10 Restaurant Chains That Helped Pave the Way for More Vegan Options
Ten years ago, eating vegan at restaurants required some very creative ordering or tracking down an all-vegan spot (if you were lucky enough to be near one). But today, eating plant-based is easier and more accessible than ever thanks to companies that listened to consumer demands and added more vegan options.
These 10 restaurant chains are proof that you can eat vegan no matter where you live:
Even without plant-based meat on the full-time menu (yet), Taco Bell is one of the most vegan-friendly fast-food restaurants out there. For easy ordering, customers can use the Taco Bell app’s “veggie cravings” option and then customize the menu items to leave out sour cream, cheese, and creamy chipotle sauce.
Any menu item can also be ordered “fresco-style,” which veganizes it by replacing dairy products with pico de gallo.
Fast-casual Mexican food chain Baja Fresh added Impossible meat to its permanent menu in fall 2022. The lineup of Impossible test dishes that launched in July will continue to be available at stores nationwide.
Guests can select Impossible meat as the protein for almost any menu item. (Just be sure to omit cheese and sour cream to veganize your meal.)
Pieology is a fast-casual pizzeria where guests customize their pizzas on an assembly line with lots of yummy vegan ingredients. The gluten-free crust is vegan, as are all the crust oils and the red, Buffalo, and barbecue sauces. Top your pizza with a plethora of veggies, vegan Daiya cheese, and plant-based meatballs or spicy Italian sausage rounds. Customers can also order veganized cheesy breadsticks, which you get for free when you sign up for the Pieology app.
When Pieology’s plant-based meats launched they were a dollar extra per ounce, but now they appear to be available at no extra charge. Pieology’s website lists and clearly describes all the vegan options.
According to news reports, Chipotle Mexican Grill was the first national fast-food chain to include a vegan meal on its menu that wasn’t a salad or veggie burger. In 2013, the eatery added Sofritas—spicy, shredded organic tofu—to the menu nationwide after a successful test run at select locations. Chipotle’s beans, rice, tortillas, veggies, and guacamole are all vegan, and the Sofritas can be added to burritos, bowls, or tacos.
Fast-forward to summer 2022—Chipotle tested plant-based sorizo for a limited time, creating a buzz among Mercy For Animals’ social media followers. We’re excited to see whether this will become a full-time menu item.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is a casual-dining restaurant chain that’s well known for its vegan and vegetarian dishes. The restaurant’s menu has a leaf icon next to all vegetarian dishes, many of which can easily be made vegan or already are. Some of our favorites are Buddha’s Feast, ma po tofu, stir-fried eggplant, and Chang’s vegetarian lettuce wraps.
P.F. Chang’s operates 300 locations in 22 countries, so it’s a great go-to if you’re traveling and need to grab a satisfying plant-based meal.
WaBa Grill is a healthy fast-food chain that offers rice bowls, plates, and salads in locations throughout California and Arizona. For as long as we can remember, WaBa Grill has offered an outstanding vegan option—grilled organic tofu that’s basted with the chain’s signature WaBa sauce.
In 2021, customers were greeted with another mouthwatering vegan option. WaBa’s charbroiled Plantspired™ steak provides the flavor and texture of traditional steak without the meat. Both the tofu and steak can be added to any bowl or plate and topped with avocado for an extra fee.
In 2018, Carl’s Jr. became one of the largest burger chains to launch burger patties from plant-based company Beyond Meat. The Beyond Famous Star is a vegetarian version of the chain’s popular Famous Star burger that can easily be made vegan by omitting the mayonnaise and cheese. Customers can also substitute the usual patty on any Carl’s Jr. burger with the Beyond patty for a fee.
After the success of the Beyond burger addition, Carl’s Jr. added Beyond sausage to its breakfast menu in 2019. Pro tip: The Beyond Sausage Burrito can be veganized by ordering it without the egg and cheese.
In 2019 Burger King added the Impossible Whopper to its menu, and the iconic burger (made vegan with some minor tweaks) quickly became a staple for hungry plant-based road trippers. Though some items may share a fryer with non-vegan foods, the chain’s fries, French toast sticks, and hash browns are also plant-based.
Fun fact: Before adding the Impossible Whopper to all Burger King locations, the chain tested it in St. Louis, Missouri. Within the first month, average foot traffic at the test locations outperformed the national average by 18.5 percent.
Mexican fast-food chain Del Taco was the first U.S. drive-thru restaurant to offer Beyond Meat products. After its nationwide rollout in 2018, the fast-food chain quickly sold nearly two million items made with Beyond Meat, making it one of Del Taco’s most successful product launches.
Customers can choose from several menu items made with Beyond beef crumbles—including the Beyond Avocado Taco, which is already vegan—or add Beyond meat to any menu item in place of the usual beef.
Yard House is a sports bar chain that knows what’s up when it comes to vegan meat options. The restaurant is famous for its wide selection of draft beers, but we love it for its plant-based offerings and transparency.
Yard House tells customers which items are already vegan and how other dishes can be veganized through its website. Plant-based chicken from Gardein makes an appearance in several dishes, including the orange chicken, chicken and avocado sandwich, and Buffalo wings. Customers who prefer veggies can enjoy Buffalo cauliflower, hot and spicy edamame, and quinoa cauliflower, to name a few options.
Encourage Access to Vegan Options
Companies listen to their customers—that’s why it’s always important to speak out and let restaurant chains know that you want more plant-based options.
Visit NewYearNewChoices.com to urge restaurant chains to offer new, exciting plant-based menu items for 2023.
Let’s make 2023 the year of more plant-based choices!