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When it comes to satisfying immediate cravings for 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 2-entree 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 $6.30 at my local Panda Express, you get a “junior” entree — which is the same portion as a small (priced at $4.90) — a “junior” (medium) side (normally $4.40), a bag of apple crisps, and your choice of a 16-ounce Dasani water, a 6-ounce apple juice box, or a 12-ounce fountain drink (regularly $2.30).
If you were to order those Panda Express menu items separately, it would cost you $11.60 — which means you save $5.30 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 55% 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 $8.20 apiece, or $24.60 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 $11… or just $5.50 per person. You’re saving $13.60 — 55%!
Also, a Panda Express Bowl contains one small entree and one regular side piled together for $8 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 less than if you’d bought your own Bowls!
4. If you’re feeding your family or a larger group of six to eight people, Panda Express family meals are the way to go.
Panda Express family meals contain three large entrees and two large sides for just $35. That’s $8.50 cheaper than ordering those items separately. (Non-premium large entrees typically cost $10.90 and large sides are $5.40 each).
Family meals with premium entrees — like Black Pepper Angus Steak or Honey Walnut Shrimp — could cost as much as $46.25. That’s barely cheaper than buying three large premium entrees by themselves ($54.75), 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 2-week span in August 2022.
We’ve got the skinny on all the family meal deals and how much you’ll be saving with each.
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 7 – 15%.
- A 12- to 16-person party bundle, which has two party tray entrees and two party tray sides for $108. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $114, $8 savings.
- An 18- to 22-person party bundle, which has three party tray entrees and three party tray sides for $154. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $171, $17 savings.
- A 26- to 30-person party bundle, which has four party tray entrees and four party tray sides for $194. Purchased individually, those entrees and sides would total $228, $34 savings.
As you can see, Panda Express catering gets more valuable as the order gets bigger.
The restaurant offers party-size entrees for six to eight people, like Panda Express orange chicken, for $47. Bought a la carte, orange chicken costs $0.42/ounce, but the 64-ounce party size costs just $0.73/ounce. They also have party sides for $16 and premium entrees for $56.
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 ($11.20) in the Panda app, while the same order on GrubHub is $13.65 before you calculate a tip. There’s no need to pay more.
You do end up paying a service fee on Panda Express orders that are made directly through the restaurant (around $3.95 depending on your order), 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 four 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 ounces) is $0.88/ounce, while a large portion (22.4 ounces) is only about $0.49/ounce — a savings of about 44.3%.
8. Divide 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. A new Panda Express Rewards program is being tested at some locations.
As of now, most Panda Express customers don’t have access to a loyalty program or a way to earn points for your purchases — but that likely will change soon.
Panda is testing a loyalty program at select locations. With this program, you can earn 10 points for every $1 spent, and once you reach 200 points, you can get a free item on your next order. Check if your local Panda Express is participating, and we’ll update you when the loyalty program is available nationwide.
Looking for more Panda Express coupons? You should check out the Panda Express Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds for easy access to coupons, such as free delivery on orders of $10+ and $3 off a 2-item plate containing Honey Walnut Shrimp.
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 $3.98. Second place goes to Target, at $4.79 each.
Options for the 18.75-ounce to 20.75-ounce 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 $36.97 — but that’s a bad price, since at the grocery stores you can create that 4-pack for just $12.88.
11. Employees at Panda Express get a free meal every shift.
Panda Express employees get one free meal per 6-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. Get a discounted Panda Express gift card through Raise.com — up to 15% off.
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 15% off. Easy savings on your next Panda Express orange chicken order!
13. Skip the line by placing a pickup order via the Panda Express app or website.
The Panda Express app and website let you order ahead, which is awesome. You can customize your order, pick the time you want to get it, and skip the line.
Some Panda Express locations even offer curbside pickup or drive-thru for online orders (but mine doesn’t). But you can still save time by ordering online and picking it up at the to-go counter inside the restaurant. Plus, you can use any promo codes you have online, which is super convenient.
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 $4.40 for each of those medium chow mein orders individually, for a total of $13.20. The plate, however, only costs $9.50, which would give you a savings of $3.70. That’s like buying two medium chow meins and getting one completely free.
15. Skip the restaurant and make your own Panda Express-inspired dishes at home, such as Beijing Beef.
Over the last few years, ongoing supply chain challenges have made it tough for Panda Express to keep all of their menu items available lately, so you might find that the Beijing Beef isn’t on offer at your local restaurant.
But don’t worry; you can still satisfy your craving by making your own Beijing Beef at home. Whip up this copycat recipe (but feel free to customize it to your liking):
- 1 lb flank steak, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 green onions, sliced
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- In a large bowl, toss the beef strips in cornstarch until evenly coated.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the beef strips until crispy and browned. Remove the beef strips from the skillet and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.
- Discard any remaining oil from the skillet and return it to the heat. Pour in the soy sauce mixture and bring it to a simmer. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Add the fried beef strips to the skillet and toss to coat them in the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add water a little at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and serve hot with rice.