Finding a quick, healthy meal option when you are out on the town isn’t always easy. And if you’re vegan, it can be nearly impossible at times. Luckily, the growing popularity of “fast-casual” restaurants centered around quick, wholesome meal options prepared to order, has made grabbing a fast bite a bit easier for vegans everywhere.
And one of the best fast-casual restaurants to look to as a vegan interested in a fresh, filling meal is Chipotle.
This Tex-Mex inspired eatery is built around the concept of build-your-own burritos, tacos, and more, which allows plenty of room for vegans to forgo animal products in favor of healthier, more earth-friendly plant-based alternatives.
While Chipotle may be filled with plenty of vegan-friendly options, it can still be a little intimidating to know what to order once you get there. For those of you looking for some direction on what to eat, here are our top five favorite vegan options at Chipotle, along with some plant-based sides and kids meals worth considering.
What to Know Before You Order
Before we jump into our favorite meals, it’s a good idea to understand which Chipotle ingredients are vegan in case you want to make any substitutions. Luckily, this is one restaurant that makes determining what’s in their food pretty straight forward.
Chipotle does not use any egg products in their ingredient prep, which means one less hidden ingredient for vegans to worry about. They are also one of the few Mexican restaurants that don’t use bacon, animal fat, or other animal products to season their beans. So whether you choose black or pinto, you can be sure you are getting only what you see plus a few plant-based spices and oils.
With the exception of the meat options on the menu, everything is vegetarian. And the only non-vegan foods you need to worry about are the cheeses, queso sauce, and sour cream. Everything else you can choose from is vegan-friendly. This includes all of their salsas and their chipotle honey vinaigrette (if you eat honey).
Better still, Chipotle recently added a vegan-friendly protein to the list of choices. Sofritas are made from shredded Hodo soy that has been marinated in a mix of hot spices including chipotle chilis and roasted poblano. This meat alternative makes an excellent option for any vegan looking to up their protein intake or those who just want a zesty addition to their burrito or salad.
Vegan Meal Options at Chipotle
While the options to mix and match vegan ingredients at Chipotle are almost infinite, there are some combos that work better than others. Below are our top five choices for vegan meals to fit every craving, whether you’re hungry enough to eat a five-pound burrito or just need a little pick-me-up.
At the bottom of each meal option below, you’ll find nutrition information from Chipotle’s handy nutrition calculator, which offers convenient filtering for vegetarian, vegan, and other dietary preferences.
1. Build Your Own Vegan Burrito
If you’ve chosen Chipotle, odds are you’re there to bite into one of their oversized, overstuffed, mission-style burritos. These hefty classics are packed full of tasty ingredients and wrapped in an extra-large, thin tortilla like nothing you will ever find at the grocery store.
To pack your super-sized burrito with all the nutrition you can, we recommend starting with cilantro lime brown rice. Of course, if you are really out to treat yourself, the cilantro lime white rice is also vegan. Either choice of beans will work too, though we suggest the larger, softer pinto beans for the burrito. The texture goes well with the chewy, soft tortilla.
When it comes to your choice of “protein” you have a couple of options. You could go with the zesty, mildly spicy sofritas, but we suggest opting for the guacamole instead. For almost all Chipotle meals, guac costs extra, but if you opt-out of the meats and sofritas, you get guacamole for free. And since this burrito is already packed with protein from the brown rice and beans, why not add some healthy fats in to round everything out?
Last but not least, pick your toppings. We suggest heaping on the fajita veggies for an extra boost of flavor. Then opt for the fresh tomato salsa and romaine lettuce to add some texture and an acidic bite to the dish. If you can handle a touch of spice, the tomatillo green chili salsa is the best way to round out the meal.
Chipotle Vegan Burrito Nutrition Facts
2. Build Your Own Vegan Tacos
If scarfing down a burrito bigger than your head doesn’t sound that appetizing and you aren’t a fan of leftovers, then opting for the tacos is a great idea. You can choose one, two, or three tacos, depending on how hungry you are.
If you are gluten-free, choose the crispy corn tortillas, otherwise, the soft flour tortillas make for a nice, less-filling version of the burritos. For the tacos, we do recommend the sofritas. There isn’t a lot of space in those tortillas, so packing in the flavor where you can is the best way to go.
We still recommend the brown rice for the extra dose of fiber, but for the tacos, we like the black beans a little more. They add a little more texture and substance to the meal than the softer pinto beans.
Choosing toppings for these tasty tacos is a little more difficult. Fajita veggies are a must, but choosing between the tomatillo green chili salsa and the tomatillo red chili salsa will depend on just how much heat you can take. The green has a lot of flavor and just a bit of spice while the red has some deep flavors of its own but a much bigger kick.
Lastly, we recommend paying extra to top your tacos with guacamole. The creamy, MUFA filled guac will have you wondering why anyone ever wastes space with things like cheese and sour cream.
