The vegan movement has reached a critical tipping point. Case in point: the abundance of vegan options in fast-food restaurants. That box has been checked. Enter the era of all-vegan fast-food chains. It’s not just Veggie Grill anymore. Plant-based drive-thrus and multi-location fast-casual eateries slinging vegan beefy burgers and fries are cropping up across the country, and we are here for it. In fact, we’re so excited, we’ve gathered all our favorites below. But first, what do vegans even eat for fast food, exactly?
What do vegans eat for fast food?
Fast-food menu staples like fries (unless they’re cooked in beef fat, side-eye McDonald’s), soda, hash browns (again, check for beef fat), and burger buns are often vegan by default. This means that, for years, vegans have been heading to fast-food chains and getting creative with the menu. (Order a beef burger without the beef, and load it up with salad, sauce, and fries, you get the idea.) But now, as fast-food chains have started embracing plant-based meat options, it’s getting easier than ever to enjoy fast food without the animals.
There’s the easily veganized Impossible Whopper at Burger King, for example, as well as the Beyond Famous Star at Carl’s Jr. And there’s also the Epic Beyond Fresh Guacamole Burrito at Del Taco. The latter doesn’t require any amendments to the order, as it’s totally vegan already.
Does McDonald’s do anything vegan?
While places like the UK and Australia have the McPlant burger (and now also the Double McPlant Burger), McDonald’s is still seriously lagging behind on vegan options in the US (for now, anyway). But that said, it is still possible to order vegan food from the country’s most popular fast-food joint. If you’re hungry and have no other options available, we’ve put together this guide to eating vegan at McDonald’s.
But if you’re close to any of these vegan fast-food chains below (particularly plant-based McDonald’s copycat Mr.Charlie’s), the truth is, you won’t need the golden arches. In fact, before you cruise through any drive-thru of your nearest mainstream chain, check to see if one of these vegan fast-food locations is nearby. You won’t be disappointed.
The best vegan fast-food chains in the US
1 Native Foods
This fast-casual chain originally leaned more toward healthy bowls, salads, and sandwiches, but since its founder chef Tanya Petrovna sold the restaurant in 2012, the menu has steadily swapped out much of the greens, grains, and beans for stacked burgers and one-off fast-food specialty items. Patrons can still find some of Petrovna’s original creations in the form of the Taco Salad or Twister Wrap, but those looking for a more savory spin can opt for sweet potato fries, buffalo chicken tenders, and a BBQ Brisket Burger, courtesy of residing chef Chris Bertke. Local tip: get dessert. The oatmeal creme pie and peanut butter parfait have outlasted the sweeping menu revisions and are the cherry on top of your vegan meal.
2 Plant Power Fast Food
Commonly referred to as “Plant Power” by locals, this burger chain launched in San Diego and made its way north. It now has over 10 locations stretching from San Diego to Sacramento, some overtaking former non-vegan drive-thrus, and even Las Vegas. Expect a streamlined menu of vegan burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, nuggets, fries, and a few entrée salads and wraps for those in search of fresh options on the go.
Next Level Burger
The name of this bi-coastal chain really spells it out for you—they do burgers, and they do them well. Next Level Burger operates under the goal of becoming the future wave of fast food—where customers eschew animal products for the equally delicious plant-based fare. Many locations are planted inside or adjacent to a Whole Foods Market, though stand-alone spots exist as well. Yes, of course, get a burger, perhaps even a Clucker bucket of chicken and crinkle-cut fries, but the Next Level Shakes are … well, you understand.
4 Slutty Vegan
Founder Pinky Cole has established an empire in the greater Atlanta area with her Slutty Vegan concept. The menu of burgers, fries, and chicken sandwiches is sure to raise an eyebrow—both for the names and the over-the-top nature of each item. The fully loaded Super Slut and Philly cheesesteak-inspired Hollywood Hooker are just two examples of what you’ll find here. Expect juices to be running down your forearm and the corners of your mouth dotted with Slut Sauce by the end of your meal.
Get your vegan fast-food fix from morning to night at this East Coast vegan chain. The menu spans classic breakfast sandwiches layered with sausage, egg, and cheese to handholds, fries, and shakes for the lunch and dinner crowds. Protein options range from Beyond Burgers to tempeh and grilled portobello mushrooms, so there’s something for everyone. When browsing the menu, give the chick’n sandwich section some thought—this place does vegan chicken right.
