Red Lobster is an unlikely trip for anybody following a vegan or plant-based diet. It is a restaurant based largely around the consumption of seafood and fish.
Advertised as an American casual dining restaurant chain, Red Lobster has spread across much of the world to become a massive international business, starting as a single restaurant. Promotions at Red Lobster range from cheap seafood to large endless buffet offerings, and it offers a wide range of seafood.
Vegans, who abstain from all animal byproducts in food, may find it hard to eat at a Red Lobster at all. Many who abstain for ethical reasons might also find the sight of live animals, who are often killed on-site in methods considered painful and unethical by many animal rights organizations, difficult to be around.
Ethically-oriented vegans may also avoid paying money to organizations that sell these products.
However, many vegans follow a vegan or plant-based diet for reasons of health or environmental impact and may take no issue with eating at Red Lobster. Even so, what dishes are available for those following a vegan diet?
If you do not follow a vegan diet yourself, you may be concerned as to what a friend or family member can eat at the restaurant. Read on to see what the menu has to offer.
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What is Red Lobster?
Red Lobster is a chain of restaurants that specializes in seafood. Offerings of the restaurant range from fish, chicken, and steak, to more specialized offerings like crab, lobster, mollusks, and shrimp.
It started as a single restaurant in Lakeland, Florida, and was advertised as a “Harbor for Seafood Lovers”.
Eventually Red Lobster branched out into further restaurants, and by the 1980s had expanded to Canada. By the 90s, Red Lobster had begun employing notorious sales pitches like Endless Shrimp and Lobsterfest, including an endless snow crab promotion that customers took such thorough advantage of that the company lost $3 million.
The popularity of Red Lobster across the United States means even as a vegan, it’s hard to avoid hearing about it.
Can vegans eat seafood?
Those following a vegan-friendly diet generally abstain from seafood. Although vegans may follow a vegan-friendly diet for a variety of reasons, generally if a vegan consumes seafood, they are classed as following a pescatarian diet.
Vegans do not consume any animal byproducts, not limited to but including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
Vegetarians likewise also do not eat seafood. This is because vegetarians abstain from meat, poultry, and seafood, but not eggs and dairy.
Many vegetarians do this because eggs and dairy do not result directly in the death of the animal. Some vegans believe that these industries cause death indirectly.
What is a pescatarian?
Pescatarians are people who follow a diet in which they abstain from eating poultry and meat, but not fish and seafood. Pescatarians may or may not choose to consume dairy and eggs.
Some people follow a pescatarian diet because they believe that fish, mollusks, lobsters, shrimp, and other underwater creatures do not feel pain. There is some scientific debate over whether this is true or not, as it is difficult to identify pain in animals like lobsters.
Aversion to stimuli is not considered equivocal to the feeling of suffering in a creature.
Mounting evidence suggests, however, that bivalves like shrimps and mollusks do in fact experience pain, and some who follow a vegan lifestyle believe this obligates them to reduce harm.
Are there vegan-friendly dishes at Red Lobster?
Despite the restaurant chain being heavily based on the consumption of seafood, fish, mollusks, and lobster, Red Lobster does have some vegan options available for those following a vegan diet.
They may not be as healthy as those following a vegan diet for health reasons would prefer, but if you are following a plant-based diet and are out to eat with omnivorous family and friends, there are some options to choose from.
It is important, however, when eating at Red Lobster to personally speak to the chef or ask your server for their advice. This is because the vegan status of foods at the restaurant heavily depends on the cooking habits of the particular chef, something that varies greatly.
People have reported chefs having personal preferences to use butter instead of oil on certain side dishes, greatly reducing the number of options available to vegans at the restaurant. Make sure to ask the server, and if possible speak to the chef in advance.
Some customers have called Red Lobster Corporate and found answers differ from those found in-restaurant by speaking to the staff directly.
What dishes at Red Lobster are vegan-friendly?
No doubt eating at Red Lobster, vegans are dealing with a far greater and more limited menu to choose from.
Garden salad; this should be requested without dairy in the form of the dressing when ordering. The salad itself is composed of lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes, as well as croutons. Champagne vinaigrette is a vegan option for dressing as well.
Baked potato; baked potatoes at Red Lobster can be eaten by those following a plant-based diet, but only when abstaining from any additional toppings like meat, sour cream, and butter. This is because the baked potatoes are not coated in animal fat before baking, so Red Lobster can provide you with one that should be perfectly suitable for vegan diets.
Seasoned broccoli; this, along with other vegetables, is available as a small side dish at Red Lobster. This appears to be seasonal, so ask your server what is available. As mentioned, always inquire as to the chef’s habits, as the veggies may have butter added to them at the chef’s reference; these can be prepared without for you.
Rice; plain boiled white rice offered at Red Lobster is vegan. The wild rice pilaf is not, however, some people have reported success requesting this specifically without animal products, as it is generally prepared with butter. This request should be made with caution, however.
