KFC's Vegan Options
Fast food is going vegan, and KFC is leading the way—who could have guessed. KFC—the second-largest chain restaurant in the entire world—has now introduced plant-based Kentucky fried chicken at branches in the UK and Europe, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and across the U.S. and Canada. Okay, so vegan menu options at KFC are few and far between, but there are ways to make it work.
KFC might just be the last place you’d think to flock to for plant-based menu options, but if you find yourself hungry at a service station or out with non-vegan friends, at least you’re not going to starve. KFC notes that if you’re a super strict vegan or vegetarian, you may never be happy with their offerings.
Due to the nature of their business, cooking methods can lead to contamination of these products with animal products. Though they’re trying to keep plant-based products separate from meat-based ones, accidents can happen.
KFC Corporation, based in Louisville, Ky., is the world's most popular chicken restaurant chain. KFC specializes in Original Recipe®, Extra Crispy™, Kentucky Grilled Chicken® and Extra Crispy™ Tenders, Hot Wings®, KFC Famous Bowls®, Pot Pies, freshly hand prepared chicken sandwiches, biscuits and homestyle side items. There are more than 24,000 KFC restaurants in over 145 countries and territories around the world. KFC Corporation is a subsidiary of Yum!
What Is KFC Vegan?
We take our bespoke vegan Quorn® fillet (made from Mycoprotein), coat it in the Colonel's secret blend of 11 Herbs and Spices, and fry it in vegetable oil before it comes to our restaurants. It's then finished off in our ovens in the restaurant. It's never cooked in the same oil as our chicken. KFC launched the plant-based food with the help of Beyond Meat in response to customer requests.
A KFC restaurant in Atlanta first tested a product called “Beyond Fried Chicken” in 2019. The product sold out in 5 hours and outsold a week's worth of popcorn chicken sales. KFC's plant-based diet efforts have begun with an American partnership with Beyond Meat, the plant-based meat producer.
In the UK, they're working with Quorn, the popular well-established meal alternative supplier, and in Canada, they've opted to go with Light life. The burger features a bespoke Quorn fillet, iceberg lettuce and creamy vegan mayo. In fact, the sandwich has received the PETA seal of approval for Best Vegan Chicken Burger, marking it out as a great animal-friendly option.
What To Order At KFC
If you go to one of the international KFCs with vegan options and get a white barbecue sauce (which is infused with a garlic confit), it’s essentially vegan. The same goes for their new crispy vegan chicken wings, which have a crispy texture rather than a crunchy one, and even their chicken nuggets (breaded and fried). They also offer nut-free cauliflower fried rice filled with vegetables and vegan pepper jack cheese sauce.
How Popular Was That Vegan KFC Chicken?
Beyond Meats produced KFC’s vegan chicken, and it flew off the shelves, though thankfully, not quite literally. The plant-based alternative sold out in all locations in just 5 hours, and the queues for the product stretched down the street from each store!
One Thing To Be Aware Of About Vegan KFC Products
KFC notes that if you’re a super strict vegan or vegetarian, you may never be happy with their offerings. Due to the nature of their business, cooking methods can lead to contamination of these products with animal products. Though they’re trying to keep plant-based products separate from meat-based ones, accidents can happen.
If all that talk of KFC has got you hungry enough that you won’t wait for the vegan burger (though the Quorn one is available throughout the UK now), then there are a few vegan things on the original menu.
- Apple Sauce
- Apple Turnover
- BBQ Baked Beans
- Corn on the Cob (but you need to ask for “no butter”)
- Fries/Potato Wedges
- Green Beans
- House Side Salad (but you need to ask them to leave off the cheese)
You’ll also find that many of their sauces and dressings are vegan, including:
- Grape Jelly
- Lemon Juice
- Mazetti Light Italian Dressing
- Summertime BBQ Sauce
- Sweet N Tangy Sauce
- Strawberry Jam
Oh, and all their drinks are vegan, except, of course, anything with milk in it.
KFC’s Vegan Options Go Global
The multinational chain has also rolled out meatless chicken options in other countries. In 2019, a vegan chicken sandwich—then called “Imposter Burger”—was tested at 20 London, Midlands, and Bristol locations in the United Kingdom, where it pulled in 500 percent more sales than any other new product launch at KFC UK. The sandwich's name changed to “Zero Chicken Burger,” and it was rolled out to all 900 KFC locations in the UK at the onset of 2020. The Zero Chicken Burger has since expanded to KFC locations in other markets, including Malaysia and Singapore, adding the meatless option this year.
KFC has explored several vegan chicken options across Asia. In 2020, KFC outlets in China tested several plant-based options, including vegan chicken nuggets made by international agribusiness Cargill. In Hong Kong, KFC partnered with local social enterprise Green Monday in the summer of 2020 to launch its New Era menu featuring nuggets made by United States-based vegan brand Alpha Foods and a burger with a patty made by Canadian vegan brand Gardein.