Chipolte Vegan Tacos Nutrition Facts
3. Build Your Own Vegan Burrito Bowl
If your goal is to cut-down on overprocessed carbs, then skip the tortillas altogether and choose a fresh, tasty burrito bowl instead. While you certainly could emulate the burrito ingredient suggestions above, the lack of chewy tortilla quickly changes the make-up of this dish.
We suggest replacing some of that chewy texture by starting with the sofritas. Not only does the spiced tofu add a lot in the way of consistency, but it carries more than enough flavor to make you forget that tortillas were ever a thing.
Once you’ve got your protein layer down, add some cilantro lime brown rice and the softer pinto beans to round out the texture profile.
When it comes to topping your vegan burrito bowl, the sky is the limit. Since there is less space restriction and all toppings (except for guac) are included, we suggest opting for the fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, roasted chili corn salsa, and either one of the tomatillo salsas, depending on how spicy you’re feeling.
Of course, you can never go wrong with some added guac, if your lunch budget allows, and even some crisp, cold romaine can be a nice touch.
Chipotle Vegan Burrito Bowl Nutrition Facts
4. Build Your Own Vegan Salad
If your goal is to really cut down on carbs altogether, a Mexican salad is the way to go. Not only is this one of the healthiest and lowest-calorie options on the menu, but it is sure to fill you up without bogging you down.
All Chipotle’s salad bowls start with a healthy spread of super greens which include baby kale, baby spinach, and romaine. Next, you can add sofritas to up the protein, but if you are truly after a light meal, we say skip it and opt for the beans instead.
While you do have the option of adding both rice and beans to the bowl, choosing just the higher fiber black beans and skipping the rice altogether is a great way to lower your carb intake while getting some protein that won’t sit too heavy.
Next, add a little zest with the fajita veggies, the fresh tomato salsa, and the roasted chili corn salsa. If you really want to meet your green quota for the day, add another handful of romaine to the mix. To bring everything together with a sweet and tangy twist, opt for the chipotle honey vinaigrette. Or, if you don’t eat honey, either one of the tomatillo salsas will fill the role of dressing quite nicely.
Finally, because you skipped the protein, you get guac for free. While indulging might up the calorie count, we say it’s worth it if you have enough room in your stomach.
Chipotle Vegan Salad Nutrition Facts
5. The Chipotle Vegan Bowl
If all of the build your own options sound like way too much work and all you really want is food in front of you now with no questions asked, then the Vegan Specialty Bowl is the only way to go.
These premade bowl options from Chipotle take the “build-your-own” out of their build-your-own philosophy and are perfect for those who want a chef to decide what tastes best together. While most of these bowl options include meat or dairy, they do offer one vegan meal that is definitely worth a try.
The vegan bowl includes brown rice, black beans, sofritas, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce. Of course, if you are having trouble giving up all control, you can always add on more toppings and additional salsas for an extra charge.
Chipotle Vegan Bowl Nutrition Facts
Vegan Sides at Chipotle
If one giant burrito or a single taco doesn’t quite fill you up, you always have the option of adding on a side. And just like with their main meals, Chipotle makes it simple to find an appetizer that is vegan-friendly.
Our go-to appetizer, as you can probably guess, is the chips and guacamole (or the large chips and guac if we are really feeling it). Of course, if you aren’t a fan of guac, you can choose any of Chipotle’s signature salsas to accompany your side of chips.
Both the fresh tomato and roasted chili corn salsas are very mild and a good choice for kids. The tomatillo green chili salsa carries more of a medium heat and is perfect for those who can handle a little spice and really enjoy that roasted chili flavor. The tomatillo red chili salsa, on the other hand, is quite a bit hotter and only the true spice-lover should dare to try it.
Vegan Kids’ Meal Options at Chipotle
There are currently only two kids meal options at Chipotle with one of them being the very non-vegan cheese quesadilla. But the other option, a build your own taco plate, is a great choice and a super simple way to customize a healthy, easy, vegan meal for your child.
For older kids who enjoy the crunch (and mess) of a hard shell taco, choose the crispy corn tortilla. For younger kids, the soft flour tortillas are a little easier to handle.
Next, you have the option of including sofritas, though some kids may find them a touch too spicy. In that case, the guac is always a hit with the young ones and is included in the cost if you skip the tofu.
Finally, you can top it off with some brown or white rice, and your kids’ preference of black or pinto beans. You can also add fajita veggies and romaine lettuce. But, if your kid is like most and avoids vegetables like the plague, try mixing some fresh tomato or roasted chili corn salsa in with their rice. Either way, they are sure to get an enjoyable meal with more nutrition than any of your typical fast-food chains can offer.
Whether you are a diehard Mexican food fan or just ended up at Chipotle because of a lack of fast vegan options elsewhere, we think you are going to enjoy these fresh, tasty vegan meals. You may even have to plan a few return visits to try each one of them out.
Feature photo: ©StudioBarcelona/Bigstock