West Coast burger and fast food chain In-N-Out has a large and fiercely loyal fan base, who will tell you it sells the best burgers in North America. Do those going to its drive-thru restaurants for a vegan meal feel the same way? Here is the Plant Based News (PBN) guide to all the vegan options at the famed burger joint, whether the fries are vegan, and how to veganize items on the menu.
In-N-Out Burger was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park, California, in 1948. It was founded by Esther and Harry Snyder, and the president of the company today is their granddaughter, Lynsi Snyder. As well as being the first drive-thru hamburger stand in California, In-N-Out is credited with being the first drive-thru to use a two-way speaker system for placing orders — other restaurants had been using carhops for orders, meaning staff would go out to the cars to take orders and then bring food out to them.
Why is In-N-Out so popular?
Today, there are 400 In-N-Out locations across the West Coast. Beyond California, they can be found in Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Colorado. To give you an idea of the mythos surrounding these burgers, when a new restaurant opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, there was a four-hour wait for food to be served, and news helicopters circled its parking lot.
In-N-Out Burger have also had some very positive celebrity endorsements: sweary English chef Gordon Ramsey said that he ate in an In-N-Out restaurant, only to then circle his car around to order a second meal to take away. Anthony Bourdain called it “the best restaurant in Los Angeles.”
One of the reasons why In-N-Out hasn’t move further afield (elsewhere in the US or other countries) is its commitment to not using frozen burgers and fries. Traveling distances may necessitate the need for frozen food. In-N-Out also ensures the company owns all of its own restaurants, for fears that franchising could lead to a drop in quality.
The vegan options at In-N-Out Burger
To put it bluntly, vegans need to be passionate lovers of eating lots of fries, and burgerless buns, which are more akin to a lettuce, tomato, and onion sandwich when heading to In-N-Out. Despite the large number of vegan burgers that can be found across the States, there is currently no vegan patty on offer at In-N-Out Burger. If you do find yourself at one of its locations and in need of a plant-based meal, here are your options.
Veggie Burger: It may upset you to learn that what In-N-Out call a “veggie burger” contains no actual burger to be seen. What you’re actually getting is a bun containing lettuce, tomato and onion. You will also need to order without the spread, which contains mayonnaise. So, to keep it egg-free and vegan, swap this for ketchup and/or mustard.
Fries: Swings and roundabouts, because here is a fast food chain that actually offers vegan fries! In-N-Out fries are cooked in sunflower oil rather than animal fat, so are completely vegan. To make your visit a bit more exciting, you can also customize how you have your fries. Options include Light (lightly fried) ranging up to Extra Well (deep fried and crispy). You can ask for No Salt or Extra Salt, depending on where you stand in the salt game. Avoid Famous Animal Style, which adds dairy cheese and the non-vegan Spread.
Drinks: The usual affair, including Coca Cola, Dr Pepper, Iced Tea, 7Up and more. Tea and coffee are available, but there is no mention on the website of plant milks.
No surprise that the Grilled Cheese sandwich and milkshakes do not have vegan versions either. PETA has a petition you can sign asking In-N-Out to add a vegan burger to its menu.
Which burger chains do have vegan options?
The world’s biggest fast food chain, McDonald’s, made big vegan news in the last few years with the release of the McPlant. Thankfully, it does contain an actual burger, a Beyond Meat patty. The McPlant is widely available in the UK and around Europe. It’s only certified vegan in the UK and Ireland, however, as it contains mayonnaise and dairy cheese in other countries. If you live outside these states, and plan on loading up on fries instead, we have bad news for you: the McDonald’s fries are not vegan (though they are in the UK).
McDonald’s close rival, Burger King, fares better on the plant-based front. In the UK, it offers a Vegan Royale, and the chips are also vegan-friendly. Subway, KFC, and Pizza Hut have all also unveiled vegan food.
The best vegan burgers in the States
Want to read a burger menu with an abundance of vegan options instead of blankly staring, trying to figure out what can be configured into a vegan meal? Then your most positive experience will be at one of the many vegan burger restaurants found in the US. There are far too many to mention here, but some include Mr Charlie’s, known by some as the “vegan McDonald’s” (its logo is the sad face version of the yellow arches). With names like “Not a Hamburger” and “Not a Cheeseburger”, they look just like the burgers they are parodying. Mr Charlie’s has three locations in California (and one in Australia)
Over in New York is Seasoned Vegan Real Quick, with southern classic-inspired burgers made vegan. Try The Craw Pretzel Boy, or The harlem Chopped “Cheese” Burger. One of Los Angeles’ vegan highlights is nomoo, serving up classic beef and chicken style burgers, as well as stunning tacos, Chick’n Caesar Salad, and also Shroom Wings.
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