Are Portillo’S Fries Vegan? A Detailed Look

Craving a delicious order of fries but want to stick to your vegan diet? If you’re in the Chicagoland area, you may be wondering if you can indulge in some crispy fries from the popular chain Portillo’s without compromising your values.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about whether Portillo’s fries are vegan-friendly.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Unfortunately, Portillo’s fries are not vegan due to being cooked in beef tallow.

What Makes Something Vegan?

Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. When it comes to food, being vegan means consuming only plant-based ingredients and avoiding any animal-derived products.

To determine whether something is vegan, there are a few key factors to consider.

No animal products

The first and most important aspect of veganism is the exclusion of animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. Vegan food is typically made from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

These plant-based ingredients provide all the necessary nutrients for a healthy and balanced diet.

No animal byproducts

In addition to avoiding animal products, being vegan also means avoiding any byproducts derived from animals. This includes ingredients such as gelatin, which is made from animal bones and tissues, and casein, a milk protein commonly found in processed foods.

Vegans also steer clear of additives like carmine, a red dye derived from crushed insects, and rennet, an enzyme extracted from the stomach lining of calves.

No cross-contamination

Another important aspect of veganism is ensuring that there is no cross-contamination during the preparation and cooking process. This means that vegan dishes should be prepared separately from non-vegan ones to avoid any contact with animal-based ingredients.

It is essential for restaurants and food establishments to have dedicated cooking surfaces, utensils, and fryers to prevent cross-contamination.

It’s worth noting that while Portillo’s fries themselves are vegan, they are typically cooked in the same fryers as non-vegan items such as meat products. This can lead to cross-contamination, making them unsuitable for strict vegans.

However, individuals with a more flexible approach to veganism may still choose to consume them.

For more information on veganism and to find a comprehensive list of vegan-friendly ingredients, visit the Vegan Society website.

Are Portillo’s Fries Cooked in Beef Tallow?

Yes, beef tallow is used in the cooking process of Portillo’s fries. Beef tallow is a type of rendered beef fat that is solid at room temperature and is commonly used in the food industry for frying. Portillo’s, a popular fast food chain known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, has been using beef tallow to cook their fries for many years.

History and significance of tallow for Portillo’s

The use of beef tallow in the cooking process at Portillo’s has a long history and holds significant importance for the taste and texture of their fries. The restaurant takes pride in its traditional cooking methods, which include using beef tallow to achieve a distinct flavor that has become synonymous with their brand.

Beef tallow has been used in cooking for centuries and was a common ingredient before the popularity of vegetable oils and other alternatives. It is known for its high smoke point, which makes it ideal for deep frying, as it can withstand high temperatures without breaking down or oxidizing.

This results in fries that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Portillo’s continues to use beef tallow in their fries because it adds a unique richness and flavor that cannot be replicated with other cooking fats. While some may argue that beef tallow is not vegan-friendly, it is important to note that Portillo’s offers a variety of other menu items that cater to different dietary preferences, including vegetarian and vegan options.

Potential for Cross-Contamination

Fries cooked in the same oil as non-vegan items

One of the main concerns for vegans when it comes to Portillo’s fries is the potential for cross-contamination. Portillo’s fries are cooked in the same oil as some non-vegan items, such as their breaded chicken tenders and cheese sticks.

This means that there is a possibility of trace amounts of animal products ending up in the fries.

While Portillo’s does not specifically state that their fries are vegan, they do mention on their website that their fries are prepared in a shared fryer. This means that there is a risk of cross-contamination with non-vegan items.

For strict vegans who want to avoid any contact with animal products, it may be best to opt for other vegan-friendly options on the menu.

Shared fryers and cooking tools

Another factor to consider is that Portillo’s uses shared fryers and cooking tools. This means that the same equipment is used to cook both vegan and non-vegan items. While the fryers are cleaned between batches, there is still a possibility of residual traces of non-vegan ingredients remaining on the equipment.

To minimize the risk of cross-contamination, Portillo’s advises customers with specific dietary restrictions to inform their server or cashier about their dietary needs. This way, they can take extra precautions to avoid any potential cross-contamination.

