The town that saw off McDonald’s is Tavistock, a little market town in Devon. Situated near Dartmoor, its known for its farmers’ markets and reputation for good food. It became the first town in the world where McDonald’s simply could not compete. After 7 years, they had to close. One local said ‘we feed our children properly here, so they had no customers’. Also see bags of chips and zero waste vegan pizza. And books to make your own fast food.
McDonald’s promotes itself as ethical, but has faced repeated questions to up their game from The Ecologist (on animal welfare) and Greenpeace (on environmental issues). Even the actor who played ‘Ronald McDonald’ went veggie: not happy telling children that their beef came from ‘happy cows’. The company buys beef from 350,000 cattle each year and chicken from fast-growing hens whose legs are too heavy to enjoy the ‘enrichment’ added’. The designs for paper straws had to be amended (they could too thick to be recycled) and the cups had plastic lining.
Fast food is a major cause of litter. Seagulls and other creatures are often injured, tempted by a tasty chip or leftover burger. The onus is on the user, but Campaign to Protect Rural England reports that fast food is one of the most common forms of litter (alongside sweet wrappers, drinks cans/bottles, energy gel sachets, cigarette butts & chewing gum.
England’s vegan fast food restaurants are getting more popular, as more people make the switch. These alternatives to fast food restaurants offer whatever you want – from vegan fast food joints that offer plant-based alternatives with compostable packaging and cutlery, to recipes to make your own fast food at home. Our fast food industry is decimating our country – killing animals in factory-farms, destroying people’s health, ruining our countryside (and wildlife and oceans) through dropped plastic forks and cups – and it’s boring too. Who wants a country where everyone eats the same, and shops the same and lives the same?
Having said that, most people in England do not live on lentil soup, nor eat home-made roast dinners. It looks like fast food is around to stay, so let’s at least make it better for all involved (animals, wildlife, environment and people).
Due to lockdown, all of these fast food joints have now started to offer vegan meal kits, that you can also make up at home, more cost-effective too. These meals are not real meat or cheese, so keep away from pets as some contain pet-toxic ingredients like soy, vegan cheese, garlic, onion, mushrooms etc. Keep ice gel packs away from pets and children. A few contain Oreos (contain palm oil) so are best avoided to help orangutans.
Vegan Burger Joints
The Vurger Co began as a market stall, after the founder healed his stomach on plant foods. Today it’s one of London’s most successful fast food chain, with chef Gaz Oakley on board to create the burgers, everything in compostable packaging, they give to local causes and even are cashless, to avoid animal ingredients in the paper bank notes.
Everything’s gluten-free, check the site for allergy free. It even sells its own vegan mayos and DIY meal kits for a fast food feast at home. It also offers all the usual favourites like ‘nuggets’.
The menu includes a New York Melt (with a ‘meat patty’ and double vegan cheese, gherkins, tomato and house-made burger sauce), and a faux chicken burger, buffalo burgers, fries, crispy dippers, almond milk shakes with optional whipped cream and a shot of rum!
London’s Unity Diner
Unity Diner (London) offers vegan burgers and other eats, all with compostable packaging. This is a non-profit, with all profits going to help animal sanctuaries, the company is a member of Vegan Founded which is an affordable trademark to know that you can trust the business behind the brand, no ‘vegan wash’. The menu includes a Moving Mountains beef patty with melted cheeze, lettuce, tomato, relish and garlic mayo along with tofish, vegan prawns, and fries, and vegan chicken burgers.
Lewis’ Neat Burger
Neat Burger (Soho, Camden and Oxford Circus area) is co-owned by racing driver Lewis Hamilton. Again it’s cashless and offers a Double Neat Meat Patty in a triple bun with lettuce, onions, pickles and tangy big stack sauce, a Filet No Fish (fillet, lettuce, tartar sauce, crispy onions and pickles) along with all your favourite sides, like nuggets, tater tots and vegan shakes. Little Neat (for children) and Meal Kits available, as is home delivery. You can also order a cheesy or spicy Neat Hot Dog with grilled red onions, mustard, ketchup, mayo, crispy onions and pickles. A tree is planted for every purchase.
