When it comes to satisfying immediate hankerings for yummy Chinese food, nothing quite hits the spot like Panda Express orange chicken. Or Panda Express chow mein. Or any Panda Express menu item, really.
The fast-casual chain’s orange chicken has a cult following, and there’s no shortage of budget-friendly hacks for you and your family to enjoy each time you visit, from ordering a Panda Express kids meal to splurging on a Panda Express family meal.
If you’re looking to satisfy those Panda Express chow mein cravings and not break the bank in the process, consider these money-saving tips and tricks the next time you just have to have Panda Express and order online (or in person):
1. Get free entrees EVERY VISIT by completing a short Panda Express survey.
The back of every receipt invites you to take a Panda Express survey, which will get you a free entree on your next visit with the purchase of a two-entrée plate. (In my area, that extra entree is worth $1.50).
Before I even leave the restaurant, I head to pandaexpress.com/feedback and complete the survey (you can also call a toll-free number), jot down the Panda Express code on my receipt, and bank my savings.
The survey takes less than five minutes, and when you redeem your freebie, you’ll get another receipt with — you guessed it — another Panda Express survey (which leads to yet another money-saving Panda Express code)!
Although the receipt says the Panda Express survey must be completed within two days of visiting, the survey has remained active for me up to a week after the date printed on my receipt.
2. The best value on the menu is a Panda Express kids meal.
In late 2021, Panda Express unveiled a brand-new kids menu — called the “Cubs” menu — and it’s the best Panda Express deal available.
For just $5.40 at my local Panda Express, you get a “junior” entree — which is the same portion as a small — a “junior” (medium) side, a bag of apple crisps, and your choice of a 16 oz Dasani water, a 6 oz apple juice box, or a 12 oz fountain drink.
If you were to order those Panda Express menu items separately, it would cost you $9.30 — which means you save almost $4 when you select the Cubs meal instead. You can even divide the side item into two options. The portions and the price of these new-and-improved Panda Express kids meals are hard to beat — and you don’t even have to be a kid.
3. Save 40% when you split a ‘Bigger Plate’ with a friend instead of ordering separately.
If you ordered three small entrees and a medium side individually, that would cost $7.90 apiece, or $15.80 total.
Instead, share a Bigger Plate (one medium side and three small entrees). If you can’t agree on your medium side, you can split it into two options — chow mein and fried rice, for example. Your total cost is $9.40. . . or just $4.70 per person. You’re saving $6.40!
Also, a Panda Express Bowl contains one small entree and one regular side piled together for $6.40 each. But when you split the Bigger Plate, you and your buddy get the equivalent of 1.5 small entrees and half a medium side — for $3.40 less than if you’d bought your own Bowls!
4. If you’re feeding your family or a larger group of 6 – 8 people, Panda Express family meals are the way to go.
Panda Express family meals contain three large entrees and two large sides for just $29.00. That’s $10 cheaper than ordering those items separately. (Non-premium large entrees typically cost $10.20 and large sides are $4.20 each).
Family meals with premium entrees — like Black Pepper Angus Steak or Honey Walnut Shrimp — could cost as much as $40.25. That’s barely cheaper than buying three large premium entrees by themselves ($41.85), but you still get the large sides on top of that.
Be on the lookout for $20 family meal specials; Panda has announced them on their social media channels in the past — most recently for a two-week span in May 2020.
5. Panda Express catering bundles aren’t as good of a deal as family meals.
Family meals will save you 25% on the regular menu prices, but the catering bundles will only save you 10-15%.
- A 12-16 person party bundle, which has 2 party tray entrees and 2 party tray sides for $105. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $110, $5 savings.
- An 18-22 person party bundle, which has 3 party tray entrees and 3 party tray sides for $149. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $165, $16 savings.
- A 26-30 person party bundle, which has 4 party tray entrees and 4 party tray sides for $187. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $220, $33 savings.
As you can see, Panda Express catering gets more valuable as the order gets bigger.
The restaurant offers party-size entrees for 6-8 people, like Panda Express orange chicken, for $40. Bought a la carte, orange chicken costs $0.737/oz, but the 64-oz party size costs just $0.625/oz. They also have party sides for $15 and premium entrees for $55.
6. When Panda Express offers free delivery, jump on it. Otherwise, get delivery via Uber Eats or DoorDash.
Does Panda Express deliver? Oh yeah. You’ll want to place your delivery order through the Panda Express app or website rather than a third-party service like GrubHub, which will charge you delivery fees. (Panda Express only charges fees on orders of $100 or more.)
The large orange chicken price is the same ($10.20) in the Panda app, while the same order on GrubHub is $15.35 before you calculate a tip. There’s no need to pay 50% more. On the DoorDash and UberEats platforms, meanwhile, a large order of orange chicken costs $12.25.
