When you become a vegetarian do you need to say goodbye to all of your favorite fast food joints? Let me investigate for you.

fast food vegan

Taco Bell has been, and will continue to be, one of my favorite fast food spots. The price is right, the variety is great, I love Mexicana and it’s is just a comfort food for me. I go there at LEAST once a week, and every time when I go out to the movies. I actually look forward to my Taco Bell more than the movie itself on movie nights. When I switch to vegetarian and later vegan, I was afraid of cutting Taco Bell out of my life.

I always knew Taco Bell had bean burritos which tasted “pretty ok.” I knew this because I had several vegetarian friends in high school. I never cared much about how good they tasted or what else was available for vegetarians at the time. But now, I really hoped they tasted better than just ok. So I went to Taco Bell, as a vegetarian, to explore my options.

Taco Bell Burritos
Taco bell sides

I spoke to my regular server, Danny. Me and Danny go way back. I show up at his Taco Bell at 10:30pm most friday nights. I started asking him some questions about substituting other things for meat in tacos and burritos. It turns out there are many things you can sub for meat! The classic refried beans are there but there are also black beans, guacamole, fiesta potatoes and rice. I found that fiesta potatoes offered the best element of heartiness and saltiness that I have grown accustomed to with beef and chicken. However, if you plan on replacing protein with protein then beans are probably the best choice. Or you can mix and match!

Taco Bell also has a magic phrase “Fresco Style.” Saying Fresco Style will replace all cheeses, creams, and guacamole with pico. Usually I tell them to leave the guac on when it’s relevant. Here are go-to items to order after years of experience.

  • Mexican Pizza, fresco style, sub beef for rice, add guac (or side of guac)
  • Cheese quesadilla, sub refried beans for cheese, add rice, add red sauce
  • Bean burrito, fresco style, add rice, add potatoes, add guac

The bean burrito is especially amazing because you can refrigerate and then reheat it later (if this is your plan I suggest keeping the guac off). I often order 4 of these at a time and keep 2 for later, or the next day. Let me know what you come up with!

fast food vegan

Hey guys thanks for reading! I want to let everyone now that since writing this series I have officially become a full-fledged vegan. Going forward, this series will be called Fast Food Vegan. I will amend all of the previous article toward a more vegan focus. Obviously vegetarians are still welcome. Stay awhile!

Alex KrasnyCEO

Often when trying to think of a good vegan eatery it’s easy to lose track of places that don’t even need to try that hard. Pasta is a food that lends itself very well to vegan cuisine because even omnivores usually don’t complain about a lack of meat when sitting in front of a hearty bowl of noodles.

Unfortunately most of the sauces are cream based such as Alfredo and the creamy pesto they use. But they do offer traditional marinara as well as a variety of peanut-based asian selections.


It gets even better, Noodles carries marinated tofu as a meat alternative and of course you can add additional vegetables to your meal like mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, whatever. They also have salads, soups, and breads to round out the meal.

I am actually surprised with myself for taking so long to realize that Noodles is one of the best places for me to go! At Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway I always feel like I am being “weird” for modifying the standard food with vegetarian substitutes but not at Noodles. I can order my Japanese Pan Noodles with confidence.

Recently Noodles added something called “Buff Bowls” to the menu. These dishes contain double the normal amount of vegetables and lay them over a bed of spinach instead of noodles. If you are afraid of carbs, have a gluten problem, or simply LOVE vegetables, check them out! My wife and I had some and we are sold.


fast food vegan

We all know the appeal, or at least the concession, of a vegetable sandwich. It is as simple as ordering what you always, except without the meat. Sometimes Subway offers avocado to add to the sandwich for the extra … heft? Don’t get me wrong, I have eaten my fair share of veggie sandwiches with Jalapeños and extra mayo from subway but I am going to be honest. A sandwich without meat always leaves me wanting.

subway veggie patty
This is why I am happy to announce that subway has a top-secret veggie patty! At least, sometimes they have it. The first time the worker behind the counter was nice enough to let me know they had one, they actually didn’t have any! But the second time I walked in, like I owned the place, and ordered the veggie patty with authority, I got what I wanted!

I say top-secret because it doesn’t appear anywhere on the menu in the store. You would think right under the Veggie Delight they would have a little asterisk that says “Try our delicious veggie patty.” There is no such asterisk. I spent a fair amount of time trying to find this item on Subway’s online menu, and although I did find it (along with a very impressive variety of vegetarian protein options) on the Indian Subway website it doesn’t seem to appear on the US side. Maybe it is a new item still in testing?

I hope not because the patty was excellent.

The patty is in the shape of a rounded rectangle, and seems to be made specifically for 6″ subway sandwiches. It tastes very much like the Morning Star patty found at Burger King but I can’t be sure if it actually is a Morning Star brand because it seemingly has no documentation. From my personal impression it is a patty made of compressed vegetables rather than a soy compound. There probably are beans involved but it is certainly not a “bean patty.” I am not sure if it is vegan friendly, you could try asking … if the workers even know they have it.

If you have a SubWay near you, ask them if they have veggie patties in stock. The addition of a hot and chewy patty really completes the sandwich experience. Just for fun, take a look at what the 400 Subways in India serve!

subway veggie patty

Vegetarian Shammi

subway veggie patty

Aloo Patty

subway veggie patty

Paneer Tikka

fast food vegan

A co-worker informed me, when I revealed my new vegetarian lifestyle, that Burger King has an often-forgotten veggie patty on the menu. I was always more of a McDonalds, but i had to check it out.

It is clear that the Burger King staff is not used to selling these things, at least in the Minnesota BK I patronized. My request was met with some confusion, and the employee needed help locating the correct button. I guess it figures… How many vegetarians are going to Burger King?

The confusion continues…

I was initially under the impression that I can simply substitute a veggie patty in ANY burger. Although that is possible, that is not the workflow Burger King seems to have intended. It turns out they have an official “Veggie Burger” and an associated value meal in the system, but not on the menu. I attempted to order a veggie Whopper and they clumsily tried to corral me into ordering the Veggie Burger instead.

For research I did order the veggie burger, and also a Whopper with a veggie patty. I am actually not sure what the difference is aside from the bun. The veggie burger came on some kind of strange bun without any sesame seeds on it. Otherwise the burgers seemed identical, although I might be forgetting something.

When it comes to burgers, I am far from a minimalist. You won’t see me having a burger with nothing but a slice of cheese. I am obsessed with garnishes, condiments, vegetables, and whatever else goes on it. Pile it high! I want my burger to be an experience. Because of this mentality the actual “meat” of the burger ends up being only a small portion of the flavor. The most important element is the texture. Meat has that heavy, hearty texture that gives the burger body. The Morning Star patty delivers.

Yes I said Morning Star patty. Most vegetarians will already be familiar with this popular brand, and the flavor of the patties. The patty is bean-based and has other diced vegetables in the mix. Unfortunately there are dairy products in the mix as well so they are not vegan friendly. At least the BK patty, I am not sure if the Morning Star brand offers a vegan patty.

I have always been a big fan, and advocate, of veggie burgers even when I was a meat eater. When I worked at Green Mill I ate them often to avoid all the fat of real beef and I didn’t mind at all. The same thing is happening at Burger King! The this patty is flavorful and filling. The other ingredients of the burger shine in their own usual way, and the fries, of course, are unchanged. It turns out that I can still get the fast-food burger experience even as a vegetarians thanks to Burger King.