Back in the US, Hochman says vegan fried chicken will be coming “soon” because he knows that more and more consumers are going plant-based. “Younger people tend to be the ones that want to eat more plant-based,” Hochman said. “We envision this trend to continue to grow. We’re pretty bullish on that. We don’t think that plant-based is a fad. We think that’s something that’s going to continue to grow over time.”
KFC Tests The Vegan Fried Chicken
So far in the US, KFC has only tested plant-based chicken made by the vegan brand Beyond Meat at select locations. In 2019, the chain offered Beyond Fried Chicken at one restaurant in Atlanta, GA—which sold out in five hours. The limited-time offering was available in two styles: as nuggets served with a choice of dipping sauce and as boneless wings tossed in non-vegan Nashville Hot, Buffalo, or Honey BBQ sauces.
Because of its success, KFC expanded the offering to nearly 70 locations in Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN, and surrounding areas, followed by 50 Southern California locations for a limited time last year. The chain has not yet expanded this option nationwide.
Outside the US, the chain tested Plant-Based Fried Chicken in Canada at one restaurant in Mississauga, ON, in November 2019. The option featured chicken made by vegan meat brand Lightlife in two ways: Plant-Based Fried Chicken Sandwich and Popcorn Chicken.
Like the US test, the vegan chicken sold out within six hours and had people waiting in line for more than an hour to try the new menu items. Unlike in the US, the Canadian test resulted in KFC adding the Plant-Based Fried Chicken Sandwich to its permanent menu across Canada.
July 9, 2020 – Louisville, Ky. – Kentucky Fried Chicken® announced today that there is a new fry in town, and it is here to stay. KFC’s Secret Recipe Fries are the latest addition to the fried chicken chain’s permanent menu.
In celebration of National French Fry Day, KFC is rolling it back fifty years ago when French fries were on its menu for just 30 cents. For one day only, on July 13, consumers can get an individual order of new Secret Recipe Fries at the throwback pricing of only 30 cents* with any purchase at participating KFCs.
Flavoured with a unique blend of secret seasonings, Secret Recipe Fries offers a signature KFC taste as distinct as KFC’s renowned 11 herbs and spices. The Secret Recipe Fries are the perfect pairing to complement KFC’s world-famous Extra Crispy™ or Original Recipe™ fried chicken.
In the U.S., fries are one of the most popular sides paired with chicken. Before bringing the new menu item to market, the fried chicken experts at KFC tested nearly 10 different cuts of fries and seasoning combinations to perfect a fry that could don a “Secret Recipe” title. Ultimately, the Secret Recipe seasoning used by KFC in Australia was chosen for the job.
“We searched the world far and wide for the best fries to bring to our U.S. menu, and we found the craveable Secret Recipe seasoning from KFC Australia was the perfect fit to go with our world-famous fried chicken,” said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer, KFC U.S. “Tasting is believing, and fans are finding these are the fries they didn’t know they were missing. And there’s no better time to try them for yourself than on National French Fry Day.”
With a unique batter system and an extra thick cut, KFC’s Secret Recipe Fries are an irresistible blend of crisp and crunch that packs a flavourful punch. Now that they are part of the permanent menu, lovers of fries and fried chicken can rejoice. Secret Recipe Fries fly out of fryers at about 12 percent more meals than their predecessor – wedges.
KFC Coleslaw is made of cabbage, carrots, onions, mayonnaise, milk, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.
How To Make KFC Coleslaw?
- Shred the cabbage, dice the onion and carrots.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the veggies and stir all with a wooden spoon.
- Cover the bowl with a saran wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Stir again before serving.
The Potato Wedges
The “chips” and the “fingers” are vegan, though potato wedges are neither. The finger-like slices of potato are deep-fried and served with an Indian-influenced curry dipping sauce. They’re not alone, though. The “finger” is also a deep-fried wedge and comes served with a similar dipping sauce and some sort of Indian spice. There is no sugar involved in the dipping sauce, though, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
KFC Is Getting Rid Of A Popular Side
It's the end of an era for one of KFC's most unique sides.
The fast-food chain recently announced that it's replacing potato wedges with a different type of fried potato: The Secret Recipe Fries.
A KFC spokesperson confirmed the news to TODAY Food Thursday and said the new fries are becoming a part of the chain's permanent menu at all U.S. locations this week. And in case you were hoping to sneak in one last order of potato wedges before they're gone for good, the spokesperson said that side has already disappeared from the menu.
Fans of seasoned potatoes will be happy to hear that the chain's new fries are thick cut and coated in “secret recipe” seasoning. They've already gained some customers' seal of approval, too. Before rolling the fries out nationwide, KFC tested them in Roanoke, Virginia, Oklahoma City and about 200 other restaurants in various markets last year.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Plant-Based Food?
A plant-based diet offers many possible health benefits, including:
- A vegan diet is richer in certain nutrients
- If you switch to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, you’ll eliminate meat and animal products.
- This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a whole-foods vegan diet, replacements take the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
- Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients.
