Are Sacramento’s vegans falling in love with their own version of junk food?

Photo from Roam-in-Color.

By Tyra Willis

As vegan options continue popping up across Sacramento, the choice between healthy meals or comfort food is sparking some debate: Burger Patch and Plant Power are rising in the city’s vegan food scene. Vegan burgers, chicken sandwiches, loaded fries, non-dairy milkshakes, desserts and more can be found on their menu. The recent grand opening of the fourth Burger Patch location in Land Park suggests that vegan junk-food options will only become more popular.

In a poll conducted on a popular Sacramento Facebook group for vegans, which has more than 5,300 members, some 57.46% of local vegans said they preferred comfort, junk-food options – such as vegan burgers – while 42.54% of local vegans prefer healthier vegan options, including buddha or smoothie bowls.

Nadia Garcia-Cho has been a member of the Sacramento Area Vegans Facebook group for 4 years. She prefers comfort and junk-food vegan options when dining out or ordering in.

“I eat very healthy at home,” she said, “so if I eat out and spend extra money, I want comfort food.”

Some students at Sacramento State University have been wishing for more vegan comfort food possibilities on campus.

“Who wants to cry into a salad after they get a bad grade on a test?” noted Emily Dickenson, a vegan and student at Sacramento State. “Not me.”

Burger King and Carl’s Jr. recently added vegan burger options to their menu in the United States. They now serve vegan burgers from Impossible Meat and Beyond Meat. Local Sacramento restaurants are also adding vegan burger options to their menus.

“Once we got vegan burgers from Beyond Meat, I noticed more people ordering it compared to our black bean burger that we have had on the menu for years,” said Kayla Acklin, who works at a local restaurant in Sacramento serving vegan options.

“I am not vegan, but the black bean burger looked like poop,” she laughed. “The Beyond Burger looks way more appealing.”

The black bean burger is healthier and lower in calories, but Acklin thinks the majority of the customers she serves prefer the comfort vegan options.

Local vegans that prefer healthier vegan options when dining out also expressed their opinions.

“It is entirely possible to make vegan food healthy,” said Sukhmandir Kaur. “It makes no sense to care about animals but trash your own health and body. We are animals too.”

“I personally wish there were more healthy options!” stressed Vanessa Cudabac. “It is so easy to get ‘junk’ vegan food, but a lot more difficult to find something that is nourishing.”

Other Sacramento vegans say there is no need to choose between healthy or junk-food vegan options.

“Why can’t comfort food be healthy?” wrote Ralph Kasarda in the comment section of the poll.

Another respondent, Michelle Gliko, cited Sunflower Cafe’s nut burger in Fair Oaks as a healthy medium between the two options.

The rise of veganism has increased vegan menu options and has impacted market sales. Food Revolution reports that the number of vegans in the United States has risen by 600% in the past three years, with 6% of Americans identifying as vegan, according to Food Revolution.

A recent study found that non-dairy milk sales saw a 61% increase in the past decade. The same study found that vegan alternatives for animal products have grown by 27% in the past year and the sale of cow’s milk is experiencing a rapid decline. Another study found in 2018 found that 51% of restaurants have added vegan options to their menu.

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29 Comments on "Are Sacramento’s vegans falling in love with their own version of junk food?"

  1. As the vegan lifestyle becomes more popular , my question is can you get the protein from meat alternatives ?

    • The debate on whether a vegan diet provides enough protein has long been settled — the answer is yes!

    • Most plant-based meat alternatives have at least as much, sometimes more, protein as their non-vegan counterparts.

    • The ideology of not getting enough protein is really outdated. A simple Google search will show you that you can get every single amino acid on a plant based diet.
      I think the real question is, where do non-vegans get their fiber from? Because from research and studies, colon cancer has gone up, now starting with people in their mid 30s. Getting enough fiber is important in preventing colon cancer.
      The only thing a plant based diet would lack is B12 and even then, most foods are fortified with B12, so it really is a non issue at this point.

  2. Great article Tyra!

  3. I like having a variety of vegan options when I eat out — but I *really* love having “treats” or comfort food when going out. Going out to eat is a special occasion, so it’s fun to indulge!

