To the dismay of meatheads everywhere, veganism is crushing it. According to research company Euromonitor International, Australia is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world, with sales of vegan products predicted to reach $215 million by 2020, up from $136 million in 2016. Growth managers for the nation’s fast food chains have also taken notice, which is why companies such as Hungry Jacks have started selling meat-free burgers.
However, not everyone is onboard. Take me for example. When I see a plant-based burger ad, I naturally assume it's rubbish. And that's not a dig at veganism. Instead that's my experience with fast-food chains, which is generally a bit shit, so I naturally assume their vegan options are also a bit shit.
But maybe I’m jumping to assumptions. Maybe there are some perfectly good vegan options out there, and I just haven’t found them yet. So to see if that was the case, I set out to sample every vegan fast-food meal in Australia. And I don’t mean that I tried literally everything from every chain. I just mean the classic four: McDonald’s, Subway, Red Rooster, and Hungry Jacks. I also wanted to make these reviews as objective as possible so I bought 18 items, and retreated from each restaurant's greased bustle, and ate them all at home. Here's what I found:
Hungry Jacks is the company that’s going the hardest after the vegan vote. They’re the only restaurant that uses the v-word and has a plant-based cheeseburger. But has this marketing strat translated to top-notch food?
Vegan Cheeseburger - $7.50
This vegan cheeseburger didn't taste like a cheeseburger but it was somehow delicious. The vegan cheese was buttery, the mayo was nectarous, and the patty was like a veggie-filled hash brown. Its sweet and salty flavour made this impossible to stop eating. The mouthfeel was also off the charts. Their fresh lettuce harmonised with the tomato, and this produced a dynamite texture. But was the bun too dry? Well surprisingly, this was maybe the greatest fast-food roll that I’ve eaten. The sauces had kept this moist, and it had a freshly baked texture. This got a 8/10.
Hungry Jacks’ Vegan Avocado Muffin - $6.45
This muffin was a fast-food masterpiece. Its avo was creamed, and its lemon garlic sauce slayed. And sure, it did star the same patty as the cheeseburger. But that wasn’t a bad thing, in fact it really complimented this breakie’s zesty taste. This boy’s your hangover saviour.
Hungry Jacks’ Vegan Muffin - $5.30
This muffin’s exactly the same as the last one except it wasn’t slathered in avocado and was therefore not as good. Just buy the other muffin; you’ll thank me later.
Hungry Jacks’ Angry Onions - $5.00
These onions were smothered in salt, hot spices, and tempura batter. Each one was smashingly crispy, and they made me frown with delight.
Hungry Jacks’ Hash Browns - $2.00
Unfortunately, I don’t think that Hungry Jacks can deep-fry a potato. There, I said it. Look, maybe their fry cook was having a rough night, but my hash brown was 90 percent oil.
Hungry Jacks’ Thick Cut Chips - $3.75
Wowee, these tasted like unsalted cardboard! No!
Red Rooster’s vegan options feel buckwild and random. That’s probably because Red Rooster is a company geared to sell a trillion of tonnes of chicken so naturally their chicken-free options sit pretty low on their priority list.
Red Rooster’s Pineapple Fritter - $2.49 (According to the menu board these things might contain eggs and milk)
This fritter is the hero dish of the rooster. I’m not joking, it’s truly the brillest thing that they have on their menu. The outside was a crip salty batter. Its inside was vanilla, acidic, and an ocean of pineapple candy juice. It also had a sublime texture. The crunch of the crust genuinely complimented the pineapple’s flesh. I award this two golden thumbs up.
Red Rooster’s Famous Chips - $4.59 (Again with the traces of eggs and milk)
Jeepers. The food’s quality really nose-dived. Do you like your chips wet and baby-food-esque? Then go to Red Rooster ya lizard person.
Red Rooster’s Peas - $3.49 (apparently there's also eggs and milk in the peas)
This was a food crime.
McDonald’s is the soccer mum of vegan food. It has the basic salad and the snacks for your screaming children. If Maccas isn’t playing it safe, then I don’t who the hell is.
McDonald’s Hash Brown - $2.20
Ah finally, a fast-food chain that can actually cook a potato. And the hashbrown is their crowning achievement. Its skin tasted briny, its filling tasted homely, and the whole thing’s just a rad treat. This hash brown also has the greatest texture in the game. Demolishing that gooey centre and potato crackling was easily a highlight of my 2020. I give this champion an A+.
McDonald’s Fries - $2.85
McDonald’s makes the best fries. They were salty as heck, and guzzling the pack was a dopamine bubble bath. However, they weren’t a Maccas’ hash brown. So you may as well buy one of those.
MacDonald’s Apple Slices - $2.25
I mean, it's an apple.
McDonald’s Garden Salad - $4.00
Maccas’ garden was better than a supermarket salad and worse than a homemade one. It is everything you’d expect from an average, clinical, and hollow arrangement of vegetables.
MacDonald’s Grape Tomatos - $2.45
Just look at the pain on my face.
McDonald’s Cookies - $1.20 (Traces of eggs and milk may be in this item.)
Are these cookies too dry and chalky? Yes. Did I eat the entire packet? Absolutely.
Subway feels like the original haven for vegan fast-foodies. This is because you can jam almost any vegetable between two pieces of bread and call it a sandwich.
Subway’s Veggie Patty - $6.95
To be honest, I don’t think Subway can make a good vegan sandwich. Their spinach was soggy, their tomatoes were sour, and their patty tasted like bean mush. Not to mention, they put a horrific amount of peppers on your sammy. Also, their wet vegetables just don’t mix with their thick toast. This easily had the worst mouthfeel out of everything. And to top it all off, their bread’s really dry. I give this zero stars.
Subway’s Smashed Falafel (Without Tzatziki) - $7.25
Just drag and drop my previous review into this section.
Subway’s Veggie Delight - $5.00
Help, someone! Make the Subway stop!
And then it did stop. And what did we learn from this fast vegan cuisine? Well, we learned that Hungry Jacks is almost on fleek and that Subway’s the worst. We also discovered that the quality of these meals is a mixed bag. However, that’s the same with every type of junk food. I sincerely believe that we need more vegan options (and that those tomatoes have to be banned) but at the same time we can all slam-dunk a hash brown.