Health & Wellness

A Vegetarian’s Guide to Fast Food [And it’s not just french fries]

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Eating vegetarian on the go is sometimes difficult, but it’s not impossible. Similarly, indulging in some greasy, delicious fast food as a vegetarian can be difficult, but definitely not impossible either. There are vegetarian fast food options at almost all the most popular brands in the biz, for when you just can’t spend another night in the kitchen.

Basic Tips for Finding Vegetarian Fast Food

Just because plant-based lifestyles aren’t “the norm” right now, that doesn’t mean that you should have a difficult time finding something to eat when you’re at a fast food restaurant.

However, unless an eatery has recently debuted a trendy meat-free product, they’re likely not going to be shouting about their vegetarian offerings from the rooftops. It often comes down to you to find the best menu items for your diet.

How can you find easy vegetarian options on any menu?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. (You won’t know unless you ask!)
  • Don’t be afraid to be picky. (No one should judge you for your dietary/lifestyle choices.)
  • Stay in-the-know when it comes to new vegetarian options. (You might be surprised at all the options out there!)

Here’s a good list to get you started on finding fast food for vegetarians.

Eating Vegetarian at McDonald’s

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They may be known for their burgers and chicken nuggets, but McDonald’s offers so much more to vegetarians, especially around breakfast time.

Try the fruit and yogurt parfait, fruit and maple oatmeal, a side salad or the restaurant’s delicious smoothies.

You can also “hack” one popular menu item to make it vegetarian; simply ask for an Egg McMuffin with no meat. Some locations serve breakfast all day so you can get an veggie egg McMuffin at anytime.

Unfortunately, the french fries and hash browns at McDonald’s are not vegetarian-friendly, as they contain beef fat.

Eating Vegetarian at Taco Bell

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Taco Bell is honestly one of the best restaurants for offering fast food for vegetarians. They have not just a few measly menu items that are vegetarian approved, but an entire vegetarian fast food menu.

Wraps, burritos, bowls, tostadas, quesadillas — you can enjoy a vegetarian variety of nearly every option on the menu.

Beyond the vegetarian-specific menu, you can also ask for meat to be left off certain items, for further customization. Other regular menu items aren’t specifically labeled as vegetarian, but clearly are, such as the breakfast Cinnabon Delights and the chips and nacho cheese.

Eating Vegetarian at Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut not only offers vegetarian menu items, but vegan menu items as well.

The Thin ’N Crispy and Hand-Tossed crusts are both vegan, as is the classic marinara sauce. You can also order the premium crushed tomato sauce or even the buffalo sauce with no worries. If you’re not going vegan, choose your favorite cheese and then load up with all the tasty veggie toppings your heart could desire. Pizza Hut offers a wide array of vegetarian-friendly toppings for endless options.

Other than pizza, Pizza Hut also offers several vegetarian sides and desserts, including salads, cinnamon sticks, cherry dessert pizza and more.

It’s obvious to see why Pizza Hut is a favorite vegetarian fast food option.

Eating Vegetarian at Subway

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With its veggie and made-to-order subs, Subway offers delicious vegetarian fast food sandwiches that even non-vegetarians enjoy. The popular chain also offers soups and salads that are sure to please just as much.

However, at some Subway restaurants, you can spot an additional vegetarian option — Beyond Meat meatballs for a meatball marinara sub that’s not only vegetarian, but vegan as well. If your local Subway offers this option, simply ask for the vegan meatballs to be swapped out on your sub!

Eating Vegetarian at Wendy’s


Unfortunately, Wendy’s has discontinued its veggie burger, so that’s one option you won’t be able to enjoy the next time you stop by this chain. However, you don’t have to avoid Wendy’s completely.

Unlike at McDonald’s, Wendy’s french fries are totally safe for vegetarians and even vegans. Other side options include Wendy’s much-loved baked potatoes and salads (just be sure to order one of the varieties that skip the meat — and all the salads that do contain meat can be made without it if you ask). So, while there aren’t really any entrees that are vegetarian suitable, you can easily create a full meal out of these yummy sides.

Eating Vegetarian at Burger King

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Eat Burger King your way — the vegetarian way.

Vegetarian fast food menu items at Burger King include the salads (ask for any added chicken to be removed or not added in the first place), french fries and onion rings. Many locations now also carry meatless burgers, for a meal that diners swear taste just like the non-vegetarian version.

Burger King also really shines when it comes to vegetarian fast food breakfast. Enjoy the cheese and egg croissants, hash browns, french toast sticks and oatmeal.

Eating Vegetarian at Shake Shack

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This New York-based burger chain has quickly grown into a cult favorite with locations all across the country and the world. While they’re known for their cheesy and sauce-smothered burgers and thick, sugary shakes, they do have menu items suitable for vegetarians, including a veggie burger.

The veggie burger is available at select locations and is made from black beans, brown rice and roasted beets. You can even make it vegan by asking for the normal provolone cheese to be removed and swapping out the normal bun for a lettuce wrap or gluten-free bun.

There’s also the delicious (mushroom) “Shroom” Burger, which contains no meat and is topped with two types of cheese, lettuce, tomato and the famed ShackSauce.

The addictive french fries and cheese fries are also vegetarian and the breakfast menu offers an egg n’ cheese sandwich as well.

