Restaurant Guide for Vegans–what to order as a vegan when there are no vegan options, by cuisine

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Unless it’s a 100% all plant-based restaurant, not every restaurant is going to say that they are “vegan-friendly”.

Because, let’s be real here now, the vegan diet is not a popular one. Most people in the world are meat eaters, and restaurants need to cater to the masses, not to the niche vegan diet.

But that doesn’t mean that restaurants have absolutely nothing for vegans. In fact, most restaurants are going to have something that a vegan can eat. You just have to know what to look for and what to ask for. 

Since the husband and I go out to eat at least 3-5 times a week, I’ve learned to master the art of eating out as a vegan, especially since the places that we go to are rarely ever 100% plant-based (and especially since my husband is a carnivore and we need to make sure there is something meat-based for him to eat).

So here is my guide on what to order as a vegan when going out to eat, broken down by cuisine.



With Japanese restaurants, you’ve got a good amount of options, as many Japanese dishes are rice and vegetable-based. 

The main thing to watch for at Japanese restaurants is sauces (since they might have mayonnaise), tempura (since they might have egg in the batter), and anything “hibachi” related.

You can ask if they put mayo or egg in their dishes, but I prefer to just not deal with it as there are plenty of other options to choose from.

Hibachis tend to use butter and garlic for their sautes, so that’s why I stay away from those.

Here’s what I typically order that is vegan:

  • edamame
  • seaweed salad
  • miso soup
  • any vegetarian roll that does not have tempura, with no sauce added to the roll
  • bento box with no sauce on the salad
  • grilled or teriyaki tofu


You’ve got to be very careful at Mexican restaurants because Mexican cuisine contains a lot of cheese, sour cream, and in some cases, lard. 

I always ask for “no cheese” on everything and ask if their beans are boiled. If their beans are refried, I ask if animal lard is used in them. 

Here’s what I typically eat that is vegan from Mexican restaurants:

  • chips and salsa
  • guacamole
  • beans (with no cheese, and I always ask if its cooked with lard)
  • rice
  • burritos with no cheese and no sour cream

Note that with white tablecloth Mexican restaurants like Besito, you may have more vegan options, like vegan tacos and vegan enchiladas. 


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Like Mexican cuisine, Italian cuisine also likes to use a lot of cheese, so the options at Italian restaurants are limited.

I am not a huge fan of going to Italian restaurants, since they typically don’t offer any good vegan proteins for me (like beans or tofu), and I like to make sure I eat a good amount of protein in each meal.

So the husband and I rarely eat Italian food, but when we do, I usually go for:

  • pasta with tomato sauce (no cheese added. also you will need to ask if the pasta has egg)
  • pizza with no cheese
  • minestrone soup
  • salad (with no cheese, no croutons)

American (diner)

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American diners typically lean heavily on eggs and milk for their omelettes, waffles, and pancakes.

So that kind of diner food is off the table. 

Here’s what are usually safe vegan options at American diners:

  • oatmeal (cooked and served without milk)
  • French fries
  • house potatoes (ask if it is cooked without butter)
  • steamed vegetables
  • veggies burgers (ask if any milk, egg, or butter goes into the veggie burger, and ask that it be wrapped in lettuce rather than a bun, since some buns have milk and eggs in them)


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Chinese is my all time favorite type of restaurant to go out to, because they have the most vegan options to choose from. What’s also nice about Chinese restaurants is that they typically divide their menu by protein (chicken, pork, beef) and then have a separate section for vegetable-only dishes, making it super clear where I need to look to find dishes for me. 

The main things that I avoid at Chinese restaurants is their egg rolls (because of the egg-based batters), fried rice (since they have egg), chow mein or lo min (which are typically made with egg noodles), and soups (since they are usually beef or pork broth-based)

Other than that, Chinese cuisine typically does not involve the use of dairy products (like butter or milk), so all of their vegetarian dishes are also usually vegan.

Here’s what I order that is vegan-friendly from Chinese restaurants:

  • any vegetarian dish
  • rice noodle dishes (ask for no egg)
  • fried tofu (ask if the batter has egg)
  • white rice


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Vietnamese food tends to lean more on the meat-side. You’ll find a lot of pork dishes and all of their Pho is usually made with a pork or beef broth. 

So at Vietnamese restaurants, I typically stick with 

  • vegetarian spring rolls
  • vegetarian pho (if available)
  • rice plates with vegetables
  • vegetarian/tofu banh mi sandwich (ask to remove the mayonnaise)

The takeaway

Even though most of the world is not vegan, restaurants have always served up vegan dishes, or dishes that can easily be made vegan by removing certain ingredients. 

The key to eating out as a vegan is to

  1. know how dishes are typically prepared or served  by cuisine
  2. ask how dishes are prepared if you are not sure
  3. and ask for certain ingredients to be removed from dishes (if possible) to make them vegan

So if you are vegan or vegan-curious, there’s no need to think that you won’t be able to go out to eat with friends or family for social events. You absolutely can. It’s just a matter or looking and asking for the right things to tailor dishes to your diet.


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