There are plenty of reasons to convert to veganism: your health, the environment, and of course, the animals. But as of now, plant-based options are significantly harder to find, particularly in the fast-food drive-thru. For years, on-the-go vegans and vegetarians were presented with a pretty bleak menu: a wilted side salad, fruit cups, hash browns, and…that’s about it. Vegans have typically had even fewer options, with animal products like cheese, sour cream, and eggs being the main staple of most “no meat” fast-food meals. Luckily, the vegetarian and veganism trend has started to catch on, and more and more fast-food restaurants have started to follow suit.
Even if you don’t go full plant-mode with your diet, eating vegan in the drive-thru is an easy way to find healthier, low-calorie options amid greasy burgers and bacon wraps. Through specialty menu items and lesser-known substitution options, eating plant-based at your favorite fast-food joint has literally never been easier.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of popular drive-thru restaurants and the plant-based options they offer from the most vegan-friendly to “well, we have plenty of potatoes for you to eat.” The next time you’re in the car looking for an easy meal, opt for these menu items to keep your meal quick, convenient, and humane.
Vegan Options at Taco Bell
Even though they recently took away their potato-based items, much to the chagrin of plant-eaters everywhere, Taco Bell is still one of the most vegan-friendly restaurants widely available across the country.
- Black bean quesarito*
- Black bean crunchwrap*
- Power bowl*
- Crunchy or soft tacos* (mod: substitute black beans for beef)
- Black beans and rice
- Cinnamon twists
*Make sure to remove the cheese and sour cream from these items by ordering them fresco style, which replaces all dairy products with fresh pico de gallo.
Vegan Options at Panera Bread
With loads of healthy plant-based options and deliciously fresh-baked bread, Panera (or St. Louis Bread Co., depending on who you ask) has plenty of ways to modify and special-order your way to a completely plant-based meal.
- Vegan lentil quinoa broth bowl
- Soba noodle broth bowl with edamame blend
- Baja grain bowl (mod: no feta crumbles or Greek yogurt)
- Baja grain bowl (mod: no feta crumbles or Greek yogurt)
- Any salad on Panera’s menu can be veganized by removing cheese and chicken and adding quinoa
- Steel-cut oatmeal with apple chips, strawberries, pecans, and cinnamon crunch topping
- Seasonal fruit cup
- Peach and blueberry smoothie (mod: substitute almond milk)
- Vegan breads: bagels, focaccia, baguette, hoagie roll, semolina, and sourdough
Vegan Options at Del Taco
Following closely behind Taco Bell in the plant-based Mexican cuisine category is Del Taco, which allows you to substitute meat on any menu item for soy-based Beyond meat. While there’s some debate over whether this “fake” meat is actually as healthy as, say, beans or lentils, it’s still a super convenient choice for on-the-go vegheads. Their bean AND soy-based protein options would put them at the top of the list if they weren’t almost exclusively located in California, making it a little trickier for vegans in the heartland.
- Modify any menu item with Beyond meat or black beans, remove the cheese and sour cream
- Avocado veggie bowl
- Crinkle cut fries
- Hashbrown sticks
Vegan Options at Burger King
Burger King led the way in offering a vegan substitute to their world-famous sandwiches. Unfortunately, you can’t substitute their Impossible patty on other sandwiches yet. There’s also the potential for cross-contamination if you don’t ask for your soy patty to be cooked separately from the beef ones. But luckily, they have lots of extra potato-based and meat-free snack options for a quick and easy veg meal.
- Impossible whopper (mod: no cheese)
- Garden side salad (mod: no cheese, add balsamic vinaigrette)
- French fries and hashbrowns
- French toast sticks
- PB&J sandwich
- Apple pie
Vegan Options at Hardee’s/Carl Jr.
Hardee’s and Carl Jr. have made the best of both worlds with their new line of plant-based hamburger options available for every menu item. Plus, they don’t add animal products to their fried potato items. Score.
- Substitute a Beyond burger patty on any sandwich (mod: no cheese, mayo, or bacon; since their normal buns do contain animal products, opt for your sandwich on lettuce or sourdough)
- Beyond sausage burrito (mod: no eggs or cheese)
- Red burrito (mod: no cheese)
Vegan Options at Starbucks
Starbucks isn’t just for your Insta-worthy pink drinks anymore. Their menu is chock-full of healthy plant-based options, and most of their popular drinks can be modified to not include any dairy. Since they have a million and one drink options, we thought it’d be easier to tell you what to avoid and what to add to make your favorite caffeine stop vegan-friendly.
- Double-check if your drink includes milk; if it does, opt for soy, coconut, or almond milk
- Remove or avoid whipped cream, java chips, protein powder, caramel drizzle, cinnamon dolce, pumpkin spice, white moca, caramel brûlée, and chai lattes
- Matcha lemonade (vegan as-is — no modifications necessary!)
