8 Vegan Fast Food Options Worth Trying
Eating fast food as a vegan can be challenging, but not impossible. It just takes a little research.
Vegan fast food is real
There’s good news if you love your plant-based burger.
Vegan fast food options are expected to grow at an even faster speed from 2020 to 2027, per a report by Verified Market Research.
“Vegan fast-food options are growing because the number of vegans in the United States is growing,” says Jennifer Moore, RDN, a dietitian specializing in plant-based wellness and renal diets in Southaven, Mississippi. “Additionally, Beyond Meat products are available at numerous restaurants including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hardee’s, and Carl’s Jr.”
How to ID vegan fast food menu items
When looking at fast food menus, many restaurants use symbols to note vegan items. And if they don’t, restaurants will often share ingredient information.
“For a food choice to be considered vegan, it must exclude all animal products including dairy, eggs, fish, meat, honey, and other products derived from animal-derived ingredients such as casein, whey, gelatin, pepsin, and shellac,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN and author of My Indian Table.
If the restaurant does not have an ingredient list available, it may offer allergen information. This will likely identify foods that contain eggs or milk.
Vegan eating differs from vegetarian eating in that it excludes all animal-derived products, including honey, dairy, and eggs.
Plant-based eating, on the other hand, may occasionally include meat and seafood products—it’s more of a flexitarian lifestyle that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, and plant proteins.
(Want to learn more? Here the difference between plant-based vs. vegan.)
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Use caution when ordering
When choosing what to eat at a fast food restaurant, know that not all vegan menu items are nutritious.
Some are upward of 1,000 calories.
“While all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, when choosing vegan fast food items know that vegan meat alternatives can be heavily processed and higher in fat and sodium compared to vegan options such as a bean-based burger,” says Sheth.
You can always ask to make alternations to make a dish healthier, such as having a burger on a bed of lettuce instead of a bun and adding sides of vegetables or fruit.
8 Healthy-ish vegan fast-food orders
Here, registered dietitians reveal their favorite vegan fast food orders from popular restaurants across the nation. Use this list for inspiration next time you go through the drive-through or opt for delivery.
Starbucks Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box
Grab a fully plant-based portable box with chickpea bites, snap peas, mini carrots, a dried cranberry and nut mix, and avocado spread.
“While not low-calorie, it provides high satiety with 15 grams protein and 13 grams fiber,” says Maria Tointon, RDN, a renal dietitian in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, about this Starbucks box.
Carl’s Jr. Beyond Fiery Famous Star
Craving a vegan burger? Here you go!
Order this meal sans cheese and Fiery Sauce, and ask for a seeded bun, which contains no dairy or egg.
This sandwich from Carl’s Jr. comes with a plant-based Beyond Burger patty, jalapenos, sliced onion, tomato, and lettuce. Yum!
(These are the best plant-based protein sources.)
Thank goodness for the Bareburger menu, which offers a plethora of vegan options.
The Guadalupe comes with a sprout bun stuffed with a black bean patty, avocado, alfalfa, tomatoes, and pickled red onions—all for 635 calories.
To cut calories, you can swap the bun for a lettuce bed.
Chipotle Sofritas Salad
For a balanced vegan meal at Chipotle, order a salad with sofritas (chopped spicy tofu), romaine, a small scoop of brown rice, a small scoop of black beans, guacamole, mild salsa, fajita mix, and some lemon on top, suggests Lauren Minchen, RDN, a nutrition consultant for the artificial intelligence (AI)-driven visual diet diary app Freshbit.
“I love this option because it’s chock full of a variety of veggies and lots of plant-based protein—including a complete range of amino acids from rice, black beans, and tofu,” she says. “It’s also rich in fiber and full of flavor!”
(Like tofu? Try this high protein vegan recipe with tofu.)
Chick-fil-A Kale Crunch Side
Yup, you can eat vegan at Chick-fil-A.
“This salad is loaded with nutrients from the fresh kale and almonds and is topped with a tangy apple cider vinegar dressing,” says Lauren Manaker, RDN. “With only 120 calories and 3 grams of protein, it’s a winner in my book.”
Pair with a fruit cup for extra sustenance. This won’t be a full meal, but at least it’s something.
Zoes Kitchen Mediterranean Lentil Soup and Roasted Vegetables
“In managing my own diabetes as well as counseling people with diabetes, I focus food selection based on total grams of carbs, keeping sodium below 1,000 milligrams, and making sure the food choice has a good source of protein as well as fiber,” says Toby Smithson, RDN, a diabetes lifestyle in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
She suggests choosing a cup of the vegan Mediterranean Lentil Soup at Zoes Kitchen. You can pair this with a side of roasted vegetables.
(Here are the best recipes for dry lentils.)
Blaze Pizza Spicy Chorizo Pizza
You have plenty of vegan options at this pizza place.
The Original, housemade gluten-free and high-rise doughs are all vegan—and you can get spicy chorizo and vegan cheese as toppings.
Order a Take Two, which is a half pizza and a side, with gluten-free dough, vegan cheese, spicy chorizo, and oregano, along with a side of arugula and fresh fruit salad.
This meal will clock in at 530 calories and 12 grams protein.
Sweetgreen Super Green Goddess
This is the go-to order for Joan Salge Blake, RDN, a nutrition professor at Boston University and host of the nutrition and health podcast, SpotOn!, who recommends adding a serving of beans to pump up the protein.
The salad from Sweetgreen features black lentils, chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, raw carrots, spicy broccoli, shredded cabbage, raw beets, roasted almonds, baby spinach, and shredded kale.
To make it vegan, request miso sesame ginger dressing instead of green goddess ranch.
Next, try these vegan fast-food breakfast options for when you’re on the go.
- Verified Market Research: "Vegan Fast Foods Market Size And Forecast"
- Jennifer Moore, MS, RDN, a dietitian specializing in plant-based wellness and renal diets in Southaven, Mississippi
- Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of My Indian Table
- Maria Tointon, RDN, a renal dietitian in Ewa Beach, Hawaii
- Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, a nutrition consultant for the AI-driven visual diet diary app Freshbit
- Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN
- Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, CDCES, a diabetes lifestyle in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, a nutrition professor at Boston University and host of the nutrition and health podcast, SpotOn!