Salad with breadsticks and soup

Delicious Vegan Dishes Inspired by Olive Garden

Olive Garden/Facebook

Olive Garden’s famous tagline, “When you’re here, you’re family,” may have been switched to “Go Olive Garden” in 2012, but you would never know considering how it operates its restaurant and orients the menu around all dietary preferences. No matter if your family member is vegetarian, gluten-free, or vegan, there are a few options for everyone in your family to enjoy.

Finding a great vegan dish at a chain restaurant can often be a challenge if its core menu items revolve around meat and dairy. While it’s true that the majority of Olive Garden’s menu does include dairy, eggs, meat, or other animal by-products, vegans can still join their families for an outing to Olive Garden and get to enjoy the experience without asking for endless substitutions.

The vegan dishes at Olive Garden include restaurant classics, appetizers, and entrées. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no vegan desserts, but all of its other vegan offerings can be ordered under the “never-ending first course” special.

Whether you’re on vacation and looking for an affordable vegan option, visiting family in the suburbs, or hoping to experience the unique, three-floor Olive Garden in New York, Olive Garden will always be a place where vegans can find a safe vegan option.

Olive Garden breadsticks

Olive Garden bread sticks in a basket

The people that encourage you not to fill up on bread before your meal surely were not talking about the Olive Garden. Filling up on bread is a big part of the Olive Garden experience. The breadsticks with garlic topping are known throughout the world, popularized even more by mentions in movies, TV shows, and Olive Garden commercials.

Restaurant breadsticks are more often than not coated in butter, but this fan-favorite option is 100% vegan with no substitutions required. You can order these breadsticks with or without the garlic topping, depending on your personal preference, but both options are vegan as the topping has a soy base.

If you plan to order it with a dipping sauce, you will need to avoid the alfredo and five-cheese marinara sauces as they both have dairy. The only vegan dipping sauce is the marinara sauce. If you’re looking for a light meal at Olive Garden, look no further than pairing these breadsticks with a vegan soup option, which, to no vegan’s surprise, is the beloved minestrone.

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Minestrone soup

Olive Garden minestrone soup in a white bowl

Olive Garden/Facebook

Minestrone is a common safe restaurant option for vegans as this Italian vegetable soup rarely strays from a simple vegan recipe of leftover veggies and pasta in a tomato base. Luckily, Olive Garden’s version is no different and safe for both vegans and vegetarians.

Olive Garden’s minestrone soup is hearty, nutritionally dense, and a great option all year round. Its soup’s recipe features a mix of pasta, beans, and vegetables (tomatoes and zucchini) to please a variety of palates. The minestrone soup is also one of the more nutritious items on the menu. It is low in carbs and sugar and has only 110 calories per serving. As another vegan tip, you can indulge in the never-ending first course special.

If you want to pair this soup with more vegan dishes from Olive Garden, make it an easy meal with the breadsticks and salad. (Make sure you order the salad with olive oil and vinegar and without the croutons.)

Create Your Own Pasta

whole wheat linguine


At a more niche Italian bistro, it’s might be difficult for vegans to get a good meal as pasta is often made in house. While having fresh, handmade pasta sounds lovely to every carb-loving human, pasta is often made with eggs, eliminating the dish as potential vegan options.

In order for Olive Garden to be able to run as the well olive-oiled machine it is, it opts to use shelf-stable dry pasta for all of the pasta dishes instead of making it in house. This means that Olive Garden fans can rejoice, because most pasta variety under the Create Your Own Pasta menu are vegan, except for the gluten-free rotini.

The vegan pasta options include angel hair, fettuccine, rigatoni, small shells, and spaghetti. For sauce options, you can choose between the marinara or tomato sauce as your sauce of choice. If you would like to add more vegetables to your meal, you can add broccoli to this entrée, or ask the kitchen for other vegetable options, such as eggplant, asparagus, or mushrooms that are on hand from other entrées.

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