Vegan Fast Food Is The New ‘Junk’ Food

Organic grilled black bean burger with tomato and lettuce
Veganuary might be the month we see veganism become totally mainstream.

Think of fast food and I think of a big fat juicy beef burger sandwiched between two baps, loads of salad, ketchup, Dijon mustard and so forth. I can’t help it but mention vegan fast food and I’d be hard pressed to find any establishment between here and the outskirts of London to find one. Enter the ‘Big Smoke’ and suddenly vegan fast food restaurants have appeared like mushrooms, one of the foods they are keen to market. Anyway, Veganuary (January) was the month to experience vegan foods and we look at this developing trend a little more closely

Vegan fast food meets a customer move to increasing vegetarianism and flexitarianism where we only eat on certain, defined days. Veganism is the next option for those wanting to move away from being vegetarian all week. With careful management, the vegan diet is easily achievable. Now that restaurant chains and fast food outlets are offering mouth-watering possibilities, attractiveness for this type of diet has leapt forward considerably. The whole concept has become mainstream now so expect to see more outlets in other cities.

January 2018 was marked as a dry month for many but a vegan month for many others. For a number, 100,000 souls in fact, renamed the month Veganuary. They gave up all animal produce for the month. Compared to last year, there was an extra 40,000 trying out the idea.

Vegan food is not just for the obsessive. Plant-based food brands, especially ones emphasising protein have come a long way. In the old days of burgers, it was guaranteed a veggie burger would simply fall apart as soon as it sat on the fat laden grill. Not now, we omnivores are tempted to try these food gifts in part because protein is now more an established food for muscle-bound junkies and those aiming to improve their sports abilities.

Vegan isn’t just about burgers though. Tofu and other soy-based foods have developed into tasty alternatives. There are also national themed vegan fast food outlets – Mexican, Indian, Vietnamese, Laotian etc. A wealth of exciting alternatives to the fish and chippie.

A number of meat loving fast food outlets are also altering their menu choices to meet the growing tide of vegan dishes. One or two steak houses who would normally offer animal protein grilled to perfection, also  serve up food for vegans. Gillray’s Steakhouse on London’s South Bank is renowned for Aberdeen Angus steaks but now has a three-course set menu just for vegans. I also noticed Foxlow offer on their menu, roasted acorn squash pie with chestnut mushrooms, spinach and gravy. Sounds quite a gourmet dish !  

Greggs, as well as opening more drive throughs have now produced a vegan meal. So, sitting along side sausage rolls and Cornish pasties, we will have a vegan option. At the moment though, PETA who campaign for animal rights may still have to wait awhile for a vegan sausage roll but I’m sure it’s coming. Pret-A-Manger offer a number of vegan main dishes in their offering and we know they have a few fully vegetarian establishments. There is a very nice sandwich of curried chickpea and mango chutney worth noshing.

Other high-street chains like Itsu, Ask Italian and the Japanese cross-over specialists, Wagamama have also created plant-based menus.

What of pubs and vegan food ? Not sure yet. We hear of a fully vegan pub in London (UK) and a number do offer considerable vegan focussed menus but the humble meat pie hasn’t disappeared just yet. The pub in question is The Spread Eagle in Homerton and they have linked with a popular Mexican establishment called Club Mexicana. The beer is also vegan – not tried it but I’m sure it tastes great.

Naturally, large supermarkets and retailers will also be offering vegan fast food. Tesco have put together a vegan range based on a number of fast food themes. Britain’s biggest food retailer have recruited 600 stores to ensure the message is spread about. Sounds interesting because it locks into the idea of healthier food as a ready meal. The product developers have clearly been busy. The pastrami-spiced beetroot wrap is worth trying for its visual impact as well as flavour.

Aldi, the German grocery store also have a series of vegan offerings which complement their vegetarian options.

Over in the USA, vegan restaurant chains offering fast offerings have long been established. Veggie Grill appear to be just such a chain which is expanding its remit in the western parts of the country.

Not all of us are interested in a purely healthy diet or opting for vegan dishes out of altruistic motives. The so-called ‘dirty vegan’ has set their sight on vegan fried chicken from fast-food joints like Temple of Seitan. Seitan might be a play on devil but with wheat protein and gluten made to resemble meat when it’s cooked. 

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