- Impossible breakfast sandwich (mod: no egg or cheese)
- Charles Chocolates’ Caramelized Crisped Rice Bar
- That’s It fruit bars
- Sticky Rice chips
- Lentils and vegetable protein bowl with brown rice
- Classic oatmeal or hearty blueberry oatmeal
- Chickpea crisps
- Dried fruit
- Plain, sprouted grain, cinnamon raisin, or blueberry bagel with avocado or hazelnut spread
Vegan Options at Dunkin’
Following the vegan-friendly coffee shop trend is Dunkin’, so coffee-drinkers everywhere rejoice: you don’t have to sacrifice caffeine to find humane snack and meal options. While they don’t offer as many prepackaged snacks as Starbucks, Dunkin’ has plenty of caffeinated drink options and a few great plant-based meals.
- Double-check if your drink includes milk: if it does, opt for almond milk
- Vegan-friendly flavor shots include: French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Toasted Almond, Blueberry, Raspberry, and Coconut
- Black tea, green tea, breakfast tea, Hibiscus Kiss, Chamomile Fields, or Cool Mint Herbal tea
- Strawberry or blue raspberry coolattas
- Beyond sausage sandwich (mod: no cheese or egg)
- Cinnamon raisin, plain, everything, and sesame bagels; English muffins
Vegan Options at Panda Express
Panda Express almost didn’t make it on the list since not all of their nationwide locations offer a drive-thru, but since there are some that do and for the sake of including some delicious, quick Asian cuisine on the list, they’re getting an honorable mention. Panda Express does state that they cook all of their animal and plant-based products in the same area, so cross-contamination is possible and something to keep in mind if you’re strictly vegan.
- Super greens
- Eggplant tofu
- Chow mein
- Steamed white and brown rice
- Vegetable spring roll
- Vegan sauces: Teriyaki, Sweet and Sour, Chili, Soy, Potsticker, Hot Mustard, and Plum
Vegan Options at Subway
While some Subway locations have offered a soy-based "meat"ball option, they haven’t switched to nationwide distribution quite yet. In the meantime, pile on your favorite veggies on one of their vegan bread options (and don’t forget the plant-based sauces!)
- Veggie Delite (customize as you wish!)
- Vegan breads: 9-Grain Wheat, Hearty Italian, Italian White, Roasted Garlic, Spinach Wrap, and Tomato Basil Wrap
- Sauces: BBQ, buffalo, herb garlic oil, ketchup, mustard, oil, red wine vinegar, spicy brown mustard, sweet onion sauce, and vinaigrette
Vegan Options at Wendy’s
Unfortunately, there aren’t many plant-based options available at Wendy’s locations yet, but we’re holding out hope for the possibility of a veg-alternative to their spicy chicken nuggets. (We can dream, right?) Until then, here are some plant-based snacks and salads to try.
- Baked potato (mod: no cheese, sour cream, or bacon bits)
- Apple slices
- Side salad (mod: no croutons or cheese, add avocado, and opt for Spicy Chili Vinaigrette, which is their only vegan salad dressing option)
- French fries and home fries
- Pro tip: for a more creative approach to your veg fast-food meal, order a sandwich or wrap with no meat or dairy products, an order of french fries or home fries, and assemble your own potato-based sammie or wrap in the car. It’s not the best vegan option we’ve ever seen, but it’ll at least stick to your belly.
Vegan Options at McDonald’s
Although one of the most prominent fast-food joints across the country (and the world), McDonald’s is still falling behind on the plant-based trend. The home of the Big Mac and McRib doesn’t have a vast vegan menu, and their potato products include animal byproducts, unfortunately. But here are some options to try if you’re in a pinch and have to stop at the golden arches.
- Side salad (mod: no cheese)
- Southwest salad (mod: no chicken or cheese)
- For both salads, opt for French Cream or Low-fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, the restaurant’s only two vegan dressing options
- Fruit and maple oatmeal (mod: no light cream)
- Baked apple pie
- Apple slices
Vegan Options at Baskin-Robbins
Because even vegans deserve a little ice cream now and then. These dairy-free alternatives offered by Baskin-Robbins are also a great option if you’re having trouble digesting lactose. They might not be the lowest in calories, but these vegan treats are definitely delicious and worthy of eating guilt-free.
- Chocolate Extreme
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- Coffee Caramel Chunk
- Daiquiri Ice and Watermelon Splash sorbet
We hope that as the plant-based train keeps rolling, we’ll eventually reach an era where any and all restaurants will offer as many delicious, healthy, and satisfying vegan and vegetarian options as they do burgers, chicken strips, and bacon wraps. Until then, stick with these forward-thinking fast-food joints. And if you’re in the mood to cook at home, try these amazing vegan and vegetarian recipes.