Vegan Options at Restaurants: Fast Food?
Fast food chains definitely don’t prioritize their plant-based patrons enough, with the majority of franchises mainly offering meat-based menu items. However, a lot of fast food chains have recently started paying more attention to the demand for meals made without animal products. Thanks to increased customer demand, it’s a bit easier to find something tasty – and vegan – at your favorite fast food restaurant.
While it can be tricky to order fast food when you’re vegan, it’s not impossible. Let’s get started!
Why It’s Super Easy to Eat Vegan at Chipotle
Chipotle Mexican Grill is an ultra-convenient fast-food chain with a simple menu made up of unique build-your-own entrees. When you order from Chipotle, you’ll choose between a salad, a burrito bowl, a traditional flour tortilla burrito, or hard shell corn tacos. Once you’ve chosen your meal, you can customize it by adding a wide variety of toppings.
As far as fast food goes, Chipotle definitely isn’t the worst for you—far from it. While we don’t recommend eating their burritos every day, the chain offers meals with fresh ingredients that are higher-quality than those used by many other fast food franchises.
What’s Vegan on the Chipotle Menu?
Any of the meals on Chipotle’s menu – tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, and salads – can be made with vegan ingredients. Each of these meals comes with a protein, and there are two vegan-friendly options to choose from – sofritas, which is grilled tofu, or beans and rice. We recommend beans and rice instead of sofritas because of the added bonus of free guacamole!
Below are all of the vegan-friendly add-on ingredients on Chipotle’s menu.
- Fajita vegetables: A mix of green, red, and orange peppers, along with Vidalia or red onions, grilled in vegetable oil. This blend of veggies is totally vegan, and it’s a great way to add some extra nutrients to your meal without too many extra calories.
- Salsa: Chipotle offers mild, medium, or hot salsa, and each of these options is plant-based. Their hottest salsa has a pleasant kick to it, and it’s virtually calorie-free. Plus, you can add multiple salsas to your meal for no extra charge.
- Guacamole: Chipotle is famous for their guac, and with good reason. Rich, chunky, and flavorful, Chipotle guacamole is also completely vegan. It costs extra to add guac to your meal in most cases – unless you skip a protein.
- White or brown rice: Chipotle prepares their two rice options without using any butter or other animal products. Instead, it’s seasoned with salt, cilantro, and other herbs and spices.
- Black or pinto beans: If you’re looking for a great plant-based source of protein, try adding beans to your chipotle meal. You can opt for just black or pinto, or a mix of both!
What’s Not Vegan at Chipotle?
While there are plenty of plant-based ingredients on the Chipotle menu, not everything is vegan-friendly. Below are the menu items to steer clear from:
- Meats: This one goes without saying, but the majority of the proteins on Chipotle’s menu are animal-derived. That includes chicken, steak, carnitas (pork), barbacoa, and carne asada.
- Sour cream: This rich dairy condiment is definitely not suitable for vegans.
- Cheese: As is the case with meat and sour cream, you won’t be able to add cheese to your burrito bowl if you adhere to a plant-based diet.
- Queso: This cheese-based sauce sure isn’t vegan. Plus, there’s an extra charge to add it to your meal. Pass.
- Chipotle-honey vinaigrette: If you order a salad from Chipotle and you’re on a vegan diet, you’ll have to skip the dressing. It’s made with honey, which isn’t compatible with a vegan eating plan, although it may be compatible with a plant-based one.
Aside from these few ingredients, vegans can eat everything else on the Chipotle menu—including the chips. We almost forgot the chips. YUM.
Taco Bell: Cheap, Quick, and…Vegan-Friendly?
Like Chipotle, Taco Bell offers burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and other traditional Mexican entrees. While many of their menu items contain meat and dairy products, there’s still plenty for vegans to try at Taco Bell.
The key to successfully eating vegan at Taco Bell is to order your meals Al Fresco. In the traditional sense, this phrase means “open air,” but it’s used by the fast food chain to refer to a certain way of preparing menu items. An Al Fresco or “Fresco style” order is made without any mayonnaise, guacamole, sour cream, or cheese.
When you order Al Fresco, you’ll get fresh pico de gallo salsa instead of dairy-based sauces and condiments. Taco Bell offers this option to patrons who are trying to cut calories, but it’s also great for plant-based eaters.
