Closeup of man's hands holding vegan chickpea and bean burger with fresh greens
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Where to Find Plant-Based Fast Food

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Closeup of man's hands holding vegan chickpea and bean burger with fresh greens
Natalia Lavrenkova/istockphoto

Fast and Meatless

Plant-based foods are having a moment, largely thanks to trendy meat alternatives from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, among others. Veggie burgers have made it onto the menus of some of the nation's biggest restaurant chains, giving hungry patrons who want to skip meat more choices than salads and french fries. Panda Express is the latest chain to hop on the bandwagon by offering a Beyond orange chicken dish.


Related: The Best Fast-Food Deals to Grab Right Now

Panda Express Plant-Based Orange Chicken
Panda Express

Panda Express

Panda Express has a few plant-based options already, including an eggplant tofu dish. And now, plant-based orange chicken is coming back to the menu after being briefly tested in two markets a year ago. Beyond The Original Orange Chicken is available nationwide for a limited time at the chain's more than 2,300 restaurants. Starting Sept. 26, customers who order the menu item online and use the code BEYOND receive a free bowl of their choice. The promotion ends Oct. 9.


Related: Korean Corn Dogs and Other Fast Food Trends Coming to a Restaurant Near You

Starbucks Fall Menu
Starbucks

Starbucks

Starbucks is joining the vegan race by bringing back a revised Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato, making it its first vegan-as-is beverage. Available hot, cold, or blended, the drink was first added to its fall menu last year using cow's milk, but this year is being made with oat milk, along with blonde espresso, and topped with a spiced-apple drizzle. The drink, alongside the venerable Pumpkin Spice Latte, returned to Starbucks' menu Aug. 30. Food-wise, Starbucks has offered an Impossible breakfast sandwich since mid-2020 that features plant-based sausage and egg patties. The chain also offers several nondairy drink options and a protein box with chickpea bites and avocado for beyond-breakfast snacking.


Related: The Best (and Worst) Fast-Food Coffee You Can Buy



Just Egg Roasted Tomato and Pesto Flatbread Caribou Coffee
Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee, a coffeehouse chain mainly in the Midwest and Plains states, has just put a plant-based breakfast sandwich on its menu. The roasted tomato and pesto flatbread includes a Just Egg patty, a vegan egg substitute, along with dairy-free smoked provolone, roasted tomatoes, and vegan pesto. It's available at 400 locations nationwide but only for a limited time. Once it's gone (and here's hoping it's popular enough to stick around) vegan customers can still order their drinks with almond, coconut, or oat milk.

McDonald's McPlant Burger
McDonald's

McDonald's

The Golden Arches have never been a great choice for vegetarians or anyone who's looking for a plant-based entree, but that is changing: McDonald's is testing the McPlant burger, made with Beyond Meat, at 600 locations in the U.S. Customers in California and Texas initially seemed enthusiastic about the patty made with peas, rice, and potatoes, so much so that many predicted McDonald's would take the McPlant nationwide later this year. But sales of the McPlant are slumping, especially in rural areas, where restaurants are only selling four or five burgers a day — a quarter or less than what urban locations have been selling. That may end up delaying a nationwide rollout, or limit the McPlant's availability to urban areas.

KFC Beyond Meat
KFC

KFC

KFC rolled out its plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken nationwide, although the offering is only for a limited time. That's a shame, because it's been getting mostly positive reviews from a wide range of sources — and there's no word yet whether it will become a permanent menu item. The product, which was three years in the making, is available in six- and 12-piece orders.

Chipotle Plant-Based Chorizo
Chipotle

Chipotle

Chipotle has offered its plant-based, spiced-tofu mainstay, Sofritas, in tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, and more nationwide since 2014. They've been a hit since their rollout, inspiring copycat recipes galore. But now it's offering a new meatless option: plant-based chorizo. The limited-time offering is made of pea protein, chipotle peppers, tomato paste, garlic, Spanish-smoked paprika and olive oil. And according to Chipotle, it's certified vegan, and has no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, grains, gluten, or soy.

Impossible Nuggets
Impossible Foods

Burger King

The famously plant-based Impossible Whopper made a splash when it debuted nationwide in 2019, earning raves from customers impressed with how closely it mimicked BK's signature burger. But the meatless burger might need to share the limelight: Burger King said it would become the first major chain to test Impossible Foods' plant-based nuggets, a meatless alternative to chicken nuggets. They were introduced in three markets — Boston, Miami, and Des Moines, Iowa — and initial reviews were promising. The Takeout raved that "they're somehow juicy and tender, yet so grease-free that there's no residue at all left on your fingers after eating."

