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Eating Vegan at Fast Food Chain Restaurants

Veggie BurgerSome of us never thought that we’d see the day when Burger King or Bennigan’s offered veggie burgers, but now that they do, the millions of carnivores who eat there can see that choosing meat-free meals is easy and tasty.

Almost every restaurant has at least one vegan dish. By making educated choices and asking the server for assistance, dining out can be a delicious—and cruelty-free—experience! We put together this handy guide to help you navigate the chain restaurant world.

Applebee’s offers a strawberry and avocado salad (ask for no chicken) that comes with a zesty chili-lime vinaigrette.

Remember going to Baskin-Robbins when you were knee-high to a grasshopper? Awaken the kid in you by trying the chain’s dairy-free and gelatin-free ices and sorbets, which are just as yummy and cooling as ice cream—without the pus and hormones.

A delicious vegetarian Boca burger and a fresh garden salad are your options at Bennigan’s.

Bruegger’s Bagels has several breakfast and lunch options for vegans, including its blueberry, chocolate chip, cinnamon-sugar, cranberry-orange, pumpernickel, and rosemary–olive oil bagels, which can be topped with fresh vegetables, Dijon mustard, or vegan hummus spread. Bruegger’s also serves several vegetarian sandwiches, which can be made vegan by leaving off the cheese and dressing.

The black-bean burger at Buffalo Wild Wings is vegetarian (not vegan), and vegan options include chips and salsa or pico de gallo, buffalo chips, and a salad with light balsamic, French, or Asian sesame dressing.

Burger King’s BK Veggie™—a flame-broiled vegetarian burger (which contains dairy products)—has enjoyed continued success. Every time that a customer sees “BK Veggie™,” it’s a reminder that “having it your way” doesn’t have to mean taking a bite out of Bessie.

The French fries, CrissCut® fries, hash-brown nuggets, made-from-scratch biscuits, cinnamon and raisin biscuits, and apple cobbler dessert at Carl’s Jr. (and Hardee’s) are all vegan. In the restaurant, there is an all-you-can-eat salad bar that offers a variety of fresh vegetables and a three-bean salad that can be topped with raspberry or low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. You can also get the green beans, mashed potatoes (with no gravy), and grits.

At Cheeburger Cheeburger, which can be found throughout the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast, the grilled portobello mushroom sandwich, wrap, and salad are vegan.

Cheers offers a veggie burger. Load it up with all the fixings for a filling meal.

There are plenty of vegan options at The Cheesecake Factory, including a veggie burger made with brown rice, farro, couscous, mushrooms, black beans, and onion and a penne pasta dish tossed with broccoli, oven-dried tomato, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke, Kalamata olives, garlic, and pine nuts.

At Chili’s, you can have the tostada chips and salsa as an appetizer, followed by the veggie quesadillas—replacing the cheese and sour cream with extra vegetables—or the Cadillac Fajitas without the meat.

Chipotle offers Sofritas—organic tofu braised with peppers and spices—which you can order in a bowl, burrito, taco, or salad. You have the option of black or pinto beans and brown or white rice. Plus, the restaurant has a great selection of vegan toppings, including mixed fajita veggies, salsas, lettuce, and guacamole.

CiCi’s Pizza is inexpensive, and you can have it delivered to your home. Just be sure to ask about the vegan status of each item on your pizza. The restaurant also offers a pasta and salad buffet with many vegan options.

The pizzas at Claim Jumper are vegan if you ask for no cheese. You can also get a Chinese salad with spicy peanut dressing.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has a country vegetable plate with your choice of several veggies, including green beans. (You can also substitute any vegetable with a baked sweet potato or a tomato, cucumber, and onion salad.) You can also get the apple-cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast and opt out for the side of milk.

The Daily Grill offers vegan starters such as gazpacho soup, a trio of hummus, sweet potato fries, and herbed brown rice with almonds. Vegan entrées are also offered, including penne pasta primavera, angel hair pasta pomodoro, and a grilled vegetable plate. You can also get a house salad with Asian ginger dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.

Dairy Queen‘s light smoothies are all vegan and come in several flavors.

For a vegan burrito, Del Taco is a good place to go. You can get the 8 Layer Veggie Burrito, the 1/2 lb. Bean & Cheese Burrito, the Value Bean & Cheese Burrito, or the Jacked Up Value Bean, Rice and Cheese Burrito with red or green sauce. Simply ask for no cheese and no sour cream.

Even Denny’s—known for its traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare—has some vegan options. Denny’s vegan offerings include oatmeal, the Fit Fare® Veggie Skillet (ask for no egg whites), English muffins, bagels, grits, applesauce, fresh fruit, vegetable plates, seasoned French fries, baked potatoes with several vegetable toppings, garden salads with light Italian dressing or oil and vinegar dressing, and sandwiches that can be made with several vegetable options. It also serves a Boca burger.

