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Vegan at Olive GardenThanks to living in the farming state of Indiana, USA, we are closer to my family.  My sister and her family lives in central Indiana in Lafayette, Indiana.  Yep, home of the boilermakers!  Boiler Up!  My youngest niece had a birthday a few weeks ago and so we went down to visit her, it’s about a 3 hour trip so not bad considering there is barely any traffic on the country roads in the fine state of Indiana.  If only the state would increase the highway and country road speed limits it would make the trip more enjoyable – one can only see so many corn fields before going a bit crazy.  But we make the trip in love for our nieces every so often when they are not busy.  So back to the story, my niece had a birthday and she was also playing in a basketball game in the morning so we made an entire day trip out of the event.  Genki Niece decided upon the restaurant called the Olive Garden, which is notorious for not being exactly vegan friendly.  We made it happen though so below is a list of everything that is available to vegans:

Please note that the below items are mentioned as being before but you will want to double check with your waitstaff to assure that nothing is added at their specific restaurant.  Yes, some of them do go astray…  Always good to double check anyways right?

Appetizers:

Breadsticks:  Yes these can be made vegan but you have to ask the waitstaff for no butter on top.  Note:  You will have to ask if you can get these at no extra cost because I have read that other vegans had to pay for a “specialty order” and who wants to pay for something that is normally free.  We had no issues asking if there was a charge and we did not have one.

Salad:  Yes this also can be made vegan but you have to be careful because the Olive Garden is Sicilian so butter is added culturally to just about everything.  You can ask for a little oil and a little balsamic vinegar on the side though, separate not mixed.  Please note the salad dressing that the Olive Garden is famous for is not vegan and neither are any of the menu dressings.  We were a bit shocked though that our salads were dulled down to just about only cheap bibb lettuce instead of the vegetable hardy variety everyone else was served.  I guess the waitstaff thought olives and vegetables were not vegan?  No idea but it was a bit sad but probably was just the location we visited.

Entrees:  Again this can be very tricky because the restaurant has Sicilian American roots so even the pasta will have butter and almost all the sauces too.

Garden Primavera:  Genki Husband ventured into this entree for dinner.  The menu listed it contained roasted zucchini, red bell peppers, onions and tomatoes tossed with tri-colored vegetable penne in homemade basil pesto and marinara sauce.  He chose this because it was one of the few dishes that actually contained vegetables.  The waitress had to double check with the chef of it’s contents and she assured us there was no dairy or other animal bi-products in the tomato sauce that they would be putting on the dish.  The pesto has cheese so it’s not vegan and can’t be changed.  Unfortunately when we received the dish, it contained visible cheese in the tomato sauce.  We asked the waitress and she actually got mad at us because she had “already confirmed” it had no cheese.  So if you are going to order this dish, order it without the sauce and get an olive oil/garlic mixture and saute it all together. Photo Above

Vegan Options at the Olive Garden

Minestrone:  It was a bit cold outside so I ordered this soup after asking about the broth and if it contained anything not vegan.  Again we were assured there was nothing in the soup that was no vegan.  When we receive the soup, it did not appear to have anything in it such as butter or chicken broth but I can’t confirm it 100%.

Others: I’ve read other vegans going into Olive Garden and not being able to order the pasta because it can sometimes contain butter, as it also goes with the sauce.  If you want to play it safe, I would suggest ordering the whole-wheat pasta with an olive oil/garlic mixture.  Make sure to mention to saute it or you will receive raw garlic.  As always double check to assure the items do not have animals products in them – but please note that while we did do this multiple times we did receive dairy products in ours.  So although I hate to suggest it, if you want to eat at Olive Garden with your family and friends, I would suggest taking something along with you if you have an allergy to dairy because even if you ask you my not know what you are eating.

Any other vegans eating at Olive Garden?  While our experience was not so great, it could have been a one-off situation so I would never want to discourage anyone from testing out a restaurant.  What are your views and experiences at this restaurant? Comments below

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