One of the trickiest things about becoming a vegan is finding out that many of your favourite food brands aren’t vegan. Some lines don’t even offer a vegan option, while those that do often play fast and loose with the definition of “vegan”. Luckily, even if you need to give up going to, or stop getting food delivered from, a particular line of restaurants, you can still enjoy your favourite meals. You’ll just need to look for alternative sources and maybe learn to whip up vegan versions of your must-have dishes at home. The results are often tastier than the original.
Are Jack in the Box tacos vegan? No. Jack in the Box tacos contain a number of animal-derived ingredients. While Jack in the Box tacos contain vegetable proteins, including textured soy, they also use beef and other meats in their recipes. There are few vegan options on the Jack in the Box menu.
Since you’ve landed on this page, you have questions about Jack in the Box foods in general, and their tacos in particular.
- Are Jack in the Box tacos okay for a vegan diet?
- Which non-vegan ingredients should you watch out for?
- What Jack in the Box menu items might be acceptable for vegans?
- Are there similar chains with better choices for vegans?
- Can you make vegan versions of Jack in the Box tacos at home?
Keep on reading to find out more about Jack in the Box tacos and other popular fast food options.
Are Jack in the Box tacos vegan?
I’ve had one or two people (never vegans themselves) insist that Jack in the Box tacos must be okay for me to eat because they’re made with soy. In fact, Jack in the Box tacos are completely inappropriate for even the most relaxed vegan diet. Not only are Jack in the Box tacos topped with cheese but they’re filled with meat.
The confusion seems to arise when people check the “ingredients” list on the Jack in the Box website. This list, while useful, focuses mostly on ingredients that are likely to provoke an allergic reaction. Of course, I thoroughly approve of a company providing this kind of data to customers — food allergies are dangerous and it’s great that people are more able to avoid things that could harm them. However, ingredient lists that focus on allergens can be confusing for some people, especially if they’re not vegans themselves.
In the case of Jack in the Box tacos, a glance at the ingredient list tells us that they’re made with soy. This can fool the casual reader into assuming that the filling consists entirely of soy protein, of the sort used to make vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes. In point of fact, though, Jack in the Box tacos only use textured soy protein as a filler. Because TVP provides a satisfying texture and is significantly cheaper than meat, it’s often used in meat dishes. Jack in the Box also uses soy-based ingredients such as sauces. This means that soy is present and needs to be listed in the ingredients — but it doesn’t mean that Jack in the Box taco fillings are composed entirely from soy and are thus safe for vegans.
Jack in the Box tacos also lists American cheese as a topping. This is, of course, a dairy product (as noted in the allergy information). Even if they were meat-free, they’re certainly not dairy-free. This brings us to the question: what can you have instead?
As a vegan, you have many options. If you have your heart set on Jack in the Box food, you certainly can uncover a few meat and dairy-free options. You may find the Jack in the Box menu a bit limited as the majority of dishes are not vegan, particularly if you’re a strict ethical vegan. You might also consider another fast-food chain, preferably one that offers more possibilities (including the elusive vegan taco, perhaps). If you’re craving tacos, you can go one better and simply make your own at home. There’s no reason taco shells and fillings can’t be fully vegan and making your own at home lets you fine-tune the recipe to your personal taste. In this article, we’ll look at all these options in more detail.
Does Jack in the Box have any vegan-friendly options?
Unfortunately, Jack in the Box isn’t ideal from a vegan perspective. Most dishes come with meat or dairy and tend to be cooked without much regard for separating vegan and non-vegan meals. With that caveat, it’s certainly possible to put together a reasonably satisfying meal at Jack in the Box if you’re not terribly strict.
Many of the sides offered by Jack in the Box are okay for vegans, at least in the sense of being free from meat, dairy or animal-derived ingredients. Jack in the Box’s French Fries, Potato Wedges and Seasoned Curly Fries are free from animal ingredients, as are their Hash Browns and Spicy Corn Sticks. The chain’s side salad is free from animal ingredients as long as you avoid dressings such as mayonnaise or ranch. The low-fat vinaigrette dressing is fine for vegans to enjoy.
