These popular fast-food chains are all serving plant-based meats

Plant-based meats are no longer a trend. At many fast-food places, they're here to stay.
Impossible Whopper
Burger King released the Impossible Whopper in 2019. The burger is made with a plant-based patty that tastes like beef.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Looking to try out one of those trendy meatless, plant-based patties, but don't know where to start? Don't worry, the list of fast-food chains serving up Beyond Meat, Impossible burgers and more types of vegetarian-friendly alternatives is only growing.

Bean, soy and veggie-based swaps are continuing to surge in popularity as more people cut back back on their animal protein consumption. The furniture store Ikea announced it's launching a meatless variation of its iconic Swedish meatball this year. And even chains that haven't committed to offering permanent plant-based proteins on their menus, like McDonald's and KFC, have at least tested out dishes in limited markets or outside the U.S.

For those with a hankering for a tasty, meatless burger, it's wise to remember many of these dishes are still fast food. Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietician, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It:Taking You From Label to Table," told TODAY Food that some of these plant-based burgers are not necessarily healthy due to the number of calories, sodium and saturated fat they contain to make them taste so, well, meaty.

"Having the occasional plant-based burger is fine for anyone, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that it’s any better for you than a meat-based burger," Taub-Dix said. "If you’re looking to save calories and fat, though, perhaps go for a burger smaller than a Whopper, and don’t order your plant-based burger with extra cheese."

Here are the fast-food chains that have all added permanent plant-based proteins to their menus at U.S. locations.

Blaze Pizza

On Earth Day in 2019, this California-based pizza chain invited patrons to taste its "Vegan Spicy Chorizo" topping. Unlike a lot of chains that use plant-based proteins produced by popular brands, this topping was created by Blaze's in-house executive chef, Bradford Kent. Blaze's "chorizo" uses a soy protein base and is spiced up with garlic, onion and paprika, among other seasonings. The chain also offers vegan cheese made by Daiya Foods.

Burger King

Burger King released the Impossible Whopper in 2019. The burger is made with a plant-based patty that tastes like beef.Getty Images

This fast-food giant rolled out the Impossible Whopper (made with an Impossible Foods patty that "bleeds") in all of its U.S. restaurants in August. After the nationwide rollout, the chain received some heat since the vegan patty is grilled on the same cooking surface as regular Whoppers, so strict vegans and vegetarians need to be wary of how they place their orders.

The Impossible Whopper has roughly the same number of calories as a traditional Whopper, but 9 more grams of carbs and more sodium.

Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have been known for their decadent, meaty burger offerings in the past, but in 2019 the chains partnered with Beyond Meat to put beef-less "beef" and plant-based sausage on the menu. In addition to its Beyond Famous Star and Beyond BBQ Cheeseburger, Carl's Jr. launched two breakfast items: the Beyond Sausage Burrito and Beyond Sausage Egg and Cheese.

Carl's Jr. and Hardee both launched all-day plant-based options in December 2019.Carl's Jr.

Del Taco

Early last summer, Del Taco partnered with Beyond Meat, so vegan and vegetarian customers can now enjoy tacos, burritos, nachos and even fries topped with a ground-up form of the plant-based protein alternative.

Dunkin'

The doughnut-and-coffee chain debuted its Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich on menus nationwide after a successful test run in New York City. According to the chain, the patty contains "peas, mung beans, rice and sunflower to provide the protein and coconut oil to ensure juiciness, plus a mix of spices crafted specifically for Dunkin’." Vegans should note that the sandwich itself is not vegan, as it contains an egg patty and American cheese, but the sausage can be ordered by itself on an English muffin.

Fatburger

This California-based chain was one of the first quick-service restaurants to incorporate the Impossible burger into all of its locations nationwide. To make a completely vegan burger, customers can opt to have their Impossible patty topped with Daiya cheese.

Qdoba

This Mexican-American chain rolled out Impossible Meat options for tacos, bowls and burritos in 2019. Whether you prefer a tortilla-less bowl full of veggies and Impossible crumbles, or a hefty vegetarian burrito, this fast-casual spot has customers exploring plant-based diets covered at all its 730 locations.

Subway

Subway has long been a favorite among vegetarians since its sandwiches are totally customizable. However, the chain started offering a totally new item, a Beyond Meatball Sub, at 685 locations in September. Subway also began offering a reformulated vegetarian patty in 2017 that's made with wheat gluten, soy, oats and a mix of veggies like mushrooms, peppers, onions and carrots. However, it also contains egg whites, so it's not suitable for vegans.

White Castle

White Castle debuted its Impossible sliders, which have patties that are twice the size of the chain's famously thin beef burgers, at 400 locations in September 2018. The sliders are topped with smoked cheddar cheese, pickles, onions and cost $1.99 each.