A few years ago, the idea of eating a vegan meal at a mainstream fast food restaurant would have seemed a distant dream. But there are now meat-free and plant-based options everywhere from McDonald’s and Burger King to Pizza Hut and Domino’s. If you’re new to plant-based eating and are concerned about missing out on meals at your favorite chains, therefore, you don’t need to worry.
International fast food chains have been rapidly expanding their plant-based menus over the last few years. The UK, in particular, is a haven for vegan fast food lovers, but there are plenty of options in the US, Europe, Australia, and other areas too.
According to a Future Market Insights report published in January 2023, the vegan first food market is forecast to be worth USD $28 billion by 2033. It’s currently worth around $19 billion. While some of the market is taken up by vegan only fast food chains like Neat Burger and Mr Charlie’s, a huge chunk is dominated by companies that have traditionally relied solely on meat.
Here’s everything you need to know about vegan fast food at mainstream restaurants (if you prefer to only eat at vegan restaurants, check out our guide to the best vegan fast food restaurants).
Please note: you should always check with your server before ordering to ensure that your food is vegan. Menu items are subject to change, and there may be risk of cross contamination in some restaurants.
Let’s start with McDonald’s, probably the most recognizable chain in the world. Most of the menu is still dominated by animal products, but there are options for vegans as well (though the variety of these options will depend on what country you’re in).
In the UK, there’s the McPlant burger, which was launched nationwide in January 2022. The burger features a Beyond Meat patty, vegan sandwich sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce, onion, tomato, as well as dairy-free cheese. Other McDonald’s vegan options include the Vegetable Deluxe, The Spicy Veggie One, Veggie Dippers, pineapple sticks, and carrot bag. In the UK, the McDonald’s fries are vegan-friendly.
Over in the US, the menu is slightly more limited. A very small number of branches do offer the McPlant, but this comes with egg-based mayo and dairy cheese by default. You could request yours without, but it may be cooked on the same grill as animal products. Other US vegan options include Maple Oatmeal (order without cream), Fruit, Apple Slices, and Apple Pie. The fries aren’t vegan in the US, as they are flavored with a “natural beef flavoring” which contains milk.
Elsewhere in the world, Germany offers a wide range of plant-based options on its McDonald’s menu – though not all of these are vegan-friendly. It’s the only country in the world to offer chicken-free nuggets, but these contain non-vegan sauces and are cooked on the same grill as meat. McDonald’s Germany also offers a dairy-free McFlurry in some locations. In Europe, as well as Australia and Canada, the fries are suitable for vegans.
Back in 2022, Burger King UK declared that it would be making 50 percent of its menu meat-free by 2030. This was an unprecedented announcement from a fast food chain, and came at a time when plant-based eating, and interest in vegan fast food, was rapidly growing in popularity in the country.
As part of this promise, Burger King UK has added a number of plant-based options to its menu – though not all of these are regarded as vegan-friendly. The Vegan Royale (made with a plant-based chicken and egg-free mayo) is safe to eat, as are the Vegan Nuggets. The Ultimate Bean Burger is also vegan certified when ordered without cheese. Burger King also offers La Vie bacon in some branches, and the Vegan Royale Bakon King is vegan-friendly. The Burger King UK fries are vegan.
In the US, Burger King has trialed a number of meat-free items to its menu. These include a chicken burger, as well as an Impossible Whopper (the latter is still available in many branches, but it may be cooked on the same grill as meat. It also contains mayo by default, meaning you’ll have to ask for it without). In the US, the Burger King fries are vegan-friendly. Other US vegan options include Hash Brown and Garden Side Salad.
Burger King is catering to vegans in many countries in the world. It has introduced entirely meat-free branches (for limited times) in the UK, Denmark, Portugal, and Austria. In Germany, Burger King offers a meat-free version of everything on its menu.
Sandwich chain Subway has been catering to vegans for years, and it offers an ever-changing plant-based menu. While a few years ago options were limited to the salad-heavy Veggie Delight, UK Subway fans can order a variety of substantial sandwiches, wraps, and desserts.
