Subway has blossomed from a small subway-sandwich retailer to a booming fast-food industry all on its own. An international force in its own right, Subway has brought American-style subs all around the world, along with their range of salads, sauces, and highly customizable eating.
One of the biggest proposed boons of Subway is their slogan: “Eat Fresh”. But can vegans eat there?
You might be a vegan yourself, considering a vegan-friendly diet or eating more vegan food where you can. But like many people, you may be just wondering how to purchase food for a friend and what options are available.
This can be a frustrating endeavor with vegan-friendly food, which is lacking in any representation at all among major chains. So what choices are there?
Are there any dishes you can choose from at Subway? Can you customize existing dishes to create something?
Thankfully, there are options. Whether you’re a new vegan or just looking up the options available for a friend at dinner, read more to understand what options are available.
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What is Subway?
Subway is a fast-food franchise that sells subs, short for submarine sandwiches. This has branched out into salads and wraps, and the restaurant is notable for the high level of customizability offered as a standard with each sandwich.
Starting in 1965 in Connecticut, the restaurant was originally called Pete’s Super Submarines, named after its financier Peter Buck and founded by a young boy, Fred DeLuca. Two years later, it was renamed to Subway, and seven years after that it expanded to a second restaurant.
Now a global franchise with over 410,000 franchised employees, it has over 37,000 locations across the globe, with over 20,000 in the United States alone.
Is Subway healthy?
Subway is a fast-food restaurant, but its image is focused on healthy eating. Subs purchased are highly customizable, with every step personally tailored to the customer.
Loaves of bread are selected, along with main fillings, salads, toppings, and even heating. The servers who slice the bread and offer fillings, salads, and toppings are called “Subway Sandwich Artists”.
“Eat Fresh” as the slogan emphasizes the Subway focus on fresh, healthy eating. An early advocate of theirs, Jared Fogle, initially came to fame by claiming he had lost 200 pounds by eating at Subway.
Many health advocates have complained that despite this advertising, Subway sandwiches often contain a high number of calories, and a high amount of sodium, both associated with poorer heart health.
Health-conscious vegans may find that though Subway appears to be a healthy brand, the reality is far closer to that of any other fast-food restaurant.
Are there any vegan options at Subway?
Subway recently piloted three “test” sandwich subs, all of which are vegan. As a franchised restaurant, Subway’s franchisees often decide what will be served at an individual restaurant as well, meaning that the vegetarian and vegan options available from restaurant to restaurant is highly variable. There are few vegan and vegetarian options available at most Subway restaurants.
In the United States, there are a few options, though elsewhere in the world there is a far greater number of options for vegetarian and vegan eating. In particular, the New Delhi branches of Subway serve a large amount more vegetarian food and do not serve beef as a standard because of New Delhi’s customs and culture.
There are, however, a few vegan options you should look out for when shopping at your local Subway. Each section of your meal will have different choices.
Are there any vegan breads at Subway?
Yes. There are two available vegan breads.
The White Italian bread is vegan, with the full list of ingredients available. 9-Grain Wheat bread does not have the full list of ingredients available but is exempt from both egg and milk.
Notably, White Italian bread lists an ingredient as “enzymes”. Enzymes used in bread and other foods can sometimes entail enzymes derived from animals.
Though this is unlikely, if you are a cautious vegan or are concerned about buying food for a vegan you know may be interested in ethical eating, it might be wise to ask the head of the local franchise or call up Subway Headquarters to ask where these enzymes are sourced.
This bread also contains sugar, which may be bleached using animal bones obtained from cattle slaughter. This is highly uncommon outside of the United States but is not uncommon across the States and Canada.
If the sugar is sourced from sugar beet, this is unlikely to be a common practice but is found often in the use of sugar cane to create a uniform color. If you are concerned, call Subway themselves and ask a customer representative if they can track where their sugar came from.
This can be a difficult process because sugar distributors change frequently, but they may have an answer.
If you are environmentally or ethically conscious, it’s also important to note that White Italian bread contains palm oil. Although palm oil is technically vegan, it contributes to widespread deforestation in South East Asia and Africa and has caused massive habitat loss for endangered species such as the orangutan.
In particular, palm oil has also caused the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is because the carbon dioxide trapped in trees was released when these trees were cut down and often burned.
This happens routinely to make room for the palm oil plantations, which require massive amounts of space.
This does not mean that the bread is not vegan, but some vegans may think twice about eating it.
Other vegan breads that are not found at all Subways but may be encountered locally include Artisan Italian, Artisan Flatbread, Hearty Multigrain, Hearty Italian Bread, Slider Roll, Harvest, Sourdough Bread, and Roasted Garlic Bread.
