It’s been years since I’ve addressed this massive chain, and a recent email from a reader named KT has prompted me to revisit Applebee’s for dairy-free diners.
Emailed in from KT:
You state that Applebee’s is one that is good for “Dairy Free” option, I suggest that you revisit that posted Alergen list of theirs. I enjoy the restaurant, BUT almost nothing they serve is dairy free, even the classic hamburger has dairy, and a dressing free salad is not to my liking.
KT is right – the burger buns do contain dairy. That is unfortunate, but they do have some other great options. For burgers, my husband has had success ordering a lettuce wrap at a couple locations.
Also, they currently have several dairy-free salad dressings. At last check, you could choose to top your salad with the Dijon Honey Mustard Salad Dressing, Honey French Dressing, Lemon Olive Oil Vinaigrette, Fat Free Italian, or Chili Lime Vinaigrette. Or you can order the Thai Shrimp Salad, which was listed as dairy-free as ordered, last time I looked at their allergen chart (July 2018).
They also have a wide selection of wings (bone-in and boneless), ribs, and riblets which can be ordered dairy free, by choosing certain sauces or seasonings. You can enjoy them with the French fries, which are also dairy-free by ingredients. Other options I spotted included stir-fries and cedar-planked entrees. You can see their allergen chart for current choices. Just scroll to the bottom of the Applebee’s website – it is an “Allergens” link at the bottom that downloads the latest PDF.
For vegans, the options at Applebee’s are a little more sparse. You can special order steamed vegetables with no butter, a salad with no meat and a vegan dressing (like the Chili Lime Vinaigrette, Lemon Olive Oil Vinaigrette, or Fat Free Italian), or a Baked Potato with no butter (try salsa for topping!). Their French Fries and Chips & Salsa are reportedly vegan as is. But there is good news on the horizon. The Applebee’s restaurants in New York are reportedly testing out the vegan Impossible Burger on their menu. With luck, more options will become available at all Applebee’s locations.
Applebee’s Allergen Disclaimer
Their allergen chart covers the top food allergens plus gluten and MSG. But as with most restaurants, shared equipment can be an issue. Applebee’s includes the following statement on their allergen chart:
Please be aware that during normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil, the possibility exists for food items to come in contact with other food products. Due to these circumstances, we are unable to guarantee that any menu item can be completely free of allergens.
So always check with the manager to ensure they can accommodate your needs if you are dealing with a severe food allergy. Management and training can vary by location. Especially since some locations are corporate-managed and some are franchised.
Where to Find Applebee’s Restaurants
They have over 2000 locations, mostly in the United States, but a smattering of restaurants in 15 other countries. See the website below for addresses, hours, menus, and more.