Vegan-friendly UK Subway options include a Rockin’ Morrocan Wrap (a plant patty alongside garlic & herb and sweet onion sauces, as well as salad items) and a Plant Patty. The breads you can choose from include Italian White Bread, Hearty Italian Bread, 9-Grain Wheat Bread, Gluten Free Bread, and Plain Tortilla Wrap. Subway also offers a vegan cheese, as well as a variety of vegan condiments including Sticky Sweet Chilli Sauce and Teriyaki Sauce. For dessert, you can order the Vegan Chocolate Cookie.
In the US, Subway vegan options are more limited. You can make your own meal, but bear in mind the only vegan-friendly bread is the Artisan Italian, which you can use to order a Veggie Delight. Among the vegan-friendly vegetables are lettuce, cucumbers, banana peppers, peppers, black olives, and onions, while condiments include Buffalo Sauce, Hot pepper relish, and Barbecue sauce.
Elsewhere, Mexico introduced a Teriyaki Veg sandwich to some locations in July 2023, which features vegan chicken in a tangy sauce. Subway announced a partnership with the Vegetarian Butcher in Europe in 2023, offering plant-based meat in Norway, Switzerland, Austria, and more.
Mexican-inspired chain Taco Bell has made some genuine steps to cater to meat-free eaters in recent years. In June 2023, it made national headlines with the introduction of a Vegan Crunchwrap in selected US stores for a limited time. This isn’t currently available, but there is always possibility it could return.
Taco Bell currently doesn’t offer any explicitly vegan fast food items anywhere in the world, but it is possible to make your own meal. For example, you could order a burrito with beans, guacamole, black beans, refried beans, jalapeños, potatoes, and tomatoes. Just make sure to avoid the cheese, sour cream, and chipotle sauce. Menu items you may be able to customize include the Power Menu Bowl – Veggie, Bean Burrito, Soft Potato Taco, and Black Bean Chalupa, though you should always check with your server to ensure that this is possible in your branch. Vegan sides include the black beans and rice, as well as guacamole and jalapeños.
In September 2023, Taco Bell announced the launch of Vegan Nacho Fries, a take on the original Nacho Fries – but this time with a dairy-free sauce. These were only available for a limited run, and it isn’t clear if or when they’ll be making a comeback.
In the UK, Pizza Hut has been catering to vegans for a number of years. If first offered a dairy-free cheese in 2017, and you can swap out the dairy on any pizza on the menu. This means that vegetarian pizzas like the Margherita, Hot ‘n’ Spicy Veg, and Veggie can all easily be veganized.
Pizza Hut also offers Beyond Meat pepperoni, as well as vegan chicken in some locations. There is also a vegan stuffed crust option, which comes with Violife dairy-free cheese. When it comes to sides, you can order the Vegan Southern Fried Nuggets. For dessert, the dairy-free I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheesecake is available. The fries at Pizza Hut are not vegan-friendly.
The US Pizza Hut hasn’t introduced a dairy-free cheese, but you can order a vegan-friendly cheeseless pizza. Most of its bases are plant-based, including Thin and Crispy, Hand-Tossed Style, and Pan Crust. The Classic Marinara and Buffalo Pizza Sauce are vegan, and you can choose from vegetables including black olives, green peppers, red onion, and mushroom.
Things get a little bit tricky at Wendy’s, which hasn’t yet introduced any explicitly vegan-friendly menu items. Things may change very soon, however, as the company’s CEO Todd Penegor previously said the brand was taking a “hard look” at plant-based options for the restaurant.
The Wendy’s fries are made with vegetable oil in the US and UK, meaning they can be considered plant-based. However, they may be fried in the same oil as meat. Other animal-free menu options include the Breakfast Potatoes, but you’ll have to order them without butter, cheese, and sour cream. One option would be to ask for them with chives, salsa, avocado, or a vegan-friendly sauce like BBQ or Sweet & Sour instead. The Baked Potato is also plant-based with no butter, as are the Apple Bites. In the US, there are a number of salad options that can be made vegan if you remove animal ingredients like meat and dairy. These include the Taco Salad (without chili, cheese, and sour cream) and Garden Salad (without cheese and croutons).
Hugely popular pizza delivery chain Domino’s has been rapidly expanding its plant-based menu. It introduced its first vegan pizzas in the UK in 2020, and it now offers a wide range of animal-free products.
Dairy-free pizzas in the UK include Plant-Based American Hot, Plant-Based Peppy-roni, Plant-Based Margheri-tastic, Plant-Based Vegi Supreme, and Plant-Based Chick’n Winner. Please note that the classic Domino’s crust contains dairy, but the vegan pizzas are made with a plant-based take on the original. You can also opt for Italian Style crust.