At El Pollo Loco, you can get the BRC burrito without cheese for a vegan option. Vegan side dishes include pinto beans and corn on the cob.

5 & Diner has several vegan options, including a black-bean veggie burger.

The vegan option at Flamers Grill is the Veggie Pattie.

Hard Rock Cafe offers a vegetarian burger and a grilled veggie sandwich (ask for no cheese).

You have several vegan options at Hard Times Cafe, including the veggie burger and the vegetarian chili. (Be sure to tell your server that you don’t want any dairy products in your chili.)

Houston’s Restaurant offers a veggie plate and a vegetarian burger. Just be sure to order the burger on vegan bread.

At IHOP, you can get hash browns, fresh fruit, grits, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, a plain baked potato, or a salad with fat-free or regular raspberry vinaigrette or light Italian dressing.

Swing by a Petrotruck stop, and you’ll find an Iron Skillet restaurant, where you can refuel with the stacked salad bar and spaghetti with meat-free sauce.

Jack in the Box‘s black beans, potato wedges, seasoned curly fries, and breakfast blueberry muffin oatmeal are all vegan.

The vegan options at Jason’s Deli include organic vegetable soup, a spinach veggie wrap (request no cheese), salsa, hummus, guacamole, and many options from the salad bar. Be sure to ask about the vegan status of each of these dishes—it varies by location.

John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House offers a vegetarian burger and a veggie sampler entrée or vegetarian stir-fry, depending on the location. Be sure to check the vegan status of your choice when ordering.

Johnny Rockets features The Streamliner, a vegan Boca burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard.

Kelsey’s, with locations in Canada, has Kelsey’s Veggie Burger. The vegan status of these dishes varies by location, so be sure to check with your server when ordering.

Kona Grill now has a vegan menu. For appetizers, you’ve got edamame and seaweed salad. For sushi, there’s a cucumber roll, an avocado roll, and a vegetarian roll (with asparagus, avocado, yamagobo, cucumber, and sprouts). The house, roasted asparagus, and oriental salads are all vegan, and there are many vegan dressings, including onion soy, sweet soy, oil and vinegar, and balsamic, red, or white wine vinegar. Finally, both the Pan-Asian noodles and the linguine with marinara sauce are vegan, as are the sides of steamed baby bok choy, white rice, and seasonal vegetables.

The pizza sauce and dough at Little Caesars and Papa John’s are vegan, while Pizza Hut uses vegan sauce and its Thin ‘N Crispy Pizza and dessert crusts are vegan. By omitting the cheese and choosing your favorite vegetable toppings, you can easily make a delicious vegan pizza.

All of ManhattanBagel‘s bagels are vegan, except for the jalapeño cheddar cheese and egg varieties, and its bialys—a flattened onion and poppy seed bagel—are also vegan. The Manhattan Grille and Vegetable Garden sandwiches can be made on a bagel, roll, or tortilla and are vegan if you omit the spreads and cheese.

All of Moe’s Southwest Grill‘s tacos, fajitas, salads, and burritos can be made vegan by substituting tofu for meat and skipping the cheese.

O’Naturals, a restaurant chain in New England, offers healthy, all-natural fast food for diners who want great food to go. Its menu features a large vegetarian selection, and vegan items are marked for easy identification, such as the vegetarian chili, the carrot-ginger soup, and the chipotle sweet potato and veggie lentil soup.

A great place for breads, soups, salads, and sandwiches is Panera Bread. You can get the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (ask for no cheese) or the Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup. Each location varies its menu options, so just ask about the vegan options before ordering.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is one of the most vegan-friendly restaurant chains around. Its vegetarian menu is terrific, and everything can be made vegan, from appetizers such as tofu lettuce wraps to entrées such as Buddha’s Feast.

Located throughout the southern United States, Pollo Tropical offers Caribbean-inspired fast food. Vegan options include the Vegetarian TropiChop®, and the Balsamic Tomatoe.. The chain’s black beans, French fries, white rice, yellow rice, boiled or fried yucca, sweet plantains, and corn are vegan, too.

Pyramid Breweries restaurants offers a Boca burger that can be substituted for any nonvegan burger on its menu. The Margherita Pizza can be made vegan if you get it without cheese.

At Qdoba Mexican Grill, you can make a burrito, taco, or salad bowl with the following vegan ingredients: corn or flour tortillas, black or pinto beans, brown or cilantro-lime rice, fajita vegetables, grilled vegetables, potatoes, guacamole, and most salsas. You can also enjoy the tortilla soup.

A great alternative to Subway is Quiznos. It offers a veggie sub that’s filled with guacamole, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms—just be sure to order it without the cheese and ask for the balsamic vinaigrette instead of the red-wine vinaigrette. The vegan bread options include white or wheat, and there’s also an herb wrap. Grab a side garden salad and some potato chips, and your stomach will be appeased in no time.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has a hummus plate and a vegan Boca burger patty.

