Eating out as a vegan can be daunting, especially if you are new to the lifestyle. The good news, though, is that many businesses are taking plant-based menu options more seriously these days, so you won’t be stuck with baked potatoes or salad. Being vegan shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a fantastic meal out. If you are unsure where to start with this, our short guide provides you with straightforward tips so you can eat vegan wherever you are with confidence.
1. Choose a vegan or vegetarian restaurant
Choosing an exclusively vegan or vegetarian restaurant will give you the best range of food options to choose from when eating out. An added bonus to choosing a vegan restaurant is that you can be absolutely sure your vegan food hasn’t come into contact with non-vegan food or ingredients during the cooking process.
You will also be supporting ethical businesses which align with your values. Taking friends and family to a vegan restaurant will help to promote the lifestyle by showing them how good vegan food can be.
However, although there are new vegan restaurants emerging all the time these days, the number of choices available varies significantly by location. If vegan-friendly restaurants are scarce in your area at present, don’t worry, as most restaurants these days have vegan-friendly options on the menu.
2. Check the vegan menu before choosing a restaurant
Most non-vegan restaurants have vegan options these days, and, generally speaking, these are improving in number and quality. As the plant-based movement grows, businesses are becoming more creative with their vegan dishes, and so it is easier than ever before for vegans to enjoy eating out. That being said, not all restaurants are equal in their efforts to appeal to vegan customers.
If possible, check the vegan menu ahead of your visit. Be sure to check several restaurants before choosing where to eat out.
This will allow you to compare your options and be sure there is something you would like to eat before you arrive there.
Most restaurants have their menus available to view online. Some may have a vegan menu, while others may just mark items with a symbol to indicate they are vegan-friendly. If this is not the case, just give them a quick call to enquire about their vegan options. Checking beforehand will help you avoid disappointment when you arrive.
Many chain restaurants will usually at least have a vegan burger or vegan curry on the menu, as these are popular choices even among vegetarians and non-vegans alike. The side dishes section is another place you will likely find some plant-based options. These may include things like naan bread, sweet potato fries, french fries, onion rings, fresh veggies and hummus or perhaps a greek salad if you’re lucky.
3. Veganise menu items
If there are no vegan items, or the vegan food options are limited, and you don’t fancy them, consider veganising another menu item. This can often be done easily by asking for the meat or cheese to be removed from some of the vegetarian options to create a vegan version. You may need to double-check there are no hidden animal-derived ingredients in the dish, however, just to be safe.
Vegetarian dishes are the easiest to veganise as they contain no meat, so it’s worth checking the vegetarian menu if you can’t find a vegan dish you like. It’s also possible to adapt other options from the menu.
A veggie burrito could be served without any cheese, or perhaps you could ask the restaurant if they have a vegan cheese they could substitute it for? Most tortilla chips are vegan, as are the salsa and guacamole on nachos. See if there’s a vegan cheese instead of dairy cheese to top them with. If not, they still taste great without any cheese.
If you’re visiting Italian restaurants, things like pasta with a marinara sauce are usually a safe bet; but plenty of other dishes can easily be veganised. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff to check with the chef what ingredients are used in a dish – it is their responsibility to ensure they cater for those with specific dietary needs.
4. Ask the chef to prepare you some vegan food
If vegan options are limited or you don’t fancy those available, you can always ask for the chef to prepare you something vegan. Perhaps have a chat with them to come up with a dish you would like to eat or, if you are feeling brave or adventurous, give them free rein to create you something. Don’t be worried that you are putting them out or being difficult – many chefs relish the opportunity to be creative, and if they value your custom as a good business should, it will be no trouble.
5. Leave a review of your Vegan Meal
If you have a particularly good experience with a restaurant, take the time to leave them a good review and recommend them on social media. This will help to encourage restaurants to be more vegan-friendly and help others find vegan-friendly eateries in their area, which will benefit us all!
