Friday, August 10, 2007


Qdoba posts full ingredient information on their website, but the path to find it is anything but intuitive. Still, it is provided, showing that there's really no basis keeping ingredients secret, let alone pretending the company itself doesn't even know its products' ingredients.

I would like to visit your restaurant. Can you tell me what menu items are vegan (no animal products)? Thank you for taking the time to research this.

Qdoba response:
Dear Erin,
Thank you for your e-mail. To get a listing of product ingredients, please
visit our website at From the home page click on "Menu" On the next page, go to the right side of the page and click on the red lettering that says " click here for nutritional and allergen information" The next page that comes up says "Healthy Items, a healthy amount of choices for eating better" below that, in red letters it says "nutrition, allergens, calculator". Click on "Allergens" At the top of the page click on the red lettering that says "Click here to view PDF of our Allergen Information and Menu Item Ingredients" This will bring up a detailed listing of all the ingredients in our different products.
Guest Relations

I sent a follow up because there are some ingredients listed that may or may not be of animal origin.

My response #2:
Hello Amber,
Thank you for your prompt [reply]. Can you tell me if the following products are, or contain anything, of animal origin?
-artificial butter flavor (in "pan release spray")
-amylase (soft white corn tortillas)
-thiamin mononitrate (soft flour tortillas)
-natural flavors (Salsa Roja)
- Disodium Inosinate (Tortilla Soup)
-"flavoring" in Tortilla Soup
Your help with this matter is greatly appreciated!
Thank you,

Qdoba response #2:
Dear Erin,
We can not guarantee that one or all of the ingredients that you mentioned
are not in the products or would not come in contact with the food. The
only information we can supply is just what is on the web-site. If you
would like to discuss this matter further, please contact our Guest
Relations department at 1-888-497-3622, and refer to report #37448. Our
representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7am to 4pm PT.
Guest Relations

I'm disappointed. They seem to be addressing the possibility of cross contamination, not the origins of the ingredients in question. I want something in writing, not a phone conversation, so I sent the following reply (#3):

Hello Sherri,
Thank you for your response. I am aware of the risk of cross contamination in any dining situation; however, if you or someone at Qdoba could determine if the following ingredients, found in your products, are of animal origin, it would be a great help to me, and others who follow a vegan diet as closely as possible, in determining whether Qdoba can be considered a place with vegan dining options. I understand it may not always be easily determinable whether an ingredient is of animal origin, but please know that your efforts to make that determination will be of great value, both to vegan diners and as a result, to your restaurant.
Once again, these are the ingredients i found on your website that may or may not be of animal origin:
-artificial butter flavor (in "pan release spray")
-amylase (soft white corn tortillas)
-thiamin mononitrate (soft flour tortillas)
-natural flavors (Salsa Roja)
- Disodium Inosinate (Tortilla Soup)
-"flavoring" in Tortilla Soup
Thank you,

Two days later I follow up (#3b):
Still waiting to hear back from someone regarding my questions, which follow. Your attention to my questions is greatly appreciated!

Qdoba reply (#3), received the same day:
Hi Erin,
Thank you for your email. We are looking into your request and will email
you as soon as possible with the info. you are requesting.
Guest Relations

Qdoba reply (#3b), twelve days later:
Dear Erin,
Thank you for your email and patience regarding your inquiry about how ingredients. After following up with the appropriate departments, I can assure you that there are no animal derivatives or byproducts in the menu items you specified. If there is anything else we can help with, please call our Guest Relations Department at 1.888.497.3622 between 7a-4p Monday - Friday.
Guest Relations

There you have it. Nineteen days after the initially contacting Qdoba, I know what's to eat. Better late than never, as they say. Additionally, I must admit this is the most impressive list of vegan offerings I compiled this far, and for this fact I believe Qdoba deserves support.

The verdict (in progress):
Black Beans are vegan
Pinto Beans are vegan
Fajita Vegetables are vegan
Grilled Vegetables are vegan
Potatoes are vegan
Corn, Flour, and Taco Salad Shells are vegan
Soft White Corn Tortillas are vegan
Soft Flour Tortillas are vegan
Corn Tortilla Chips and Strips are vegan
Pico de Gallo is vegan
Fiery HabaƱero is vegan
Mango Salsa is vegan
Salsa Roja is vegan
Salsa Verde is vegan
Roasted Chile Corn Salsa is vegan
Black Bean and Corn Salsa is vegan
Poblano Pesto is vegan
Ranchera sauce is vegan
Guacamole is vegan
Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette dressing is vegan
Tortilla Soup is vegan
Cilantro Lime Rice is vegan


m. said...

I've been hoping that the grilled veggie burrito (my regular) was vegan. I wonder if their tortilla soup base is vegan? I'm skeptical and haven't had it for sometime. Thanks for doing the "grunt work" to get the facts!

Marla ji said...

Hey, I used to work at Qdoba and I just want to interject on a few things.

