Hash browns are one of America’s favorite breakfast foods. They originated in New York diners in the late-1800s and have since spread across the country.
Today, they’re sold in almost every mainstream breakfast restaurant! For the most part, they’re simple potato-based snacks.
However, are hash browns vegan?
Most hash browns are vegan-friendly. They’re made from a simple recipe that includes potatoes, fat, and a bit of salt. Traditionally, chopped onions are also added for flavor.
That being said, some restaurant-style hash browns may include butter, animal fat, or palm oil. So, make sure you double-check the ingredients before ordering!
Today, I’m going to answer all of your questions about hash browns. Then, I’ll break down the main ingredients used to make hash browns so you can see for yourself. Are you hungry yet?
Are Hash Browns Dairy-Free?
Historically, hash browns have never been made with milk or cream. However, some hash browns are cooked in butter, which is a dairy by-product that’s made from cream and milk fat.
For the most part, though, it’s rare to find hash browns that contain dairy. Most fast-food restaurants cook their hash browns in vegetable oil, rather than animal-derived butter, as it’s cheaper, faster, and more efficient.
However, if you’re eating at a home-style diner, then there’s a higher chance that you’ll come across hash browns that have been cooked with dairy.
This is because many home-style diners use butter, as it’s more flavorful and is more a part of that “cowboy culture” where hash browns were glorified.
As with most food, the best policy is just to ask before you assume!
What Are Hash Browns Made Of? Basic Ingredients
Hash browns have always been made from simple ingredients. Although they’re most commonly served in restaurants, they can easily be made at home as well! So, just what are hash browns made of?
Take a look below…
As you may have already guessed, the number one ingredient in hash browns is potatoes. Potatoes are an all-natural root vegetable that is found all across the world in different forms. Here in the US, most of our potatoes are gold Idaho potatoes.
However, some styles of hash browns are made with red potatoes. These have a slightly sharper flavor to them, as red potatoes aren’t quite as mild-tasting as golden potatoes.
Potatoes are always vegan, though, as they’re just plants. They’re also fairly healthy and are packed full of natural fiber, amino acids, and essential trace minerals. Plus, they’re also a great all-natural source of carbs that will give you a boost of energy in the morning.
So, don’t feel bad about eating potatoes!
Shortening is just a fancy kitchen term for “fat.”
This is where things can get a bit tricky. Vegetable shortening is vegan-friendly and is made from plant-based oils. Vegan “butter” is a great example of vegetable shortening that’s made by combining a bit of salt with all-natural vegetable oil.
However, some hash brown recipes call for animal shortening. In some cases, animal shortening is just lard (which is clarified pork or beef fat). In other cases, animal shortening can mean butter, which is primarily made of dairy-based fat.
If you’re making your own hash browns at home, just be sure to choose a plant-based vegetable shortening. You can use vegetable oil or a vegan butter alternative. The type of oil you use isn’t important. As long as the amount is right, you’re good!
This is kind of a preference-based thing… However, traditional hash brown recipes have always been made with chopped onions. The onions are caramelized and become crispy and delicious after being fried. This, of course, immensely adds to the flavor of the hash browns.
Onions are a root vegetable and are always vegan, so don’t worry about anything here!
Ingredients To Look Out For In Hash Browns
Although basic hash brown recipes are fairly vegan-friendly, there are some non-vegan ingredients that are used from time to time. If you’re eating out or buying premade store-bought hash browns, you’ll need to be on the lookout for these:
|Non-Vegan Ingredients In Hash Browns||Why They’re Not Vegan|
|Butter||Butter is one of the most common non-vegan ingredients used in various hash brown recipes. Butter is a dairy product and should be avoided by all vegans.|
|Lard||Lard is pure animal fat that typically comes from bacon or fatty cuts of beef. It’s often used in more “classic” recipes. No matter where it comes from, though, lard is never vegan. It always comes from animal fat. CheeseAlthough plain hash browns usually aren’t made with cheese, it’s often mixed in with the hash browns to give them a cheesy, melted texture. Unless it’s specifically-labeled vegan cheese, it’s not vegan! HamLike cheese, ham is another common ingredient that’s added to some hash brown recipes. Ham is pork, though, and should not be consumed by vegans.|
How Are Hash Browns Cooked?
Hash browns can be cooked in a variety of different ways, depending on what type of consistency you’re going for and what tools you have in your kitchen.
Most hash browns are pan-seared or cooked on a griddle. The potatoes are dropped on the searing-hot surface, topped with a bit of oil, and are allowed to lightly fry in the hot oil.
That being said, some hash browns are deep-fried in vegetable oil. This is usually the case with fast-food hash browns.
Alternatively, hash browns can also be cooked in the oven or cooked in an air fryer.
Potatoes just happen to be one of those all-around foods that can be cooked a bunch of different ways and still taste good.