6 PLNT Burger
Looking for Top Chef quality food at a fast-casual price? Check out PLNT Burger next time you’re on the East Coast. The vegan fast-food chain was founded by chef Spike Mendelsohn—an alum of the Bravo hit culinary competition show, Top Chef. Expect Beyond Meat patties gussied up with guacamole, savory mushroom bacon, fried jalapeños, and other flavor-bomb toppings. Compliment your handhold with thick sweet potato fries, a PLNT chili bowl, and a tall cup of dairy-free soft serve.
7 Meta Burger
Small but mighty, this Colorado chain serves an award-winning burger. Ranked as the Best Vegan Burger by HappyCow and voted Best Plant-Based Burger at the SEED Food and Wine Festival, the nation needs more Meta locations. The housemade patty is just one part of the delicious whole—the thoughtful toppings really put this chain into the winners’ circle. For example, the popular Flatiron Burger features a homemade patty, shaved Brussels sprouts, shallots, grilled mushrooms, and vegan cheese. Add a side of waffle fries and extra sauce, and you’re in for a fantastic fast-food meal.
8 Globally Local/Odd Burger
This Canadian chain is crossing the border! Soon, New Yorkers will get a taste of this popular fast-food fare. Rebranding as Odd Burger, the menu spans the late-night cravings for burgers, chicken sandwiches, and soft-serve sundaes. The first Odd Burger is set to open soon in New York City (check the brand’s Instagram for any new updates).
9 Monty’s Good Burger
Joaquin Phoenix fans, keep your eyes off your phone while waiting in line at Monty’s—the vegan Academy Award winner has repeatedly been seen at the Koreatown location with fiancé and actress Rooney Mara. Positioned as the vegan In-N-Out, Monty’s menu offers a streamlined selection of single and double Impossible burgers, fries, tots, milkshakes, and a kale Caesar salad.
10Matthew Kenney Cuisine
Celebrity vegan chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney started with fine dining, but he’s recently found his footing in fast-food fare. While his more casual concepts operate under different brands (New.Burger and VEG’D), they all fall under the Matthew Kenney Cuisine umbrella. Each features a slightly different menu but you can always rely on finding a solid burger, fries, and sweets.
Founded in 2006 in Irvine, CA, this national vegan chain was frying up plant-based chicken wings way before it was a thing. In fact, Veggie Grill predates the buffalo cauliflower trend. There’s a comfort that comes with a visit to Veggie Grill—you can take any omnivore, treat them to the mac and cheese, Sante Fe Chicken Sandwich, and sweet potato fries, and know that they’ll walk away with a positive perspective about veganism.
12Mas Veggies Taqueria
An offshoot of Veggie Grill, this quick concept emerged as a carryout and delivery-only chain in 2020. The chain offers veganized versions of Mexican-esque fast-food favorites including burritos, bowls, nachos, and tacos. You choose your protein (mushroom asada, chickin’ tinga, etc.), and the rest is loaded up with guacamole, pickled red onions, sour cream, beans, and other accouterments.
Named the best vegan burger in Los Angeles, Honeybee Burger has made a name for itself since opening its first brick-and-mortar in 2019. The buzz-worthy chain with two locations (and a third coming to New York City), has previously partnered with Akua Kelp Burger, Atlas Monroe, and Oatly to bring hungry Angelenos iconic, one-of-a-kind kelp burgers, crispy fried chicken sandwiches, and oat-based soft serve. If a classic burger is more your style, choose between Impossible or Beyond Meat patties for your next award-winning handheld. Talk about options!
Mr. Charlie’s is the vegan McDonald’s-lovers dream. With locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, it offers its own versions of many of the fast-food giant’s classics, only this time, they’re made without any animal products whatsoever. Featuring the Impossible Burger, try the Not a Double Double, which, of course, comes with vegan cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. Or if Happy Meals used to be your thing, try the chain’s “Frowny Meals.” But unlike the name suggests, they’ll actually leave you feeling content and satisfied.
15 Hart House
Last year, Hart House, comedian Kevin Hart’s own vegan fast-food chain, launched in Los Angeles. Like many of the options on this list, its menu boasts plant-based takes on fast-food classics, like double cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, nuggets, and crispy tots. Right now, there are two locations of the chain, with one set to open in Hollywood very soon. But Hart has big dreams for the brand. “The goal is to see Hart Houses right smack dab in the middle of where you would see a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a Chick-Fil-A, [and] a Wendy’s [so] people can have the option for a plant-based taste, as well,” he told James Corden on The Late Late Show last year.