Mardi Gras season at Universal Orlando brings parades, a new Tribute Store, costumed performers, brass bands, major concert events, and of course food. Over the last two years of Mardi Gras, the food offerings expanded in a magnificent way taking over several sections of Universal Studios Florida. This year Universal Orlando brought guests a fully dedicated vegan food tent. In case guests missed the theme of this food tent in Springfield USA area, they decorated the tent with lots of plant décor. However, that tent only contains some of the designed vegan options this year.
Having tried all the official vegan options offered at Mardi Gras this year, I will rank them in terms of quality. You might disagree with my individual ranking. Please bear in mind I consulted with several other people before compiling this list. Half of them dine exclusively vegan. Whereas the other half dine vegan periodically or in limited ways. Surprisingly enough, the perspectives of my reliable sources pretty much matched my rankings of these vegan items.
One more clarification needed before starting this list. Some of the other Mardi Gras items possess ability to be modified for vegan dining. I selected not to include those since that makes the vegan discussion far more complicated. Also, I generally feel if you must remove things from a menu item then you are not getting a good value. With eight vegan designed menu items this year, vegan diners should find plenty to eat. Remember, the sales of vegan designed items reinforce to Universal Orlando the need to create more in future. Now to the rankings…
#8 Chana Masala at Plant-Based tent near Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck ($9.99)
Someone must finish last. This item earns that title. The menu description reads spiced chickpea curry, served with tomato and onion salad, basmati rice, and naan bread. This rice bowl shows the creativity of Universal chefs. Most guests displayed disappointment with the chickpeas and rice especially. The presentation brings this item up in quality. The naan bread tastes good. This concept rates excellent by the chefs. However, execution fails most of the time.
#7 Vegetable Vindaloo at Plant-Based tent near Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck ($9.99)
This menu item possesses more flavor than the previous dish. Though, the preparation and presentation look similar. The naan bread accompanied this bowl also. The sweet potatoes in this worked in superior fashion to the chickpeas in holding flavor. The menu description reads Romanesco cauliflower florets and sweet potatoes, braised in a hot and sour broth, served with basmati rice. The combination of colorful vegetables and a solid broth create an excellent idea for a vegan dish. If this retained more flavor, then this rice-based dish would rate better. Since most guest experience inconsistent flavor, this dish ranks lower.
#6 Yucca Fries with Chimichurri at New Orleans Food Booth/Truck ($3.99)
This food item features most straightforward option. You get four yucca fries. The small portion size lowers this item in the vegan rankings. The yucca fries taste fine. What elevates them involves the chimichurri sauce. Though some guests found the sauce to be too oily, most found the flavor excellent in coordination with the fries.
#5 Sweet Corn Johnny Cake at King Cross Station Tent #1 ($6.99)
Though this does reflect my standard idea of a “Johnny Cake”, this menu item deserves attention. The sweet corn portion comes in pancake form. The rest of the ingredients reside on top of the “pancake.” The pulled jerk jackfruit, blood orange crema, avocado, and yellow mole sauce placed on top offers diner a solid first impression. The flavor overall works well. Like many Mardi Gras dishes this year, your best experience involves including every piece of the dish in each bite. For this dish, the individual parts fail to live up to the intended experience all together. Also, for those concerned about spice level, most of the spice lives within the jackfruit. Unless you want the full force of the spice of this dish all at once, avoid just eating the jackfruit alone.
#4 Cajun Twisted Tater at New Orleans Food Booths ($8.49)
The Universal Orlando Mardi Gras staple, “Twisted Taters” lives again this year. So far, this year’s version offers more consistent frying process. Though not listed, you can get garlic parmesan seasoning or ghost pepper seasoning instead of the “Cajun” one. Most guests report that the “Cajun” seasoning lacks intense spice so do not be afraid of “Cajun” in the title.
#3 Papas Bravas at Volcano Planet tent in KidZone area ($7.99)
This potato-based dish very recently was added to the determined vegan items at Mardi gras this year. This menu item overall involves simple ingredients. However, the presentation rates as excellent. The sauce/salsa provides some heat/spice to make this vegan option louder, wilder, and spicier. The main weakest of this dish relates to consistency of potatoes. Many guests voiced that the potatoes ranged from slightly undercooked to far over-cooked. Despite that, the portion size makes up for some of that at this price point.
#2 Vegan Golden Chai Chocolate Blondie at Plant-Based tent near Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck ($4.99)
This vegan dessert packs a solid flavor into a small package. This small dessert offers nice appearance and taste. I would define this dessert as tasting sweet but not overly sweet. Unlike some typical theme park desserts, you will not be overwhelmed with the sugar. The icing and decorative green “leaves” add to the enjoyment. These blondies use applesauce, vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips with the spice of cardamon and chai tea creating a delightful aroma and taste.
#1 Potato, Pea, and Carrot Samosas at Plant-Based tent near Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck ($8.99)
Though the portion size with four small samosas grade this down a bit, the quality and flavor demand these are number one vegan item in my opinion. Even non-vegan diners will enjoy the flavor of these samosas. These samosas are expertly filled with vegetables. The four samosas then are placed on top of green chutney. The chutney tastes excellent in solid balance with the samosas. The chutney offers a significant amount of spice as well. If you are averse to spice, you can order these without chutney or simply do not dip samosas in the chutney. The samosas can stand on their own in terms of flavor but rate highest with the chutney.
Thanks for taking this vegan journey around Mardi Gras. As always, your opinions may vary, feel free to let us know in the comments or on our social media outlets.
Universal Food Blog
The Universal Food Blog Team provides news, information on attractions, restaurants, as well as provide general information about Universal Orlando Resort.