REVIEW: Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast

I sometimes wonder if Panda Express would exist if it didn’t have its Orange Chicken. Despite it being one of the unhealthiest items to come out of their gigantic woks, there’s something about the lightly battered chicken that radiates a hot coal-like orange glow that makes people yearn for it, like a baby yearns for a nipple. I’m not sure what draws taste buds to it, but perhaps it is its sweet sauce; or it lacks the nuisance of vegetable or fruit chunks; or because it’s the least Asian sounding dish.

If their Orange Chicken just happens to disappear from their menu or the serving tray is currently empty and you don’t want to wait a few minutes for the wok handlers to whip up another batch of the non-authentic Chinese dish, the new Thai-inspired Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast makes a great replacement.

The SweetFire Chicken Breast is made up of crispy, white meat chicken with red bell peppers, sliced onions, and pineapple chunks tossed with a sweet chili sauce. Panda Express says their new dish is “an exotic fusion of flavors.” But I say it’s “an obvious fusion of a few of their existing dishes.” The breaded white meat chicken is like their Orange Chicken, red bell peppers and onions are found in their Beijing Beef, and pineapple chunks are also in their Sweet Sour Pork.

It’s like they used the Taco Bell Technique, which involves taking their existing ingredients, placing them around an empty bottle, spinning the bottle to pick ingredients, selecting enough ingredients to have a regulation orgy, putting all of those ingredients in a room and letting nature take its course.

The Sweet Fire Chicken Breast’s sweet chili sauce is quite tasty, although I wish its flavor was a bit more punchy. The sauce has red pepper flakes in it, but don’t let them fool you because they don’t make the sauce very spicy. I felt a very light burn, but I wish it was a bit spicier. I also thought the sauce’s sweetness could be kicked up a little.

The chicken was tender and crispy. The onions and bell peppers gave the dish some crunch, along with a little flavor. As for the pineapples, I always find it odd when they’re added to a heated dish, like a “Hawaiian” Pizza or Panda Express’ Sweet Sour Pork, because I think it’s weird to eat hot fruit. But the pineapples in this dish helped make up for the sauce’s lack of sweetness.

If the Pandapocalypse happens and Orange Chicken is taken away, don’t fret my fake Chinese food loving friends, because the tasty Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast will satisfy your hunger for a sweet crispy chicken dish that’s just as unhealthy as Orange Chicken.

(Nutritional Facts – 5.8 ounces – 440 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar and 17 grams of protein.)

Item: Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast
Price: $6.50 (2 choice plate)
Size: 5.8 ounces
Purchased at: Panda Express
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty sweet chili sauce. Contains vegetables, which give the dish a crunch. Makes a nice replacement for Orange Chicken.
Cons: I wish the sweet chili sauce was a bit spicier. Pineapples seem weird in the dish. The Pandapocalypse. Just as unhealthy as Orange Chicken. An obvious fusion of a few of their existing dishes. The Taco Bell Technique for creating new dishes.

21 thoughts to “REVIEW: Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast”

  1. I never heard of Panda Express (and likely won’t until I go back to the U.S.), but I’m right with you on the “heated fruit” part… well, except for apples and bananas. Both of them can be pretty darn tasty when hot!

    Now I have to go look up how nutritionally devastating the orange chicken you mention is…

  2. I am getting tired of chain restaurants that feel they have to mix sweet with spicy (see: Buffalo Wild Wings Mango Habanero sauce, Domino’s new Chicken Habanero sandwich with pineapple, etc.) I just want the spicy, I don’t need all the sweetness. If I want sweet I will go buy a candy bar or some ice cream AFTER I am done getting my spicy on.

  3. I had this dish yesterday…mine was just sweet and not spicy at all. I would definitely get it again to see if maybe I got a mild batch. The Orange Chicken actually seems spicier than this. I’ve had super spicy Beijing Beef before and another time it wasn’t at all so I’m figuring it can be kind of random. The sweetness comes through in it all though. I like rolling my Orange Chicken around in rice and having the sticky sauce coat it…the SweetFire Sauce doesn’t have the same sticky qualities. I liked this new SweetFire chicken though…very tasty, just needs some actual fire. Maybe next time.

