Whether you need to eat in a rush, have screaming kids in the backseat, or you’re just having cravings, fast food serves its purpose. Now that vegan products have integrated into so many chains, it’s easy to pop by nearly any drive-thru window and find something to fill you up. Don’t hold up the line scanning the menu—rely on this guide to order with confidence at 10 of your favorite fast-food restaurants in the US.
1. Del Taco
No modifications needed; Del Taco has partnered with Beyond Meat to create a designated Vegetarian & Vegan menu. The new one-pound Epic Beyond Original Mex and Beyond Fresh Avocado Burritos are vegan as-is, along with the Beyond Avocado Crunchy Taco. All feature seasoned Beyond Beef crumbles that are accompanied by an assortment of fillings including cilantro-lime rice, fresh guacamole, sliced avocado, pico de gallo, salsa, seasoned black beans, and shredded lettuce. The Beyond Tacos are also vegan if you order them without the cheese. The Crinkle Cut Fries, Hash Brown Sticks, and Avocado Veggie Bowl are also vegan-approved.
2. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Little-known vegan fast-food fact: Auntie Anne’s Original, Cinnamon Sugar, Sweet Almond, Garlic, Jalapeño, and Raisin pretzels can be veganized by ordering them without the butter. This process takes an extra five minutes, but it’s worth it for a hot, soft mall pretzel.
3. Burger King
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner—Burger King has the vegan options covered. In the morning, opt for the French Toast Sticks served warm with a side of maple syrup. During the day, quell your burger craving with the Impossible Whopper (ask for no mayo) and a side of fries, then polish off that sweets craving with a Dutch Apple Pie. Yes, the pie is “accidentally vegan.”
4. Carl’s Jr. (and Hardee’s)
Get your Famous Star fix with the Beyond Famous Star burger made with Beyond Meat. Ask for no mayo or cheese and you’re set. As of fall 2019, plant-curious patrons can also order the Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger or the Beyond BBQ Spicy Cheeseburger (the latter includes jalapeños). Both are made with dairy cheese and onion rings that contain whey, so to veganize, simply ask for no cheese or onion rings. Another handy hack: customization. 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. Accompany the sandwich with a crispy fried potato side—the French fries, CrissCut fries, hash rounds, and hash-brown nuggets are all vegan.
5. Chipotle Mexican Grill
There are countless build-your-own options with Chipotle’s offerings! You can customize your own bowl, burrito, salad, or tacos with a plethora of vegan ingredients—including beans, lettuce, cilantro-lime rice, veggie fajitas, and fan-favorite Sofritas—the chain’s signature spicy braised tofu. When in doubt, rely on Chipotle.
This chain has seriously stepped up its vegan game in the past year. What began as a partnership between Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods sprouted into a fully developed vegan menu—complete with vegan cheese, Vrioche buns (aka vegan brioche), non-dairy milkshakes, and JUST Egg sandwiches. The menu features sandwiches and sides, hot dogs and melts, and even kids’ meals and carrot cake. The most challenging part of ordering at a Bareburger isn’t finding something you can eat, but deciding how much can fit in your stomach.
What we once launched as an April Fool’s joke has now become reality: KFC serves vegan fried chicken. The partnership with Beyond Meat debuted for a very limited time during late summer of 2019, and it has been tested in major markets across the US, Canada, Hong Kong, and Shanghai ever since. As of summer 2020, Southern Californians are being treated to the new plant-based Secret Recipe. Order the Beyond Meat nuggets (either in a six or 12-piece) with the vegan-friendly Sweet N Tangy dipping sauce. Vegan-friendly sides include green beans, baked beans, corn on the cob, and potato wedges (just remember to emphasize no butter).
8. Taco Bell
Like its competitor, Del Taco, this fast-food Mexican chain was early to jump on the vegan bandwagon. While it has yet to offer vegan meat (don’t worry, that’s coming in 2021), Taco Bell does offer a fairly extensive vegetarian menu that is easily veganizable. Just use the magic words: “Fresco style.” This phrase replaces the cheese, ranch sauce, sour cream, and essentially any dairy-based condiment with fresh pico de gallo. And while Taco Bell’s fan-favorite potatos are no more, other customizable vegetarian favorites include the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme, Power Menu Bowl-Veggie, and simple Beans and Rice bowl. No matter what you order, grab a side of accidentally vegan Cinnamon Twists for dessert.
9. El Pollo Loco
Introducing the new and improved Chickenless Pollo. The nationwide chicken chain first launched this vegetarian option in February 2020, but it was simmered in a sauce made with an egg enzyme. As of July 2020, the reformulated recipe is completely vegan. When ordering your Chickenless Pollo taco, burrito, bowl, or salad, just say “Make it vegan.” That will alert the cashier to remove all dairy from your order. Complete your meal with a vegan-friendly side such as the broccoli or Loco Side Salad (hold the cheese). Refrain from the corn side—it contains dairy.
10. White Castle
Harold and Kumar approve of White Castle’s vegan sliders made with the Impossible Burger. Order these bite-sized beauties plain or with a sweet Thai sauce, but hold the cheese. The chain started testing out vegan cheese options using GOOD PLANeT cheese in March 2020, but only in select markets for a trial period. Complete your order with a side of fries.
Eric Lindstrom is the Director of Marketing for Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and the author of The Skeptical Vegan and 2018’s Mind Your Peas and Cukes: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Vegan Kids.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.