The fake meat duopoly of Impossible and Beyond Meat have invaded the fast food landscape, becoming available at more and more U.S. chains for anyone who wants a cow-free bite at a reasonable price. And if you dig really deep into fast food menus, you can find other creative vegetarian options (a black bean taco from Taco Bell, for instance).
Since fast food restaurants regularly drop and add menu items, it’s tough to keep track of where to find the best stuff. That’s why we’ve compiled the most important plant-based menu items in fast food. These are all the vegetarian eats you need to know about next time you pull up to a drive-thru.
It’s a darn shame that Carl’s Jr. discontinued its Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger, because it was one of the tastiest Beyond Burgers in the fast food world, thanks to the addition of onion rings and a bold BBQ sauce. But the appearance of the limited-time Beyond Spicy BBQ Cheeseburger in mid-2020 suggests the brand will continue to innovate with fake meat. Until that jalapeno-packed burger shows up again on menus, this twist on the Carl’s Jr. Famous Star with Cheese featuring a Beyond patty instead of a beef one is worth a try. For a true treat, order a side of onion rings and save one or two to throw on top of the burger. It’ll give you a taste of the finest veggie burger the chain has ever served.
When the Impossible Whopper debuted at BK in August 2019, it felt like a paradigm shift in fast food, as it was the first Impossible product adopted nationwide by a fast food chain. It was followed by wave after wave of unavoidable commercials, claiming that many burger fans couldn’t tell the difference between this and the cow-filled version. Now? It’s simply part of the menu. And that’s maybe the best thing about this burger: It’s available practically everywhere in America via the drive-thru window of over 7,000 Burger King locations. You don’t have to be a carnivore to find a satisfying burger with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, and pickles ― just like people who want an original Whopper.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
It might seem strange that with two solid fake meat options for fast food restaurants, this Wichita, Kansas-based fast food joint decided to serve a plain old black bean burger. But if you know anything about the Freddy’s brand, it makes perfect sense. The company is a complete throwback, from diner-style design elements to high-quality ingredients and a simple menu based around burgers and custard. A black bean burger is as no-frills (and tasty!) as a veggie burger gets. Like pretty much everything on the Freddy’s menu, this burger delivers, no doubt aided by its pillowy bun, melted cheese and Thousand Island dressing.
The best burgers are greater than the sum of their parts, and this was never more true than when White Castle partnered with Impossible and modernized its legendary slider with a meat-free version. It’s not just that the Impossible is smothered in a smoked cheddar that elevates every ingredient it touches. And it’s not just that it’s served on the perfect slider bun that you can greedily consume in a couple large bites, or even the pickles and the grilled onions. It’s the entire package ― all crammed into slider form. And if you’re lucky enough to be near a New Jersey or New York City location, make it even more plant-based with dairy-free cheddar.
Hmm, where have you seen egg, cheese and sausage on an English muffin before? It’s not a coincidence that this feels similar to a McDonald’s classic, as Dunkin’ has long been in a breakfast war with Mickey D’s. This battle has Dunkin’ offering a meat-free spin on the Sausage McMuffin that has satisfied many fast food breakfast lovers. And here’s a huge bonus for those who like breakfast even when the sun goes down: While the Golden Arches is still unsure if All-Day Breakfast will ever return after cutting it in March 2020, Dunkin’ serves its Beyond Sausage, egg and aged white cheddar every hour the store is open. And this year, the chain expanded its plant-based offerings with the all-new Southwest Veggie Power Breakfast Sandwich, which features a Morningstar Black Bean Patty, an egg white omelet and white cheddar.
If you love cold, frozen desserts, but don’t love dairy products, the ice cream aisle at your local grocery store is now stocked with options. Major brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, Breyers and Talenti are scooping up almond and coconut milk-based treats that are nearly as creamy as dairy versions. But if you want to pop in a drive-thru for a quick dairy-free frozen dessert, the pickings are as slim as they get ― unless you swing by DQ. Dairy Queen began producing the chocolate-dipped ice cream bar in the mid-’50s. And in May, it announced the dairy-free, coconut-cream based Dilly Bar. It’s also gluten-free.
Vegan Corned Beef Sandwich
This is not plant-based meat you can get at every Quiznos. For now. According to the sandwich chain, the cow-free corned beef ― developed with the “Shark Tank”-approved Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli ― was originally tested in the Denver market in late-2019 and then rolled out to nine Seattle-area locations in October 2020. Based on the positive feedback from customers, it seems like it could be a matter of time before the corned beef sammie (or wrap!) with Swiss, pickles, sauerkraut, and honey French dressing will be available everywhere there’s a Quiznos.
Taco Bell has a cult-like following for its vegetarian offerings (see: the Veggie Cravings portion of its menu), and the brand even announced that it’s partnering with Beyond Meat to create a new plant-based meat that it will test in restaurants soon. But the future is uncertain, and Del Taco has a slew of eats featuring Beyond right this second. Whether you order the Beyond crumbles in an eight-layer burrito with beans, guac, tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar, red sauce and sour cream, or just in a crunchy shell with avocado, lettuce and tomatoes, Del Taco is your go-to for Mexican eats featuring Beyond’s plant-based meat. Pro tip: The chain will let you sub Beyond for animal protein in any of its Epic or regular burritos.
You might assume that because Starbucks offered its Canadian customers a custom Beyond Meat patty nestled inside an artisanal bun with egg and cheese in early 2020, it was only a matter of time before it became available in the U.S. Well, kind of! You can order a plant-based patty with fried egg and cheddar at U.S. Starbucks, but it’s made with delicious Impossible Sausage. Surprise! Whatever the coffee chain’s reasoning for siding with Impossible in the U.S., it’s hard to argue with another vegetarian breakfast sandwich available all day at every Starbucks location. Order one with a Cold Brew with Dark Cocoa Almondmilk Foam for a satisfying, plant-based treat.