Fast Food Information

The following information is excerpted from Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Fast Food and Quick Service Chains. The Vegetarian Resource Group has been researching fast food information since 1985.

Numerous food companies have worked to have restaurants carry vegetarian items. For example, VeggieLand ™ said that 600 Ruby Tuesdays carry their Veggie Burgers. Their burger has also been offered at Houlihan's, Ground Round, Chili's, and even in Universal City. Worthington Burgers have been sold at Burger King and Yves (Hain) burgers have been tested by McDonald's in California.

Like people who keep strictly kosher and will never eat in a non-kosher restaurant, some vegetarians will never dine in a non-vegetarian establishment, since you can never be sure that an item is 100 percent vegetarian or vegan. However, most vegetarians eat out, and each person decides where to draw his or her line. We encourage restaurants to try to meet the needs of vegetarians, and for vegetarians to do the best they can. However, please realize that life isn't perfect, and mistakes can be made. If we want a better world, let's work together in a positive way so it will be easier to be vegetarian and for restaurants to offer vegetarian options.

Sometimes, vegetarian or vegan dishes are offered on the menu. Yet even if they are not, it is possible to order menu items without certain ingredients; you just need to ask. For instance, otherwise vegan tacos and pizzas can be ordered without cheese at some restaurant chains that serve these foods. Furthermore, many restaurants would be happy to make specially-requested items for guests. Taco Bell even has a brochure, "Want Lower-Fat Choices? Try it Fresco Style." They state that, "Fresco Style reduces fat by 25% for most menu items compared to the original menu item." Fresco style means substituting Fiesta Salsa for cheese and sauce in any of your Taco Bell favorites.

Many restaurant web sites now list ingredients, with some being more complete than others. When you talk to a customer service representative or a quality assurance manager in a positive way about the sources of an ingredient, such as natural flavors, you are educating people about the concerns of vegetarians and vegans.

Here are a few excerpts from listings in our Guide to Quick Service Chains.

PLEASE NOTE: We depend on company statements for product and ingredient information. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be certain, do further research or confirmation on your own. If you want to be 100% sure, we suggest you do not eat out. If you are like the majority of Americans, please do the best you can.

CHI-CHI'S: According to Chi-Chi's: "Vegan foods contain no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, honey, dairy, or their derivatives (whey, casein)." "Vegetarian foods contain no meat, fish or poultry." Chi-Chi's labels the following menu items "vegan": Chi-Chi's Original Mild and Hot Garden Salsa, Ensalada del Casa (without cheese or Cotija Ranch Dressing), Guacamole, Vegetable Fajitas (omit sour cream and cheese condiments), Refried Beans (without sour cream or cheese), Bean Burrito (omit Enchilada Sauce and cheese), Bean Soft Taco (omit cheese), and Fruit by the Foot®.

PAPA JOHN'S: They state that neither their pizza dough nor sauce contains animal products. Their cheese is made with a biosynthesized enzyme called Chymax®. They are able to prepare meatless pizzas. Their pizza items are not fried. Their meatless pizzas are cooked in the same ovens as other non-vegetarian pizzas. Their Parmesan cheese shaker and cheese dipping sauce contain animal derived enzymes. Neither their thin crust nor original dough contains animal shortening or lard.

TACO BELL: If requested, Taco Bell will send a list of their menu items that are suitable for vegetarians. Under their lacto-ovo heading, they list the following: Pintos & Cheese, Bean Burrito, Bean Tostada, Mexican Rice, Seven Layer Burrito (no sour cream), Cheese, Gordita Shells, Creamy Jalapeno Sauce, Creamy Lime Sauce, Pepper Jack Sauce, Baja Sauce, Fiesta Salsa, Red Sauce, Hot/Mild/Fire Sauce, Green Sauce, Pizza Sauce, Guacamole, and Taco Shell. Under their vegan heading, they list: Bean Burrito (without cheese), Bean Tostada (without cheese), Mexican Rice (without cheese), Seven Layer Burrito (no sour cream, no cheese), Hot/Mild/Fire Sauce, Fiesta Salsa, Red Sauce, Soft Tortillas, Pizza Sauce, Green Sauce, Guacamole, and Taco Shell. Taco Bell used to have two different distributors for the Mexican Rice. They are no longer using the distributor which had milk derivatives in the rice. NOTE that the sour cream does contain gelatin, which is animal based.

Taco Bell stressed that while the ingredients listed above may be categorized as acceptable for certain types of vegetarian diets, all ingredients are handled by employees in common with other ingredients which may not be acceptable to certain types of vegetarian diets.

To order the Vegetarian Journal's 24-page Guide to Fast Food and Quick Service Chains, order online; or send $6 to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Please note that this guide is currently out-of-stock. We are working on an updated version. Thank you for your patience.

Please use this guide to restaurant chains only as a guide, not as definite answers. Menus and ingredients do change, sometimes suddenly and without well-publicized notification. If you see something which you believe is incorrect, please let us know.

Other Fast Food Research

Information about Burger King's French Fries.

Other Resources

For information about over 200 food ingredients, send $6 to Guide to Food Ingredients, The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. Or order online.

For information about vegetarian and natural foods restaurants in the United States, visit our Online Restaurant Guide.

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The contents of this website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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