Onion rings supposedly originated in Texas during the early-1920s. Today, they’re one of the most iconic foods in America, along with fries.
They’re sold at almost every fast-food restaurant, burger spot, and BBQ joint in the country. While onions are technically a plant, onion rings are coated in a bready dough before being fried, which isn’t always vegan.
So, are onion rings vegan?
Sadly, most onion rings are NOT vegan. While the onions, by themselves, are vegan, the batter that most onion rings are coated in is traditionally made with eggs and dairy, making it non-vegan.
Additionally, some onion rings contain sugar or are fried in butter or palm oil, which aren’t vegan.
Are you ready to learn some more about one of America’s favorite foods?
Are Fried Onion Rings Vegan?
Onion rings… Some people love them, while others hate them. Personally, I’ve always loved onions and regularly cook with them. When I first went vegan around eight years ago and found out that most onion rings weren’t vegan, I was pretty disappointed.
Most fried onion rings aren’t vegan because of the batter, sugar, and frying medium that’s used to cook them.
That being said, there are lots of recipes for vegan-friendly onion rings. Onion ring batter doesn’t have to contain dairy or non-vegan eggs. Onion rings also don’t have to be deep-fried in unhealthy (and non-vegan) palm oil.
You can bake, air-fry, or even pan-sear your own version of onion rings! I’ll show you one of my favorite recipes for vegan onion rings towards the end of this post.
Non-Vegan Ingredients In Onion Rings
While many onion rings aren’t vegan, there are some onion rings that are vegan-friendly. You just have to know what to look for. The best way to tell for sure whether a certain brand is vegan-friendly or not is to take a good look at the ingredients list.
Thankfully, most restaurants are more than happy to provide you with a list of the ingredients they use for their onion ring batter, so it’s easy to identify potentially non-vegan additives.
Here’s a short visual outlining some of the most common non-vegan ingredients in onion rings, so you know what to look out for:
|Non-Vegan Ingredients In Onion Rings||Why They’re Not Vegan|
|Eggs||Whole eggs (and egg whites) are not vegan because they’re a direct animal product. The egg industry is very cruel and causes a lot of suffering for female hens, who are often cramped in overheated, disease-ridden cages.|
|Dairy & Butter||The dairy industry is just as cruel as the egg and poultry industry, which makes all dairy products non-vegan. Buttermilk, cream, and milk are often added to the onion ring batter to make it thicker and sweeter. Butter, another dairy product, is sometimes used to cook stovetop onion rings as well.|
|Refined White Sugar||If you’ve ever eaten onion rings before, then you may realize that many recipes taste sweet. This is because the onions are often caramelized using refined white sugar. The sugar brings out the naturally sweet flavors in the onions, making for a sweet, zesty, smoky flavor. Unfortunately, refined white sugar is not vegan, as it’s filtered through bone char to remove its natural brown coloring. This is why ethical vegans choose to eat unrefined raw cane sugar or use agave sweeteners instead.|
|Palm Oil||Although palm oil is plant-based cooking oil, the palm oil industry is very destructive to our planet. It’s one of the driving forces of rainforest destruction and has pushed many rainforest species to the brink of extinction.|
These are the main non-vegan ingredients that you need to be aware of. If you see any of them used in a restaurant’s onion rings, then they’re not vegan.
Are Burger King Onion Rings Vegan?
Burger King isn’t exactly the most vegan-friendly restaurant. While some locations have started offering vegan burger patties as an alternative to beef patties, most of the other options on their menu still aren’t vegan. Even the fries are somewhat questionable!
So, it should come as no surprise that Burger King onion rings are NOT vegan.
If you’re curious and want to learn more, I wrote a full post on BK’s onion rings last week. Long story short, though, Burger King onion rings are all made using whey powder, which is a dairy product.
Are McDonald’s Onion Rings Vegan?
While McDonald’s new onion rings may be taking Europe by storm, they aren’t vegan-friendly.
Sadly, McDonald’s onion rings are deep-fried in the same oil that their chicken products are fried in, making them a non-vegan food. They also contain whey, the same milk-derived protein used in Burger King’s onion rings.
