How to Eat Vegan at Olive Garden: the Ultimate Guide 

Grissini. They may seem innocent enough to the untrained vegan, but to the desperation of many plant-eaters, finding a breadstick that isn’t buttered or made with milk is a challenge. And that’s why we chose Olive Garden. The deliciously plump and endless basket of breadsticks can be ordered vegan, along with a selection of other tasty items that go beyond a simple salad. Because at the Olive Garden, “when you’re here, you’re part of the family.” Vegans included.

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General ordering tips

After a few navigational clicks on the Olive Garden website, guests come across a landing page dedicated to vegan and vegetarian customers. The information is comprehensive and convincing. It promises careful handling of food to avoid cross-contamination of animal-based ingredients, a sneak peek at vegan products as-is, and a promise to provide superior accommodation upon request. Keep this tip in mind: Many items can be veganized if you want to substitute extra pasta or fresh vegetables for the meat and cheese. This trick is especially useful if you want to try one of the limited-time specials.

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Olive Garden is all about the piping hot breadsticks. These fluffy garlic appetizers are vegan—no modifications needed. The marinara dip is also cruelty-free.

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soup and salads

The soup, salad, and breadsticks combo, while known for its pasta-heavy main courses, easily makes for a satisfying meal. Opt for the vegan-friendly minestrone soup and combine it with the famous house salad. The salad is vegan if ordered without croutons or Italian dressing—simply substitute olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Create your own pasta

This section gives vegans free rein. Since the restaurant uses dried noodles, plant-based diners need not be wary of hidden egg ingredients typical of the fresh variety. Vegan-friendly pasta shapes include spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine, small clams, and rigatoni (note: the gluten-free rigatoni contain eggs). Cover your favorite pasta with marinara or tomato sauce. To add more nutrient-rich weight to your pasta plate, ask your waiter to toss it with seasonal vegetables from the kitchen or add a side of steamed broccoli. The kitchen usually has asparagus, tomatoes, eggplant and mushrooms on hand.

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Like The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden has yet to veganize one of its tantalizing dessert options. While we wait for a plant-based version of the warm Italian donuts, tiramisu, and chocolate brownie lasagna, we look elsewhere for something sweet (like one of those ice cream chains).

For more tips on eating out as a vegan see:

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