The grilled veggies, in my opinion, are not vegan. The veggies are grilled in their raw form on the same grill as the chicken and meat are. Granted, the grill is quickly scraped down before the veggies are placed on the grill, but it's not like they do a super meticulous job of getting chunks of meat off. Then those veggies are chopped up into smaller pieces and stored in a fridge. When it is time to make more of those veggies for the front of the line, they're thrown in a skillet to be heated. The fajita vegetables are thrown into this same pan (at least at my store), so they have the potential of being with indirect contact with meat, through the grilled veggies that may have been in contact with meat. They are not, however, grilled on the grill with the meat. If they're not busy, you can always ask that they cook the raw veggies that would normally be grilled in a clean skillet, rather than grilling it. We used to not grill the veggies prior to throwing them in the skillet, because that actually made them last longer on the line (we were a slow store, so food didn't get used as quickly). They may dislike you for the extra work, but at least you can guarantee no meat contact.

Processed white sugar is used in the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, also. The same goes for the newer mango salsa. I never checked to guarantee that the company didn't utilize bone char, or any other un-vegan practices, in the processing of the sugar. But my default guesstimate it is indeed un-vegan sugar.

Other than any cross-contamination (like cheese in the guac or salsas), everything else is a-okay. There's the semi-inside scoop!

Erin said...

Thanks Marla ji! That's what this blog is here for. I trust a vegan employee's word more than that of any corporate HQ, because they aren't working in the stores. Cross-contamination, unfortunately, is an problem that just sort of goes with the territory of eating out at any restaurant that isn't wholly vegan. It's up to everyone to decide whether they are willing to take this risk.

Z said...

Sitting in my back patio, looking at the mountains.... My wife calls. "Can you eat Q'doba"? I pull out the itouch, type in "Q'doba Vegan?", and I find myself here. Thanks to your effort and the comment from the ex-employee I now know what Ill be having. Thanks.

Anne said...

I don't think the black beans are vegan because I had a steak burrito there once and in my burrito was a chicken claw. I went back to the store and they said the black beans are processed in the same factory as chicken.

Kelly said...

Thank you so much for getting this info! :)

Luella said...

Wow, Anne! That's pretty scary.

Marla ji, I don't really understand what "cross-contamination" has to do with veganism, to be honest. If you cook food, it's going to rub off somewhere, just like your skin rubs off of you and turns into dust. The fact that a flake of skin ends up on you does not mean you have used the skin of another person, and avoiding that has nothing to do with anything unless you have allergies... and veganism is not a diet based on allergies.

My question is: should anything that Qdoba serves be considered vegan as long as Qdoba itself serves non-vegan food? The day I find an all-vegan restaurant in town, I will be ecstatic... it will be like a real sign of the coming age!

Actually, I'm going to go ahead and answer my own question by saying yes. I don't think any of it is 100% vegan, but the further we get away from the malicious factories themselves, the better.

Mr.Matt said...

I urge all of you to think twice about eating at Qdoba. Check their ingredient list, none of it is very good for you. They use partially hydrogenated oils and I believe high fructose corn syrup and a laundry list of other undesirable ingredients.

Mark Sheppard said...

I don't think anyone thinks Qdoba is good for you. This blog is just trying to determine whether or not it's vegan. As far as I'm concerned, it's as vegan as any other restaurant that isn't 100% vegan. I don't eat there often, but when I'm out and about, I feel like it's a nice option to have.

SuziQ said...

I work for the company that grows and supplies their pinto and black beans and I can assure you that we do not have anything to do with chicken processing. Our food products are beans, rice, and popcorn only and we don't outsource any of it.

Carrie said...

Here is my question, I am dying to find a recipe for Qdoba's Tortilla soup. My husband is a vegetarian (not vegan) and I would love to repicate the recipe at home. When I google the recipe, all the recipes that come up have chicken stock in them. Help????

Erin said...

Carrie, use veggie stock or fake chicken flavored stock. I think they sell the latter at

Bunny said...

I work at Qdoba and I'm not vegan, but I have friends that come in that are.

If you're worried about cross-contamination in terms of cheese falling into the salsas, order all your salsas on the side. Usually we prep the side containers from new buckets of salsa that haven't even been on the line yet. :]

Also, if you're uber-uber strict, you can ask for them to make you a fresh side straight from a new bucket. Also, you can ask for beans from the hot box, as occasionally bits of meat will fall into the beans, since they reside right next to each other on the line. To reiterate something said earlier, they may get annoyed at you for the extra work, but as long as we're not super busy and you're pleasant and polite we usually don't mind special requests.

In fact, if you frequent a Qdoba and order the same thing every time, we'll come to remember your order over time. At the Qdoba I work at, there's a very nice man who is very meticulous about how he likes his food, but he's very nice about it and he comes in so much that he just calls us and says he's on his way and by the time he gets there his food is made. :]

Melinda said...

Thank you for this blog! I was searching for an ingredient list for Qdoba to see what had animal ingredients in it, and your blog answered any questions I had :o) Thanks for doing all of that work.

Zach said...

Thank you for your work. I actually am a vegan and work at Qdoba for now. I have been very unsure about some of the items, such as the tortillas, and am glad to be able to confidently tell fellow vegans what's up. Been reading you blog.. All I can say is very mint.

CurvyQ said...

Qdoba is the only "fast food" I will eat in a pinch. Thanks for your research!

CurvyQ said...

Qdoba is the only "fast food" I will eat in a pinch. Thanks for this blog and all of the research!