My family spent many of my brother’s birthdays at Applebee’s just so he could get serenaded with the “Happy Birthday” song while enjoying a giant Triple Chocolate Meltdown cake. While I have many fond memories of this chain because of this, I haven’t been to an Applebee’s since I became vegan more than five years ago. I didn't think it was possible for me to eat anything there, but as it turns out there are quite a few vegetarian Applebee's menu items available, and a handful of vegan options as well.

#SpoonTip: All fried items at Applebee's are cooked in the same fryer as meat products like chicken tenders. Therefore, some of the items listed below aren't truly vegetarian due to cross-contamination. But if you're cool with this, order away! 

Vegetarian Applebee's Appetizers

You could totally make appetizers into a meal as a vegetarian or vegan if you ordered a few just for yourself. I particularly like the the Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip, which comes with perfectly baked pretzel sticks, Blue Moon beer cheese, and mustard. The White Queso Dip & Chips includes crispy tortilla chips with a creamy cheese dip. The Spinach & Artichoke Dip also includes tortilla chips, but it comes with a creamy Parmesan-topped dip. 

The Crunchy Onion Rings are best dipped in ketchup, and the warm Mozzarella Sticks ooze cheese and are served with marinara sauce or ranch dressing. The only vegan app is Chips & Salsa, which features crisp corn tortilla chips with chipotle lime salsa.

Vegetarian Applebee's Sides

Sides are the most underrated part of every meal. Vegetarians can enjoy potatoes galore at Applebee's: the Baked Potato is topped with a pat of warm butter, the Garlic Mashed Potatoes are whipped to perfection with garlic and butter, and the Crispy Red Potatoes are roasted to the perfect crispness.

Other sides range from Fired Grilled Veggies to Coleslaw to sautéed Garlicky Green Beans to Steamed Broccoli. Soft Bread Rolls are another filling side. The only vegan side is easily the best: seasoned French Fries.

#SpoonTip: Remember that the fry oil could be cross-contaminated, even though the fries themselves contain only vegan ingredients.

Vegetarian Applebee's Salads

None of the salads are originally vegetarian, but you can make them so by asking for them without chicken or shrimp. Ask for the Crispy Chicken Tender Salad and the Grilled Chicken Salad without chicken. You’re left with a bowl of greens, cheddar cheese, tomato, and a hard-boiled egg with honey Dijon mustard dressing. Don’t even try to make either of these salads vegan; you’ll end up with a sad, overpriced bowl of lettuce and tomato.

The Southwestern Chicken Salad can be made vegetarian if you ask for no chicken. You'll enjoy a bed of mixed greens topped with black bean corn salsa, cheddar cheese, tortilla strips, and cilantro ranch dressing. The vegan version would be without chicken or cheese and would need a different dressing, like the chili lime vinaigrette.

Finally, ask for the Oriental Chicken Salad without chicken. You’ll get a vegetarian salad of Asian greens, rice noodles, and almonds tossed in oriental vinaigrette. Make this vegan with a different dressing, like Italian.

The grilled chicken and shrimp Caesar salads cannot be made vegetarian or vegan unless you want a bowl of straight-up lettuce. This is because Caesar dressing is made with anchovies, a type of fish.

Vegetarian Applebee's Pasta

There are quite a few vegetarian pasta options at Applebee's if you ask for a few substitutions. Go for the Classic Broccoli Chicken Alfredo or the Spinach & Artichoke Chicken Penne, minus the chicken. The Three Cheese Chicken Penne without chicken is also particularly good. It features asiago, Parmesan, and white Cheddar cheeses topped with bruschetta tomatoes.

Or you can go the Classic Chicken Parmesan route (no chicken, obvs) for a plate of pasta with marinara sauce topped with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Lastly, the Four Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders without chicken tenders or bacon is big bowl of cheesy goodness. 

Vegetarian Applebee's Kid's Menu

pasta, macaroni, spaghetti, scrambled, cheese, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

Order off the kid’s menu whether you’re physically still a kid, or just a kid at heart. Choose from three vegetarian meal options. The grilled cheese includes gooey cheese between two slices of toasty bread. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a cheesy pasta that even the pickiest kids will like. The leafy House Salad can be enjoyed with all dressings except Caesar. Sides include Apple Dippers with Yogurt (fresh apple slices with a creamy yogurt dip), Vanilla Yogurt with Strawberries, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

The kid's vegan options include Applesauce, French Fries, and Steamed Broccoli. The regular side of broccoli contains dairy, but the kid's version doesn't, so make sure you order the correct one. Vegans can also enjoy the House Salad, but without cheese and with a chili lime vinaigrette, Italian dressing, or lemon olive oil vinaigrette.

Vegetarian Applebee's Desserts

All desserts are vegetarian, but none are vegan. The Brownie Bite is a warm dark chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. The Blue Ribbon Brownie includes two brownies, two scoops of ice cream, and double the hot fudge. The Butter Pecan Blondie is a warm, nutty blondie topped with maple cream cheese, candied pecans, and vanilla ice cream.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae presents a warm chocolate chip cookie with cool vanilla ice cream. The Hot Fudge Sundae Shooter includes vanilla ice cream, loads of hot fudge, and whipped cream topped with a maraschino cherry. But the best dessert is without a doubt the Triple Chocolate Meltdown—rich chocolate cake filled in the center with fudge and topped with more hot fudge and ice cream.

Vegetarian Applebee's Drinks

All drinks are vegetarian, and all are vegan besides the milkshakes. Hit up Applebee’s for happy hour with all the cheap drinks, like $1 Long Islands.

This is probably the most comprehensive list of vegetarian and vegan options you'll find for Applebee's. It was compiled using Applebee's menu, their Allergen Information PDF, and an Applebee's employee I corresponded with Applebee's to make sure all this information was correct. 

Vegetarians can order most appetizers and sides, all the pastas without meat, and all the desserts. Vegans have fewer options, but can still leave satisfied. Note that none of the soups are technically vegetarian as they contain beef broth. Now that you know all the vegetarian Applebee's menu items, you can eat out without worrying about sneaky animal byproducts hiding in your food.