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We all know the story: The Colonel of the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation went around the world, bringing fried chicken to exotic lands. When he arrived in Japan in the 1970s, he found a nation with a strong cultural connection to KFC and decided to bring his chain there as well. In the years that followed, he traveled to every country that KFC had not reached yet, from Egypt to Malaysia. During this time, Colonel Harland Sanders developed a secret recipe that was kept closely guarded by KFC executives, to the point where it was only known by a few people at KFC HQ. (One of these people is now the company’s owner, but we’ll keep that a secret too.)
When Colonel Sanders died in 1980, his legacy lived on in KFC and the Colonel’s son Jim was in charge. But in the 1990s, the new owners at KFC realized the importance of the original recipe and decided to make it available to all the chefs at KFC’s 2,800 restaurants, in an attempt to revive the chicken chain’s glory days. They had a hard time convincing customers that the old recipe really was good again, though, and people actually began to complain that the new chicken tasted better than the old one. So they came up with a new slogan: “Same Great Taste, More People,” and told people that they’d added salt, pepper, sugar, butter, and other ingredients to the chicken in an attempt to replicate what Colonel Sanders did, but that the original recipe was better. Eventually, they pulled the old recipe back off the menu and replaced it with the new one, which they called “Extra Crispy.”
By now, everyone has heard about KFC’s “proudly vegan” chicken, and it has been featured on “Today”. “Today” is not just the highest-rated news show in America, but it’s also one of the most popular shows in the world.
Here’s the thing: You won’t find the new “meat-free” chicken anywhere in the world except in America. So what are they going to do, give it the same name, and hope people still call it by the wrong name? What’s going to happen is this:
People will look at the name on the package, and think “This tastes like chicken”, without realizing that “chicken” here is short for “clean eating”.
This won’t really go on any shelves yet (it’s only in test runs in America), but you can already find it in Kentucky! In fact, you can already find out that KFC is planning on introducing Vegan KFC to the world.
KFC’s Vegan And Vegetarian Menu Options Are Growing Quickly
KFC is not a company known for its creativity in the fast-food space. Most franchises have fairly limited offerings on their menus, with a few exceptions like KFC’s bistro-inspired items like a Bistro chicken or the now-defunct KFC vegan Colonel. But KFC is doing a lot of things right in the world of plant-based food. At my favorite KFC branch in Midtown Manhattan, on West 45th Street, they’ve recently had the KFC vegan Colonel on the menu for a few weeks and the chicken-style options were surprisingly good. KFC’s vegetarian menu options have also been expanding, with a KFC vegan option debuting earlier this year.
KFC has been working on revamping their menu for a while, and a few years back they revamped their website to make it friendlier to plant-based eaters. But the Vegan Colonel isn’t the only new addition to KFC’s plant-based menu options. The chain’s “Beyond Kentucky” menu line — which includes items like their Bistro chicken and the Bistro fries, but also some chicken-style menu options, like the Bacon & Cheddar biscuit — will now include a vegetarian option that has a unique sauce. It’s called Kentucky Sauce and it’s the first KFC sauce that’s specifically designed for plant-based eaters.
Unlike your regular Kentucky Sauce, which has all the traditional flavors that make KFC famous, Kentucky Sauce for the Vegan Colonel and Beyond Kentucky menu is a blend of plant-based dairy, gluten-free breading, and “vegetable extracts” that tastes like the sauce you’d get on a standard side of fries, but without any cheese.
The Beyond Kentucky menu options that have this sauce will be limited to chicken and Beyond Kentucky. But the KFC vegan Colonel option will be on the menu for at least a few more weeks.
“We’re always looking for ways to test out new flavors that our guests may enjoy, including some of the plant-based dishes we’re developing for our vegetarian lineup,” a representative for KFC told Eartheasy, who added that they are looking for feedback on how the Beyond Kentucky menu items taste. “We decided to offer a limited-time test menu with the Beyond Kentucky options, offering this plant-based sauce with our Beyond Kentucky vegetarian side items. Our goal is to add new options to the menu, so stay tuned for more.”
The plant-based sauces are being added after the chain tried a few varieties out for two weeks and reported good feedback on the sauces that are still available.
“We’re excited about our new plant-based sauce options,” the representative said. “It will be available to both vegetarians and vegans in select markets.”
Eartheasy reports that the KFC vegan Colonel’s sauce is being tested in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Ohio. And it was tested in Indiana last week.
The plant-based sauce debuted in KFC’s Beyond lineup of menu items a little less than a year ago, and the chain has been testing it in select markets for the last two years.
“With Beyond, we have the chance to innovate, introduce and expand on KFC’s signature recipes and cooking techniques to give our guests new ways to enjoy fried chicken and sides,” said Bill Roper, KFC President, and Chief Operating Officer said when the sauce was first introduced. “Our research shows that one out of five people in the U.S. eats chicken for lunch or dinner, which means a lot of potential new customers for us. As we expand into new markets, we are looking at what is a natural fit, not only for guest preferences but also for the people and restaurants we are looking to partner with.”
The move into a plant-based chicken item comes as Americans are eating more plant-based foods and have been looking for more protein options as a way to reduce their meat intake.
A study released this summer from market research company Mintel found that the number of vegans in the U.S. increased 30% between 2015 and 2017. About 11.2% of adults are vegans, according to the study.