If you stop at Roy Rogers, you’ll find baked potatoes, sides of veggies, and a salad bar. And its mashed potatoes are vegan if you forgo the gravy.

Ruby Tuesday has an Endless Garden Bar, where you can make your own vegan salad.

Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, located throughout the South and the West, has a variety of salads, sandwiches, and soups, including the Strawberry Fields Tossed Salad With Caramelized Walnuts and the Summer Vegetable Soup. Their menu changes seasonally, and vegan items are clearly marked on the menu.

Starbucks has a sesame noodle dish made with broccoli, carrots, red pepper, snap peas, tofu, pickled cucumbers, and sesame peanuts. The dish comes with a bar of Starbucks dark chocolate for dessert. Other options include a plain or multigrain bagel, classic or blueberry oatmeal, the Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend, and the Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl.

Subway’s Veggie Delite—on Italian bread and without cheese and mayo—is delish. Want to spice things up a bit? After visiting Subway, visit the nearest grocery store, purchase some faux lunch meats, and load up your sub!

Ohio’s Swensons Drive In offers the Veggie Special.

Taco Bell has many great options for vegans! The fast-food chain has a variety of sides that are vegan—including the cinnamon twists, chips and guacamole (or pico de gallo), cilantro rice, black or refried beans, and Mexican rice—and all of its salsas are vegan. You can also order the Bean Burrito “fresco style,” the regular Black Bean Burrito without cheese, or the Veggie Cantina Power Bowl (ask for no sauce). Several of Taco Bell’s other dishes can be veganized simply by omitting a few ingredients or asking for it “fresco style.” The 7 Layer Bean Burrito can be made vegan if it has five layers—just forgo the cheese and sour cream. The tacos, nachos, Crunchwrap Supreme, and Mexican Pizza are vegan when you hold the meat (substitute beans if you’d like), cheese, and sour cream.

The nachos at TGI Fridays come with tortilla chips, jalapeños, guacamole, and pico de gallo and are an option for vegans if you get them with no cheese or sour cream. Cilantro-lime or balsamic vinaigrette are great for a house salad. The restaurant’s Jack Daniel’s and BBQ sauces are vegan and go well with its crispy fries or Cajun onion rings.

Tubby’s Grilled Submarines, with locations in Michigan, has the vegan Hot Veggie Stir Fry sub and Cold Veggie specialty sub.

Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt offers vegan soy flavors, such as peanut butter, soy latte, black sesame, banana milk, and plain soy as well as fruity sorbets, including raspberry, strawberry, pineapple, and more. Top your frozen yogurt off with some fresh fruit, nuts, or other vegan toppings, and you’ll have a delicious treat.

Head to Wendy’s for a plain baked potato, the garden side salad with red Italian dressing, or French fries. You can also ask for a veggie sandwich, which has everything that would normally be included on the burger except the meat—there’s even a button for it on the cash register.

World Wrapps, with locations in California and Washington, offers its vegan customers the Teriyaki Tofu and the Bombay Curry Wrapp, and the Classic Burrito Wrapp can be made vegan by omitting the cheese and sour cream.

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  • CatZ says:

    What can I do if I really don’t care for plain Tofu?

  • Eliana says:

    “Tender Greens” and “Yard House” have a lot of vegan (and vegetarian) options. I eat there all the time because of it.

  • cmuribe says:

    Souplantation is Sweet Tomatoes on the West Coast. They label their soups vegetarian, low-fat, and vegan (and they’re delicious!) Their salad bar has endless possibilities! Olive Garden even has some vegan options or you can manipulate the menu to create your own vegan plate. Beware the traditional Italian Dressing (it has eggs). The fat-free italian they use is vegan!

  • layyla says:

    Chipotle has changed the recipe for pinto beans and they no longer contain bacon. Vegans can eat both the pinto and black beans. But beware, the white rice has butter in it. Order the brown rice instead. I don’t know if it’s true for the entire chain but my local Chipotle has introduced Sophritos, a vegan tofu main course. It’s delicious.

  • juanita headley says:

    The burger buns in Wendy are not vegan, they contain milk and spread butter on them.

  • Despicable Dez says:

    Re: Kari Beware, unless they recently changed the recipe, Popeye’s red beans and rice contain lard. check the nutritional menu again. correct me if I’m wrong but cholesterol is only found in products containing animal sources.

  • Vyakk says:

    Quiznos isn’t so good for vegetarians/vegans because they use the same utensils for handling meat, cheese and veggies and making your sub. Also, never eat at Panda Express, they don’t have a sign saying it, but all employees said they don’t certify anything as vegetarian (not even the soft drinks, if you can believe that!).

  • cecelia says:

    Chipotle no longer cooks their baked beans with bacon–THEY ARE VEGAN, and delicious!

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