All this might seem a little dull. Luckily you can spice up your side dishes with some of the chain’s sauces. Avoid sauces like ranch, which contains buttermilk, or sauces that mention honey. Most of the dipping sauces are fine, as are the hot sauces and things like mustard or ketchup.
Mains are a little trickier. Some vegans order vegetables in a bun, which can be quite tasty. It is possible to order the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl and ask your server to omit the chicken and add extra vegetables instead; however, this can be a bit risky as you might get chicken by mistake. Be vigilant and make sure the server understands you can’t have any chicken.
Desserts are a bit limited. Jack in the Box will happily serve you apple slices without the usual caramel sauce (avoid this, as it contains dairy). You could ask for the pancake syrup sauce instead. Apple slices also go well with strawberry jam or grape jelly instead, as these are vegan and do not contain gelatin.
Most beverages at Jack in the Box are fine for vegans, as long as you avoid drinks that obviously contain milk. Enjoy some of the chain’s fountain beverages or iced teas instead. Of course, you can also get a black coffee to round off your meal.
Be aware that although technically vegan, these options may contain controversial ingredients such as cane sugar (refined with animal one char) or colourings that have been tested on animals.
What are some alternative fast food options for vegans?
If you’re hankering for fast food but committed to your vegan lifestyle, don’t despair. There are some great fast-food chains that are either vegan-friendly or (more rarely) completely free from animal products.
If you’re craving Mexican-style food, you have a lot of great options. Many chains, such as Del Taco and Chipotle, now offer Beyond plant-based meat substitutes. You can ask for otherwise vegan dishes to be served without non-vegan ingredients like cheese or sour cream. El Pollo Loco doesn’t serve substitutes like Beyond yet, but they do offer some tasty options that are already vegan or can be made vegan with a couple of minor tweaks.
More general fast food options that have good menus for vegans include Carl’s Junior, which serves some vegan options, and McDonald’s, which now offers a full vegan menu. In the UK, there’s Halo Burger — the eponymous burger is meat and dairy-free. Check out some local chains, like London’s Temple of Seitan, for great vegan fast food options that everyone will enjoy.
What if you just have to have tacos?
Make them! If Jack in the Box tacos were a favourite of yours before you became vegan, you can make very similar tacos at home. In fact, home-made tacos are generally better than those from chain restaurants.
Jack in the Box tacos are, fortunately, fairly simple to replicate. The main ingredient is a flavoured ground meat filling, which you can easily replace with delicious meat-free alternatives. My favourite meat substitute for Mexican influenced food uses very finely chopped mushroom in place of mince — loaded with vitamins and minerals, and so tasty that even meat-eaters like my cooking. You can also use finely chopped eggplant, TVP, or your favourite pre-packaged vegan mince.
To get the right flavour, you’ll need taco seasoning (you can find this on the shelves of any wholefood store) and a dash of vegan Worcester sauce. Don’t use conventional Worcester sauce as this is made with anchovies. You can find cruelty free versions that taste as good or better. The rest of the ingredients — onions, jalapenos, crispy lettuce — are largely vegetable-based, which makes life much easier.
When choosing your taco shells, look for a brand that’s fully vegan. Tacos are one of those great “accidentally vegan” foods that just aren’t usually made with animal ingredients. There are a few that use whey or are cooked with lard, which you’ll wish to avoid. You can make your own taco shells very easily, using home-made or pre-packaged tortillas shaped into a shell and baked. Many stores sell taco shells, though, so you shouldn’t have any problems.
The finishing touch will be a helping of shredded vegan cheese. Use a mild flavour if you want to follow the original Jack in the Box recipe, or a sharp and tangy variety if you want a more intense flavour. If vegan cheese isn’t available or you want a lower-fat meal, top your taco with flakes of nutritional yeast.