You may also encounter a 9-Grain Honey Oat bread. This bread is egg and dairy-free, but as it contains honey, many people who follow a plant-based diet may wish to avoid it.
If you are following a vegan diet, this is an individual choice, but if you are purchasing for someone else, this may be best to avoid.
Are there vegan wraps at Subway?
Yes, though there are just three. The Habanero Wrap, Tomato Basil Wrap, and Spinach Wrap are all suitable for those following a plant-based or vegan diet.
Both contain sugar and palm oil, so if you are concerned about either, it may be best to contact a representative.
Are there vegan fillings at Subway?
Yes. There are no vegan protein options that are standard across chains as of yet, but there are plenty of different vegetables that can be used in place of a protein-based filling.
A veggie patty may be available, and this option was previously only vegetarian, not vegan. Thankfully, this is now vegan as well.
In some rare chains, there may be Beyond Meatballs available, as well as falafel, black bean patties, and a “sweet riblet”.
Vegetables available include olives, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, pickles, and spinach. Other available options may include mushrooms, dill pickles, green chilies, sweet peppers, carrots, and avocado.
Are there any vegan condiments at Subway?
There are plenty of vegan sauces to choose from, not limited to but including sweet onion sauce, sweet onion teriyaki sauce, barbeque sauce, yellow mustard, deli brown mustard, mustard seed spread, marinara sauce, red wine vinegar, fat-free sweet onion, Subway herb garlic oil, Subway vinaigrette, buffalo sauce, guacamole, Provençal herbs, and sub spice.
Additionally, sliced or smashed avocados can be added for an extra charge and are both completely vegan.
Some highly specific sauces that you may encounter at certain locations are the hot pepper relish, sweet chili sauce, golden Italian sauce, fire-roasted tomato sauce, giardiniera, and creamy Italian sauce. Though you would be forgiven for worrying, the creamy Italian sauce is completely vegan, with no eggs and dairy at all.
These are not rolled out to all locations and may never, as the Subway franchising model means that meals that come to each location are highly dependent on whoever is running it.
The marinara sauce, as a vegan addition, can be added to Beyond Meatballs if they are available in your area to create a vegan version of the Subway Meatball Marinara Sub. However, there is no vegan cheese substitute available in the United States yet, though vegan cheeses have been rolled out elsewhere in the world.
It appears likely they will eventually come to the United States, though when is still in question.
Are there any vegan sides at Subway?
These seem highly variable depending on location and are extremely limited. Most locations in the United States seem to stock applesauce, which at Subway is a vegan-friendly side.
In the case that they are available in your particular local franchise, SunChips Original is also vegan-friendly.
Are there any vegan desserts at Subway?
This also applies to the brownies and muffins, meaning no desserts available are vegan. However, these desserts are all completely vegetarian-friendly.
Are there any pre-made vegan options on the Subway menu?
It can be tempting to just order something that is entirely pre-made and ready to eat when at a restaurant like Subway, as the high level of customizability requires more attention from you as a customer. However, the only pre-made sandwich that is vegan from the outset is the Veggie Delite.
The Veggie Delite is a fully-fledged sub, but it does not have any protein to speak of and its main ingredients are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green peppers, and baby spinach. It comes in the Hearty Multigrain Bread, making it an entirely vegan sub.
If you don’t care to eat just vegetables or you want to customize it further, you will have to create your own sandwich. Just tell your Subway Sandwich Artist that’s what you want to do, and they’ll guide you through it.
Are there any vegan breakfast options at Subway?
Are there any vegetarian-friendly options at Subway?
Yes, absolutely. Many of these same options are suitable for vegetarians, but with additional flexibility in getting desserts, snacks, and sauces.
Are there vegan soups at Subway?
Yes. There are now two vegan soups available in Subway locations across the United States: the Black Bean or the Mediterranean Vegetable soup. Both of these are also suitable for vegetarians.
Are there any vegan salads at Subway?
Part of the flexibility of Subway’s model is offering many of their subs as a salad as well. Customers can request their favorite sandwich in the form of a salad and know exactly what they’ll get, but with a healthier kick.
This also goes for the Veggie Delite, the only standard vegan sandwich. This is offered as a salad as well.
If you have veggie patties in your local location, it can be worth requesting this as part of your salad, as it will add a great deal more protein to the meal if you are following a vegan diet.
So can vegans eat at Subway?
Absolutely. Though some restaurants certainly have more variety for vegans to choose from, Subway does have a menu that allows for vegan eating, meaning if you are trying to stick to your lifestyle and you are in a spot, there’s some wiggle room.