  4. As a vegan in Sacramento, I am loving all the new vegan restaurants and vegan items on menu. I hope
    This trend continues.

  5. Junk food all the way!!

  6. Thanks for writing this article, I agree that as a Vegan we should have the same options as everyone else. Sometimes I want junk food and other times I want to be healthier. It’s always a nice surprise to travel and not be limited to eating a salad or a Beyond burger

  7. Even before I went vegan five years ago, I always preferred comfort food over anything, so a meal can be either healthy or junky but it needs to have substance. Ideally the savory foods we seek are also healthy, but since I don’t personally cook, I give my trust to the chefs

  8. I want both. I want healthy vegan comfort food options!

  9. Great article! I love that Sacramento has both options, and seems to be fast becoming a vegan hotspot for all different kinds of vegan food. Sometimes I want decadent and I go to Pushkin’s, other times I want healthy and go to Sunflower or my new favorite Himalaya. All good!

  10. Great article! Personally I think the vegan junk food really feels worth the money compared to a salad or bowl I could easily (and cheaply) make at home. So there’s my vote, but more options are always good!

  11. Oh yes. Totally resonate with this. As a vegan, I just want options when I go out — just like non-vegans. Sometimes I want comfort food and other times I need healthy food to replace the meals I didn’t have time to prep at home.

    Great piece Tyra!

  12. More comfort food for sure! A little saturated fat and salt isn’t so bad anyway.

    The healthier food could be comforting and I want my comfort food to be healthy.

    600% increase in vegans though!? Is that right? The world to come is vegan! Woo!

  13. Love the article! Very well written! I can make healthy vegan options at home, I’m all for the “junk” and comfort food but can agree it’s nice to find a smoothie bowl or veggie wrap especially in the summer months when eating hot food is a chore.

  14. Thanks for this article! I definitely prefer healthy vegan options! But Healthy does not mean salad!

  15. We need more of both! Thanks for shining the light on this topic!

  16. Great article! Nice to see more vegan content for the Sacramento area.

  17. 600% increase in three years?!? Wow! Great article, thank you.

  18. Thanks for this article. I’m happy to see the vegan alternatives becoming more mainstream and accepted. But I definitely prefer the healthier options over comfort/junk food anyday.

  19. For me personally, I find “healthy” food to be fairly easy to prepare at home, so I’m less inclined to go out and buy like a hummus and veggie wrap for $10, but I know I’m not gonna try and make my own fried chik’n at home so I would be much more willing to pay for a place that will. I think vegan restaurants should have options and maybe even menu keys for items that are low-sodium, raw, high-protein, etc.

  20. Amelia Cotter | June 14, 2022 at 2:17 am | Reply

    I’d like to see more places that are in the middle or just have more variety so the only options aren’t just health food or junk food. I’d love to have more non-American food places as well to try new things. Like I recently had Thai tea for the first time and loved it, so I’d be excited to have new options instead of repeats of the same type of food.

  21. I once went to a tiny take out place in (I think it was) Allston to get vegan pizza and garlic knots. The guy who ran the place told us a story about how he had to fight tooth and nail to get a spot at a vegan food festival because the person running it disliked that his vegan food wasn’t healthy. Veganism isn’t a diet, it’s about the animals! Any junk food can and should be vegan! A salad is easy to throw together at home, if I’m eating out, I want some deep fried goodness as a treat that I wouldn’t prepare myself.

  22. I think it’s so important to have both healthy and junk food vegan options. Just like people who eat animals, we want variety – sometimes I want a greasy pizza and other times I want a light salad. Great article highlighting that vegans love a variety of foods!

  23. I like that there are options. I think we need even more options though. I live in west Roseville, so driving to midtown or downtown is not always convenient. Bring all the vegan restaurants to Roseville!

  24. Great article. I enjoyed hearing the community feedback. Personally, I wish there were more healthy vegan places to eat.

  25. Love the article Tyra!!! I’m personally on the side of wanting more comfort options. I can look up healthy recipes and usually do for eating at home, but going out and feeling like I can partake among family and friends in treating myself is a luxury I occasionally miss as a vegan in the south. So yes please to more vegan comfort options!!!

  26. Good article!

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