You do end up paying a 10% service fee on Panda Express orders that are made directly through the restaurant (so $1.02 on a large order of orange chicken), so if you’re really wanting to save money, Panda Express pickup is a cheaper option.
7. Save money (and leftovers) when you buy large Panda Express entrees instead of small portions.
You might consider buying the biggest sizes on the Panda Express menu and refrigerate the leftovers — which are safe to eat for up to three days.
Here’s why: large entrees and sides are about 4 times the size of a small, for only 2.4 times the price.
For example, a small order of Panda Express orange chicken (5.6 oz.) is $0.75/oz while a large portion (22.4 oz.) is only about $0.46/oz — a savings of about 39%.
8. Consider dividing your purchase into multiple orders so you can get extra Panda Express codes.
If you’re with someone or just ordering for more than yourself, you may as well divide the purchase into more than one order so you can get more opportunities to fill out Panda Express surveys and redeem more money-saving codes.
9. Panda Express doesn’t have a rewards program, so check their social media & emails for special offers.
Yeah, as of now, there’s no Panda Express loyalty program or ability to earn points for your Panda purchases.
If you’re looking for Panda Express codes, freebies, sweepstakes, and discounts, you’ll want to check out their social media accounts and/or join their email list.
The Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds for Panda Express are identical, and their emails aren’t much different — but they all share good deals from time to time — such as free delivery on orders of $10+, and $3 off a two-item plate containing the Crispy Almond Chicken Breast.
10. Want Panda Express sauce at home? Pick it up from the grocery store.
Even though Panda Express sauces are free when you’re at the restaurant, people are buying them online and at the grocery store.
The cheapest place to get individual bottles of sauce is at Walmart for $3.22. Second place goes to Target, at $3.49 each.
Options for the 18.75 oz – 20.75 oz bottles include Mandarin Teriyaki Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce, Orange Sauce, and Kung Pao Stir Fry Sauce.
Panda Express sells a variety pack of four bottles of sauce on Amazon for $32.74 — but that’s a bad price, since at the grocery stores you can create that four-pack for just $12.88.
11. If you really love Panda Express orange chicken, consider working for them and receive a free meal each time you work a shift.
Panda Express employees get one free meal per six-hour shift, plus other benefits like 401(k) retirement accounts with a 4% employer match, discounted movie tickets, and college tuition reimbursement.
If a Panda Express career interests you, an endless supply of your favorite food might be in your future.
12. Search online for discounted Panda Express gift cards to save up to 5.1%.
We love discounted gift cards, because the price you pay is less than the price that’s loaded onto the card.
At Raise.com, we found discounted Panda Express gift cards for 5.1% off. Easy savings!
13. Skip the line by placing a pickup order via the Panda Express app or website
One of the best things about the Panda Express app and website is the order ahead feature. You can customize your order, select the exact time you want to pick it up, and best of all — avoid the line.
There is no curbside pickup at my local Panda Express and you can’t use the drive-thru window to grab online orders, but you’ll still save some precious minutes by ordering online and picking it up from the to-go counter inside the restaurant. Oh, and you can enter any promo codes you have online for added convenience as well.
14. Save money on your favorite sides by making them your entree.
Say you want a bunch of Panda Express but aren’t in the mood for a protein like orange chicken. You can still order a plate (which consists of one medium side item and two small entrees) and select chow mein for every option — three medium sizes all told (there are no small sides, only medium and large).
You’d pay $4.20 for each of those medium chow mein orders individually, for a total of $12.60. The plate, however, only costs $7.90, which would give you a savings of $4.70. That’s like buying two medium chow meins and getting one completely free.
15. You can always skip the restaurant and make your own Panda Express-inspired dishes at home, such as Beijing Beef.
You can’t buy Panda Express Beijing Beef anymore, but you can make it. According to one copycat recipe we found (via Dinner Then Dessert), you’ll need:
1 pound flank steak
1 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
6 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoons crushed red peppers
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Cut flank steak into thin ¼ inch slices
- In a medium-sized bowl add beef, egg, salt and 1 teaspoon cornstarch and let marinate for 30-60 minutes
- Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch to a bowl, add the marinated beef (discard the extra marinade)
- Heat a small saucepan with the oil on medium-high
- Toss the beef one last time in the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and shake off any excess.
- Fry the slices, in batches, until golden brown (2-3 minutes)
- Heat a large pan on high heat and use two tablespoons of the oil you just fried the beef in
- Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add in the garlic and continue to cook a few more seconds
- Remove the veggies and put them with the beef on a plate
- Make Beijing Beef sauce: In a small bowl whisk together the ½ cup water, ¼ cup sugar, ketchup, hoisin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sweet chili sauce, crushed red peppers, and apple cider vinegar
- Add the Beijing Beef sauce to the large pan and cook on high until it thickens (3-5 minutes)
- Add the beef and vegetables into the sauce and toss to combine