You might know your local P. F. Chang’s as the place with the iconic red logo. You might know it as the grandest dining area in town. Or, if you’re anything like us, you might just know it as the best night of the week, growing up: Friday or Saturday, when your parents were too tired to cook, and everyone rejoiced in a hearty order of Chinese food.
Those nights were marked by a pile of takeout boxes, trial-and-error with chopsticks, and round-robin fortune cookie reads that may or may not have gotten a little spicy. To this day, not much has changed on a P.F.Chang’s night. Boxes of rice still sit in the fridge afterward, leftover sauce packets live in the silverware drawer, and your fortune strip may end up taped on your apartment’s refrigerator (or is that just us?) Ordering P. F. Chang’s is an experience from start to finish, guided by the pure deliciousness of their American Chinese cuisine. The one consistent truth about indulging in the casual chain? The food is so good that, without fail, you’ll eat too much. That’s right — fortunes aren’t the only end to a P. F. Chang’s night. They usually pair with a stomach ache.
Although it’s nearly impossible to avoid that fate, we taste-tested the top dishes at P. F. Chang’s in hopes that, just maybe, it will help you make a more targeted order, overcome overeating, and circumvent a post-P. F. Chang’s stomach ache.
15. Mongolian beef
First up, P. F. Chang’s Mongolian beef. This bad boy, albeit beautiful to look at, brings up last place in our round-up. We had high hopes, especially after sampling some of P. F. Chang’s other beef dishes, which were delicious. But this one lacks what made the others really shine: attention to the beef.
P. F. Chang’s describes this dish as "sweet soy glaze, flank steak, garlic, and green onion." While we can confirm that all of those ingredients do indeed exist in the dish, none of them were particularly well-crafted. The flank steak, which looked so appealing before biting in, ended up being an odd combination of tough and chewy; hard to get a bite of, and then, once you had the bite, disappointingly soft on the inside. Besides just having a disconcertingly inconsistent texture within every bite, the lack of consistency between each piece was a bit of a let down as well. While some bits were more cooked-through, others were a tad on the fatty side.
Instead of leaning in to curating their beef slabs to a higher level of perfection, it seems, P. F. Chang’s opts to rely on the sweet soy glaze to bring the entire dish up a level. It’s not a bad wager — the sweet soy sauce is amazing. But the way they absolutely douse this dish in the glaze gives them away, and to curated and non-curated palates alike, it’s not enough to save the entire meal.
14. Crispy honey chicken
Ah, the Crispy honey chicken. Here’s a second dish we were eagerly anticipating: just looking at it evokes strong memories of Chinese food night as kids, back when this was the most adventurous we’d get with our order. But, not unlike the Mongolian beef, this dish fell short of our expectations.
First of all, when it arrived, every individual chicken bite was stuck together. We get it, it’s honey chicken, so it should be sticky. But should it be that glued-together? Probably not. When we slid it out of the takeout container onto the plate, the entire dish moved as one mass. Amusing? Yes. Concerning? Also yes.
We picked apart the mound and grabbed a single piece of chicken, more skeptical by that point than we were when the dish arrived. Stickiness aside, this is appetizing to look at, and the piece of chicken held promise. Unfortunately, upon biting in, it became clear that the ratio’s just a little out of whack here. The fried coating makes up about 70% of the bite, which is at least 30% more than it should, even for order-out Chinese food. This might not have been as much of an issue if there weren’t a second factor at play: the honey seemingly seeped into the breading, making it more soggy and wilted than anything else. There was definitely no crisp factor, as the name would leave you to believe.
Ultimately, this dish is better left in your fond childhood memories.
13. Chang’s Spicy Chicken
Dare we say that the Chang’s Spicy Chicken is just the crispy honey chicken, add spice? It’s not, according to P. F. Chang’s. They describe it as chicken with "signature sweet-spicy chili sauce, [and] green onion," but despite how different that description sounds from "crispy honey chicken," we think the two have more in common than not.
We gave Chang’s Spicy Chicken points for the spice factor — the signature sweet-spicy chili sauce truly is sweet and spicy all at once. That said, this dish has the same issues that the crispy honey chicken had. The sauce seeps into the breading, leaving you with a bite that is primarily soggy breading with a tiny bit of chicken encased inside. The chicken itself is nothing to write home about, either. It’s slightly slimy for our taste — perhaps also a product of too much sauce — and ultimately, bland. If P. F. Chang’s made the chicken itself spicy, instead of just focusing their efforts on seasoning the breading, maybe we would be bigger fans of this dish. But as it currently stands, it’s just a less-sticky, slightly spicier version of the previous chicken dish.