Several studies have reported that vegan diets provide more fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source). Vegan diets appear to be higher in iron, though the form of iron that plants provide is not as bioavailable as the form found in animal foods (1Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
However, not all vegan diets are created equal. For instance, poorly planned vegan diets may not provide sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium, or zinc (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
That’s why it’s essential to choose whole plant foods and fortified foods. You may need to consider supplements for vitamins B12 and D, zinc, and calcium, since these may be lacking in a vegan diet.
A Vegan Diet Can Reduce Pain From Arthritis
A few studies have reported that a vegan diet has positive effects on people with different types of arthritis. One study randomly assigned 40 people with arthritis to either continue eating their omnivorous diet or switch to a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet for 6 weeks (45Trusted Source).
Those on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who didn’t change their diet (45Trusted Source). Several other studies suggest a vegan diet can help improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
The vegan diet’s higher antioxidant, probiotics, and fibre content, as well as its lack of certain trigger foods, may be responsible for these benefits (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
Better Weight Management
Research Trusted Source suggests that people who eat plant-based diets primarily tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates than those who eat meat. Plant-based diets are high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and water content from fruit and vegetables. This may help to keep people feeling fuller for longer Trusted Source and increase energy use when resting.
A 2018 study found that a plant-based diet was effective for treating obesity. In the study, researchers assigned 75 people who were overweight or had obesity to either a vegan diet or a continuation of their regular diet, which contained meat. After 4 months, only the vegan group showed a significant weight loss of 6.5 kilograms (14.33 pounds).
The plant-based vegan group also lost more fat mass and saw improvements in insulin sensitivity, whereas those who consumed a regular diet with meat did not. A 2009 study Trusted Source on more than 60,000 people also found that vegans had the lowest average BMI, followed by lacto-ovo vegetarians (those that eat dairy and eggs) and pescatarians (people who eat fish but no other meat). The group with the higher average BMI were nonvegetarians.
Lower Risk Of Heart Disease And Other Conditions
A 2019 study Trusted Source from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that middle-aged adults who ate diets high in healthful plant foods and low in animal products had a lower risk of heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association Trusted Source, eating less meat can also reduce the risk of:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- certain cancers
- type 2 diabetes
Diabetes Prevention And Treatment
Plant-based diets may help people prevent or manage diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin resistance. Of the 60,000 people studied in 2009, only 2.9% of people on a vegan diet had type 2 diabetes, compared to 7.6% of those eating a nonvegetarian diet. People eating vegetarian diets that included dairy and eggs also had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than meat-eaters.
Researchers have also looked at whether following a plant-based diet can help treat diabetes. The authors of a 2018 review, Trusted Source, indicate that vegetarian and vegan diets could help people with diabetes reduce their medication needs, lose weight, and improve other metabolic markers. People wanting to try a plant-based diet should try one that they think they can follow long-term.
Foods To Eat
People should focus on eating the following food groups when transitioning to a plant-based diet:
A plant-based diet includes all fruits, such as:
- citrus fruits
A healthful plant-based diet contains plenty of vegetables. Including a variety of colourful vegetables provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Root vegetables are a good source of carbohydrates and vitamins. They include:
- sweet potato
- butternut squash
Legumes are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein. People can include a wide variety in their diet, including:
- kidney beans
- black beans
Seeds are a great snack or an easy way to add extra nutrients into a salad or on top of a soup.
Sesame seeds contain calcium Trusted Source, and sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E. Other seeds include:
Nuts are a good source of plant-based protein and vitamins, such as selenium and vitamin E.
It is vital to consume polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Plant-based sources include:
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
- olive oil
- canola oil
Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and help maintain stable blood sugar. They also contain essential minerals, such as magnesium, copper, and selenium.
Examples of whole grains include:
- brown rice
- wholegrain bread
If people want to reduce their dairy intake, a wide range of plant-based milk is available in grocery stores and online. These include:
Just make sure to choose unsweetened plant milk options.
Foods To Avoid
Just reducing or eliminating animal products does not automatically mean a plant-based diet is healthful. It is also vital to reduce or avoid unhealthful foods, such as:
- processed foods
- sugary foods, such as cakes, biscuits, and pastries
- refined white carbohydrates
- processed vegan and vegetarian alternatives that may contain a lot of salt or sugar
- excess salt
- fatty, greasy, or deep fry foods
It’s good to see KFC leading the charge for vegan fast food, and we can’t wait until the Beyond Chicken burger is available all the time, everywhere.
As a meat-eater, you don’t have to live in fear of a potentially life-threatening vegan virus. But, if you’re considering becoming a vegan or vegetarian, make sure to pick restaurants carefully, especially in places you’re unfamiliar with. You have no idea what that employee or waitress has been eating at the cafe across the street. Plus, if there’s a company policy against vegan food at their office, that’s not a great sign. A good resource for anyone wondering about restaurants like this can be found here.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about KFC's Vegan Options. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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