Vegan Options At Qdoba

What Are The Vegan Options At Qdoba? (Updated Guide)

Characterized by flavorful, balanced recipes that delight your palate and satisfy your hunger, Mexican cuisine has taken America by storm. When I close my eyes and think about Mexican food, the words tangy, spicy, light, and fresh come directly to mind. Sombreros, mariachis, pinatas, Cinco de Mayo, and Dia de Muertos also appear in the corner of my brain, reminding me how festive and vibrant Mexican culture is.

If you live in or have ever been to the United States, you’ve noticed that Mexican culture is etched in American society. It’s no wonder that Mexican food is found so easily in the States. More than 60,000 Mexican restaurants in the US represent 10% of all restaurants in the country. It’s the most popular non-US type of food; it even outranks pizza joints.

After Taco Bell introduced their fast-food walk-up windows in 1962, Mexican fast-food quickly became the most sought-after on-the-go food in the States. Indeed, who could resist a freshly wrapped taco or burrito jam-packed with rice, beans, veggies, meat, guac, and salsas of all kinds? Today, Mexican fast-food spots are pretty common, so it’s more challenging to stand out. The competition is fierce, and people have become connoisseurs when it comes to Mexican food.

Qdoba was founded in 1995 in Denver, Colorado. It was created to serve quality Mexican-inspired products fast and give customers the freedom to completely customize their meals. The idea caught on; today, Qdoba has over 700 locations in the US and Canada.

What About Vegans, Though?

When a restaurant allows you to customize your order, there’s always a chance that even vegans may be able to have a decent meal. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that Qdoba has many vegan-friendly options on the menu. And by the end of this article, you’ll likely want to run out to the nearest Qdoba location.

In A Hurry? Order This!

If you’re in a hurry, here are a few entrees that you can order on the fly.

  • Impossible bowl 
  • Impossible taco 
  • Impossible burrito
  • Loaded tortilla soup 
  • Nachos 
  • Taco salad 

Just make sure to ask for no cheese.

Note that Impossible Meat is plant-based and 100% vegan! But be wary of their cheese, since Qdoba doesn’t yet offer vegan cheese.

A Brief History Of Qdoba

Qdoba was created by Anthony Miller and his pal Robert Hauser. They opened the first location on Grant Street and 6th Avenue in Denver, CO (if you live in the area, the place is still open). Hauser designed the menu based on fresh ingredients and reduced animal fat to provide their customers with a healthier alternative to typical Mexican fast-food.

The name of the place was called Zuma. It was an immediate hit with the local Denver population. Indeed, their first year’s revenue was over $1.5 million. A place selling burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, tacos, taco salads, tortilla soup, and Mexican gumbo with that kind of revenue on its first year is truly remarkable.

The brand grew, and so did its number of locations. It was then bought and sold several times, changing from Zema to Z-Teca to settle on its unique Qdoba naming.

What’s With The Name?

Qdoba. First of all, how do you pronounce it? After looking at a ton of suggestions, I came up with what I think is the pronunciation that makes the most sense: (Kew – doh – buh). Then again, it’s a made-up word so have fun with it. I’m sure even Qdoba employees are confused on how to say it.

But what does Qdoba mean? The meaning is even trickier than saying the name. At first glance, it looks a lot like an acronym, so you can have a go at what it stands for. “Queso, Delicious, On Basically Anything” or “Quesa-Dillas Over Burgers Anyday” or “Quest Driven On Burrito Day?” Have a try; it’s pretty fun. However, none of the combinations you try will be the right answer because it’s not an acronym.

After years of letting people wonder about the meaning behind the name, Qdoba finally revealed that the word means – flavor! Or, to be more exact, it means “flame-grilled, hand-smashed, made-in-house flavor.” It certainly raises eyebrows about how they came up with this, but at least now we know that the Qdoba has imagination. 

Concept

Qdoba uses a San Francisco style tortilla (Mission Burrito), a huge tortilla that can wrap many ingredients. The concept is fast-food, but with a classier twist. The food is fresh, the decor is tasteful, and cleanliness is always top-notch. Ordering is convenient and extremely effective. Walk up to the counter, ask for a specific entree, accompany your burrito, taco, bowl, or salad every step of the way, witness the masterful wrapping, pay for your meal, and sit or take it away. That’s it. Affordable, fresh, delicious Mexican food ready in minutes.

Fun Facts

1. Qdoba uses more than 30 ingredients.

2. It took 42 tries for them to get the 3-Cheese Queso just right.

3. They’ve donated over 5 million meals to children in need as of 2021.

4. Their guacamole is hand-smashed daily.

5. They were once the property of Jack in the Box.

What Are People Saying?

As always, I love looking at reviews, and I always try to look at patterns that can help shed light on what to expect at a place. The number of reviews was relatively low, at only 350 reviews on Yelp. Most complaints were primarily directed towards customer service. This isn’t a surprise given that it’s fast-food and a lot of the staff can be inexperienced or plain careless.

I noticed that a Qdoba customer service agent would respond with professionalism and genuine concern to address the issue in every lousy review. But not only that, they went further and even offered to make it up to the disappointed customers by asking them to contact customer support with a case number. I found this excellent. In short, the positives outweighed the negatives, and Qdoba cared enough to pay attention to poor reviews.

The Menu

The Qdoba menu is comprised of two main sections: Signature Eats or Customize Your Own. That doesn’t seem like much, but the menu is enormous when you’re standing at the counter and looking at the wide selection of ingredients.

What To Order?

All of Qdoba’s chips, shells, and tortillas are vegan. The Impossible Meat is also vegan, so you be able to have a complete meal at Qdoba. Awesome right? Here are your vegan options:

Entrees

  • Impossible bowl
  • Impossible taco
  • Impossible burrito
  • Loaded tortilla soup
  • Nachos 
  • Taco salad 

Build Your Own

Wraps, Chips, And Shells

  • Corn tortilla chips 
  • Corn tortilla strips
  • Corn taco shells 
  • Soft white corn tortillas
  • Soft whole tortillas
  • Soft whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Taco salad shell

Ingredients

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Cilantro lime rice
  • Fajita veggies
  • Potatoes
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Jalapenos
  • Cilantro
  • Impossible meat

Sauces & Extras

  • Black beans & corn salsa
  • Corn & pepper blend
  • Fiery habanero
  • Guacamole
  • Mango salsa
  • Pico de gallo
  • Ranchera sauce
  • Roasted corn chile corn salsa
  • Salsa roja 
  • Salsa verde

Is It Worth It?

Qdoba is definitely worth it. The number of choices that allow you to build your own makes a world of difference. Their introduction of Impossible Meat was brilliant and is much appreciated by vegans and vegetarians alike. Vegan cheese would be the cherry on top, but Qdoba has done well, nonetheless. In short, Qdoba is indeed vegan-friendly approved.

Final Thoughts

Qdoba is affordable, fresh, tasty, convenient, clean, and well-managed. They offer tons of vegan-friendly options to build your own and even have vegan entrees that can be ordered without any customization. Yes, it’s fast-food, but it’s a more refined and healthier choice than many other fast-food joints. Whether you eat-in, take away or order from home, Qdoba will not let vegans go hungry!

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