Go a step further and add a photo to the review to help others looking for a vegan option when they are looking for local places to eat.
6. Vegan options at chain restaurants
If you’re looking for some vegan Italian food, then you’re in luck. Italian food is usually reasonably adaptable. The tomato and vegetable-based sauces are easily used on vegan-friendly dishes to give that all-important Italian flavour to pasta and pizzas. Getting a veggie pizza or a marinara sauce-based pasta is an easy way to eat Italian out as a vegan.
Pizza Express – There was a fantastic range of vegan options on the Pizza Express menu with numerous pizza options, a Calzone, pasta, salads, dessert and even a drinks menu – not all drinks are vegan, after all.
ZiZi – There’s a great vegan menu at ZiZi’s, although it may differ by location. You can view the menu online and filter by location and allergen, selecting vegan. The Brighton store had 21 vegan options on the menu at the time of writing this article.
Prezzo – It’s easy to find the vegan options on the Prezzo menu online. Simply filter by allergen and select vegan. The range may be small, but there are a couple of starters, mains and desserts to choose from.
In Britain, we love pubs that serve food. They’re a firm, family-friendly and usually affordable option. Some of the largest UK chains offer some vegan dishes on their menu that will hit the spot.
These chains have menus available online or via their apps and offer something for everyone which is what makes them so popular for people eating out. There are vegetarian options, vegan food and non-vege-options meaning they’re a great destination for group gatherings.
Wetherspoons make a great vegan breakfast with some Quorn vegan sausage, hash browns, beans, mushrooms, toast and tomatoes. They also offer Beyond burgers on the menu but no vegan cheese to top it with, vegetable curries, vegan pizza and Quorn nuggets making eating vegan there easy.
Greene King has a range of chains, including Hungry Horse and Flaming Grill. Some of the menus overlap, such as the popular vegan fish and chips option, while others are unique to the chain. They do a fantastic vegan pie which we highly recommend. You can view the vegan menu on the app, which also allows you to order from the table for convenience.
Harvester has a good range of vegan options. Starters include things like sweet potato fries or golden vegetable fried rice. There are burgers, pasta, tarts, and even a crumble for dessert.
Fast Food places are popular for all. Many of the large fast-food chains have seen the demand for plant-based options rising in recent years and have finally begun to respond with vegan options on their menus.
Whether you need a quick bite for lunch, on the road at a drive-through or perhaps a family treat for the kids, there is some pocket-friendly choice to be had at the popular fast food joints in the UK now.
KFC has some vegan chicken options on their menu, although at the time of writing, their chips were not vegan, which makes having a meal there rather difficult.
McDonald’s launched the McPlant to much praise at the end of 2021. They also have a vegan wrap option and veggie dippers. Unlike KFC, you can get an entire meal with french fries here.
Taco Bell offers some completely vegan options on its menu. Opt for a black bean taco without the cheese, a Spicy Tostada without the Cheese and Creamy Chipotle Sauce and their fries and rice are also vegan friendly.
Subway is one of my go-to fast food places as there is a good array of vegan-friendly options on their menu, including Meatless Meatball Marinara, a Plant-based patty, Tastes like Chicken and a very yummy cookie.
7. Take your own condiments
While it may be annoying to not have vegan dressings or vegan mayo freely available, restaurants have come a long way in recent years, so hopefully, this step will be temporary. We found these vegan mayo sachets by Hellman’s. Carry some in your bag or pocket next time you eat out if you’re a mayo fan.
Eating out as a vegan
Vegans used to find it challenging to eat out. Having to choose between baked potatoes and salads in many eateries. Times are changing, and plant-based options are in greater demand forcing the hand of restaurant owners.
Sometimes, eating out as a vegan can still be a matter of trial and error. Over time, you will build up a repertoire of places you like, and it will become easier to eat out while following your vegan diet.
We hope these tips have helped you to find vegan options the next time you eat out. Do you have your own tips to add? Pop them in the comments below for others to make use of.