When you’re trying to decide where to go to college, the quality of the food might not be the first thing you think about. But if you’re vegan, you know that it’s one of the most important factors. After all, it’s going to be difficult to maintain your diet for the next four years if none of the dining halls on campus have vegan options.
While many universities are getting better at providing a variety of healthy food options for students, there are some that outshine the rest. To help you decide on a university that suits your specific nutrition needs, we’ve compiled a list based on previous national rankings, Yelp data, student reports and more. For more information on our criteria, read our Methods section after the list.
Without further ado, Rent College Pads presents: the Top 25 Most Vegan-Friendly Universities.
Between its Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan campuses, St. John’s University has a lot of great food choices for its students. Ingredients for meals are gathered from local and sustainable sources, food is produced with minimal use of antibiotics and chemicals, and plant-forward menus are promoted by university staff to ensure vegetarian and vegan students have great options year-round.
In addition to healthy food, St. John’s employs a Registered Dietician, Lauren Marino, who helps students create healthy diets that work for them.
Consistently ranked at the top of the Princeton Review’s Best Campus Food list, the University of Massachusetts Amherst goes to great lengths to provide healthy and sustainable dining options for its students. In addition to readily available soy milk, vegan meals and salad options at each dining hall, UMass Amherst also offers vegetarian and vegan-specific food at two on-campus locations: the Earthfoods Cafe and the People’s Market.
If there’s a list about food, you can bet UCLA will be on it. UCLA is frequently recognized by national campus food surveys as a great vegetarian and vegan-friendly school. Dining halls provide vegetarian and vegan meals daily, as well as salad bars and vegan-friendly takeout food. There are off-campus options, too: a Whole Foods Market is nearby for those who want to shop for vegan grocery products.
You might not think there would be many vegan-friendly food options in Carbondale. But you’d be wrong. Vegan stuffed peppers, veggie fajitas, curried tofu with peanuts and orange fennel rice are just some of the options available for SIU students to choose from. The university ensures that students will have at least one vegetarian and one vegan option available at each meal, and makes sure to provide information on its website about veganism and vegetarianism.
Have you always dreamt of having your own personal vegan chef? Well, sometimes dreams come true. They certainly do at the University of Utah, which employs its own vegan chef to create both hot dishes and side options at the Heritage Center Dining Room. There’s also a vegan station at the Miller Cafe, with workers who change the menu daily to prevent serving the same meals each day.
Fordham University didn’t always belong on this list. In fact, vegans and vegetarians used to worry about how they were going to make it through the day here. But Fordham listened to its students, and they’ve improved by leaps and bounds since. Now there are plenty of vegan options available on campus, and they also participate in the nationwide campaign, Meatless Mondays, where kitchens spend one day creating all their dishes without using meat. We’re happy that Fordham underwent such a reversal to service its vegan students, and we’re proud to feature it on this list!
Clemson University is making considerable headway by offering vegan options at each meal, providing soy milk for students and labeling all its vegan food products — but its real success lies in the variety of nearby off-campus vegan options for students. Places like Garlik Vegan and Veggie Love provide vegans with lots of great options when they don’t feel like eating at the Clemson dining halls.
Sometimes the food just speaks for itself. Here are a list of just some of the many great vegan dishes that Duke University serves: vegan grilled cheese, lentil stew, veggie burritos, apple and fennel salad, vegan paella, edamame, chana masala, veggie dumplings, veggie soup, vegan banana muffins and tofu with peanut sauce. That’s just a snapshot — if we wanted to list all of their healthy vegetarian and vegan options, we’d be here all day… and all week… and all year.
We get it: western New York isn’t really the place we’d think to look for vegan food, either. But we’re proud to report that the University at Buffalo is doing it right. They make sure to provide vegan, vegetarian and gluten free food for all students, but they also go above and beyond by providing a Registered Dietician, an office of Wellness Education Services and an Accessibility Resources site for those with food sensitivities and allergies.
Yale is already famous for its academic rigor, but it’s also a leader in another area: sustainable food. Yale has over 20 dining halls, cafes, stores and on-campus restaurants with vegan options for its students (when they’re not busy studying). They also work with a local farmer’s market and community co-op to provide other fresh food options.
Thinking about attending Johns Hopkins University as a vegan? Go no further than the Fresh Food Cafe. Vegans love this place so much that they’ve written blogs about the Fresh Food Cafe, praising it for its hot food options and delicious veggie burgers. It’s also got meat and dairy substitutes, as well as an extensive salad bar. The cafe is just one of many options for vegans at Johns Hopkins University.
Northwestern University has been recognized in the past by peta2 as the most vegan-friendly college in the nation. And with good reason! The vegan food at Northwestern is so good that somewhere between a third and half of all students routinely choose to eat vegan and vegetarian every day here. After all, who wouldn’t want to eat vegan when options like tofu french toast, country-fried seitan steak with vegan mashed potatoes and vegan curried tofu with jasmine rice exist?
A “dining hall for all.” That’s how UC Berkeley describes its Cafe 3, which has changed its menu in recent years to increase the ratio of plant to meat products and incorporate vegan options for students. Most products are a combination of kosher, organic and plant-forward, ensuring Berkeley students get the most nutritious food while catering to all types of individual diets.
California knows where it’s at! Like other California-based universities on our list, there are lots of vegan options available at UCI. In addition to providing quality vegan food, the university works hard to promote an understanding of vegan diets by creating brochures on veganism that are available to students. Lastly, there are “grab and go” vegan sections at campus convenience stores for quick vegan snacking.