Of all of the different methods used to cook hash browns, I’d say that baking them in an oven or an air fryer is the healthiest. Oven and air fryer-baked hash browns require less oil, which makes them lower-fat and lower-calorie.
The Best Vegan Hash Browns Recipe
Most of the hash browns you’ll find in restaurants are vegan-friendly. However, the best way to know for sure that your hash browns are vegan is to make them yourself.
If you’ve been looking for a great vegan hash brown recipe, then you’ve come to the right place!
Here’s one of my favorite vegan hash brown recipes that I’ve been using for breakfast recently:
This recipe is super simple and requires just four basic ingredients:
- Diced garlic
- Salt & Pepper
- Vegetable oil
It’s an easy breakfast recipe that you can easily modify by adding extra seasonings or diced vegetables (such as onions).
Are McDonald’s Hash Browns Vegan? Ingredients Analyzed
McDonald’s hash browns are arguably one of the most popular hash browns in the world. That’s because there are over 38,000 locations worldwide.
The majority of them offer some type of breakfast option that includes hash browns, which is why hash browns are known around the world!
Since they’re the world’s top-selling brand of hash browns, I figured that this would be a great place to break down all of the ingredients used to make McDonald’s world-famous hash browns.
McDonald’s hash browns are 100% vegan-friendly. The main ingredients are all plant-based and the only artificial ingredient is the sodium acid pyrophosphate that’s used as a preservative.
I found this very interesting, considering McDonald’s French fries (which are also primarily made with potatoes) aren’t vegan. McDonald’s fries contain meat-derived seasoning, which I automatically assumed that they also used in their hash browns.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case!
So, here’s a quick rundown of all of the ingredients used in McDonald’s hash browns.
Nothing’s changed here. Potatoes are still the number-one ingredient in McDonald’s hash browns (as they should be). McDonald’s uses gold potatoes for both their hash browns and French fries.
In my opinion, these are the best potatoes to make hash browns out of, as they have a naturally sweet and smooth taste. They’re also softer, which makes them easier to eat and digest.
2) Vegetable Oil
All of McDonald’s hash browns are blended with a bit of vegetable oil. This fatty additive works as an emulsifier and helps hold the hash browns together so they don’t fall apart.
The main type of vegetable oil used by McDonald’s is canola oil, although sometimes this is blended down with soybean oil or palm oil.
I’d say that the potential of palm oil is the only questionable ingredient that could be used in McDonald’s hash browns. Although plant-based, palm oil production and farming are very destructive to the environment and rainforest animal populations. So, most vegans avoid it.
Unfortunately, this is something that can vary from one location to another, as each McDonald’s may use a different type of cooking oil.
McDonald’s isn’t known for using a lot of palm oil, though, so the hash browns are most likely going to be palm oil-free or contain only small amounts of palm oil.
3) Citric Acid
Citric acid is a natural plant-based acid that’s typically found in citrus fruit. It’s also in other non-citrus fruits, just in lower concentrations.
While citric acid is found in nature, most of the citric acid used in food is created in a lab, since it’s a fairly simple compound to synthesize!
Either way, citric acid is always vegan-friendly. It always comes from either plant or is man-made in a lab. There’s absolutely zero animal cruelty associated with this ingredient.
It’s primarily used as a mild preservative, as it increases the acidity of a food. This, in turn, prevents bacteria from developing on the food and making a home there.
Hash browns would taste a bit bland without the salt. Thankfully, salt is a vegan-friendly ingredient that’s either man-made in the form of iodized salt or comes from the ocean in the form of sea salt.
5) Corn Flour
A bit of corn flour is added to fill in the space between the pieces of shredded potato. Corn flour not only gives the hash browns a richer, more complex flavor but it also helps them stick together, so they don’t fall apart while they’re being fried.
Corn flour is vegan-friendly and all-natural, though, as it’s just ground corn kernels!
Dextrose is a simple starch that’s typically derived from corn. Although it’s sometimes used as a sweetener, it’s also used for fried foods. The outside of all of McDonald’s hash browns is coated with dextrose to ensure that they’re extra-crispy and have the perfect texture.
Dextrose is generally considered vegan since it comes from plants.
7) Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
This is an artificial acid that’s added as a preservative. In addition to just keeping bacteria away, though, sodium acid pyrophosphate also acts as a color preservative.
8) Black Pepper
In addition to salt, McDonald’s hash browns also include a bit of black pepper for extra flavoring. This is an all-natural plant-based seasoning, so no worries here.
The Verdict – Are Hash Browns Vegan-Friendly?
For the most part, hash browns are vegan-friendly. They’re a simple, great-tasting breakfast snack made from potatoes, seasoning, and a bit of oil. Just watch out for butter and other dairy-based additives like cheese.
If you love potatoes and hash browns, be sure to check out my post listing the best vegan potato recipes next!