If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it's often difficult to find gluten-free food items in fast food restaurants. As with many fast food chains, Panda Express offers some items that naturally don't contain wheat or gluten so it's helpful to know which foods these are and if it's okay to eat them. But if you have extreme gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it's best to steer clear of Panda Express because gluten-containing foods are prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-free foods.
Gluten-Free Dining at Panda Express
Panda Express explicitly says on its website it does not offer gluten-free or vegetarian options. Therefore, if you must eat gluten-free, this isn't the restaurant for you. However, some menu items may be safe if you are eating gluten-free but don't have celiac disease, a gluten allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Brown and White Steamed Rices
Rice is naturally gluten-free, so is an excellent choice when you want (or need) to steer clear of gluten. But because gluten-containing dishes are prepared in the same area as brown and white steamed rices, steer clear of Panda Express rice if you have extreme gluten sensitivity.
Some Panda Express sauces are listed as wheat-free on the restaurant's nutritional website, meaning these sauces may not contain gluten. However, if your sauce packet doesn't specifically state that it's "gluten-free," and you have extreme gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, it's best to steer clear. Panda Express sauces that are listed as wheat-free on the restaurant's site include sweet and sour sauce, chili sauce, hot mustard, and plum sauce.
All of the Panda Express soft drinks are listed as wheat-free on Panda Express's nutritional menu. Soft drinks generally are gluten-free. And because these drink dispensers are often separate from the kitchen where gluten-containing foods are prepared, you shouldn't have to worry about gluten cross contamination when choosing Panda Express beverages.
Is Panda Express Gluten-Free Friendly?
If you have Celiac disease or are very sensitive to gluten, it's probably best to avoid Panda Express due to cross contamination concerns. The majority of food items on the menu contain wheat or wheat ingredients. The only food items you're probably okay to consume without worrying about gluten cross contamination are soft drinks, but many of these drinks are loaded with added sugar and not the healthiest choice. Panda Express's nutritional menu specifically states on the bottom of it, that the Panda Express food chain doesn't offer any gluten-free dishes.
Better Gluten-Free Restaurant Options
If you need to steer clear of gluten, you may find some better restaurant options that advertise gluten-free choices.
PF Changs offers menu items that are gluten-free as prepared, or can be modified to be gluten-free. PF Changs gluten-free ingredients include gluten-free sauces, gluten-free marinades, and gluten-free soy sauce. However, gluten-containing products are prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-free options, so if you have celiac disease you may want to avoid this restaurant as well.
Another Asian food chain that offers gluten-free menu items is Pei Wei. Pei Wei's gluten free foods include Asian chopped chicken salad, spicy Pei Wei chicken, spicy Pei Wei shrimp, spicy chicken and shrimp, sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour shrimp, Vietnamese chicken salad rolls, and traditional edamame. However, if you're extremely sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, ask if gluten-free food items are prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-containing foods .
If you're on a strict gluten-free diet, it's often difficult to dine out, as even restaurants that offer gluten-free menu items often prepare foods with gluten in the same kitchen (making cross contamination a legitimate concern). If you tolerate small amounts of gluten okay, choose foods from gluten-free restaurant menus -- but if you need to steer clear of gluten entirely, preparing your own food at home is generally a safer option.