Setting off on a road trip and adhering to a plant based diet was once a daunting task, but now, thanks to the growing demand for plant based fast food, the landscape has transformed. Some fast food franchises have embraced this trend, revolutionizing their menus to cater to the cravings of vegans and vegetarians alike. In this Topic of the Week, we will delve into a few highly popular fast food chains and their delectable plant based offerings. Additionally, we’ll unveil a range of tips and off-menu choices, allowing you to personalize your plant based fast food experience while journeying on the open road.

Before we get to those plant based fast food options, let’s start with our disclaimers so that you can have some context as you are reading on:

  • As with any restaurant that is not 100% vegan or does not offer a designated cooking space for their vegan options, cross-contamination can occur and fryers/grills may be shared with animal products. Many of the places listed fall into this category.  You can choose what your level of comfort is with these potential issues.
  • Availability of plant based options may vary by location, so it’s always recommended to check with the specific fast food chain or location before ordering.
  • Many of these options are NOT AMONG THE MOST HEALTHY OPTIONS – they are strictly convenience based, so be sure to consider this if you require a more health-based meal.

In addition to being aware of those disclaimers, it’s always wise to pack an abundance of plant based snacks for your journey, ensuring you’re prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. A list of our favorite snacks can be found in our STAPLES & ESSENTIALS section – under the Pantry Staples heading. But rest assured, we have curated a list of easy plant based fast food options, eliminating any worries about finding satisfying vegan meals on the road.

Subway:

Subway is a renowned fast food chain known for its customizable sandwiches and its vast network of locations at nearly every exit along every route (ok, that is a little exaggeration, but you can find Subway almost anywhere!).

Start with the Veggie Delite sandwich, featuring a medley of fresh ingredients nestled between freshly baked bread. Customize it with your favorite toppings and a delectable sauce of your choice. To enhance your experience further, inquire about the availability of a “Veggie Patty” at the specific location. If they have it, don’t hesitate to choose this option, as it transitioned from vegetarian to vegan status in November 2021 and tastes delicious.  

Here are the steps to build your perfect Vegan Subway Sandwich:

  1. Choose a vegan bread or wrap:  Artisan Italian (White), Artisan Flatbread, Hearty Multigrain, Sourdough, Spinach Wrap, Tomato Basil Wrap
  2. Then choose vegan toppings:  Veggie Patty (not available at all locations), Banana Peppers, Black Olives, Cucumbers, Green Peppers, Jalapeno Pepper Slices, Lettuce, Onions, Pickles, Spinach, Tomatoes
  3. Finally top it with your favorite sauce:  Buffalo Sauce, Yellow Mustard, Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Sweet Onion Sauce, Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce, Sea Salt, Black Pepper

Taco Bell:

Taco Bell is a haven for plant based eaters due to its wide range of customizable Mexican-inspired dishes. 

Their vegetarian menu includes options like the Bean Burrito and the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme (without cheese or sour cream). They created a blog post “HOW TO EAT VEGAN AT TACO BELL” highlighting vegan ingredients and customization options which we found very helpful!

With just a few modifications to some of your favorite menu items, you can create a delicious vegan feast.  And their ultimate vegan hack…by ordering any of their certified vegetarian menu items as “fresco style,” you’ve got yourself a certified vegan option!  They couldn’t make it easier than that!

Here are our favorite plant based combos:

  1. Order a “Bean Burrito” and make it “Fresco” to remove the cheese.
  2. Order a “Crunchy Taco OR Soft Taco” then make it “Fresco” to remove the seasoned beef and replace it with black beans.
  3. Looking for something a little more exciting?  Order the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme, and remove the sour cream and nacho cheese sauce. Then add on potatoes and guacamole. This is not only a filling but a tasty combination of vegan options.

Here are Taco Bell’s certified vegan ingredients: Black Beans, Chalupa Shell, Gordita Flatbread, Hash Browns, Jalapeno Peppers, Lettuce, Nacho Chips, Onions, Potato Bites, Premium Guacamole, Red Strips, Seasoned Refried Beans, Seasoned Rice, Taco Shell, Tomatoes, Tortillas, Tostada Shell, Sauces: Breakfast Salsa, Diablo Sauce Packet, Fire Sauce Packet, Hot Sauce Packet, Mild Sauce Packet, Red Sauce.

Burger King:

Burger King was one of the first burger chains to go the distance when catering to plant based eaters by partnering with Impossible Burger to bring us the Impossible Whopper. It is an indulgent and satisfying option when on a road trip.  Just hold the cheese and mayo and add mustard to give it a kick.  They will prepare it fresh to your order.

According to Healthline.com, here are a few additional Burger King vegan options:  Hashbrowns, French Toast Sticks, Classic Fries, and Side Garden Salad (remove the cheese).

Chipotle:

When it comes to enjoying a vegan meal at Chipotle, the popular Mexican-inspired fast-casual chain, you have plenty of delicious and HEALTHY plant based options to choose from. 

Start by ordering a burrito bowl or a salad as your base. Opt for the vegan-friendly Cilantro-Lime Rice and Black Beans as your protein source. Load up on a colorful array of fajita vegetables, which are sautéed with onions and peppers. Top it off with the fresh and zesty Tomatillo Green Salsa, Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa, and the fiery and flavorful Red Chili Salsa. Pro tip: Guac doesn’t cost extra when you go full veggie mode!

If you’d like a little more protein, opt for “Sofritas” a chopped tofu that is braised in a spicy chipotle sauce.

Skip the cheese and sour cream, which are not vegan but feel free to add lettuce and extra toppings like pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, and creamy guac to enhance the flavors.

Qdoba:

While similar to Chipotle in terms of a build-your-own Mexican-inspired chain, this one might be a little harder to find as easily on the road.  But we list it here because you can opt for Impossible Meat as a vegan base for any bowl or burrito which takes it to a whole new level.

McDonald’s:

While McDonald’s might not be the first place that comes to mind for plant based options, they have recently introduced the McPlant, a vegan “beyond beef” burger, in some locations.  It is not widely available yet, so here are a few other plant based workarounds by WORD OF VEGAN if all you can find is McDonald’s. 

Vegan McDonald’s Breakfast Options: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (ask to be made with water and without milk or cream), Apple Slices, English Muffin (plain)

100% Vegan Breads, Vegetables, Dipping Sauces & Condiments: English muffin, Flour tortilla, Artisan Roll, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Spicy buffalo, BBQ, Sweet and Sour, Ketchup, Mustard, Maple Syrup

Salads Suitable for Vegans: Southwest Salad (without cheese or Southwest dressing), Premium Bacon Ranch Salad (without cheese, bacon or Ranch dressing), Side Salad (without cheese or dressing)

Vegan Newman’s Own Dressings: Balsamic and White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Raspberry Walnut and Red Wine Vinaigrette, Classic Oil & Vinegar, Zesty Italian, Sesame Ginger, Citrus Splash

Vegan Snacks: Apple slices, Baked apple pie (woohoo! That is a surprise!)

Off-menu tip:  Order a southwest salad without cheese or southwest dressing, add on 2 flour tortillas, and select your vegan dressing of choice.  Combine together to make a tasty and filling wrap.

Surprisingly NOT Vegan:  McDonald’s Fries!  Steer clear of the fries because they contain a “Natural Beef Flavor” which contains Hydrolyzed Wheat and Hydrolyzed Milk as starting ingredients.  I know…you are usually safe with fries, but not here!

As you can see, gone are the days when finding plant based fast food options on a road trip was a daunting task. Many popular fast food chains now offer delicious vegan and vegetarian choices. Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chipotle, Qdoba, and even McDonald’s have all embraced the plant based trend and expanded their menus accordingly. 

By exploring their dedicated vegetarian or vegan options, as well as utilizing off-menu tips to customize your meals, you can enjoy a satisfying plant based fast food experience while on the road. BOOKMARK this page today so the next time you hit the highway, you can rest assured that you have plant based options that are just a drive-thru away. Bon appétit and safe travels!