Does KFC have meatless options? Despite some limitations, you can make a hearty meal with KFC’s vegan food.
Ordering vegan from chain restaurants can be very difficult. Many establishments across the country have meat-centric menus and no-nonsense plant-based options, like the dreaded iceberg lettuce salad with tomatoes. On the other hand, they can be the saving grace of your hunger if there is no other option. KFC is one of those restaurants. For now, the vegan options at KFC are limited to sides and drinks, and maybe, one day in the very near future, plant-based chicken to become a menu staple across the country. Here’s how to order vegan at KFC.
Does KFC have vegan chicken?
She points out that fried chicken is the main attraction on the KFC menu. Given the prevalence of plant-based meats on the menu at chain restaurants across the country, it stands to reason that KFC would offer a vegan version of its most popular option. However, at the beginning of this year, that is unfortunately not the case.
KFC offered plant-based fried chicken made in collaboration with vegan meat producer Beyond Meat, which has a number of fast-food partnerships under its belt, including with Panda Express, McDonald’s, Del Taco and Carl’s Jr.
KFC’s story with Beyond Meat began in August 2019, when the fast food chain tested plant-based chicken in the form of pieces or wings at a location in Atlanta. It was a huge success, selling out in just five hours. In 2020, a new recipe was tested at locations in Nashville, Charlotte and Southern California and received overwhelming support.
Create a chicken-like flavor and texture that will appeal to the growing mass of flexitarians was a top priority for both Beyond Meat CEO and founder Ethan Brown and former KFC USA president Kevin Hochman.
“What we’re trying to replicate is a hip where you actually have muscle fibers. The texture is a bit nicer than what we would call ‘chewy and sticky’. It’s a different technology,” Hochman told Fortune in September 2021. “Our plan is to try to replicate that Kentucky Fried Chicken as closely as possible, obviously without using the animal. A lot of it has to do with how the chicken rests and tears and feels in your mouth. The gold standard is chicken fillet or chicken strip.”
Earlier this year, KFC’s Beyond Meat patties, made with soy and wheat protein, were sold nationwide in more than 4,000 stores. Public opinion on the meat-free option was divided; some customers were strongly in their favor, while others found them much denser and more expensive than conventional chicken. Some were upset by cross-contamination with conventional chicken, since the pieces were fried in the same oil. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many vegan and vegetarian customers accept it as an inevitability to order a plant-based option at a large fast food chain. Barring allergies, whether or not a vegan chooses to order something where there is a risk of cross-contamination with animal products is a personal choice.
But, as of this writing, KFC’s Beyond Chicken is no more. The release was intended to be a limited time release to coincide with the new year. In Yum!’s Q1 2022 earnings call, parent company KFC revealed that the plant-based chicken “elevated the brand and increased relevance, resulting in more media impressions than any other KFC product” in the brand’s history Well, he didn’t respond to a VegNews question about whether plant-based chicken would make a comeback or if there are plans to try a new type of vegan meat.
Although we should be used to this by now, customers outside the US have much better luck when it comes to plant-based options at KFC. In Canada, you can order a plant-based chicken sandwich made with meatless chicken from Lightlife. And, every UK location has a vegan chicken burger on the menu, with a crispy patty made from old-school meat-free brand Quorn. Now, let’s put our jealousy aside and see what’s actually vegan on KFC’s US menu.
Vegan Options at KFC
Without the Beyond Meat chicken nuggets, there aren’t many plant-based staples on the KFC menu. And unfortunately, the fast food chain discontinued some of its vegan options, including corn on the cob, house salad, applesauce and apple pie, which was the only vegan dessert option. (But in case you didn’t know, McDonald’s apple pie doesn’t contain any animal ingredients!)
However, if you’re hungry and you’re not near a more vegan-friendly restaurant, you can make a meal out of a handful of side dishes.
1. Baked beans on the barbecue
These BBQ Beans are a plant-based protein favorite at KFC. Made with kidney beans cooked in tomato paste, paprika, onion, brown sugar and vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce, they’re similar to the classic baked beans usually found between bowls of coleslaw and corn on the cob at barbecues.
2. sweet corn
KFC may no longer offer corn on the cob, but you can opt for sweet corn kernels, which are made with just corn and nothing else. Add this dairy-free side dish and you’re well on your way to putting together a vegan meal that won’t leave you hungry.
3. Green beans
Fortunately, the green vegetable option at KFC is free of animal ingredients! Green beans are seasoned with onion, garlic, spices, salt and monosodium glutamate, giving it a pleasant and satisfying flavor. (In the past, MSG was an often demonized ingredient. However, negative myths about this umami flavor enhancer, which figures prominently in East Asian cuisine, have been dispelled.) Most foods made with MSG contain only one small amount of that.)
4. The secret recipe of fried potatoes
A couple of years ago, KFC replaced its beloved potato wedges with a new starchy option: Secret Recipe Fries. These crispy fries are seasoned with onion, carrot and tomato powder, plus sea salt and a little monosodium glutamate. They add some much-needed carbs to a vegan meal that consists of a bunch of side dishes.
5. Spices and drinks
French chef Fernand Point, the father of modern French cuisine, once said: “In the orchestra of a great kitchen, the sauce chef is a soloist.” We’re inclined to agree: after all, what’s dinner without gravy? When it comes to condiments at this fast food establishment, you have a number of options to choose from. The ketchup is vegan, so you won’t have to worry about eating plain chips. The hot sauce is also suitable for vegans.
You won’t have to settle for just water (though there’s no shade if that’s what you want). Vegan drink options include Capri Sun Fruit Punch, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist, Lipton Brisk Teas and Sobe Lifewater, as well as Tropicana lemonade, fruit punch and Twister.
With information from vegnews