The same study also found that the number of flexitarians, those who eat meat and other animal products but consume a more plant-based diet, increased 7% over the last year. About 15% of adults are flexitarians.
And another survey released this year by market research company Nielsen said that 10% of Americans are flexitarians who eat meat and poultry while also eating more plant-based foods.
KFC’s Vegetarian Menu Options Will Continue To Be Introduced.
But you can find more about the company’s new, non-meat products and what’s next for KFC. KFC’s plan to serve more than half its menu without meat will start rolling out this fall. The fast-food chain announced last month that it will debut a line of eight new, vegetarian-friendly chicken products.
KFC announced the new, meat-free lineup in August, with a blog post titled “Yes, We Have a New Vegetarian Menu at KFC.” KFC’s new vegetarian offerings will include vegetarian sandwiches, wraps, and salads, plus new side dishes and desserts.
Customers can also order a protein wrap, which, like many meat substitutes, replaces the meat-based ingredients in a sandwich, wrap, or salad with nuts, vegetables, and herbs, to create a vegetarian-friendly dish that’s comparable to one made with chicken.
But KFC says its plant-based proteins aren’t meant to replace animal-based proteins entirely, though they may be a healthier option.
“Some customers have told us that they find KFC’s vegetarian menu items to be a healthier alternative to our current menu options,” KFC said in its blog post. “We believe that offering our customers more options will lead to increased business and drive more customers to purchase from the entire menu.”
KFC says its new plant-based proteins are made from rice, pea protein, and soy, which makes them higher in fiber and lower in fat. KFC is also testing out an all-vegetarian menu option in a few Tennessee restaurants, which will likely be rolled out nationwide at some point.
So what’s KFC’s vegetarian side? According to KFC, it’s got more than a half-century of expertise in “using chicken as a building block to create a variety of menu options.”
“Today we are taking our KFC chicken, adding our vegetarian proteins, and wrapping it up to share with our guests,” the company said in a statement.
“It’s a great tasting protein with the same great, consistent flavors our guests have come to love. We are excited to share this new menu option with our customers.”
KFC Is Expanding The List Of Plant-Based Options.
In the U.S. and abroad, the Brands-owned chain is testing a KFC vegan protein blend called Beyond, made from peas, soy, and nuts. The chain says it’s in the testing phase.
The company started a similar plant-based test in South Africa. It later came to the U.S. but has yet to roll it out to any of its U.S. locations. In addition, KFC stopped testing in South Africa because it felt the recipe wasn’t up to scratch.
The menu items are designed to be lower in fat and calories than chicken or beef. KFC vegan option is not the end of the world. KFC’s test of the new menu items is just a glimpse of what’s to come. It may not be the most popular menu item at KFC. Still, customers who want a KFC vegan option don’t have to travel overseas to eat at KFC.
“They have a KFC vegan chicken that they sell in South Africa,” said Michael Stern, director of communications at Plant-Based Foods Association, a nonprofit trade group that focuses on plant-based protein.
Stern said the organization is working with other major companies like Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Arby’s on products like a vegan Whopper.
Meanwhile, KFC’s new option is available at five of its U.S. stores, where customers are offered the option to choose a KFC vegan option in an unmarked menu section. It’s being rolled out to additional stores, but it isn’t clear when it will reach all of them.KFC has said the new menu items will be in the chain’s stores across the U.S. by the end of the year.
KFC Vegan And Vegetarian Menu Options…
…can be very limited at restaurants due to a lack of information on menu descriptions and ingredients, and also because the majority of KFC menu items contain milk or eggs (and even without the dairy, they’re egg-based). While these two ingredients can be replaced with nut milk, the sauces and toppings often are milk-based (such as BBQ sauce) so can’t be replaced.
Also, a few menu items (especially the original BBQ fried chicken burger) have been changed for the KFC vegan and vegetarian customers. There’s nothing you can do with these menu items, so be warned!
Note: This article refers to KFC vegan recipes as KFC vegan for the sake of simplicity, and that includes vegan versions of non-vegan recipes. If you prefer specific substitutions in recipes, check out the Recipe Guide.
To order a KFC Meal at KFC (UK) and similar restaurants, follow these instructions:
- Add a meal on the total on the screen. You may need to pay for the meal by using a card.
- Select a choice from the options box at the top of the page.
- Select the meal type and, if needed, add extras.
- Select the option to pay with a card or to pay via Apple Pay. You can also use the pay key and choose to pay with a debit or credit card.
- Select your preferred payment method at the bottom of the screen.
The options shown in the box at the top are the KFC vegan options. For more information, check out the menu.
Note: You may also see options labeled ‘Vegetarian/Vegan’, but these are not vegetarian options as such. They will have a separate payment system and different dishes and sides, and may or may not include KFC vegan options.
Note: Other restaurant chains may vary the instructions slightly and ask you to choose from a selection of options first, or may have their own instructions entirely. You’ll always have the option to use a payment card.
Some menu items and ingredients are known to be KFC vegan-friendly, but may still have some vegetarian options. We recommend that you check with the restaurant to ensure you get the KFC vegan version. You will have to fill in your information each time you order.
You will be shown a range of options depending on your selected choice. Some of the options may be vegetarian or vegan versions. If you are unsure or need more information, please call the restaurant or see the menu.