12. Sesame chicken
As a kid, sesame chicken was our favorite. The dish is above-average anywhere you go, but P. F. Chang’s does it particularly well, piling on the sesame sauce and coating every slab of chicken in juicy, thick deliciousness. Sesame seeds deck the top of the chicken, stuck on in a way that’s less off-putting and more just dynamic, creating a subtle added texture that makes the entire dish stand out.
The pieces of chicken themselves are a better cut than in P. F. Chang’s other chicken staples, i.e. the crispy honey and the Chang’s Spicy. Here, they are larger and more rectangular, and every bite is a noticeably better ratio of chicken-to-breading. Instead of feeling like you’re eating fried dough with a hint of chicken, when you dig into the sesame chicken you feel like you’re getting the real, meaty deal.
And the chicken isn’t even the best part of this delicacy. When it comes down to it, the broccoli steals the show here. Soaked in the same sesame sauce as the chicken — perhaps just by virtue of sitting beneath it in the takeout container — this broccoli has all of the flavor and none of the unhealthiness of the chicken. If we could order sesame broccoli, we would. But until someone decides to actually create that dish, ordering sesame chicken and picking out the broccoli is the next best thing.
While good, P.F. Chang’s sesame chicken offering ultimately doesn’t rank higher because it’s still just chicken.
11. Dynamite Shrimp
In our opinion, P. F. Chang’s does a much better job with their seafood than they do with poultry. Exhibit A: the Dynamite Shrimp. This appetizer, which could also function as a meal, for shrimp enthusiasts, presents a lot of the same issues as the crispy honey and Chang’s Spicy Chicken do. There’d way too much tempura batter here and, again, the batter is not quite as crispy as we’d like it to be. The key difference, of course, is what lies beneath the batter. Where the aforementioned options revolved around bits of chicken, this delicacy is built around shrimp. And it turns out, that makes all the difference.
Unlike the chicken options, this app doesn’t skimp on the amount of shrimp in each piece; it’s far more than the bite-sized nugget that’s standard with the chicken. The juicy piece of shellfish is flavorful and thick, tasting both salty and fresh all at once and leaving you ready to pop the next piece into your mouth.
The meat is not the only upgrade that the Dynamite Shrimp boasts. This appetizer is tossed in a sriracha aioli, which almost automatically makes it delicious, and plated with shredded cabbage, lettuce, and carrots. The only qualm we have, beyond the shrimp’s over-battered nature, is that P. F. Chang’s lists this app as spicy (as denoted by a flame on the menu). This made us excited about potential heat, and ultimately, we were disappointed. The Dynamite Shrimp is good, but not spicy.
10. Vegetable spring rolls
There’s nothing like a solid vegetable spring roll at any restaurant, and P. F. Chang’s is no exception. On the P. F. Chang’s menu, these puppies are described as "crispy rolls stuffed with julienned veggies, [and] sweet chili dipping sauce." We’re here to tell you that they just about nailed that wordage.
The rolls, unlike other misnamed menu items, are actually quite crispy. The wrapping is thin and neatly folded, although one of ours did come slightly misshapen, as you can see. It didn’t affect the taste, which, overall, was flavorful and enduring. Of course, the dominating notes were that of the fried wrapper, but the julienned veggies did hold their own, making for a mouth-watering combo. These rolls do have room for improvement, though: the one word that wasn’t quite accurate in their description is "stuffed." That adjective conjures images of a roll that’s absolutely bursting with vegetables, which simply isn’t the case here. Instead, they coat the bottom half of the tube, leaving a lot of space for air in every bite. To amp up their roll game, P. F. Chang’s could definitely throw another handful of veggies in there.
At the end of the day, though, the lack of vegetables isn’t a deal-breaker. These rolls have the signature spring roll taste, and honestly, dunking them in the sweet chili sauce results in a pop of flavor that ends up being all you really need to forget about any potential drawbacks of the dish.
9. Pork egg rolls
A second roll option from P. F. Chang’s, the pork egg rolls are indisputably better than their vegetable spring roll competition.
We weren’t rooting for these, honestly. For health reasons alone, we assumed we’d favor the veggie option. However, one bite into this appetizer and it was clear. We immediately wanted to finish the whole roll — which, when you’re 15 dishes of P. F. Chang’s deep, means something. The pork is dry and shredded to a point that makes it less offensive than we were imagining, and the julienned veggies pack the same flavor they did in the spring roll, except here, there is definitely more of them. The roll as a whole is thicker, more densely packed, and as a small bonus, this duo came more neatly wrapped than the spring rolls did.