It is important to note that cross-contamination is a common concern in many restaurants, especially those that serve both vegan and non-vegan options. It is always a good idea to ask about cross-contamination policies and procedures if you have strict dietary restrictions.

Any Vegan Options at Portillo’s?

For those following a vegan diet, finding suitable options at popular chain restaurants can sometimes be a challenge. Portillo’s, known for its iconic Chicago-style hot dogs and beef sandwiches, may not seem like the first choice for vegans.

However, with a little modification and careful selection, there are a few vegan-friendly options available.

Limited veggie burgers and salad options

While Portillo’s is primarily known for its meat-based menu, they do offer a limited selection of veggie burgers and salads that can be suitable for vegans. Their veggie burger is made from a blend of vegetables, grains, and spices, providing a tasty alternative to the traditional beef patty.

Additionally, they offer a garden salad that can be customized by omitting any non-vegan ingredients such as cheese or dressing that contains animal products.

It’s important to note that the availability of these menu items may vary depending on the location, so it’s always a good idea to check with your nearest Portillo’s before visiting.

Modifications may be needed

While Portillo’s has a few vegan-friendly options, it’s worth mentioning that modifications may be needed to make certain dishes suitable for a vegan diet. For example, if you decide to order the veggie burger, be sure to request it without cheese or any other non-vegan toppings.

Similarly, if you opt for a salad, ask for a vegan-friendly dressing or request that the cheese be omitted.

It’s always a good idea to communicate your dietary preferences and restrictions clearly with the staff to ensure that your meal is prepared correctly. They are usually accommodating and willing to make modifications to meet your needs.

Remember, while Portillo’s may not be the go-to destination for vegans, it’s encouraging to see that they have made some effort to include plant-based options on their menu. So, whether you’re a vegan looking for a quick bite or dining with non-vegan friends, you can still find something to enjoy at Portillo’s with a little customization.

Best Vegan Fries Options Near Portillo’s

While Portillo’s is a beloved fast food chain known for its delicious Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, it may leave vegans wondering if they have any options. One of the most common questions is whether Portillo’s fries are vegan-friendly.

Unfortunately, Portillo’s fries are not vegan as they are cooked in oil that is shared with non-vegan items such as meat and cheese. However, fear not! There are several vegan-friendly options near Portillo’s where you can enjoy a tasty plate of fries without compromising your dietary choices.

Naf Naf Grill

Naf Naf Grill is a Middle Eastern fast-casual restaurant chain that offers a variety of vegan options, including their delicious fries. Their fries are cooked in separate oil and are not cross-contaminated with any animal products.

You can enjoy a plate of crispy, golden fries seasoned with their signature spices. Pair them with their flavorful falafel wrap or a refreshing salad for a satisfying vegan meal.

Native Foods

Native Foods is a vegan restaurant that offers a wide range of plant-based dishes, including their mouthwatering fries. Their fries are made from fresh, hand-cut potatoes and are cooked in 100% vegetable oil.

They are seasoned to perfection and are the perfect accompaniment to their tasty burgers, sandwiches, or bowls. Native Foods is a great option for vegans looking to indulge in some delicious fries without any worries.

Chicago Diner

Chicago Diner is a beloved vegan restaurant in Chicago that has been serving up delicious plant-based dishes for over 35 years. Their fries are a crowd favorite, made from fresh potatoes and cooked in separate oil to maintain their vegan status.

Pair them with one of Chicago Diner’s famous vegan burgers or their delectable mac and cheese for a truly satisfying meal. You won’t be disappointed!

So, while Portillo’s fries may not be vegan, there are plenty of nearby options where you can enjoy a plate of delicious vegan fries. Whether you choose Naf Naf Grill, Native Foods, or Chicago Diner, you can rest assured that you’ll be indulging in a vegan-friendly and mouthwatering experience.

Happy eating!


While Portillo’s has many delicious menu options, their iconic fries are unfortunately not vegan-friendly due to being cooked in beef tallow. However, with a few simple modifications and by opting for menu items clearly marked as vegetarian, you may still be able to enjoy some Portillo’s favorites while sticking to your vegan diet.

If you want to indulge in some truly vegan fries, check out the recommendations for nearby vegan-friendly restaurants. Wherever you choose to eat, bon appetit!

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