Whether you’re newly vegan or have been avoiding food from animals for years now, it’s difficult to tell what restaurant chains offer plant-based substitutions or food you can eat. And when it comes to fast food, it’s even blurrier on what’s safe. One might assume that all french fries are vegan, considering they’re made out of potatoes and seemingly don’t contain meat or dairy — but that would be wrong.
Unfortunately for those avoiding animal products, not all fast food items are vegan, and not even all french fries. If you’re making french fries at home from scratch, you can be sure to leave out any ingredients you’re looking to avoid. But for major food franchises such as McDonald’s, this just isn’t an option.
Are the french fries at McDonald’s vegan or vegetarian?
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but McDonald’s french fries in the United States are not vegan, and they actually are not even vegetarian, surprisingly. As reported by World of Vegan, the delicious fries at Mickey D’s contain dairy with milk and meat with beef.
You might be wondering how exactly McDonald’s french fries contain these flavors if they taste and look just like fried potatoes. Well, according to TreeHugger, the old recipe once called for the fries to be cooked in animal lard, in order to give them that distinctive taste. The fast food chain later switched it up and started using vegetable oil instead, however then made a change again to start adding a beef flavor to the fries.
Apparently, after McDonald’s swapped out the animal lard for vegetable oil, they received complaints that the iconic french fries no longer had the same taste. And so, that’s why they use a beef flavor, making the popular item neither vegan nor vegetarian.
You can find the full list of ingredients used in McDonald’s french fries on their website, along with the calorie count of each size. Below you can see the list of everything used to make their most famous snack, the french fries:
"Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [wheat And Milk Derivatives]*), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (maintain Color), Salt. *natural Beef Flavor Contains Hydrolyzed Wheat And Hydrolyzed Milk As Starting Ingredients.Contains: Wheat, Milk."
Can you eat vegan at McDonald’s?
Fortunately for those sticking to their vegan diet, it is possible to eat safely at McDonald’s. Their fruit and maple oatmeal, apple slices, and side salad are all vegan, and you can find a longer list courtesy of Women’s Health Magazine here. As we previously reported, the fast food giant is planning to debut a McPlant Burger sometime in 2021, though an exact date and participating locations have not been announced.
Although it’s bad news for vegans that McDonald’s french fries contain milk and meat flavor, it looks like the company is stepping up and starting to integrate some plant-based options. Here’s to hoping they only expand from there.