Vegetarian Options at Burger Chains
Vegetarian and vegan options at Canadian chains
Harvey’s was one of the first burger chains to develop and promote its own, simply named, Veggie Burger. I remember trying it a long time ago when I was just becoming a vegetarian and feeling awkward eating it. It felt like I was eating a beef burger. In fact it is a soy-based patty without a lot of chemicals and is possibly vegan(see below.) It does contain saturated vegetable fats (but no trans fats), which accounts for its 7-9 grams of fat according to their website. Their policy is to cook the burger on a separate part of the grill when possible. Harvey’s vegan fries are fried in hydrogenated canola oil, but depending on the location they may be fried in the same vat as chicken. Ask before ordering if this is a concern. –Thom
August 2010 update: The allergy guide now says that there are eggs in the bun, however nobody can find the eggs in the ingredient list. Here’s the whole wheat bun ingredients list from Canada Bread (as provided by Harveys):
Whole grain whole wheat flour (includes the germ), water, glucose-fructose/sugar, vegetable oil (canola or soybean), yeast, salt, wheat gluten, vinegar, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, calcium propionate, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, mono-glycerides, sorbic acid, calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, ammonium chloride. May contain potassium sorbate.
We also have the ingredients for the patty if you’re curious:
Water, soy protein, canola oil, methycellulose, natural flavour (contains sesame oil), partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil (with lecithin), salt, hydrolyzed wheat gluten, malt extract, modified corn starch, onion, garlic, black pepper, spice, beet powder, autolyzed yeast extract.
Both ingredients list came from asking them via their web contact form, and in both caseswe received responses within 12 hours. If you have followup questions regarding Harveys, please get in touch with them directly and then forward the information to us to share with the rest of the world!
Vegetarian & vegan options at North American Chains
Very limited options for vegetarians unless you live in Canada. The fries are vegetarian but they do contain whey which is a milk ingredient, and they contain trans fats. The onion rings are vegetarian but contain milk and eggs.
In Canada: Dwayne wrote us Oct. 2006, “I saw that the A&W in Mississauga now has a veggie burger option! I doubt they have a separate grill for the burger, etc. but, still a cool move.”
Here are some details from their Canadian veggie burger page: It includes a veggie burger patty, A&W Seasoning, Swiss cheese, wheat bun, light Ranch dressing, pickles, sliced onion, lettuce and tomato.
Veggie burger patty: Portobello mushroom, water, mushrooms, wheat flour, modified cellulose, onion, textured soy protein, rehydrated textured soy flour, canola oil, butter, isolated soy protein, salt, garlic powder, autolyzed yeast and spice.
The burger contains butter, but the bun looks to be vegan.
In Canada, A&W also serves a variety of salads.
On the U.S. website, there is no veggie burger mentioned.
Burger King has had its BK Veggie burger available since 2001. In Canada this burger is made by Sol Cuisine and is vegan*. The U.S. version used to be vegan, but as of Dec 2004, it now contains egg whites. The toppings are mayonnaise (containing eggs), lettuce, pickles, onions and ketchup. I spoke to a store manager who informed me that the BK Veggie is cooked on its own section of the grill. Apparently after the burger is cooked, a conveyor belt may take it to a common area where it may come into contact with cooked meat patties. If this is a concern, ask to have it microwaved. –Thom
Burger King’s french fries are cooked in 100% vegetable fat. And the Vegetarian Resource Group has learned in April 2003 that a poultry-derived amino acid is no longer part of the “natural flavoring” (www.vrg.org/fries.htm). The French fries are fried in their own fryer, but the onion rings are apparently fried together with pork, chicken and fish. You may want to ask before ordering. Note: they contain gelatinized wheat starch which turns out to be a vegetarian ingredient.
For Canada, see their Nutrition page and click on the Nutrition Facts (includes a complete ingredient break down. * Note: they claim that the BK Veggie is not a vegan product, but all the ingredients listed are vegan, unless they are referring to the optional mayonnaise). For the U.S. visit their site at www.bk.com and select “Explore BK” then click on “Nutrition”.