Eating Vegetarian at Chipotle (and Similar Restaurants)

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Whether you’re eating at Chipotle or the many, many similar restaurants serving customizable Mexican fast food, you’ll be glad to know that vegetarian fast food options are plentiful at these types of eateries. Thanks to the custom nature of each order, it’s easy to add or leave off anything you don’t want to eat.

Make any Chipotle menu item vegetarian when you focus on black beans and one of the two rice options as your main fillers for your burrito, bowl, etc., and then top those with the array of veggies available on the line.

You don’t even have to worry about meat hiding in any unsuspecting places, as the only meat-containing items are just that — very clearly meat.

Eating Vegetarian at Chick-fil-A

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Yes, Chick-fil-A is all about the chicken, but the restaurant chain provides fast food for vegetarians, too.

At breakfast time, ask for a biscuit, bagel or English muffin without the meat, adding scrambled egg or cheese instead. The hash browns, fruit cups and yogurt parfaits are also vegetarian.

At other times of the day, you can enjoy Chick-fil-A’s market, cobb or southwest salad, so long as you specify that you’d like them without the added chicken. You can likewise ask for a Grilled Cool Wrap without the chicken, so it only contains a mix of filling veggies and cheese. For a side, go with fries or the new-ish Superfood Side option, which is a mix of kale, broccolini and dressing.

Of course, Chick-fil-A’s delicious desserts are meat-free as well.

Eating Vegetarian at KFC

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At KFC, another restaurant that revolves around the chicken industry, your vegetarian fast food options aren’t quite as pleasing, but it is still possible to make a meal by cobbling together a few of the vegetarian and vegan side dishes.

The biscuits, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, cornbread muffins and coleslaw are all vegetarian-friendly (as are the desserts). On top of this, the corn, green beans, potato wedges, apple sauce, side salads and baked beans are all vegan. So, if you find yourself in a KFC in the near future, throw yourself together a meal of tasty, Southern-inspired side dishes.

Eating Vegetarian at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s

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Depending on which side of the country you’re on, you might find yourself in either a Carl’s Jr. or a Hardee’s. Both offer similar menu items, including new Beyond Meat breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s now offer Beyond Meat breakfast burritos, with Beyond Sausage, hash rounds and salsa in a warm flour tortilla with eggs and cheese (for a vegan option, omit the eggs and cheese). At lunch and dinner, both now offer Beyond Meat burger patties, which can easily be swapped out with the regular patty on any burger on the menu.

If you’re not into the Beyond Meat craze or maybe you have a sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the Beyond Meat products, then you can also order a Veg It option at both restaurants, though they’re a little different depending on which version of the chain you’re at. Hardee’s simply gives you a burger without the patty, while Carl’s Jr. swaps the patty out with  fried zucchini.

Eating Vegetarian at White Castle

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White Castle likewise offers a vegetarian burger, with the new Impossible Burger slider. The burger is available nationwide and is topped like, and looks very similar to, the chain’s normal sliders.

Other fast food for vegetarians at White Castle include the hash browns, oatmeal, french fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, cheese curds and the various desserts, including brownies and cheesecake on a stick.

Eating Vegetarian at Dunkin Donuts

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Dunkin’ Donuts now also offers Beyond Meat sausage on its breakfast sandwiches and in its breakfast wraps, appearing alongside egg and cheese, which can easily be removed for a vegan breakfast.

Other vegetarian items at Dunkin’ Donuts, though, are plentiful. Bagels, English muffins, donuts, oatmeal, hash browns — you have plenty of breakfast options that do not come with any meat added and any that do can usually be adjusted to remove the meat. Just ask!

Eating Vegetarian at Papa John’s

Similarly to Pizza Hut, you can find lots of vegetarian fast food options at Papa John’s. It’s simple to customize a pizza to fit your vegetarian needs or even make a pizza completely vegan.

All of Papa John’s crusts are vegan except for the thin crust, as are all the sauces except for the spinach alfredo sauce (though both of these are vegetarian). Build a pizza with cheese and your choice of a range of veggie-based toppings. The breadsticks and desserts are also vegetarian, making Papa John’s an easy pick for building a full, vegetarian fast food meal.

Eating Vegetarian at Jack in the Box

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Jack in the Box has a reputation for serving up some truly top-tier greasy fast food. While Jack in the Box currently doesn’t offer a non-meat protein option for is burgers, tacos and other items, it still does provide quite a few vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices on the menu.

Ask for the teriyaki bowl with no chicken and extra veggies. You can do the same with the various chicken salads or chicken fajita pita. Quite a few of the sides are vegetarian-friendly, including the fries, curly fries, hash browns, homestyle potatoes, stuffed jalapeños and onion rings.

At breakfast time, you can go with the cranberry muffins or the mini pancakes. Vegetarians are also clear to enjoy Jack’s yummy desserts, including shakes, mini churros and chocolate cake.

Finding Fast Food for Vegetarians Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult!

It really isn’t that difficult to find fast food for vegetarians, no matter where you are in the country. Just be flexible, ask questions about ingredients and what adjustments a restaurant can make and don’t be afraid to then ask for those adjustments (or for something to be remade if it comes out of the kitchen with a meat-based ingredient!).

Additionally, more and more fast food restaurants are adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menus thanks to popular demand. Always let your favorite eateries know when you think they have a missed opportunity to offer a popular vegetarian item.

Looking for a vegetarian or vegan fast food option that’s not on this list? Keep a tab on the Peta2 blog, which regularly posts articles on how to eat vegan at a range of restaurants, from Dairy Queen to Panera.

Holly Riddle

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