A guide to eating out as a vegan: learn tips and tricks to have a delicious and fun time when dining out. Especially if you’re new to veganism, finding plant-based options on a menu can feel overwhelming. Follow this guide to make eating out as a vegan super easy and fun.
🤔 Before you go out
- Check the Happy Cow Website. When looking for a veg-friendly restaurant in your area, or when traveling, this Website is a life saver! You simply type in your location and a list of veg-friendly restaurants usually pop up.
- Ethnic restaurants are your friend! If you’re able to choose the restaurant beforehand, try to pick ethnic cuisines. For example, many Thai, Chinese, and Indian dishes can easily be made vegan (if they aren’t already). If you choose a Mexican restaurant, call and check that they don’t cook their beans, rice, and/or chips in lard.
- Look at the restaurants' website online. If you know where you are going in advance look at the restaurants’ menu and their vegan options online.
- Call beforehand (or ask on-site) for vegan options on the menu. Sometimes restaurants carry extra veg-menus!
If you decide to eat out at 'regular' place it might not always turn into an incredible plant-based feast, but with this guide you will be able to find basic options for your hungry belly.
🍽 At the restaurant
- Don’t be afraid to ask for vegan options, or if a dish is vegan if you’re uncertain about it. If you haven't had a chance to call, or look online beforehand, ask the greeter about vegan options right away. Asking as soon as possible ensures a relaxing dining experience for everyone.
- Be clear! To make it easy for the waiter and chef be clear in your limitations, don't be afraid to say you eat vegan. No one is going to be mad at you for saying that. If anything, being clear and straight forward helps the staff addressing your meal correctly and without confusion.
- Be polite! When you ask and/or order, just be polite. Not everyone understands what vegan is, so if they don't know, help them out by friendly telling them what you don't eat. This isn't the time or place for a moralizing lecture.
🍛 Pick your meal
- Look for codes! Menus often have little icons next to items indicating which items are suitable for special diets like vegan, vegetarian, gluten free etcetera. For "vegan" it's sometimes a little "v" or a small, green leaf. Just look for the explanatory guide on the menu, so you know what the icons stand for.
- Get creative with sides and starters! Sides and startes are often more veg-friendy. Therefore sometimes it makes more sense to order several sides to compose a full meal. Make sure to clarify that you are eating the sides/starters as your main course. That way your food will be served at the same time as the food of your non-vegan company.
- Adapt and sub! Sometimes you may have to "veganize" items by removing certain elements (eg: no eggs, no mayo etc). You may want to add something else instead (eg guacamole instead of ranch). It helps to look around the menu to see other ingredients that you think would be a great vegan replacement. Saying the word sub or replace is key, because then hopefully they don't charge you extra!
- Keep it simple. Don't change whole ingredient lists. The more you change, the more likely errors occur. If you pick a non-vegan item, try to pick one where you only have to remove one or two things. For example: ordering the vegetable skillet without eggs, and replacing the eggs with roasted nuts.
- If all else fails, have fun and try out some drinks!
💭 Things to keep in mind
Some restaurants may not use separate grills and fryers for their vegan options. If you are concerned about this, you may call beforehand, or ask directly on-site.
Ingredient lists of offered food could change over long periods of time. Be sure to refresh your knowledge once in a while.
🍟 Fast food chains
For extra help I also created a small carousel post on Instagram. Swipe to see vegan options for a couple of popular food chains in the US (like Olive Garden, Panda Express, Burger King and so on). Feel free to save and share this post on Instagram! Unfortunately there are so many, that I could only cover a small potion of them. Please let me know if you want to see other options at food chains.
For more vegan tips browse our lifestyle page.