb Panda Express Options
You may have carb shock after reading this article since even many of the low carb options at Panda Express are probably higher than you thought. As long as you prepare in advance and use Panda Express keto friendly options as a treat, rather than a diet staple, most people are OK to splurge on occasion.
In fact, if you’ve followed a keto diet for at least several months, sometimes a keto cheat day is the best thing you can do to rev up your metabolism and kick fat burning into high gear. While you never want to go overboard on a planned cheat day, sticking to some of the higher carb keto-friendly options could be what you need.
Don’t forget to review this article prior to heading to the restaurant to help you stay keto at Panda Express.
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Keto at Panda Express