Good news for suburban vegans and those who find themselves trapped in airports or mini-malls: The Chinese fast food chain Panda Express has added its first vegan entrees. Vegan diners at all 2,000 locations can soon safely chow down on Panda Express’ chow mein and eggplant tofu.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long been chipping away at Panda Express’ resistance to offering any dishes sans chicken broth or animal-derived seasoning. Supporters of the animal rights group contacted Panda Express 234,000 times about adding vegan menu entrees. But ultimately it was Vegan Outreach’s 5,000-signature petition that coaxed Panda Express into taking the chicken broth out of the chow mein.
In February, the Chinese chain adopted reformulated recipes for its eggplant tofu and chow mein. Other vegan options now include spring rolls, a super green side of kale, cabbage and broccoli and vegan brown and white rice. However, as the restaurants use up old inventory, they might still be serving non-vegan versions through March. Vegans also shouldn’t expect separate cooking surfaces anytime soon.
“While seemingly small, this change by Panda Express will make a big impact,” Taylor Radig, campaigns and social media manager of Vegan Outreach, told VegNews. “Not only will the chain expand its customer base to include vegans, but it will also contribute less to animal suffering by using more plant-based ingredients.”
Panda Express now joins a growing list of fast-food chains that have added vegan options, including Taco Bell, Panera Bread and Carl’s Jr.
Vegan Outreach, founded in 1993, introduced the petition as part of its work to end violence toward animals. According to the nonprofit’s website, “We focus on reaching the people who are motivated enough to make changes now — of which there are always many in our target audience who just need some additional encouragement.” Some of these folks might not be ready to venture into a vegan raw food restaurant, but they may be willing to try Panda Express’ eggplant tofu and chow mein.
Images via Rick Obst and Willis Lam