Whether you need to eat quickly, have screaming kids in the backseat, or just have a craving, fast food serves its purpose. Now that vegan products are being incorporated into so many chains, it’s easy to pop into almost any window and find something that fills you up. Don’t hit the line that clears the menu—rely on this guide to ordering with confidence at nine of your favorite fast food restaurants in the United States.
But first, let’s take a look at what vegan fast food actually is, plus the benefits of choosing vegan foods the next time you order a quick feast.
What is vegan fast food?
For decades, meat and dairy have dominated fast food menus. With the exception of french fries and soda, everything else almost always includes animal products. (In some places, like McDonald’s, even the French fries aren’t vegan.)
Recently, however, all of this has begun to change. Fast food chains like Burger King, KFC and White Castle have teamed up with vegan meat brands to create new vegan fast food options. These items are very similar to their meat counterparts, only the thicker patties or chicken strips are made with plant-based meats rather than traditional meats.
But meat substitutes are not necessary. You also get options like salad bowls, burritos, or tacos, all of which are still considered fast food, but may only contain plant-based ingredients like beans and other vegetables.
Is vegan fast food healthy?
How healthy your fast vegan meal is depends on the ingredients. A burrito bowl filled with beans and vegetables, for example, will always be more nutritious than a burger and fries. But if you’re eating the latter, you’re probably not choosing it for health reasons, which is more than fine (not every meal is about health, after all).
However, a vegan burger and fries will likely be better for you than its animal counterpart. Processed meat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and has been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
On the other hand, research has indicated that plant-based meats are healthier for us and the planet. One review published earlier this year examined 43 studies of plant foods and concluded that they were better for human health and the environment than their animal counterparts.
Where can you get vegan fast food?
While there is still progress to be made (McDonald’s is seriously lagging behind in terms of vegan options in the US), the vegan fast food market is growing.
According to one report, it could be worth more than $40 billion by 2028. That means it’s easier than ever to find vegan options at the nation’s favorite fast food chains.
If you’ve got the cravings to satisfy, we’ve rounded up our best hacks for ordering vegan at fast food outlets everywhere, from Del Taco to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
from a taco
1 from a taco
no modifications needed; Del Taco has partnered with Beyond Meat to create a specific vegetarian and vegan menu. The new one-pound Epic Beyond Fresh Guacamole Burrito is vegan as is, along with the Beyond Guacamole Taco. Both feature spiced Beyond Beef crumbles accompanied by a variety of fillings including cilantro-lime rice, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, and spiced black beans. The Beyond Taco is also vegan if you order without the cheese. Crinkle Cut Fries, Hash Brown Sticks, and Veggie Bowl are also vegan-certified. Learn more here
2 Auntie Ann’s Pastries
Little-known vegan fast food fact: Auntie Anne’s Original, Cinnamon Sugar, Sweet Almond, Jalapeño, and Raisin pastries can be made vegan by ordering them without the butter. This process takes an extra five minutes, but it’s worth it for a hot, soft pretzel. Learn more here
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3 Burger King
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – Burger King offers covered vegan options. In the morning, opt for French Toast Sticks served warm with a side of maple syrup. During the day, quench your burger craving with the Impossible Whopper (don’t ask for mayonnaise) and a side of fries, then polish off those cravings with Mott’s Applesauce. For a comprehensive look at the BK menu, check out Burger King’s Vegan Guide to Vegan Eating. Learn more here
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4 Carl Jr
Get your star famous with the Beyond Famous Star burger made with Beyond Meat. Don’t ask for mayonnaise or cheese and you’re set. Another helpful hack: personalization. Order a plain hamburger with a Beyond Meat patty, then add your choice of toppings: raw onions, ketchup, mustard, pickles, barbecue sauce, jalapeños, tomatoes, and lettuce are all fair game. The sandwich is accompanied with a side of crispy French fries – French Fries, CrissCut French Fries, and hash rounds are all vegan. Unfortunately, this vegan-friendly option has been phased out in South and Midwest locations, where the chain is known as Hardee’s. Learn more here
5 Chipotle Mexican Grill
There are countless build-your-owner options with Chipotle Deals! You can customize your bowl, burrito, salad, or tacos with a slew of vegan toppings—including beans, lettuce, cilantro-lime rice, vegan fajitas, and fan-favorite safari—spicy-braised tofu. When in doubt, rely on Chipotle, and keep our vegan guide to Chipotle handy when you open up your mobile ordering app. Learn more here
This chain has seriously stepped up its vegan game in recent years. What started as a partnership between Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods has grown into a fully upgraded vegan menu—complete with vegan cheesecakes, vegan muffins, non-dairy milkshakes, and vegan fish sandwiches. The menu features sandwiches and side dishes, nuggets, and even kids’ meals and carrot cake. The most challenging part of ordering a Bareburger isn’t finding something you can eat, but determining the right amount for your stomach. Learn more here
7 Dog House
Known for its hot dogs, this chain offers a selection of vegan fast food favorites. Choose from the Impossible Burger (hold the cheese and secret sauce), the Beyond Brat, the Impossible Slider (don’t ask for the mayonnaise and skip the cheese), and the Sooo Veggie Dog. When ordered on a French roll or lettuce wrap, these options are completely vegan-friendly. To keep things fair, the chain also carries Beyond and Impossible chicken nuggets, available as a side or stuffed inside a sandwich. Dog Haus tots, sweet potato fries, and regular fries are also fair game. Learn more here
8 Taco Bell
Like its competitor Del Taco, this Mexican fast-food chain was early in jumping on the vegan bandwagon. While the chain is currently testing plant-based protein options in Alabama, Taco Bell offers a fairly extensive vegan menu that could easily be vegan. Until Bell’s plant-based protein quiz is launched nationwide, just use the magic words: “Fresco style.” This phrase replaces cheese, ranch dressing, sour cream, and any dairy-based condiment with fresh pico de gallo. Add potatoes to customize other vegan favorites including Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme, Power Menu Bowl-Veggie, and Simple Bean and Rice Bowl. No matter what you order, get a side of accidentally vegan cinnamon rolls for dessert. If in doubt, read our guide to ordering vegan at Taco Bell. Learn more here
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9 white castle
Harold and Kumar agree to White Castle’s vegan sliders made with the Impossible Burger. Order these bite-sized sweet treats or with a sweet Thai dressing, but hold the cheese. The chain began testing vegan cheese options with GOOD PLANeT cheese in March 2020, but only in select markets for a trial period. Complete your order with a side dish of french fries. Learn more here
For more vegan fast food, read:
Tanya Flink is a VegNews digital editor as well as a writer and runner who lives in Orange County, California.