Olive Garden's welcoming slogan, "When you're here you're family," conjures images of family and friends gathered around a dinner table sharing a meal. But can the plant-based diner eat comfortably at this national Italian-inspired chain? The short answer is yes, but it takes some maneuvering. With this handy guide, we're breaking down what is vegan at Olive Garden.

When you visit an Olive Garden, you can expect classic Italian-American fare that will leave you feeling happy and full of carbs. For vegan diners, the fast-casual chain's best quality is its customizable menu. Despite only offering two plant-based sauces, plant-based customers can order a full-fledged, delectable pasta dinner.

But no worries for those looking to avoid carbs or gluten. Pasta is not your only option. Olive Garden's menu also features a couple of vegan soups and salads for those looking for something lighter. Even though the menu leaves some to be desired, Olive Garden is far from the hardest fast-casual chain to visit. So, next time the family gathers at Olive Garden for wine, breadsticks, and pasta, remember that eating plant-based or vegan at this Italian eatery is easy with a little customization.

Everything That's Vegan at Olive Garden

Similar to other fast-casual restaurants, Olive Garden cannot promise that its food is free from cross-contamination with meat and dairy ingredients used for other dishes.

Vegan Soups and Appetizers

  • Breadsticks with Garlic Topping: This classic appetizer is a never-ending basket of dairy- and egg-free breadsticks.
  • Minestrone Soup: Enjoy never-ending servings of the heart-warming Minestrone soup, served with a medley of fresh veggies, beans, and pasta in a light tomato broth.
  • Steamed Broccoli: Order this veggie vegan without the butter!

Vegan Pasta at Olive Garden

Vegan guests at Olive Garden rejoice at the ability to customize your very own plant-based pasta dinner. Take note that some pasta options contain eggs and some sauces contain dairy, so navigate the menu with care. But when you decide on your favorite pasta and sauce combo, add some veggies to bulk up your dinner.

Plant-Based Pasta at Olive Garden

  • Angel Hair
  • Fettuccine
  • Rigatoni
  • Small Shells
  • Spaghetti

Vegan Sauces at Olive Garden

  • Marinara Sauce
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Olive Oil and Pepper

Vegan Entrees and Salads at Olive Garden

  • Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce: This classic menu item features Olive Garden's vegan spaghetti with a signature tomato sauce.
  • House Salad: Served with pepperoncini, tomatoes, cabbage, and onions over a bed of lettuce. Order without the dressing and instead toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Be sure to ask for no croutons!

Avoiding Dairy for Your Health

Italian-inspired eateries such as Olive Garden add cheese or butter to nearly every dish on the menu. But avoiding dairy options can provide tremendous benefits to your well-being for years to come. By eating and drinking more dairy, you are increasing your risk of disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Dairy consumption has been linked to an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer and a 60 percent increased risk of prostate cancer.

Even though Olive Garden's menu does not offer vegan alternatives to dairy, it is possible (and even easy) to avoid ordering cheese and butter. Studies have shown that following a mostly plant-based diet can prolong your life expectancy by 10 years or more. Grab a salad without cheese or pasta cooked without dairy to help your body stay healthy longer.

Pick Plant-Based for the Planet

Introducing some plant-based meals to your diet can significantly help curb the negative effects of climate change. Even eating two plant-based meals twice a week for a year is the equivalent of planting 14 billion trees. And when you adopt a fully plant-based diet, you could cut your food-related greenhouse gas emissions down by 61 percent. Think about picking the plant-based options next time you sit down for wine and pasta at Olive Garden.

For more plant-based far near you, visit The Beet's Find Vegan Near Me articles. 

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