Beyond plating this appetizer with rice noodles, P. F. Chang’s includes a side of sweet and sour mustard sauce, which is a definite show stopper and, surprisingly, airs more on the sour side than the sweet. Taken with the semi-sweet pork and the julienned vegetables, the sauce adds a powerful punch, carrying from the first bite through to the aftertaste.
While both roll options are flavorful, if your diet doesn’t restrict you from the pork egg rolls, we’d recommend giving them a try first. The veggie rolls will always be there for the next Chinese night.
8. Miso glazed salmon
The miso glazed salmon is hard to rank fairly because, in full transparency, we got it delivered. Not that delivery should affect taste to any notable degree, but if it ever were to, it would be in the case of a fresh fish filet. This dish is meant to come flying out of the pan, onto a plate, and maybe even still be a little too hot by the time it gets to you. Instead, our delivery salmon came off the stove, was sealed into a plastic container, traveled 25 blocks downtown, and then up five flights of stairs. A different journey, and one that it’s easy to imagine might make anyone a little less flavorful than they usually are.
The delivery salmon still pulled a fairly high ranking, all things considered. It takes eighth place out of fifteen dishes, which means that with this menu option, we are officially transitioning from dishes we’re less crazy for to the top-ranking dishes that we’re all about.
The salmon tasted fresh, if a little dry. The work P. F. Chang’s did to char the skin to a buttery crisp was definitely the stand-out factor here, and the spinach, cabbage and garlic-ginger aromatics made for a strong backdrop. Even if you’re not big on mushrooms, the Asian mushrooms in this dish are well-cooked and seasoned to a point where they’re hardly objectionable. Overall, we’d recommend the salmon. Especially if you live closer to a P.F. Chang’s.
7. Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are almost difficult to rank, for a simple reason: having Brussels sprouts is legitimately always better than not having them. Even if they aren’t the most memorable sprouts you’ve ever had, or the most impressive, you still have the privilege of enjoying one of nature’s greatest creations. Small, round, bite-sized vegetables: there’s nothing more convenient, healthy, or fun to eat than that.
With that caveat explained, we will say that P. F. Chang’s Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts aren’t the most delicious we’ve ever had (take that critique in stride, as we attempt to order Brussels sprouts at any restaurant that will serve them, so we’ve sampled quite a few). On the menu, P. F. Chang’s describes them as "Wok-charred Brussels sprouts, peanuts, chili pods, [with] Kung Pao sauce." Maybe it was just a case of too much Kung Pao sauce, but these sprouts did not have a charred texture. In fact, each individual leaf was practically dripping, and the dish as a whole was mush with peanuts and chili pods sprinkled in. The peanuts were an interesting touch, but the chili pods were bizarrely tough to bite into and we’re not sure how much flavor they actually contributed to the appetizer.
Usually, you can convince yourself you’re doing something healthy by opting for Brussels sprouts over another appetizer. In this case, the sheer amount of sweet sauce makes it less feasible to do so. However, these are still sprouts, so order away!
6. Beef with broccoli
If we were giving superlatives to these rankings, the beef with broccoli would take "Most Unexpected." As rare consumers of red meat due to flavor and texture alone, we did not have high hopes for P. F. Chang’s classic main. The beef, by all accounts, shouldn’t taste that different than the lowest-ranking Mongolian beef. Both are flank steaks, and although P. F. Chang’s menu doesn’t specify, it looks like the beef with broccoli is slathered in the same sweet soy glaze as its Mongolian cousin. But for some reason, these beef dishes could not taste more different. Perhaps it was the addition of ginger-garlic aromatics in this one that did the trick, or maybe the green onion. Either way, we couldn’t get enough of this meal, which is in reality fairly standard.
Thinking back to the sesame chicken, for a minute — remember how the broccoli was the main event in that dish? It ends up bearing the same crown here. The steamed broccoli is just as good as it was in the sesame chicken plate, but here, it is doused in even more sauce. We ended up eating more steak than we expected to, but powered straight through all of the broccoli. There’s nothing like fresh, steamed veggies smothered in a sweet-tasting soy sauce that retains a slightly beefy flavor.
5. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps
The beef with broccoli was an unexpected favorite, but the Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps were a completely expected favorite. Just look at this dish: first of all, it can be made to be gluten-free, which is an added bonus, when you’re loading up on Chinese food. Second, it is clearly fresh, and unlike other dishes, you know exactly what you’re getting (almost). The lettuce is buttery and surprisingly sturdy enough to effectively wrap the chicken rice noodles and sauce all in one bundle. The chicken is incredible — the only poultry option we truly enjoyed from P. F. Chang’s — and we will never know how to replicate it because, as P. F. Chang’s states on their menu, it’s a secret. Actually, what they say exactly is: "A secret family recipe and our signature dish. Enough said." Talk about a confident glow!
