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America's Largest Asian Chain Is Launching a First-Of-Its-Kind Item

There are now two options to choose from when ordering the iconic Orange Chicken.

As plant-based options continue to sweep fast-food menus across the nation, Panda Express hops on board with their first plant-based innovation—Beyond the Original Orange Chicken. If you're a fan of Panda's iconic Original Orange Chicken, but find yourself now following a plant-based diet, you're going to love this sweet, saucy, crispy, tangy, irresistible version of it.

Panda Express is partnering with Beyond Meat for this innovation. According to a press release shared with Eat This, Not That!, Beyond Meat worked closely with the chain to create the perfect crispy Beyond Chicken that will be wok-tossed in The Original Orange Chicken Sauce. This is the first type of major scale plant-based Asian cuisine that Beyond Meat has created for a chain restaurant, according to a representative from the company.

Beyond the Original Orange Chicken is available for a limited time at select Panda Express locations in New York City and Southern California starting on July 26. A representative from Panda Express confirms that if the rollout of the new item goes well, the company will consider a nationwide rollout in the future.

Related: 7 New Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches Everyone Is Talking About 

Chef Jimmy Wang, Executive Director of Culinary Innovation at Panda Express, says this innovation was their way of responding to the dietary interests of consumers. Eating a plant-based or plant-forward diet is now at the forefront of consumer's minds, so starting with their most popular dish—the Original Orange Chicken—made sense when starting a new plant-based innovation.

While the chain currently doesn't have any other plant-based innovations in the works, the possibility of it is not off the table.

"We just want to start to engage and learn," Wang said to Eat This. "We want to rely on our partnership and we'll learn to get better as it goes."

Nevertheless, their partnership with Beyond Meat so far is a slam dunk. The chicken is close in taste and texture compared to the Original Orange Chicken—you likely won't even be able to taste the difference. It seems likely with such a quality product that Panda Express won't have a problem thinking of even more creative ways to make plant-based dishes in the future.

For now, you can make the dish completely plant-based, Panda Express recommends pairing Beyond the Original Orange Chicken with their other available plant-based dishes such as Eggplant Tofu, Super Greens, Chow Mein, Vegetable Spring Rolls, as well as the Steamed White and Brown Rice.

To find out if a restaurant near you is participating in the launch of Beyond the Original Orange Chicken, sign up on the Panda Express website before the official launch on July 26.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten