Finding vegan food, whether you are looking for restaurants that serve 100 percent vegan dishes or supermarkets that carry good vegan alternatives to ingredients for cooking and baking, can be rather difficult. This is largely dependent upon where you live. Some areas, where the lifestyle is a more popular choice, offer tons of options seemingly everywhere you turn. In other areas, it can be like an unsympathetic scavenger hunt trying to track down a wholesome variety of vegan options. It is important to know that there are lots of surprising options, like vegan friendly fast food, right in your home town no matter where that may be.
Fast food is obviously not going to be your healthiest choice, but for when you just need something quick a vegan fast food dinner is at least healthier than a non-vegan one more often than not. When you think about fast food, most of it seems inherently non-vegan. While this is true in many cases, there are also some quick and tasty vegan finds nestled throughout the carnivorous wasteland. Being vegan means always checking ingredients. Keep in mind that even some things that seem like they would always be vegan often are not. French fries, for example, are sometimes vegan, but many places fry them in the same grease that they fry meat and other non-vegan items in and/or flavor them non-vegan ingredients (McDonald’s uses beef stock in the grease that in which their French fries are cooked).
Here is a very (VERY) abridged list of some of the vegan fast food dinner options available at popular fast food chains.
Arby’s — baked potato sans butter, garden/side salad with Italian dressing, apple/cherry turnover
Bojangle’s — Cajun pinto beans (who would have thought?), green beans
Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery — blueberry bagel, chocolate chip bagel, cinnamon sugar bagel, cranberry orange bagel, pumpernickel bagel, rosemary olive oil bagel, Dijon mustard, hummus, vegetables
Burger King — French fries, side salad with Italian dressing, note: the veggie burger contains dairy products and, therefore, is not vegan
Chipotle — veggie bowl or burrito with your choice of cilantro-lime (white) or brown rice, black beans (the pinto beans are flavored with pork), fajita-style peppers and onions, mild/medium/hot salsa, roasted chili-corn salsa, guacamole, and/or romaine lettuce
McDonald’s — side salad with balsamic vinaigrette, apple pie
Moe’s — similar to Chipotle, but they also offer tofu at an additional charge
Panera Bread/Paradise Bakery — Mediterranean veggie sandwich (without Feta), vegetable soup
Taco Bell — bean burrito (without cheese), fresco bean burrito, bean tostada (without cheese), seven layer burrito (without cheese and sour cream), fiesta potatoes (without cheese and sour cream), hard taco shells, flour tortillas, beans, fiesta salsa, guacamole, rice, and mild/hot/fire sauces
Wendy’s — plain baked potato, deluxe garden salad with Italian dressing (no cheese), French fries, veggie “burger” (contains everything that they normally put on a burger minus the meat patty all on a bun)
Those are just a few of the many examples of vegan fast food dinner opportunities. Of course, they are by no means the best vegan food you will ever eat, but they will do when you are in a pinch or when you are out with your non-vegan friends/family and options are limited. What about when you do not want fast food? If you live in an area that does not have many (or any) 100 percent vegan/vegetarian restaurants or very little restaurants with vegan menu items, some of the easiest types of cuisine to mold to your preferences are Chinese food and Mexican food.
Vegan Chinese food is pretty easy to come by. There is generally at least one dish on any Chinese menu that is already vegan. If not, tofu is used much more commonly in Asian cuisine than in American and other types of cooking. Therefore, substituting tofu in place of meat in Chinese dishes is usually not a problem. Restaurant chains like P.F. Chang’s have vegan menu items (like coconut curry vegetables and spicy stir-fried eggplant), and local one-off Chinese restaurants generally do, too. If you do not see tofu on the menu, just ask your server about it and chances are, they will have it on hand. Perhaps you are not much of a “tofu person” anyway, in which case you can get a dish that is loaded with veggies and request it without meat. Not only does this cut calories and fat out of your meal, but it most often cuts down on the cost of your bill as well.
Vegan Mexican food is just as easily arranged. Many Mexican restaurants will already have vegetarian menu items listed; you need only request that they leave off the cheese and sour cream. If you do not see any purely veggie items listed, simply asking for an all-veggie burrito or fajita always does the trick. Just be sure to specify that you do not want any cheese or sour cream on anything. Sub in some guacamole and you have got yourself a nice, hearty, entirely vegan Southwestern meal.