McDonald’s is one of the longest-standing fast-food restaurants in the US and around the world, and currently has over 38,000 locations globally. Their menu has changed a lot since they first opened. However, one item has remained on the menu since day one – French fries!
If you’re reading this post now, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are McDonald’s fries vegan?”
Unfortunately, McDonald’s famous French fries are NOT vegan. This is mostly because the fries are flavored with “natural” beef flavoring. The beef flavoring contains both processed animal fat and milk derivatives, making it a solid no-go for vegans abstaining from meat and dairy.
Now, you might be thinking, “But wait… Aren’t fries just supposed to be deep-fried potatoes?”
Yes, fries are supposed to be simple, all-natural, and plant-based. However, McDonald’s fries (along with most of the other items on their menu), are heavily modified to make them more appealing to the company’s customer base. This is why an otherwise plant-based product is no longer vegan.
Today’s post is going to be all about McDonald’s fries! Below, I’ll answer all of your questions about Mickey D’s famous fries and break down exactly why they’re not vegan. Then, we’ll take a closer look at McDonald’s menu and see if they have any vegan options at all.
Are French Fries Vegan?
French fries, in their natural form, are usually 100% vegan! Long before McDonald’s bastardized an all-natural recipe with artificial chemicals, sugar, and meat-derived flavoring, they were simply fried slices of potatoes.
If you’ve got a strong craving for fries, then your best bet is probably just to make your own homemade fries at home.
They’re super simple to make from scratch and can be cooked in a personal deep fryer, frying pan with oil, air fryer, or even baked in the oven (if you’re looking to cut out the extra fat).
You can follow the same recipe with sweet potatoes if you want to make some delicious sweet potato fries as well!
- Thoroughly wash your potatoes.
- Peel the outer skin off of the potatoes (or leave it on if you want a more “natural” flavor).
- Use a knife or a potato slicer to cut the potatoes into thin slices.
- Cover the uncooked potato slices in water and let them sit overnight. This process is called “blanching” and softens the potatoes, making them easier to fry.
- The next day, cook your fries in your medium of choice! Some like to drop them in a personal deep fryer or cook them in a thin layer of cooking oil in a frying pan. Alternatively, you can bake your fries or air-fry them.
Here’s a quick video outlining the process:
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan In The US?
Although McDonald’s fries may have been vegan-friendly in the early days, they’ve since been loaded down with non-vegan flavorings.
To make the fries more appealing to the masses, McDonald’s coats all of their fries in natural beef flavoring, which is made from beef remains and milk protein (added for texture).
Are McDonald’s Fries Cooked In Palm Oil?
The other problem with McDonald’s fries is that there’s a strong likelihood that they’re being cooked in palm oil, or at least a cooking oil mixture that contains palm oil.
While palm oil is plant-based cooking oil, the industry behind palm oil is responsible for the wholesale destruction of some of the planet’s most diverse rainforests.
It’s not just the trees that we’re losing either; we’re also losing entire ecosystems full of endangered animal life along with their natural habitat.
Animals that do survive are often pushed into human villages and towns where they’re treated as pests and killed. This is why canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and olive oil are regarded as more eco-friendly cooking oils.
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan In The UK?
Although McDonald’s fries may not be vegan in the US, they are vegan in the UK! This is because there’s a higher percentage of vegan and vegetarian eaters in the UK and they’re not as obsessed with animal fat and protein as we Americans are.
McDonald’s fries in the UK are made without any animal ingredients or by-products, so they’re 100% vegan-friendly.
Additionally, McDonald’s fries in the UK are cooked in separate frying vats, so they never come into contact with other animal-derived foods or cooking oil used to cook meat.
Congrats on the UK for being forward-thinking! Now, we just need the US to follow suit…
Actually, to be fair, McDonald’s did try to switch their recipe and make their fries vegan in the US. However, they received so many customer complaints after this that they quickly switched back to their animal fat-containing recipe to stave off the angry consumers.
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan In Europe?
The UK isn’t the only country to offer vegan French fries. In fact, most countries in Europe use vegan-friendly cooking methods and don’t use beef flavoring to coat their fries!
Of course, this can vary, depending on the country you’re visiting, but most European countries offer vegan and vegetarian-friendly French fries.
McDonald’s Fries Ingredients: Listed
As usual, here’s my official breakdown of all of the ingredients used in McDonald’s fries. After reading all of the extra additives on this list, I guarantee you’ll want to start making your own homemade fries instead!
Realistically, potatoes should be the only ingredient (other than cooking oil) in French fries. Sadly, though, they’re the only natural ingredient in McDonald’s fries.
2) Vegetable Frying Oil
The second main ingredient in McDonald’s fries is the vegetable frying oil that they’re cooked in. As the fries are cooking they absorb a significant amount of oil, which is the main reason why they’re considered unhealthy food.
McDonald’s uses a mixture of different frying oils in their vats, depending on market availability. Their cooking oil typically contains a mixture of canola oil, soybean oil, and palm oil.
They’ve stopped using peanut oil, due to the high number of peanut-related allergy claims they were getting, but they used to use peanut oil back in the day.
3) Natural Beef Flavoring
Other than the potential palm oil in McDonald’s fries, the natural beef flavoring is the main reason why fries aren’t vegan. This is also why many popular flavors of Doritos, Fritos, and other snacks aren’t vegan.
Dextrose is a simple carbohydrate that has the same molecular structure as the blood sugar in our veins. When we consume dextrose, our body immediately absorbs it. The reason it’s added to fries is to make them more addictive.
If you’ve ever eaten McDonald’s fries, then you may remember how hard it was to put them down.
This is because our evolutionary physiology has trained us to seek out simple sugars for survival. The simpler the sugar, the more addictive the food is to our “animal” brain.
5) Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
This sounds like it would burn a hole in metal… Honestly, it probably would if it was concentrated enough. It’s added in small amounts to the outer coating of McDonald’s fries to preserve the color.
Last but not least, all McDonald’s fries are sprinkled with a healthy dash of salt for flavoring.
Conclusion – Is ANYTHING At McDonald’s Vegan?
Most of the McDonald’s menu is non-vegan. Even their salads typically contain cheese or are topped with meat, making them non-vegan. That being said, McDonald’s recently added a vegan plant-based burger to their menu (called the McPlant)!
It may not be the healthiest option, but it is vegan-friendly, so if you’re in a rush and need a quick bite, it’ll get the job done.
The McPlant isn’t bad… it’s just not the best. If you’re looking for some seriously good vegan burgers, though, be sure to check out my list of the best vegan burgers next