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9 Things to Ask Your Waiter If You’re Vegetarian or Vegan

Heading out to a restaurant can be tough for vegetarians and vegans. Here's how to make sure your meal is meat- and animal-product free.

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Close up of a couple ordering drinksGeber86/iStock/Getty Images Plus

I’m a Vegetarian/Vegan, What Do You Recommend?

A good opening question, this both alerts your server to your dietary restrictions and gives her the chance to list some of the most popular (and safe!) menu items. Find the best chain restaurants for vegetarians.

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Homemade honey mustard salad dressing in a jarVeselovaElena/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Is This Salad Dressing Vegetarian/Vegan?

Salads are generally a great choice for vegetarians, even at meat-heavy places like a steakhouse. Always check on the dressing, though. Caesar salad often has anchovies and eggs, for example, while creamy dressings may contain bacon bits and dairy.

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Slow-cooked vegetable wild rice soupTaste of Home

What Kind of Broth Is This Soup Made With?

So many classic soup recipes are vegetable-based. Sadly, if they’re based on chicken or beef broth, they’re no longer safe. Make sure to check.

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Couple Eating Lunch with Fresh Salad and AppetizersDreamer Company/iStock/Getty Images Plus

What Kind of Cheese Is on This Dish?

If you’re vegan, all cheese is off-limits (except these vegan cheese brands). But vegetarians may want to avoid cheeses made with rennet, an animal product. Parmesan, blue cheese, Romano, Gorgonzola and gruyere commonly contain rennet.

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Cropped image of customer asking waiter about food in menuLightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Is the Sauce Vegetarian?

Ah, sauce—the delicious river of flavor that ties together every element on your plate. Always confirm that sauces are safe, since they may contain meat or fish ingredients, and many contain dairy.

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Waitress showing menu on tablet computer to visitorDragonImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Do You Have an Ingredient List?

Many large restaurant chains, both fast food and upscale options, can provide complete nutrition facts for every single item on the menu—including ingredient lists. If the server or cashier doesn’t seem knowledgeable, ask if you can see the list. Check out the most popular vegetarian fast food dishes, too!

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A directly above shot of a plated breakfast meal on a table in a vegan cafe. An unrecognizable person is about to start eating it.SolStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Can I Swap Out the Side Dish?

From rice pilaf made with chicken broth to a bacon-filled potato salad, side dishes that aren’t veg-friendly should be easy to swap out. If nothing else, ask for a simple oil-and-vinegar salad or roasted veggies.

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Vegan taco saladTaste of Home

Do You Allow Substitutions?

Having trouble finding a dish that’s already vegetarian? Ask about substitutions. While most restaurants can’t remake a sauce or soup, they might be able to make a simpler switch. For example: holding the meat and replacing it with roasted vegetables. Check out these vegetarian substitutes everyone needs to know.

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Close up of waiter’s hand noting down menu on tablet. Young woman ordering for food to a waiter at restaurant. Young beautiful woman thinking of food to order in front of a waiter holding tablet.Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Is This Menu Item Vegetarian?

The simplest question is one you should ask no matter what. Even if a dish seems safe based on the menu name and description, it may sneakily contain non-vegetarian ingredients. Think meat broth, bacon crumbles and so on.

Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.