Before going vegan, I’d often stop at Arby’s for their spicy roast beef sandwiches and their iconic curly fries. After going vegan, though, I knew this guilty pleasure would have to come to an end.
Some vegans, including myself, still fantasize about those perfectly-crisped fries, though. So, are Arby’s fries vegan?
Unlike most of the food at Arby’s, their french fries are vegan! Although there are a few questionable chemical preservatives in the fries, even those are technically vegan.
The only concern is that Arby’s fries are cooked alongside non-vegan foods such as fried chicken and eggs in the same oil. If you’re just looking at the ingredients, though, they’re 100% vegan.
If you take Arby’s at face value, it’s easily one of the most non-vegan fast-food restaurants in existence. I mean, their motto is literally, “Arby’s – We Have The Meats,” and they’re not talking about Beyond Meat; they’re talking about triple-stacked roast beef.
That being said, their famous curly fries are “accidentally” vegan. In today’s post, I’ll break down each of the ingredients in their french fries and explain why they’re acceptable to eat on a vegan diet.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
If you look at most fast-food french fry recipes, you’ll see that they’re almost all vegan. I’ve yet to see a single non-vegan french fry, so I assume they don’t exist.
That being said, Arby’s french fries aren’t vegan “on purpose.” I have full confidence that they’d find a way to add meat to their fries if it was possible!
Thankfully for fry-craving vegans like us, though, Arby’s fries are vegan. While their fries definitely have some unhealthy chemical additives, none of them are animal-derived, making them acceptable on a vegan diet.
Still don’t believe me? I figured there’d be a few people who’d question me recommending Arby’s fries…
So, I decided to give you a full breakdown of all of the ingredients in Arby’s fries so you can see for yourself. Keep on reading to find out more about each!
Potatoes are the most obvious ingredient in Arby’s fries, so let’s start there. To french fries, potatoes are soaked in water (blanched) to soften them, before being cut into the curly twists that they’re known for.
Arby’s also leaves a bit of skin on the outside of their fries to provide a bit of extra texture.
If you weren’t already aware, potatoes are vegan and grow out of the ground, so no worries here!
2) Vegetable Oil
The second-biggest ingredient in Arby’s fries is, of course, the oil that they’re cooked in. Once the frozen, slightly dehydrated fries are dropped in the fryer, they quickly absorb the vegetable oil mixture used in the deep fryer.
Arby’s uses a blend of oils for their vegetable oil, and it usually consists of:
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
- Palm oil
All of the oils on the list are considered vegan, with the exception of palm oil.
Although palm oil is plant-based, many vegans choose to avoid it, as the palm oil industry hurts the planet and contributes to the deforestation of South America’s rainforests (along with all of the animals and indigenous Amazonian tribes who reside there).
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell exactly what oil is being used in the fries, as restaurants usually receive it in a large jug titled “fryer oil,” with no specific information.
That being said, palm oil is the only non-vegan possibility, and it’s likely the least common oil used, so it doesn’t really disqualify Arby’s fries from their vegan status.
3) Modified Potato Starch
Ever wondered why Arby’s fries are so crispy? Well, it’s thanks to the added potato starch. This powdery plant-based powder is used to coat the outside of the cut fries.
When it comes into contact with the oil in the deep fryer it fries extra-quick, resulting in a crispy, crunchy outer layer and providing the ultimate texture.
4) Rice Flour
The additional rice flour used to coat the outside of the fries serves the same purpose as the potato starch – to make the fries crispier.
However, the advantage of rice flour is that it doesn’t absorb quite as much fat. Basically, it ensures that your fries aren’t overly crispy.
Dextrin is one of those “strange” ingredients that tends to get a lot of questions. It’s a natural starch that’s derived from grains and it serves several purposes in regards to fries:
- It acts as a thickening agent, which presumably adds to that soft, thick layer of crunchiness on the outside of the fries.
- It lowers the glycemic index of the food.
- It provides healthy fiber content, making the oily fries easier to digest.
Despite its rather “chemically” name, dextrin is a natural food product and is also vegan.
Thankfully, salt is vegan. Because let’s be honest… Fries would suck without a bit of salt.
7) Baking Soda
You’re probably thinking, “Fries aren’t baked, so why do they need baking soda?”
That’s what I thought at first, too. Then I did some research. Apparently, the baking soda helps to elevate the pH level at the surface of the fries, resulting in that iconic golden-brown color that helps us identify a good batch of fries.
Be rest assured that it’s also 100% vegan, and is just sodium bicarbonate.
8) Natural Flavors
I’ll be the first to tell you that you should avoid “natural flavors” in most food items. However, the flavoring used in Arby’s fries isn’t animal-derived.
Instead, it’s added to the seasoning blend (onion and garlic powder) to provide a richer flavor.
9) Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a fine powder that’s made from sugar and a naturally-occurring bacteria. In the case of fries, it helps the blend of spices, seasoning, and starch stick to the fries.
Without it, much of the seasoning would fall off in the deep fryer, and you’d be left with a pretty boring fry.
Xanthan gum is sometimes vegan. It depends whether the “sugar” was sourced from a refined sugar plant or whether natural unrefined cane sugar was used.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to really know for sure, so it’s kind of a neutral ingredient.
10) Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
Sodium what?? While SAP isn’t exactly natural, it is vegan and is created through a chemical modification of sodium.
It’s not particularly healthy, but it’s added to help preserve the golden color of Arby’s fries after they’re frozen. Otherwise, they’d be kind of dull and yellow.
Thankfully it’s the smallest ingredient used in the fries!
So, now that you’ve had a chance to look over all of the ingredients in Arby’s fries, I do have a disclaimer for you:
Arby’s fries are cooked in the same oil that other animal-derived ingredients are often fried in. Unfortunately, this means that there may be some degree of cross-contamination.
If you’re a super-strict vegan who doesn’t want the slightest association with animal-derived foods, then this could be a dealbreaker for you. However, if you’re a more moderate vegan, then this may not be an issue for you.
Personally, I try to avoid Arby’s. Every time I go inside an Arby’s, it just smells like tons of meat. After going vegan, the extreme smell of meat just became offputting to me.
That being said, there have been several road trips where I’ve stopped by to grab a small order of fries.
Arby’s also has a few other vegan food options, such as:
- Cherry and Apple Turnovers
- Side Salad (without ranch)
That’s about it, though. With so many other fast-food restaurants adding vegan options to their menu, I just find that Arby’s is a bit disappointing in that regard.
While Arby’s fries may not be the healthiest, they are vegan, which is great news for anybody who loves their signature curly fries!
There are a few “questionable” ingredients (such as xanthan gum and the possibility of small amounts of palm oil), but PETA generally recommends that vegans avoid focusing on micro-ingredients, as it leads down an impossible rabbit hole.
If you enjoyed this piece, then I encourage you to check out my earlier article on Arby’s complete vegan menu.
Admittedly, it’s almost non-existent, but at least you’ll know everything that you can and can’t order off of their menu!