Edamame Avocado sandwiches. Spicy sesame eggplant wraps. Vegan walnut fudge brownies. These are just some of the choices that Columbia University offers for its vegan students. In addition to its on-campus dining options, Columbia has the benefit of being surrounded by a wide selection of great vegan restaurants in upper Manhattan.
There’s a reason students have given Cornell an 88% satisfaction rate when it comes to vegan eating. Peta2 has rated it an “A” for vegan options, too. That means it “offers at least one vegan entree at each meal, provides non-dairy milk, labels its vegan entrees and desserts, has a vegan member on its student advisory board, promotes vegan options, partners with students to distribute vegan food, and participates in Meatless Mondays.” What more could a vegan ask for?
Stanford has vegan options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacks you could eat in between. Their menus are over 80% vegetarian and more than 50% vegan, and they’ve been rated as peta2’s Favorite Vegan-Friendly College in the large school division. Their plant-based food options are composed of soy, bean, lentil, nut and seed products, and have been praised consistently by the Stanford student body.
They’re our number eight school for a reason: American University has one of the most sophisticated dining programs nationwide. It has been repeatedly praised for its efforts in providing students with locally sourced food, as well as for reducing food waste across campus. There are specific dining halls for vegan and vegetarian students on campus, and all of its products are labeled with information regarding their contents. Students here don’t have to worry about the freshman fifteen — unless it’s fifteen new vegan menu choices.
Some schools offer one vegan option with each meal. Not Boston. They’re not satisfied with just providing vegan and vegetarian options; they want them to be plentiful and delicious, too. And they’ve succeeded. 85% of their menu items are vegan friendly. Vegan pizzas? Check. Vegan wheat pancakes? Double check. Check out the Boston University vegetarian/vegan page to see everything they offer (because we simply don’t have enough space to list all of their awesome vegan options here).
Washington University in St. Louis takes special steps to ensure all of its food is made with high quality, fresh ingredients. In addition to being committed to creating vegan and vegetarian options for students, Washington University in St. Louis partners with Bon Appetit to hold its food products to the highest standards. To prevent animal cruelty and poor quality meals, all of its animal products do not contain antibiotics or added hormones.
NYU is one of those magical places where students can find a great selection of vegan products both on and off campus. The high amount of off-campus options isn’t too surprising — after all, this is Manhattan — but it’s both impressive and inspiring to see the school commit to providing ample vegan options for its students despite their ability to get them in other places. Their dining halls offer vegan meal options (including desserts!), non-dairy milk products, vegan product labels and more. They also listen to their students: last year, the administration partnered with students to transform their Lipton dining area into a “vegan-only” dining hall for several days to promote the importance of veganism and sustainable food.
When a fifth of your student body is vegetarian, it’s hard not to accommodate them. We’re happy to say that Tufts University has gone above and beyond to make sure their students have access to delicious vegan products. The reason they rank so high on our list is because they provide a wealth of information on their vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and allergy-inducing foods via Food Fact Cards in their dining halls. Their campus also has a Registered Dietician, and offers vegan substitutes for lots of common non-vegan products, such as plant-based mayonnaise and vegan cheese.
In addition to the regular vegan staples, Vanderbilt has Grins: pronounced “greens,” it’s a vegetarian cafe with almost entirely vegan options for students. It also makes sure to stock its student stores with plenty of vegan goodies. They’ve got an A+ rating by peta2 for on-campus dining, but there’s also a good variety of vegan and vegetarian restaurants for students to choose from when they’re hanging out around town.
Like NYU, CUNY students are lucky in that they’ve got plenty of off-campus vegan restaurants to choose from. Their choices are almost endless, and they’re also almost all walking distance from campus (isn’t everything in New York?). While on campus, students have access to menu items like broccoli and pesto tomato fusilli, roasted sweet potatoes and cranberries, fresh potato casserole and more. Their dedication to vegan dining options and the sheer amount of off-campus vegan food makes The City University of New York number two on our list.
All hail the vegan king: Emory University is our number one campus for vegan dining in the nation. Why? They have an all-vegan food station, vegan options at all of their dining halls, their cookies at the Dobbs Market are (secretly!) all vegan, they have an on-campus farmer’s market that sells vegan products each week, they’ve got plant-based substitutes for products like mayonnaise… the list goes on. Like all of our other top contenders, Emory also has lots of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the surrounding area for students to try when they run out of the (exhaustive) options available on campus.
Our list was compiled based on three major criteria:
- Previous National Rankings: First, we compiled previous lists of top food universities around the nation from reputable sources like The Daily Meal, TIME Labs, Niche, Best Hospitality and others to generate a comprehensive list of 100 universities with superb food selections. We then combined and averaged these rankings to create a “total strength” number for each school. After selecting our top 50 schools in this way, we narrowed down our finalists based on the following:
- Nearby Vegan Food Options: In addition to on-campus options, we believe having access to a healthy and diverse food selection off campus is important. We used Yelp to find the number of vegan restaurants within a 5 mile radius of campus, factoring in school enrollment numbers to account for the greater number of restaurants near large cities.
- Student Awareness: If students were actively seeking out vegan options in their area, we gave universities a small scoring bonus at the end of the process. We calculated this by looking at the prevalence of certain Google keyword searches near the university.
Final Ranking: By cross-referencing schools and averaging their rankings across all three criteria, we arrived at our final decision. It should be noted that for this list, only universities with an enrollment of over 10,000 were considered. This was done specifically to compare universities of similar sizes, as they face comparable problems regarding food shipments, dining hall sizes, numbers of nearby vegan restaurants and other factors.