  4. I’ve tried this dish and it was okay while it was nice and hot but I think I also recognize the rather obvious attempt to make somthing “new” that they have always had. It was kind of sweet but I wouldn’t call it “Sweetfire” not anywhere near spicy enough to earn a “fire” in the title
    still, it’s okay for lunch but somtimes I think panda express needs to man up and be more original

  5. I usually only get Panda Express at the Atlanta Airport (basically the U.S. Hub for everywhere!!). Anyway, I love things that are spicy. I like the fact that this has pineapples in it. When I go to a monogolian place where I can make my own meal I make sure to add pineapple and I super amp up the spicy. So spicy and fruit can be good in moderation.

  6. Hmmm no thanks, I’m not a huge fan of panda express, I do like their orange chicken but this just looks kind of thrown togeather and sloppy. I’m sure it is tasty but I’ll pass.

  7. @Chuck Yeah, I totally agree with you. What’s with the trend of hot chili peppers in chocolate? A company sent a bunch of trial size bars to the senior citizen center that my grandmother goes to…who thought of that great marketing strategy…

  8. i always tried to stay away from orange chicken because it was so unhealthy.

    one day, i finally gave in. SO GOOD. couldn’t stop eating it while i lived right near one. glad i haven’t had any in over 5 months.

  9. I hate when there is like one serving left they drag it to the center of the pan in a nice, neat pile and let it sit there drying out and alone like my grandma in her nursing home and won’t bring out a fresh pan until someone orders it.

  10. Kayla,

    are you sure that wasn’t the new EX-LAX chocolate chili pepper bars wih extra fiber? my grandmas nursing home got a case of samples and all the residents have been raving that there bowel movements have been extra zesty.

    Kayla Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 11:49 AM
    @Chuck Yeah, I totally agree with you. What’s with the trend of hot chili peppers in chocolate? A company sent a bunch of trial size bars to the senior citizen center that my grandmother goes to…who thought of that great marketing strategy…

  11. I used to weight about 75 pounds more than I currently do. I also used to eat double plates of Orange Chicken at Panda Express about once a week, but hey correlation does not equal causation right?

    I tried the SweetFire Chicken yesterday and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I like my food to have a variety of texture and crunchy vegetables like onions and red bell peppers are always a plus in my book. Overall I found the level of spice in my serving to be just about perfect. It gave me a little heat but didn’t send me running for the whole milk.

    I imagine things might be a little more interesting if they were to soak the pineapples in some kind of spicy sauce and then deep fry them as well.

  12. Went there for the free sample and really enjoyed it. Definitely something we will order again.

  13. @Orchid64: I feel like I am your link between Japan and US fast food cuisine. 🙂

    @Chuck: I think the sweet is used to dull the spicy, which is a shame for heat lovers like us.

    @Ryan: Hmm…I’ve had the Beijing Beef several times and it was never spicy. Maybe it’s our taste buds.

    @The Crisper: I’d like to see more authentic Chinese dish that involve animals other than chicken, beef or fish.

    @amanda: I want a Panda Express at the Honolulu International Airport. I think it should because it has the word “International” in it.

    @Villain was born like this: Panda Express does make me hungry later.

    @Michael: I wish I lived next to a Panda Express. If it did, I’d turn my kitchen into something useful, perhaps a meth lab.

    @Neil THE HAMMER: Yum.

    @Mr. Comfort Wipe: I think you have a shitty Panda Express. The one I go to isn’t like that.

    @Travis: Mmm…Deep fried pineapples.

    @harleytexas: I will definitely order it again too.

  14. Does Panda Express do anything vegetarian? I ask because I live in a southwestern, very Mexican town, and we don’t get many franchises despite our size (approx 200K). We have a few good Asian-ish restaurants, but even in my travels here I’m wary of crappy Asian food. Sorry to all the fans out there, but I f’ing HATE P.F Chang’s. Just give me some real vegetables, cilantro, and damned REAL HOT PEPPERS. Endorphins rule.

  15. P.S. And did I mention that I like hot peppers? Because I eat them raw for breakfast. Daily. Seriously. I live on a different plane, m’f’ckers! Habaneros, represent!

  16. @Kiki: They have a couple of dishes that are vegetarian, like their eggplant tofu, which is something I get on a regular basis. However, it isn’t hot at all, which should disappoint you mamacita. I like Panda Express for what it is – a place to get Asian-ish food in a mall. And get a fortune cookie with the food.

  17. @theskinnyplate: You’re lucky. When I was in college I lived on Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizzas and Taco Bell. Oh, those days when I could eat whatever I wanted.

  18. AWMFUHGUH. I like Panda Express. No one else in my family seems to though. I know that their food is made of crap, crap, and more delicious crap, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t at least taste a little good.

    Let the Panda Express fatties have their fun~~~

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