Popeyes is, arguably, one of the most popular fast-food restaurants in the American South. It’s even spread overseas to select cities. One of their best-selling sides is their famous Cajun Fries.
While French fries are generally considered vegan, not ALL fast-food fries use a vegan-friendly recipe.
So, are Popeyes fries vegan?
Although Popeyes fries may look vegan, they are NOT vegan. For one, Popeyes fries are cooked in the same oil that their chicken is fried in.
Additionally, Popeyes fries also contain Worcestershire sauce, which contains fish sauce derived from pickled fish. Last but not least, Popeyes fries contain refined white sugar, which many vegans abstain from.
If you were a fan of the popular fast-food chain before going vegan, then this probably comes the as bad news. However, you shouldn’t be surprised. Popeyes, like many fast-food restaurants, cares very little for human health or the environment.
Below, I’ll answer a couple of the most commonly asked questions about Popeyes fries. Then, I’ll show you a full list of all of the ingredients in Popeyes famous Cajun Fries, so you can see for yourself why they’re not vegan.
Are The Cajun Fries At Popeyes Vegan?
Popeyes fries are all seasoned with the franchise’s famous cajun-inspired seasoning. This is what gives them that spicy, smoky New Orleans flavor.
While there’s nothing wrong with the seasoning used on Popeyes fries (other than the high amount of sodium), Popeyes Cajun Fries, themselves, still aren’t vegan, as they contain non-vegan additives.
Sadly, this is also the case with McDonald’s French fries. Although they used to advertise their fries as vegetarian-friendly, they actually contain beef-derived seasoning, designed to give them a more savory flavor.
McDonald’s was actually sued by a group of Hindu activists for failing to disclose this fact before marketing and selling their fries in India!
Are Popeyes Fries Fried In Lard?
Lard is an age-old term used to describe animal fat. Long before modern refrigeration and chemical preservatives came about, lard and salt were the primary methods of preserving food.
Cooked meat or raw vegetables could be stored in a jar and covered with lard, which was usually leftover animal fat from bacon, beef, or pork (high-fat meats). This fat would keep the outside air and moisture out of the food, effectively creating an air-tight seal.
This is how early pioneers would survive the long winters when food was scarce!
Fun history aside, lard is clearly not vegan, as it’s literally pure animal fat.
Popeyes fries are not technically fried in lard. They’re fried in vegetable oil.
That being said, since they’re fried in the same oil vats as their fried chicken is cooked in, there’s a good chance that there’s some animal fat within each serving of Popeyes Cajun Fries.
If you want to be 100% sure that your fries are vegan, your best bet is to fry them yourself at home! Here’s a great recipe I’ve used myself for loaded vegan fries:
What Are Popeyes Fries Made Of? A Closer Look
Whenever I tell people that a certain food isn’t vegan, I never expect them to just “take my word for it.” Instead, I prefer to provide my readers with an in-depth breakdown of all of the main ingredients, so they can see for themselves exactly why a certain product isn’t ethical to consume.
Here’s the shortlist of the ingredients, obtained from FastFoodIngredients.com:
As you can see, that’s a pretty lengthy list of ingredients for such a simple food! There are probably lots of chemicals and additives that make zero sense to you as well, so let me take a minute to break everything down for you.
Potatoes are always the main ingredient found in all French fries. If potatoes aren’t the main ingredient, then you probably shouldn’t even consider them in the first place!
Potatoes, by themselves, are actually quite healthy. They’re a great source of healthy carbs, are high in natural dietary fiber, and are loaded with healthy amino acids and antioxidants. This is why they’ve remained such a popular food throughout history.
2) Vegetable Oil
All Popeyes fries are deep-fried in a blend of vegetable oil. The oils that Popeyes uses to fry all of their food in are:
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sunflower oil
Thankfully, Popeyes doesn’t use any palm oil, which is a very problematic ingredient in the vegan community. Most other fast-food restaurants use palm oil, as it’s low-cost and has a high boiling temperature, making it ideal for frying.
That being said, palm oil is the leading force behind rainforest destruction, which, in turn, negatively affects endangered species, and indigenous tribes, and contributes to global warming.
3) Bleached & Enriched Wheat Flour
All Popeyes fries are coated in wheat flour to make them crispier and more filling. This isn’t your usual healthy all-purpose wheat flour though. Although Popeyes flour is technically vegan, it’s bleached to remove color, which removes many of the key nutrients in the flour.
4) Modified Food Starch
Modified food starch is a form of highly processed starch that’s often added to fried food to give it a crunchier, crispier texture. It’s not very healthy as it’s just pure empty carbs, but it is plant-based and vegan.
5) Yellow Corn Meal
Yellow cornmeal is very similar to corn flour. However, cornmeal is a bit thicker than cornflour and isn’t ground so finely. It’s blended with the wheat flour and corn starch to create the main batter that Popeyes fries are dipped in before they’re fried.
6) Salt, Spices, & Seasoning
Popeyes signature blend of salt, spices, and seasonings is part of what makes their fries so great-tasting. Some of the key seasonings used include:
They don’t list all of their seasonings, as some of them are trade secrets.
7) Leavening Agents
Normally, you shouldn’t have to add baking soda or other leavening agents to French fries. However, since Popeyes coats their fries in a thin layer of dough (which can rise when heated), the added baking soda prevents the dough from rising too much.
This, in turn, makes for a crispier, crunchier French fry.
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a highly concentrated salt that’s essentially “chemical savory flavor.” This unhealthy ingredient is often added to processed soups and noodle dishes. It’s a simple, low-cost way of making any food taste more flavorful.
While it is vegan-friendly, it’s far from healthy and can have a detrimental effect on your health if consumed in excess.
9) Dehydrated Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce originated in the early-1800s in Worcestershire, England. It’s a common sauce that’s used in BBQ and cajun cuisine. Unfortunately, it’s not vegan, as it contains fish sauce.
That being said, Worcestershire sauce can be vegan, if you know where to look.
All Popeyes fries are coated with a thin layer of sugar. Although it’s completely unnecessary, it does make them taste a bit better and is one of the reasons why they’re so addictive.
Unfortunately, this is just another reason why Popeyes fries are non-vegan. Most ethical vegans avoid consuming white sugar since it’s filtered through animal bone char.
11) Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate
This is one of the most common chemical preservatives added to French fries and other fried foods. Essentially, it’s responsible for preserving the rich yellow-gold color of Popeyes fries, so they don’t take on a dull gray color after being frozen and shipped to individual restaurants.
The Verdict – Are Popeyes Fries Vegan-Friendly?
Although there’s nothing wrong with traditional French fries, Popeyes fries are not vegan, as they’re fried alongside meat. They also contain Worcestershire sauce, which is made with pickled fish.
That being said, Chick-Fil-A has some great-tasting French fries that are 100% vegan. There are also plenty of Chick-Fil-A locations in the American south, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding one!