Fast food can be pretty tasty, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of it. But thankfully, since going vegan, the fast food options have decreased dramatically. Which makes it so much easier to stay a healthy vegan, especially in the beginning.
However, there are still those times, like when you’ve been working all day and need to smash a meal down before an important evening engagement and you simply don't have time to prepare anything yourself or wait for a restaurant meal.
It’s at times like these that I find myself leaving the apartment and walking around the city to find something cheap and quick (and usually greasy) to eat.
I used to love living in the city for this reason, because it makes everything more convenient, but as I type this from a serene balcony looking over the ocean from a southern Thailand island, the Australia city life I’m used to seems so far away.
So as I leave that life behind and begin to get settled into a nomadic groove, here is my list of the Top Five Vegan Fast Food Meals in Australia.
ZambrerosAlways my first choice for a healthy and wholesome quick-meal, Zambrero's is as devoid of grease as it gets in the fast-food business and can be much more nutritious than most others.
Zambrero’s are a popular Tex-mex chain that sell burritos, chikitos (small burritos), nachos, quesadillas, tacos and other similar Mexican-ish meals that are made in front of you, like at Subway. They have a great menu that they are always updating and expanding, but the only thing I ever order is the burrito.
Normally I specifically ask for a “huge vegan burrito, please.” Emphasising huge. Sometimes they just laugh, but sometimes they actually make me a massive burrito. Either way, their burrito’s, which come with mashed warm pinto beans, black rice (more nutrient dense than white), guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato, jalapeños, secret barbeque and hot chilli sauce makes for a very satisfying dinner. Make sure to get them to squirt some lime or lemon on your salad to bring out those antioxidants a little more.
Zambrero’s “Plate for Plate” system is the final touch that always makes it my go-to first choice. What it means is “for every burrito or bowl you purchase, a meal is donated to someone in need across Africa, Asia and the Americas.” Additionally, Zambrero's partner with Foodbank providing a meal to an Australian in need every time someone purchases a product from their retail range. You can read more about their awesome charitable contributions here on their website.
Delicious. Healthy. And charitable. What’s not to like about Zambero? Nothing, in my opinion. That’s why I eat dramatically more of their food than any other fast food.
Lord of the Fries
Lord of the Fries came to Perth only a few years ago, I had sometimes tried it over east a couple times before then, but only their fries. When they arrived in Perth I made a point to try almost their entire range.
If you don’t know, Lord of the Fries is an Australian 100% vegetarian (mostly vegan) fast food joint. With no place to sit down offered, it’s as if their food is designed to be eaten on the go.
After trying a decent sample of their range, my favourite thing is still probably the Classic Burger. Nice and simple and tasty. The “beef” patty is better than the “chicken”, but both are better than their “hot dogs.” The fries are the best anywhere (with the sole exception of Nandos) but the thing that really takes them to the next level is the sauces. You choose two sauces for your fries, and even though I have my favourites (Euro mayo for sure) they’ve all been excellent.
Lord of the Fries is the perfect option for fast-food loving vegans, because if you ask for vegan cheese, which you will get at no extra cost, the only thing on the menu that's not appropriate is one of their sauces (L.A. Hot Cheese Sauce). If your dietary health is not something you really consider, then the huge fat and salt content of their mostly cruelty free food will not be an issue for you either.
As satisfying as Lord of the Fries can be, I never eat here any more, because their food is way too greasy and sickly for me these days. If you too are inclined towards less greasy and more nutritious foods then you might want to skip Lord of the Fries for another option, or just come back when you’re stoned.
Thanks to a very successful marketing campaign featuring Jared in the late 1990s, Subway is still seen as western cultures most iconic “health food” fast food place. Even so, they still really only offer one vegan option, their veggie sub, the rest of the menu is a mixture of dead animals and other stuff.
Their veggie sub is pretty delicious. Thankfully they've changed it from the inedible thing they were selling a few years ago. I get the foot-long with all the salads (except olives) including guacamole on wholemeal bread (watch out, most of the breads aren’t vegan) and it’s both satisfying and healthy.
Nearly all Subway stores sell “Fit Chips” too, which is just fries that have been oven cooked instead of deep fried, yet can still have a bit of crunch to them. These come with some sauces that are nice, but don’t hold a candle to Lord of the Fries sauces (too bad they don’t have an oven cooked option!).
Subway is nice, and I really enjoy it whenever I go there, but I go there hardly ever now because I always prefer a burrito from Zambrero. The ingredients are similar, they're both mostly whole plant foods, but I find Zambrero’s to be fresher. Plus their burritos are in a thin wrap, not a thick bread roll, which means I fill up more on the more nutrient dense insides rather than just the wrapper they're held in.
This wildly popular Portuguese-flavoured dead-chicken fast-food cafe is understandably famous, for their birds and their Peri-Peri sauce, which you can get on everything.
Due to the heavy meat and dairy options to be found at Nando’s, vegans can expect about 93% of the menu to be disregarded. But the few items that are left over can make for a great meal.
The vegan sides they have are:
a) their classic deep fried potato chips, that go great with Peri-salt and sauce, or by just themselves if you like it dry
b) "spicy rice", a small bowl of brown rice with a few perfectly placed hot spices, and
c) corn on the cob, which I recommend with BBQ sauce.
These are what I used to get soon after turning vegan when I wanted something fast and spicy. All three of them. But more recently Nando’s have added a few more vegan options. These include an African grain salad and some good sweet potato chips, which are rarely made very crunch, but Nando’s do a pretty damn good job.
Nandos sides really are nice, but after going here a few times as a vegan, it just starts to feel dirty giving so much of your money to a chicken restaurant.
Located in all corners of the city of Perth (and all others in Australia, I would imagine) are kebab shops, and every one of them offers a completely vegan option: the falafel wrap.
Ask for a falafel wrap with no egg and cheese and you’ll be good to go. I get all the salads (I pay extra for tabouli or jalapeños if they have them) and usually both hummus and chilli sauce.
This is a very convenient option as kebab stores are everywhere, but even still, for the last 6 months living in Perth I always just went to Zambrero’s. It's always fresher, always tastier.
While there is some sort of vegan option at nearly all fast food places, these days I stay far away from all of them.
Vegan fast food can be useful as a transitory tool to initially assist you in adjusting to a 100% vegan diet, but after the three-or-so months for which they’ll be useful helping you replace meat, it’s my opinion that they should be completely forgotten about. After this time you should start spending another three months transitioning completely away from fast food (and all its grease, salt and sugary drinks) and onto a diet composed entirely of fresh, whole plant foods.
Get a Boost juice! Boost and similar places can give you fresh plant foods in deliciously drinkable form, just order right and don’t get any dairy or additional sugars. Drinking fruits and veggies is a legitimate way to get your daily nutrients and calories. If you choose this route just make sure you drink a lot.
By stockpiling fruit (in your house and your stomach) and keeping ample microwave-ready leftovers in the fridge (like rice and veggies from the night before) there is really no reason at all to put worse food in your body by spending money at anywhere like the easy, greasy, nutritionally-careless popular chains I listed above just because you are in a rush.
Make it easy for yourself by always having something in your house that's quick, easy and nutritious, and in the long run both you and your waistline, blood cholesterol and insulin levels will be thanking you.
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The Australian Vegan Magazine