This is a dish for those who enjoy control. Perhaps the greatest part is the power to carefully balance out your own ratios, leaving nothing to chance (or to the P. F. Chang’s kitchen). We had fun experimenting with different ways to eat this one — if you order other dishes alongside the Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps, there’s even more room to get creative. For example, how about a lettuce wrap filled with broccoli, Dynamite Shrimp, and Brussels sprouts? The options are endless.
4. Crispy green beans
While the crispy green beans only come in fourth overall in this rating, which we’re basing on a healthy mix of look, taste, and nutritional value, they’re absolutely number one when it comes to the most addicting dish you can get at P. F. Chang’s. We downed these in about three minutes flat which, as you can imagine, made for a rough rest of the taste test. In true fried food fashion, the crispy green beans are just as incredible going down as they are terrible to digest.
These fall in the same realm as the Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts: a vegetable that probably has lost most of its healthiness by the time it’s served. Even still, it’s one that you can still easily convince yourself "isn’t that bad." It’s a vegetable, after all! It has to be at least a little bit good for you!
Not the way we eat them. These incredible, truly crispy fried wonders are tempura-battered and come with not one but two sides of P. F. Chang’s "signature spicy dipping sauce," which tastes like chipotle mayo to us. We found the most delectable way to inhale these was to practically soak them in the sauce before biting — assuming you know the people you’re dining with well, double dips should not only be permitted, but encouraged. You know you’re doing it right if, like us, you had about a quarter of a plate of green beans left with two scraped-clean sauce containers.
3. Chili-garlic green beans
P. F. Chang’s second option for green beans, the Chili-Garlic Green Beans, does not evoke quite as much passion. Were they good? Yes. Were they better than the fried green beans? Debatable. However, when it comes to health and factoring in how each dish made us feel after eating, these green beans edged out the competition.
Made with "fiery red chili sauce," fresh garlic, and Sichuan preserves, these green beans are another P. F. Chang’s menu item with the fire symbol next to them, meant to warn you about heat, that end up not actually being all that hot. In this case, though, the lack of spiciness worked for them. They are great and somewhat light-tasting on their own, but also versatile enough to mix into any other dish you might’ve tacked on to the order.
These green beans are absolutely drenched in the chili sauce, which is thicker than we had expected and makes us question how much healthier than the crispy green beans these could actually be. But then we caught sight of our empty "secret sauce" containers and felt assured — these green beans are definitely the more nutritious and overall less regrettable option.
2. Hand-folded crab wontons
These wontons were won-derful. Sorry. But it’s true — the level of mastery and innovation P. F. Chang’s brings to this appetizer is staggering. From the crispy shell that you can tell is freshly baked to the crab filling, which the menu describes as "creamy" (for once, we agree with the menu here), to the bell pepper and green onion additions and the spicy plum sauce; there’s nothing not to love about this plate, which is equal parts aesthetically pleasing and tasty.
The crab wontons dish is yet another instance of P. F. Chang’s seafood really shining, as the meat in these delicacies was fresh and perfectly shredded, despite being mixed with cream. The bottom part of the wonton is completely full, skating around qualms we had with other P. F. Chang’s dishes, and something about the verbiage "hand-folded" just makes these seem superior.
If you’re going to order one appetizer and one appetizer only for your Chinese food night, we recommend highly considering the hand-folded crab wontons. As number two overall on our list, they’re more or less the dish to beat.
1. Shrimp dumplings
But then, finally, we have the ultimate dish to be beat. This appetizer, which we would argue might actually make for a nice, light, inexpensive meal, was the most authentic-tasting of anything on the P. F. Chang’s menu. When ordering, you’re given a choice: pan-fried or steamed? We opted for steamed, thinking it may provide a much-needed reprieve from the copious amount of other fried dishes on the menu, and we were right. Not only was it a refreshing change of pace while tasting, but the steamed nature of these bad boys ultimately placed them permanently in a league above the rest of the dishes we had delivered.
Beneath the sticky, soft dough (which was lightly drizzled with a chili sauce — so subtle!) the shrimp dumplings were truly stuffed with their namesake meat. The shrimp was just as fresh, flavorful, and delicious as it was in the Dynamite Shrimp option, but without the fried factor to detract, the shrimp taste truly owned the whole flavor profile. These pair nicely with the semi-spicy sauce that they’re served with, but are also just as good without.
Although it was a tight race for first between the hand-folded crab wontons and the shrimp dumplings, we felt lighter and less sluggish after finishing the latter. That, plus their pure and bold shrimp flavor, ultimately put the dumplings ahead.