French fries; the plain sea-salt French fries offered at Red Lobster are vegan, as they are not cooked in animal fat or lard, just vegetable oil. All that being said, these are prepared in the same friers that produce the animal products in the restaurant, meaning many vegans may wish to steer clear.
If you are following a vegan diet for environmental or health reasons, however, this may be a good option.
Dragon broccoli; this dish contains broccoli fried in a spicy sauce, and is vegan. However, it shares a frier with non-vegan dishes, and like above may be avoided by vegans that want to avoid contact with any possible meat dishes.
Are Cheddar Bay Biscuits at Red Lobster vegan?
As the name betrays, the Cheddar Bay Biscuits are not vegan, containing both cheese and milk. They are, however, vegetarian-friendly and suitable for any pescatarians as well.
Are there any dishes that can be made vegan at Red Lobster?
People report varying success with requesting their dish be made specifically vegan at Red Lobster, with some restaurants accommodating it easily. For those vegans that would like to try, there are some recommended options.
Lobster and Langostino Pizza; ordered without seafood, this should also come without cheese, meaning it should be vegan.
Baja Shrimp Bowl; if ordered without sour cream, shrimp, or jalapeno slaw, this can be made vegan.
Sesame Soy Salmon Bowl; when ordered without salmon, this bowl can be vegan.
Kung Pao Noodles with Crispy Shrimp/Lobster/Chicken; this can be ordered without any meat at all, and the resulting dish should then be vegan.
If you are following a vegan diet and none of these appeals to you, ask your server at your local Red Lobster and see what they have. They may have a plain pasta or noodle dish they can offer you.
Are there vegan toppings at Red Lobster?
Red Lobster does, thankfully, have some vegan toppings that can be chosen from by anybody following a plant-based diet. The Champagne Vinaigrette, as mentioned early, is one salad dressing that is totally vegan-friendly and readily available at most Red Lobsters.
Other toppings and sauces that can be found at Red Lobster include:
- Marinara sauce;
- Pineapple relish topping;
- Olive oil;
- Soy and ginger glaze;
- Cocktail sauce;
- Pico de Gallo.
Are there vegan desserts at Red Lobster?
No, unfortunately not. There are no vegan desserts available, as most contain egg, milk, or milk derivatives, making them unsuitable for those following a vegan diet.
Most of these are thankfully vegetarian though, so those following a vegetarian diet have some options.
Are Red Lobster’s mashed potatoes vegan?
Sadly not, as they contain dairy. This option is still suitable for vegetarians, however.
Are Red Lobster’s Loaded Seaside Fries vegan?
This option is also off-limit for those following a plant-based diet, as they are “loaded” with dairy. These are also still suitable for those following a vegetarian lifestyle, however.
Is Red Lobster’s Coleslaw vegan?
No. The coleslaw made by Red Lobster specifically contains eggs, meaning vegans cannot eat it. However, it is suitable for vegetarians and those who avoid lactose and dairy for reasons for intolerance as well.
Is Red Lobster’s Whipped Sweet Potato vegan?
This dish contains dairy as well as honey-roasted pecans. Although honey is often a mixed subject for vegans, with some feeling neutral about it because it is sourced non-lethally from bees, this is off-limits for many vegans for this reason alone.
Is Red Lobster’s Pina Colada vegan?
Red Lobster’s Pina Colada is not vegan, and also the Pina Colada sauce is not vegan either. This is because dairy is found in both.
The drink can be ordered without dairy, however, and made vegan by any person willing to request to their server.
Are there vegetarian choices at Red Lobster?
Red Lobster does have some vegetarian choices, similar to the vegan choices available. However, vegetarian diners have a broader set of options to choose from.
Many of the pizzas can be ordered with no seafood and enjoyed with cheese, as well as sour cream and cheese added to baked potatoes. The Whipped Sweet Potato is suitable for vegetarians, as well as the loaded french fries.
The dessert menu is also largely open to vegetarians.
Is Red Lobster cruelty-free?
No. Cruelty-free refers to food or products that have had no contact with animal cruelty, including animal slaughter for food. Red Lobster does claim to source its fish and lobster ethically, with a focus on sustainability and ethical consumption in its marketing.
Is Red Lobster sustainable?
This appears to be in question. Although many vegans would argue that there is no such thing as sustainable farming of animals for consumption and slaughter, Red Lobster was recently sued in June of 2021 for supposedly “misrepresenting their sustainable seafood claims”.
Customers are seeking monetary compensation for “deceptive marketing” over the Maine lobster and shrimp products which are advertised as sustainable products.
This is because claims have arisen that the Maine lobster, in particular, is sourced in an environmentally destructive way that endangers whales, as well as the shrimp sold being sourced from suppliers that “use inhumane practices”. These include the physical torture and maiming of female shrimps to ramp up reproduction and promote efficacy for the farmers.
Either way, it seems that options for vegans at Red Lobster are very limited, and many vegans would object to purchasing food from the restaurant anyway. In the end, veganism is a personal and ethical choice made as an individual, so it is up to the person whether they want to eat there or not.
There are a few options to choose from, at least.