However, as a plant-based eater, Al Fresco doesn’t necessarily solve all of your problems while ordering at Taco Bell—you’ll also need to pick a meatless menu item. Taco Bell offers bean burritos as a staple on their value menu, and we definitely recommend these to anyone eating plant-based. They’re tasty, simple, and very, very cheap.
Starbucks: Get a Plant-Based Caffeine Boost—But Skip the Food
Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world, but they offer more than just drinks. Their food menu primarily consists of snacks, desserts, and light sandwiches, and there’s plenty to choose from. However, the majority of the Starbucks food menu is definitely not vegan-friendly. Eggs, meat, and dairy abound in their breakfast sandwiches and pastries, making it tough to get something to eat at your local Starbucks if you’re vegan.
However, it’s much easier to get a plant-based beverage from Starbucks than it is to eat vegan there. Starbucks offers several plant-based alternatives to dairy milk, which can be added to your drink for a small upcharge. These include:
- Oat milk
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Soy milk.
If you tend to favor espresso-based beverages, or just take a lot of milk in your coffee, make sure to ask for one of these alternatives to be added to your order!
What About Panera?
Panera is a chain known for their bagels, sandwiches, and other breakfast and lunch items. They also offer coffee and espresso-based beverages. While their menu definitely isn’t full of vegan-friendly options, there are a few things you can order there while staying plant-based.
Panera’s vegan menu includes several options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
- For breakfast, you can order the majority of Panera’s bagels without cream cheese or butter. These include their plain, everything, blueberry, cranberry walnut, salt, poppyseed, sprouted grain, and sesame bagels.
- If you’re not a bagel fan, you can try oatmeal, a smoothie, or a cup of fresh fruit.
- For lunch, the chain offers a few vegan-friendly options, including the fuji apple salad. While this salad normally comes with chicken and gorgonzola cheese, you can ask for these non-vegan ingredients to be taken off of yours. You can also get a Greek salad without feta cheese, an Asian sesame salad without wontons or chicken, or a strawberry poppyseed salad without chicken.
- If you prefer something a bit more substantial than salad, try the Mediterranean veggie sandwich without feta cheese. The default bread for this sandwich isn’t plant-based, but you can sub it out for no charge for sourdough, black pepper focaccia, ciabatta, whole grain, or other plant-based breads on the menu.
For vegans, Panera is one of those fast food chains with a menu that can be a bit overwhelming. It’s often hard to take any of their meals at face value since some contain sneaky animal-derived ingredients that you wouldn’t expect.
When in doubt, just ask the cashier whether the menu item you’re interested in is vegan! If they say no, ask if you can swap out the non-vegan items for something else.
by CHLOE is well-known as a 100% vegan and plant-based restaurant chain with locations in major cities like New York City, LA, and even London. Their vegan burgers are renowned, but they’re also praised for their vegan mac and cheese, made with a sweet potato and cashew cream sauce, and their moist, sweet cupcakes. You can walk into by CHLOE and know that not only are you getting something vegan, but you’re also getting something that’s sure to satisfy those fast food cravings.
Other Plant-Based Fast Food to Try
We’re fans of the fast food chains listed above because of their relatively healthy vegan menu items. However, there are many other restaurants you can visit and get plant-based food that satisfies your cravings.
Give these items a try:
- Dunkin’s Beyond Breakfast Sausage on an English muffin with no egg or cheese
- Del Taco’s Beyond Avocado Taco
- QDOBA’s grilled fajita vegan bowl
- Burger King’s Impossible burger – no mayo!
- Five Guys’ cajun fries
- KFC’s BBQ baked beans and potato wedges
- Pizza Hut’s Beyond Meat pepperoni pizza —make sure to ask for no cheese!
Get Your Fast Food, But Make It Vegan
Eating vegan shouldn’t be hard. It’s 2021, people, and while not all fast food chains have gotten with the program, many are recognizing that they have loyal vegan patrons who need something to eat. Luckily, the options listed above can tide you over while you wait for more vegan-friendly fast food to come along.
And if you’re looking for a vegan-friendly dessert to accompany your treat-yo-self meal, that’s where MiiRO comes in. We specialize in creamy, decadent chocolate desserts that just so happen to be vegan and low in sugar. Satisfy your sweet tooth with our Wow-In-Your-Mouth Peanut Butter Cups or live out your white chocolate dreams with our White Chocolate Bar.