Mod Meatless Pizza
MOD Pizza

MOD Pizza

MOD Pizza has debuted its plant-based meat topping — and it's not from Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods. Instead, the fast-casual pizza joint is using Plantly, a chef-created plant-based food and beverage brand. The vegan meat, available at MOD's 500-plus restaurants, is a soy-free, pea-protein-based Italian sausage crumble seasoned with oregano, fennel, and thyme. MOD also offers Daiya Foods' vegan cheese, which it added to the menu in 2015.

Carl's Jr. Plant Based Burger
Maria B./Yelp

Carl's Jr.

Another major fast-food player churning out plant-based burgers: Carl's Jr., which offers the Beyond Famous Star and the Beyond Fiery Famous Star, which adds spicy sauce and jalapenos. In a San Jose Mercury News taste test, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike preferred the Famous Star.

White Castle Veggie Sliders
White Castle Veggie Sliders by Tony Webster (CC BY-SA)

White Castle

If you're a slider fan, you're in luck: Cult favorite White Castle also offers its tiny burgers in plant-based form, and Eater calls 'em "one of the country's best fast-food burgers, period." If you prefer a more-traditional-tasting veggie burger, there's also a Veggie Slider with a patty featuring peas, carrots, and other veggies made by Dr. Praeger's.

Qdoba Impossible Fajita Bowl
Amy C./Yelp

Qdoba

If you'd rather have Mexican, no worries. Qdoba offers the Impossible Fajita Bowl, which is vegan, but the Impossible plant-based meat can also go in other entrees, from burritos to tacos to quesadillas, and you can customize the toppings. Redditors say it's a tasty option no matter what you try, though some complain that you'll pay a premium for the plant-based dishes.

Del Taco Avocado Beyond Taco
Nalz C./Yelp

Del Taco

Del Taco, found mainly in the western U.S., offers Beyond tacos and burritos for those seeking a plant-based option. The Beyond Guacamole Taco and Epic Beyond Fresh Guacamole Burrito are also dairy-free. Whichever you choose, The Impulsive Buy says you won't miss the meat: "Del Taco took its charming array of spices and seasonings and mixed it into the ground beef-like Beyond Meat, creating a flavorful melange that is even better than its real meat mixture."

Panera Bread Vegetarian Meal
Beckie C./Yelp

Panera Bread

Panera has always been among the safer options for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking to go easier on meat. You won't find the fancy meat alternatives popping up in other places, but there's still a plant-based menu with salads, sandwiches, noodle bowls, and more. Even more may be coming: The chain eventually wants half of its items to be plant based, according to EatingWell.

Taco Bell Vegetarian Meal
Jamie R./Yelp

Taco Bell

For now, Taco Bell doesn't have the fancy plant-based meats featured at other Mexican chains, but that might change soon. In the meantime, there are still 25 certified vegetarian options, including long-standing favorites like the Bean Burrito and the Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme.

Dunkin' Power Breakfast Sandwich
Tara S./Yelp
A&W Beyond Burger
Noel C./Yelp

A&W: Select Markets

This all-American joint may seem like an unlikely spot for a plant-based meal, but select A&W locations offer a burger made with Beyond Meat. Could plant-based chicken nuggets be next? It's possible: They're now on the menu at Canadian A&W restaurants.

Little Caesars: Planteroni Pizza
Little Caesars

Little Caesar's: Coming Soon?

National pizza chains have traditionally offered few options beyond the traditional veggie pie. But Little Caesar's introduced a plant-based pepperoni — dubbed "planteroni," of course — in select markets in 2021. It's made by Field Roast, a subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods, that also produces plant-based hot dogs, sausage, and cheese.


Pizza Hut Beyond Pizzas
Pizza Hut
Wendy's Spicy Black Bean Burger
Wendy's

Wendy's: Coming Soon?

Longing for something more than a baked potato and a side salad at Wendy's? The nation's No. 3 burger chain is testing a veggie burger. It doesn't use Impossible or Beyond patties, but a "black bean patty seasoned with paprika and chipotle pepper, topped with crunchy chipotle jalapenos and a smoky chipotle sauce," according to CNN.