More Vegan Burgers!
- Mooshies (Brick Lane) again offers fast food and meal kits. The market stall became a 6-month pop-up stall that was so popular, it’s now permanent. The ‘Pulled Mooshie’ is made with jackfruit and coleslaw, plus there is a vegan beef burger with burger sauce, caramelized onion, vegan cheese and gherkins, and a fillet-om-fish with aubergine, tartare sauce, seaweed, cheese and lettuce. Yo uc
- VBurger (Camden Market) offers an Up-Beet burger with quinoa, served with smoked tomato relish, lettuce, tomato, gherkins, red onion and vegan aioli. It also offers Seitan Schnitzel, Vegan Falafel and Moving Mountains burgers.
- Vegan Shack (Manchester) includes a range of burgers including Big Smoke (with bacon-style rashers), and mock beef/chicken burgers, along with fries, nuggets, vegan coleslaw and a range of shakes.
- V-Rev (Manchester) sells vegan whoppers with fries, ‘don’t have a cow, man’ burger and ice cream sundaes. This is more a take on the American diner.
Vegan Kebab Shops
What the Pitta! is a new vegan kebab shop in London, serving up plant-based alternatives of all your favourites. So now if you’ve had a night on the razzle and got the kebab munchies, you can head here and find something nice to eat, while being kind to animals. There’s even a loyalty app, so you can claim a free main meal, when you collect enough stamps. The company founder used to eat meat all the time, before dropping the bombshell that he was going veggie. But once he did, he realised he could not find any good vegan donor kebabs.
His hunch was right, as he and a friend (whose uncle had developed a famed vegan Donor in Germany) now have an award-winning family franchise with locations in London (Shoreditch, Camden, Croydon, Battersea) plus outlets in Brighton and Manchester.
The menu (with home delivery offered) includes the signature Vegan Döner (Soy pieces in a fresh bread wrap with mixed salad, humous, tzatziki & jalapeno peppers) along with other wraps like Vegan Gyros, Falafel Wraps, Chick”n Nugget Wrap and a Döner Chip Box. Plus of course you can buy falafel and humous, and even a vegan Baklava for dessert.
VFC offers ‘buckets of seitan chick*n’ created by a talented chef, working with the co-founder of Veganuary. Based on a ‘wheat made from meat’, this tastes the same, and one chicken’s life is saved, for each 1.5g sold. Soon to be in stores, for now online orders are sent in recyclable packaging (recycle at supermarket bins). Cooks in around 20 minutes (keep ice packs away from pets and children).
Tomato Mushroom Vegan Sausage Pizza (Purezza)
Zero waste vegan pizza can be made or bought, depending on your preference. It’s probably easier to make, as there are not many suitable companies around, but they do exist, if you know where to look. This popular snack was invented in Naples around 200 years ago, and brought to the US by immigrants in the 19th century. Today it is one of the most popular ‘fast foods’, and if made well, is pretty healthy: a simple blend of a flatbread dough topped with tomato sauce, vegetables and (sometimes) vegan cheese. Italians never put pineapple on pizza, and shudder at the thought (in fact, the ambassador says it should not be called pizza!)
Pizza is pretty healthy if you don’t cover it in four types of cheeses. Keep pizza away from pets, as most has pet-toxic ingredients (onion, mushroom, tomatoes, bread dough which expands in the stomach).
Fast food litter is one of the most common causes of trash in the western world, and this includes leftover pizza from takeout restaurants. Although most pizza from restaurants tends not to contain plastic, supermarket pizza does (and most is wrapped in clingfilm, the type of plastic that is most polluting and difficult to recycle). Most conventional pizza is also topped with cheese, often from factory-farmed animals.
