The Best Meat-Free Fast Food Options
A reported 7.3 million Americans have chosen to live a vegetarian lifestyle. Whether the reasons have to do with religion, health, or politics, these people refrain from eating meat and have built a diet without it. I’m sure that many vegetarians also refuse to eat fast food, but there are certainly those who still rely on fast food for fast and affordable snack and meal options. In an attempt to stay relevant to as many consumers as possible, fast food chains have put together some vegetarian options. I’ve taken the time to sift through the menus and find some of the best vegetarian options on the market.
Premium Southwest Salad
This salad traditionally comes with chicken, but even without, you’re left with a flavorful meal. Made of mixed greens, fire-roasted corn, savory black beans, roasted tomatoes and poblano peppers, this salad kicks a pretty good punch. It also comes topped with cheddar and jack cheese, chili-lime tortilla strips, lime wedge and southwest dressing, so there are plenty of flavors for anyone looking for a south of the border theme.
Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait
McDonald’s has a couple good fruit options for the morning crowd. The Fruit & Maple Oatmeal has 100% natural whole-grain oats, and comes with red and green apples, cranberries and raisins. The Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (available all day) is a long-time offering from McDonald’s and mixes low-fat vanilla yogurt with blueberries, strawberries, and granola. Neither option will fill you up, but they make great light snacks if you are avoiding meat.
Fish can be a bit of a grey area for vegetarians. Some choose to eat it, while others avoid it. I’m not going to pass judgment either way, but any vegetarian who eats fish gets to enjoy the classic Filet-O-Fish sandwich. An extremely basic sandwich, the Filet-O-Fish is made up of a fried fish fillet patty, American cheese and tartar sauce. There may not be much special about this sandwich, but a classic is a classic.
MorningStar Veggie Burger
BK is the only “Big 3” fast food chain to offer a traditional veggie burger. By pairing with a reliable brand like MorningStar, Burger King has managed to put together a delicious vegetarian burger. The burger is made with real vegetables and grains, and is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, white onions, ketchup and mayo. If you are looking for a traditional beef burger substitute at a national fast food chain, you aren’t going to get any better than the BK MorningStar Veggie Burger.
Apple & Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad
The name really says it all, but this salad comes with BK’s mix of seven premium lettuces, crisp apples, dried cranberries, and crumbled blue cheese. Burger King then adds a distinctive Apple Cider Vinaigrette to top things off. There are dozens of salad offerings at chain restaurants, but the Apple & Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad offers a unique and fresh look at a fast food salad.
Sour Cream & Chive or Broccoli & Cheese Potato
Wendy’s has been offering baked potatoes for years, and they still make up one of the better vegetarian snacks for fast food fans. Topped with either sour cream and chives or broccoli and cheese, the baked potato is a great alternative for anyone looking for a break from the traditional side of French fries.
Baja Chili Salad
To make this salad vegetarian friendly you are going to have to have Wendy’s hold the chili, but there is still plenty left on this delicious salad. After the mixed green base, Wendy’s adds fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, crispy tortilla strips, and a red jalapeno dressing. The Southwest flavor profile is similar to the salad from McDonald’s, but the addition of pico de gallo and guacamole sets the Baja Chili Salad apart.
The Veggie Sandwich from Wendy’s isn’t actually on the menu, but they allow you to order their burgers without the beef patties. Wendy’s doesn’t substitute the patty for anything, which leaves you with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and condiments. This sandwich isn’t going to do much to fill you up, but if you add fries and a drink you have a decent meal if you are looking for a vegetarian option and don’t want a salad.
The Veggie Delight is one of the few remaining members of the $5 Footlong club. I’ve always poked fun at the Veggie Delight because Subway has somehow managed to charge its customers $5 for a loaf of bread and then fill it with all the toppings they offer for free. Subway also offers salads, once again allowing their customers to customize their meal by adding any of the sandwich toppings they choose to their sandwich or salad.
Taco Bell takes the crown as the most vegetarian friendly fast food chain on this list. They offer a wide variety of meatless options, and even allow you substitute beans for meat in most of their items. I could easily write an entire article on Taco Bell’s vegetarian options, but I’ve decided to just highlight a few of my favorites below.
Veggie Cantina Bowl
Taco Bell’s Cantina menu was introduced to highlight their commitment to fresh ingredients, and no item better encompasses those ingredients than the Cantina Bowl. The bowl is set on Taco Bell’s Latin rice and is topped with black beans, guacamole, roasted corn, pepper salsa, creamy cilantro dressing, and fresh pico de gallo. You will be hard pressed to find a more flavorful vegetarian option on the Taco Bell menu. Mixing up all the ingredients in the bowl gives you traditional Mexican taste in each bite.
Veggie Cantina Burrito
If you are looking to take the flavors of the Veggie Cantina Bowl on the road you can opt for the Veggie Cantina Burrito. This burrito has the same base as the bowl, but adds romaine lettuce and wraps it up in a flour tortilla. I prefer the Cantina Burrito to the bowl, but that stems from my love of burritos. Whichever item you choose, you are in for a delicious and meat-free meal.
7-Layer, Black Bean, and Cheesy Potato Burritos
Like I mentioned before, there are a flurry of vegetarian options at Taco Bell. Some of their best items are the meatless burritos, my favorite of which is the 7-Layer Burrito. Wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, the 7-Layer Burrito has beans, Latin rice, shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole. If you are looking for something simpler than the 7-Layer Burrito you can opt for the Black Bean Burrito, which has Latin rice, black beans, shredded cheese, and a tangy sauce. Finally, there is the Cheesy Potato Burrito. The least healthy option of the three, the burrito has crispy potato bites, warm nacho cheese, and sour cream. None of these burritos are exceptionally filling, but they make a great addition to your meal or a mid-day snack.