Are McDonald’s French Fries Vegan in 2022?


Are McDonald's Fries Vegan

Jen and I have been running VeggL for a little over 3 years and the two questions we get asked the most often both involve McDonald’s.

Everyone asks if the hash browns are vegan (not in the US they’re not) and the other is the question we’re going to discuss in this article:

Are McDonald’s French Fries Vegan?

The short answer here is, no, McDonald’s French Fries are not vegan.

But why not, you might ask. After all, French Fries are just potatoes and potatoes are vegan, so, what’s the issue?

The issue is their French Fries contain natural beef flavoring and dairy. 

McDonald’s & Potatoes

McDonald's Fries
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

To fully appreciate how McDonald’s ended up with natural beef flavoring in their French Fries, it’s helpful to look at the “evolution” of how McDonald’s has prepared their fries over the years.

Up until around the early 90s, McDonald’s actually cooked their fries in beef tallow. They decided to go away from this process, but to try to maintain the flavor, they started using natural beef flavor mixed with the oil that the fries were prepared with.

When they made this switch, an apparent lack of transparency led to McDonald’s being sued by vegetarians and Hindus. McDonald’s ended up issuing an apology and paid $10 million.

Now, McDonald’s lays out their process for how they cook their fries in the FAQs regarding if they add any type of flavoring to their fries when they are being prepared:

Yes. When our suppliers partially fry our cut potatoes, they use an oil blend that contains beef flavoring. This ensures the great-tasting and recognizable flavor we all love from our World Famous Fries®. The fries are cooked in our kitchens, seasoned with salt, and served hot to you.

McDonald’s French Fries Ingredients

We couldn’t find a de facto ingredients list sheet for McDonald’s (at least not in the past decade–we did find one from what looked to be 2007).

In lieu of an official list, McDonald’s does list the ingredients to all their menu items directly on the menu item page itself on their website.

To find the ingredients for any menu item, in our case the French Fries – go to the online menu, navigate to the French Fries, then scroll down under the pic and quick description.

There you’ll find the Nutrition Summary along with the Ingredients & Allergens.

Here are ingredients you’ll find listed there for their 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.

It’d be understandable, as a vegan, to be annoyed that McDonald’s uses milk derivatives in their fry ingredients. But sadly, that’s not even the biggest issue.

Like we stated at the beginning of this article, McDonald’s used ‘Natural Beef Flavor’ in the preparation of their fried foods including (but not limited to) their fries and their hash browns.

Is This How McDonald’s Fries are Prepared Everywhere?

McDonald's

As has been reported all over the internet, this concept of frying items with natural beef flavoring is not the same for other countries. For instance, in the UK, here is what you’ll find in McDonald’s French Fries:

Potatoes, Blend of Non-Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Rapeseed), Dextrose (predominantly added at beginning of the potato season).
Prepared in the restaurants using a non-hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Salt is added after cooking.

They even get a little ‘Vegan Approved’ badge from the Vegetarian Society.

So, not only is it possible for McDonald’s to change the way they cook their fries, they literally already do. Just not here in the US.

What Is Vegan at McDonald’s?

So, if French Fries are not an option, what is vegan at McDonald’s? The answer is, well, not much.

We list all of McDonald’s vegan options on our McDonald’s Vegan Guide, but to sum it up, if you’re there for breakfast then you can order the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with NO cream along with some Apple Slices (Not apple pies).

If you’re at McDonald’s for lunch or dinner time then you can try to order, well, the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with NO cream along with some Apple Slices.

Seriously, we actually suggest on our guide to order a “sandwich” which basically consists of ordering a burger with no burger and asking them to add lettuce. How depressing is that?

We talked last year (2021) about a vegan burger coming to McDonald’s. McDonald’s started testing that vegan burger, the McPlant, on November 3rd, 2021. Locations where the McPlant burger are being tested out are:

  • Irving and Carrollton, Texas
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, California

However, that’s just going to make the fact that you can’t “add fries to that” even sadder. And don’t forget to order your McPlant with NO cheese or mayonnaise!

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Veggl

VeggL is the passion project of Jen & Ryan. Both vegan (Jen since 2012, Ryan since 2018), they wanted to help other vegans & plant based folks through an incredibly frustrating process--trying to figure out what you can eat & where in the US. Pictured w/ our pups, Mia & Chompers.

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