Zero Waste Pizza Dough
Good pizza starts with good dough. But most brands contain palm oil, which is harming orangutans and other endangered creatures. It’s pretty simple to make your own dough (or you can even go simpler and use muffins or pitta breads as the base for mini-pizzas). If you are going to choose commercial dough, good brands are:
- Grass Roots Bakery sells an organic pizza dough mix.
- The Northern Dough Company has released palm-oil free pizza doughs made with olive oil (wholesome, herby, chilli or rosemary).
Zero Waste Pizza Toppings.
Two good tomato passata jars are Mr Organic and Suma. Popular pizza toppings are red onions, cherry tomatoes, baby spinach and mushrooms. Pizza cooks at a high temperature so most are okay to add raw (not meat), although often drained canned pre-cooked items are used (like artichokes or jarred peppers). Sgaia Foods makes lovely vegan pepperoni slices, from seitan (wheat meat). Chunky with a chilli kick. Made by Italians.
Finally, you may wish to add cheese. This is not added to pizza sold in slices at street carts in Italy, but most people elsewhere use it. Mozzarella is the main cheese used, but there have been recent reports of buffalos suffering to make this popular cheese. It’s easy to make or buy vegan mozzarella:
- Kinda Co Mozzarellie is named after the founder of this London vegan cheese company. You can also use it for pasta, cheese on toast (or mix with tomato, basil and olive oil, for a tasty Caprese salad).
- To make your own, find good recipes at Minimalist Baker (cashews & coconut yoghurt) and Simple Vegan Blog (low in fat).
Bake your pizza for 8 to 10 minutes, and serve with fresh green salad.
Pizza (homemade or take-out)
Mediterranean Pizza (The Simple Veganista) is made with chickpeas, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, red onion, tomato and fresh basil. Also try Pineapple Veggie Lovers Pizza with mushrooms, bell pepper, pineapple, onion, tomato and spicy jalapeno.
One Planet Pizza is one of the best companies, already sold in 500 stores and it also offers home delivery. Sold frozen (be careful when handling dry ice, and store away from pets/children). Keep the pizza in the freezer for up to 12 months, kept below -18c. This pizza is sold in eco packaging (even their ‘clingfilm’ can be recycled).
All the pizzas are made by chefs from plant-based ingredients, with gluten-free options and online exclusives (chick*n , pesto/asparagus/spinach).
Purezza is an award-winning vegan pizzeria that offers meals in Brighton, Bristol and Camden, with a home delivery service in Brixton. The restaurants are all furnished with recycled and refurbished materials. The range includes a pizza with smoked vegan mozzarella, aubergine parmigiana, crumbled sausage and nutritional yeast – and the cheesesteak calzone (a folded pizza bursting with melted cheddar, shaved seitan, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and parsley).
If you don’t live nearby, try recipes from their highly rated book Purezza Vegan Pizza. This book features recipes from their own restaurant including classic tomato and mushroom sausage pizza topped with cashew mozzarella or almond gorgonzola, finished with beetroot carpaccio, smoked carrot pancetta and funghi trifolati. Or try this butternut squash & cavolo nero pizza (above).
These books to make your own fast food are ideal if you like burgers, wraps and Mexican or Indian take-out. Also see alternatives to fast food restaurants.
Check medications, for foods to avoid. Avoid nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters for young children. Cut carrot sticks & veggie hot dogs lengthwise and again, to stop choking. Choose palm-oil-free vegan butters. See foods to keep away from pets.
- Vegan Fakeaway has chapters for American, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern classics including 15-minute recipes, slow-cooker recipes and menus to feed 4 people. Try All-in-One Biriyani, Sesame Spring Rolls, Sicilian-style Pizza, Falafel Flatbreads and Chilli Burritos.
- Or you could use an air-fryer and make your own chips with no or little oil (they taste the same). Throw out your chip-fat fryer, it’s the biggest cause of fires in England.
- The Edgy Veg is a book by a US chef who is known for being able to veganize everything. It’s all in here – the Big Mac, KFC, fishless no fillet and any other fast food meal you can think if.