Vegan sides include Potato Wedges, Plant-Based Nuggets, and Fries.
In the US, Domino’s hasn’t yet introduced a vegan cheese, but you can order a pasta dish with Robust Tomato Sauce alongside vegetable toppings. You can also have the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich without cheese.
Five Guys is another tricky one. The burger chain only offers a very limited number of menu items, with a spokesperson previously telling Plant Based News this was due to the brand’s “commitment to quality.” This means that it hasn’t introduced any vegan options.
If you do find yourself at Five Guys, you can order the Fries and Cajun Fries, as these are both cooked in peanut oil. You can also order veggie toppings like tomatoes, mushrooms, and green peppers, though these may carry a cross-contamination risk.
Famed for its chicken, it may come as a surprise to some that KFC offers a plant-based chicken dish. The chain first introduced the “Imposter Burger” in the UK in 2020, and it became a permanent menu item after proving popular with customers. The burger is made with Quorn, and features egg-free vegan mayo.
In the UK, Burger King fries aren’t suitable for vegans as they’re cooked in the same oil as chicken. The Corn on the Cob and BBQ Beans are your only plant-based sides.
KFC USA previously introduced an entire plant-based chicken bucket made with Beyond Meat, but this has now been discontinued. The Sweet Kernel Corn and Secret Recipe Fries are vegan-friendly KFC USA options. In Canada, there is a meat-free chicken sandwich, but KFC previously warned this “may be” cooked in the same oil as chicken. If you’re unsure, you should check with your local branch.
In the UK, pizza chain Papa Johns offers a number of vegan pizzas and sides. It introduced vegan cheese (Sheese) to its menu back in 2019, and you can add this to any pizza on the menu.
Specific vegan options at Papa Johns UK include Vegan Garden Party, Vegan BBQ “Chicken”, Vegan Cheese & Tomato, Jackfruit “Pepperoni”, and The Vegan Works. There is also a vegan Garlic & Herb dip at Papa Johns, alongside vegan sauces like Ketchup and BBQ. In terms of sides, you can opt for the Potato Tots, Vegan Cheese Potato Tots, Vegan Cheese Potato Tots with Jalapeño, “Not-Chicken” Vegan Bites, and Cauliflower Wings.
There aren’t yet any vegan cheese or meat alternatives in the US, but you can create your own vegan pizza with a deep pan or classic crust. The BBQ, tomato, and garlic pizza sauces are vegan, and you can customize the vegetarian Garden Party to be vegan by removing the cheese.
Elsewhere in the world, South Korea released two vegan pizzas nationwide in February 2023, the Green Eat Vegetable Margarita and Green Eat Vegetable Garden Special. Both of these pizzas feature Sheese.
It’s always been easy to find vegan fast food at Chipotle, with the Mexican-inspired restaurant long offering a wide range of bean and vegetable-based menu options.
All of the main dishes – burritos, tacos, salads – are vegan-friendly if you order them without meat and dairy. The tortillas and taco shells are both plant-based, and you can opt to have these with rice (both the Cilantro-Lime Brown and Cilantro-Lime White are vegan), beans (Pinto and Black Beans), guacamole, and salad. Chipotle also offers tofu-based Sofritas, which are a great way to get more protein into your meal.
There are a variety of salsas on offer, including Roasted Tomato Red-Chili Salsa, Roasted Tomato Red-Chili Salsa, Roasted Tomato Red-Chili Salsa, and Chili-Corn Salsa.
Burger joint Shake Shack launched its first ever vegan patty in the UK in 2020, and it has since added and removed a range of vegan burgers.
Currently, the only vegan burger at Shake Shack UK is the Crispy Shallot Burger, which features beer-marinated crispy shallots, lettuce, vegan cheddar cheese, and Dijonnaise sauce. The fries are vegan in the UK, as is the Ketchup (it’s worth noting that the BBQ sauce is not plant-based).
In the US, there aren’t any vegan burgers, and it also isn’t clear if the fries are vegan-friendly (though they are listed as vegetarian).
American Shake Shack fans will be delighted to know, however, that there is a vegan chocolate shake and frozen custard in the US, which the chain unveiled in collaboration with plant-based brand NotCo.