As a general rule, fast-food onion rings are almost never vegan.
Not only do you have to worry about the fact that they’re likely cooked in the same vat of oil as the restaurant’s meat is, but there’s a higher likelihood of other non-vegan additives being present.
For instance, McDonald’s uses meat-based seasoning salt in their French fries, which are normally vegan-friendly food. Fast-food companies are notorious for adding animal-derived ingredients in an effort to make their food taste more savory. That’s why I rarely eat anything sold by fast-food chains.
Are Onion Rings Ever Vegan?
Yes, onion rings can be vegan!
It’s just a matter of substituting the egg and dairy additives for other vegan-friendly alternatives. Thankfully, there are plenty of delicious plant-based milk options to choose from. These will provide texture and smooth consistency, along with some protein to hold the batter together.
Additionally, there are also a number of vegan egg substitutes that you can use in place of a real egg. These will act as an emulsifier and are great for cooking applications!
If you’re looking for a sweeter onion ring, you don’t have to use white sugar either. Instead, you can use raw cane sugar, which makes for an even richer flavor. I’ve also caramelized my onion rings with agave syrup, which has a very interesting and sweet flavor.
Last but not least, you don’t have to cook your onion rings in palm oil either. You can cook them in sustainably-sourced vegetable oil like canola oil instead. Canola oil is designed for frying and can withstand high temperatures. It’s also very affordable!
How To Make Vegan Onion Rings (Fast & Simple)
The best way to avoid any unwanted animal ingredients in your onion rings is to simply make your own. Luckily, onion rings are fairly simple to make. You don’t need a deep fryer or any complicated equipment either.
You can fry them with an oil-filled frying pan or use an air-fryer for healthier, lower-fat onion rings.
Here’s how to make your own homemade vegan onion rings in less than thirty minutes!
- 3 Sweet yellow onions
- 1 Cup of vegan bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 Cup of All-Purpose Flour
- 2/3 Cup of Almond Milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
I prepped these onion rings in an air fryer. However, you can also use a conventional oven as well.
- First, peel and slice the onions into rings.
- Then, create the wet and dry mix separately. One bowl should contain dry mix, the other wet mix.
- Then, dip the onions into the wet mix, covering them fully in the sauce.
- While they’re still wet, dip the onions into the dry mix and coat them thoroughly with the dry seasoning blend.
- Now, it’s time to cook! Conventional Oven: Place the onion rings on an oil-lined baking tray, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes. Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. Cook in the air fryer for 10 minutes.
The onion rings should be a crispy golden color once they’re ready to eat!
Alternatively, here’s another video for a similar vegan onion ring recipe that I’ve used before:
What Are The Best Vegan Onion Rings Brands?
Making your own homemade vegan onion rings is fairly simple. However, it does require a bit of time and effort. If you’re looking for something fast and easy, then you may just be looking for something simple that you can throw in the microwave or quickly cook in your oven on a pan.
So, with that in mind, here are the best vegan onion ring brands that are already pre-battered and ready to eat!
1) 365 by Whole Foods Crispy Onion Rings (link)
These are some really delicious, simple, and crispy onion rings that are sold on the frozen aisle at Whole Foods Market. You can also order them online through Amazon if you don’t feel like taking a trip to the grocery store!
2) Alexia Crispy Onion Rings with Panko Breading and Sea Salt (link)
These are also sold at Whole Foods Market and a couple of other health food stores. They’re made with slightly higher-quality ingredients, making them a better alternative to the 365 brands. I love the panko breading and the all-natural sea salt used to make them.
The Verdict – Are Onion Rings Vegan-Friendly?
Most frozen and restaurant-style onion rings are not vegan-friendly since they contain eggs, dairy, or non-vegan ingredients. They may also be cooked in palm oil or butter, which are non-vegan as well.
That being said, it’s simple enough to make your own homemade vegan onion rings. There are also a couple of great-tasting store-bought vegan onion ring brands as well!
If you’re looking for some more great side dishes to add to your vegan meals, check out my list of the best vegan sides next!