The chain was the first to roll out plant-based meat nationwide in 2018.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated February 19, 2020

In 2018, White Castle became an unlikely trendsetter when the slider specialist was the first national fast food chain to introduce plant-based Impossible Burger patties at all of its locations. The brand was ahead of the curve as the meat-free trend continued throughout 2019, with nearly every big name (outside of maybe Arby’s) at least dipping their toe in the plant-based pool.

Now, having led the charge in meatless hamburgers, White Castle is moving on to the next logical plant-based step: dairy-free cheeseburgers.

Courtesy of White Castle

This week, White Castle announced plans to become “one of the first fast-food hamburger chains in the U.S. to offer a dairy-free alternative to cheddar cheese.” (The 200-plus location chain Fatburger, which also serves Impossible patties, introduced plant-based cheddar slices last year, likely making them the most prominent fast food burger chain to already be in the dairy-free cheese game.) Starting on March 1, White Castle says locations in New Jersey and New York City will offer dairy-free cheddar as a free addition to any slider—including, of course, the plant-based Impossible Slider.

In recent memory, White Castle also reformulated its buns to make them vegan, too, meaning diners now have the option of a completely vegan burger—that is, assuming the burgers are cooked on a separate griddle (an issue Burger King has faced with its Impossible Whoppers). "Yes, White Castle prepares the Impossible Slider on a different griddle than the other meat-based Slider products," a spokesperson told Food & Wine via email. "Of course, White Castle cannot make a 100% guarantee that there is never any contact, however the process has been set up and adhered to so that the Impossible Slider can be prepared separately."

“Our Impossible Slider was an instant Craver favorite, but it’s about to get a new dimension with the introduction of dairy-free cheddar,” Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle, said in the announcement. “We are excited to bring this new non-dairy, vegan item to Cravers in the New York and New Jersey areas with the hope of taking it to other markets in the future.”

The new vegan cheese slices come courtesy of Good Planet Foods, and White Castle says they’re also the first fast food brand to partner with this Washington state-based vegan cheese producer. “We’re committed to innovation, and we’re always looking for ways to do things better and make things better for our loyal customers,” Richardson added. “It’s exciting to be the fast-food restaurant that’s leading the trend in providing plant-based options for consumers.”

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