The Cheesecake Factory menu can be daunting, but the vast selection is easily dwindled down if you’re just looking at the vegan-friendly options. The chain has much improved its plant-based menu over the years—hello, Impossible burgers and Pasta Pomodoro! Alas, we’re still waiting on that vegan cheesecake, but if you’re invited to a celebratory dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, you definitely won’t go hungry.
Note: we include several modifications to non-vegan items in this list to cover all of the possible options, however, the Cheesecake Factory kitchen staff we spoke with advised against most modifications so as to not “disrupt the flavor profiles.” Modify at your own risk.
Skim past the fusion egg rolls and go straight for the edamame. Hoard that bowl for yourself while others fight over the meat-and-cheese-laden fried foods. If you’re not feeling salted soybeans, opt for the avocado toast.
One thing to note: there are appetizer salads and entrée salads. Both the Little House Salad and Tossed Green Salad are vegan-as-is when ordered with vegan dressing (Balsamic Vinaigrette, Shallot Vinaigrette, SkinnyLicious Mustard Vinaigrette, and French Mustard Vinaigrette). The Greek Salad (ask for no cheese), Avocado Beet Salad (ask for no yogurt dressing), and French Country Salad (ask for no cheese, no candied pecans) are also smaller-sized salads that are in the clear. For a heftier bowl of greens, dig your fork into the substantial Vegan Cobb Salad. It’s a trough of lettuce, fresh and roasted produce, grains, nuts, and seeds in an addictive vinaigrette. Vegans can also modify the Santa Fe Salad (ask for no cheese or chicken), Barbecue Ranch Chicken Salad (no cheese, chicken, onion strings, and sub with vegan dressing) and the Salmon Salad (ask for no salmon). In essence, if a salad looks good but contains animal ingredients, take off the meat and cheese, swap in a vegan-friendly dressing, and ask to bulk it up with grains or grilled avocado.
The Cheesecake Factory
In other words, hamburgers. If you’re in the mood for something meaty, the Impossible Burger is your best bet. The entirely plant-based sandwich is piled high between two special sauce-slathered buns with an Impossible patty, melty vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion. It comes with your choice of green salad or fries. The made-from-scratch Veggie Burger is also vegan (at certain locations, check with your server) when ordered without the garlic dip and substituting vegan cheese, mayo, and a vegan bun. Equipped with the knowledge of vegan burger toppings, feel free to get creative and modify your veggie or Impossible patty with whatever calls to you.
Just like a steakhouse, the Cheesecake Factory sides are relatively vegan-friendly. Create a meal in itself with sides of grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, fresh corn, sweet potato or regular fries, green beans, and sautéed spinach.
The pizza selection may be lacking, but there are plenty of pasta dishes that can be modified for vegans. The Pasta Pomodoro is plant-based to the core—it remains true to the classic recipe of spaghetti, marinara sauce, cherry tomatoes, and basil. The vegetable-heavy Evelyn’s Favorite pasta is nearly vegan, just omit the cheese. If you’re willing to pay for it, the Shrimp with Angel Hair is vegan without the shrimp (you’ll still get a lemony garlic angel hair dish with marinara and tomatoes). Ask nicely, and the waiter may grant your request to bulk up that last dish with extra veggies.
Mexican isn’t the first kind of cuisine we think of when we think Cheesecake Factory, but that hasn’t stopped the chain from including plenty of tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-inspired entrées to its specialty menu. At first glance, nothing on this menu is vegan, however, modifications can be made. Hack your way to a vegan taco by filling corn tortillas with black beans, onions, avocado, rice, lettuce, and salsa, all topped with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
We wouldn’t advise a visit to the Cheesecake Factory for your morning meal, but if you find yourself accompanying a non-vegan crowd, there are ways to hack it. Your options are fruit, toast, bagels, and crispy potatoes. If you needed a vegetable, you might be able to persuade the chef to sautée up a hash of potatoes and veggies, but that’s definitely off-menu. As always, request modifications with a polite smile and you’re more than likely to have your wish granted.
Technically, there is one vegan option: a bowl of fresh strawberries, no whipped cream. Given any other environment, we’re often content munching on juicy, ripe strawberries, but when we’re doing so as our dining companions moan over the delight of a four-inch-high cheesecake slice, we’d rather seek something a little sweeter. Dear Cheesecake Factory, if you’re reading this, pretty please with a humongous pile of dairy-free whipped cream on top grant the world a vegan cheesecake option. Thank you.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.