In the UK, their BK Veggie Bean Burger appears to be vegan and contains beans, veggies, flour, water, potato, vegetable oil, salt, chilli powder, herbs, etc. The fries and onion rings are also vegan, but there are reports that the bean burgers and onion rings are cooked in the same oil vat as the fish and maybe chicken. See the UK ingredient pdf at
Update (Jan. 2006): The veggie burger has been discontinued since 2005. It also looks like they have dropped some of the vegetarian salads as well. Only a side salad and a fruit and walnut salad (contains yogurt) remain as options. There is also a chicken-less Caesar salad but it contains bacon bits and the dressing contains fish. And in the U.S., their fries contain “natural beef flavour.” Dianne at customer service did say that vegetarians can order any burger without the meat. So it looks like they have regressed to being one of the least vegetarian-friendly chains. The Baked Apple Pie is vegan except for the additive, L-cysteine derived from duck feathers. See their U.S. ingredient page.
One of the FAQs on their website is: Why doesn’t McDonald’s offer a veggie burger on its national menu?
In Canada, they offer a grilled cheese sandwich, baked blueberry pie that appear to be vegan, hotcakes that contain egg, and muffins that contain egg and dairy. The hash browns and fries are vegan, but there are some nasty sounding additives such as dimethylpolysiloxene and TBHQ (see notes below).
In the UK, they offer a couple of veggie sandwiches. According to a page on their website that contains vegetarian questions: “The Vegetable Deluxe is still available and is sold in restaurants where there is sufficient demand for it. However, there is no list available of the restaurants serving the Veggie Deluxe so please check out your local McDonald’s restaurants to see if the Deluxe is still available. If not, you could try the Spicy Veggie Toasted Deli Sandwich. It’s also approved by the Vegetarian Society. McDonald’s is constantly reviewing its menu options, in particular the vegetarian items, and any specific requests or suggestions should be made to the Customer Services by visiting the ‘Contact Us’ section at www.mcdonalds.co.uk. (Dec 2008).” The Spicy Veggie sandwich is vegan as long as you ask for no Yoghurt & Mint Sauce as it contains dairy and eggs. See their ingredients page. Their fries and onion rings are vegan and cooked in a non-hydrogenated vegetable oil. They used to serve a Quorn burger that McDonald’s says was not popular enough to keep on the menu.
A holdout in the veggie burger movement, Wendy’s, has refused to enter the twenty-first century. Spicy chickens and bacon burgers adorn this menu giving a vegetarian little to look forward to. But the cracks in the armour are apparent. Currently all of their entree salads contain meat, but you may be able to order them without the meat. Theside salad is vegan and comes with three vegan dressings, oriental sesame, house vinaigrette and a fat-free French dressing that contains honey. The caesar dressing contains anchovies and the other dressings are loaded with milk and eggs. Wendy’s has two vegetarian baked potatoes: the Broccoli and Cheese Baked Potato and the Sour Cream and Chives Baked Potato. Their fries are vegan but may be cooked in the same oil as the chicken nuggets. Wendy’s buns are vegan not that there’s much to put on them. Those yummy frosties are lacto-vegetarian. –Thom
Update (Jan. 2006): Mike wrote us to say, “Wendy’s (some at least) have a “veggie bun” which is a burger without meat. OK, that won’t win any culinary awards. But if you get dragged into one, it is an option…”
Update (April 2007): Liz wrote us: “Wendy’s no longer offers their Spring Mix salad. They also briefly offered a fruit salad which has now been removed from the menu as well. Currently all of their entree salads contain meat, but I have ordered the taco salad without the chilli before and they just gave me extra salsa in lieu of the chilli.”
Many years ago, Wendy’s had a salad bar, but no longer.
Update (March 2008): US restaurant group Zen Burger aims to revolutionize the fast food world with a chain of vegetarian outlets. Their first fast food restaurant has opened in New York’s Lexington Avenue. It specialises in meatless comfort foods that copy those sold in traditional fast-food chains, such as ZenBeef burgers, crispy ZenChicken sandwich, ZenTuna sandwich, ZenHotDog, ZenShrimp and French fries, as well as organic soups and salads. They plan to take the chain nationwide, with the next restaurant slated to open in Hollywood.
Wimpy offers several vegetarian options in the United Kingdom. These include a Quorn Burger (chicken-flavoured Quorn in a lemon & pepper crumb coating),Vegetable Nuggets with Chips, Jacket Potatoes, Cheese & Tomato Panini, and Onion Rings. The Kid’s option is the Vegetable Nuggets with Chips.
In South Africa they have less selection but offer a veggie burger.