Fast-food joints aren’t exactly the places that you’d expect a vegan to frequent. It’s hard enough to find vegetarian dishes, and vegan rules are even stricter. Vegans generally avoid food items (and even consumer goods) that are derived from animals, including food that vegetarians might go for. That means vegans might not enjoy dishes that contain eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. Honey is a no-no as well. 

That’s not news if you’re a vegan. But what if you’re inside a Papa John’s location, maybe because that’s where your group of friends (who may not even be vegetarians) would like to go to? 

Most of the Papa John’s treats aren’t really for vegans. Sure, they may have some vegetarian options, but the cheese is the problem. A quick look at the menu (see full menu here) will confirm this. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to go hungry if you’re at Papa John’s. Here are some tips that can help: 

No-Cheese Garden Fresh

The Garden Fresh pizza was designed for vegetarians, so you know there’s no meat in it. Just order it, but make sure to ask for no cheese. That way, you still get the vine-ripened Roma tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. 

Make sure you also get the original crust. With the tomato sauce, you’re good. 

Create Your Own Pizza

This is another good option. That way, you’re sure of what toppings are included in your pizza. If you make a mistake, it’s your own fault. 

The pizza here starts with the original hand-tossed dough, which vegans can enjoy. The list of ingredients is actually quite short: 

  • Salt
  • Soybean oil
  • Sugar
  • Unbleached enriched wheat flour
  • Water
  • Yeast

There’s nothing there that comes from an animal. There are no additives, preservatives, or weird ingredients with scientific names that will just confuse you. It’s refreshingly simple. 

Don’t go for the other crust options, which aren’t vegan. Both the thin crust and the gluten-free crust use milk or eggs, or both. 

You do need to make sure that you forego the cheese. That is, unless you’re told that the place serves vegan cheese. There have been reports that vegan cheese is available in some Papa John’s locations in the UK and elsewhere, but so far, it’s not available in the US. 

Toppings

Finally, you have the toppings. While the menu will list meats, here’s a list of the vegan toppings you can still enjoy on your pizza. 

  • Banana Peppers
  • Black Olives
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Green Bell Peppers
  • Green Olives
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Pineapple
  • Sliced Jalapenos
  • Tomatoes

With this list, you have lots of flavors to savor without having to endure meat. In fact, you might well come up with a pizza that even your carnivorous buddies might enjoy. Generally, you’re allowed to pick 5 toppings, though you might pay for extras. 

Pizza Sauces, Dipping Sauces, and Seasonings

You may well need the sauce for the pizza, considering there’s no cheese in it. Here’s a list of the sauces that conform to vegan rules: 

  • Pizza Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Garlic Dipping Sauce
  • Pizza Dipping Sauce
  • BBQ Dipping Sauce
  • Buffalo Dipping Sauce

You can add any of these sauces to your pizza, and each option brings a different flavor to the table. 

There are also the seasoning packets from Papa John’s, for a bit more flavor. The crushed red pepper flakes seasoning is always a safe bet. 

But you might also wish to try the special seasoning packet. The ingredients aren’t really a secret, as it contains: 

  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Garlic
  • Wheat starch
  • Dried onion
  • Soybean oil
  • Paprika extract

None of these things should be objectionable to a vegan. 

Sides

The original breadsticks are perhaps your best bet here. They’re made with the same dough that’s used for the pizzas. Just dip them in any of the dipping sauces, and you’re good to go. 

However, you may also want to try the whole pepperoncinis. This is basically a side of spicy pickled peppers that go nicely with the pizza. 

No Dessert

Sadly, you can’t find any Papa John’s dessert that will be allowed under vegan rules. Each one contains eggs, milk, or even gelatin. 

That means you have to say “No” to the cinnamon pull-aparts, brownies, and the chocolate chip cookies. 

Final Words

Yes, it’s not easy being a vegan, especially when you’re often going to fast-food joints. That’s especially true for Papa John’s in the US. You might find vegetarian options, but too many of the menu items contain cheese, milk, or eggs. 

But that’s just one of the annoying facts of life for a vegan. Nobody says it’s easy. But at least you know that you can still be a vegan, and visit Papa John’s every now and then! 

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