You might think french fries are vegan — they’re nothing but deep-fried potatoes. Right? Well, it’s not that simple: Some manufacturers and restaurants actually use animal ingredients in their fries. Let’s take a closer look.
The reasons for avoiding fast food are pretty clear — it’s unhealthy and generally uses low-quality, additive-packed ingredients, with lots of processed meat from ethically questionable sources. And the options for vegans, vegetarians, and generally sustainability-conscious consumers are extremely limited. But at least the fries are vegan, right? That’s unfortunately not true in a lot of cases.
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan?
Fries from McDonald’s are not vegan; at least not in the US. One of the many ingredients is Natural Beef Flavor. This is used to replace the flavor of the beef fat McDonald’s fries used to be cooked in. While this additive doesn’t actually contain meat itself, it does contain wheat and dairy derivatives.
Are Burger King Fries Vegan?
Well, at least the list of ingredients of Burger King fries (and the oil they fry them in) is entirely vegan. Of course, it may be that your fries still end up being cooked in the same oil as chicken nuggets or other non-vegan products, so it’s probably best to ask in-store.
If you’re craving french fries, but you’d like to be sure what’s in them, why not just make them yourself? Here’s a simple recipe for making vegan fries at home. A recipe how they should be — simple and vegan.
Homemade Vegan French Fries Recipe
- Potatoes (Russet or Idaho are the best varieties — they have the lowest moisture content)
- Fat for frying (any oil with a high smoke point — peanut oil is ideal)
Even if you don’t have a dedicated deep fryer or air fryer at home, it’s easy to make fries in the oven or on the stovetop. Make sure to be careful when cooking with large amounts of hot oil.
A secret tip for homemade french fries is to soak your chopped potatoes for at least an hour in cold water first — this removes excess starch, making the fries firmer and crispier. Make sure to dry them before frying them. French fries also come out crispest if you cook them twice — once at a lower temperature of around 300°F to cook them through, and for a few minutes at up to 400°F to get them crispy and brown.
What to Be Aware of When Ordering Fries in Restaurants
Of course, one of the greatest things about french fries (and junk food in general, if we’re being honest) is convenience. They’re at their freshest and tastiest in a restaurant or as a snack on the go.
The animal rights organization Peta checked a number of fast food joints and found that most of them offer vegan fries — apart from McDonald’s. One thing to note, however, is that a lot of places use palm or coconut fat, which is problematic for a variety of reasons (for example, rainforest destruction, child labor, or long transportation distances).
Sometimes, however, restaurants still fry their potatoes in clarified butter or beef lard. In addition to the frying oil, the spices and flavorings aren’t always vegan (this is especially likely to be the case where restaurants don’t prepare the potatoes in-store and just buy manufactured produce). Here are a few things to look out for:
- Milk, cheese, or other dairy by-products are added to some fries, meaning they’re no longer vegan.
- Many manufacturers include additives so that the fries retain their color and crunch, or stay fresh for longer. Not all additives are vegan. If in doubt, just ask!
- One last thing: You even have to be careful with ketchup, mayonnaise, and other dips. Some manufacturers sweeten ketchup with honey, and mayonnaise usually contains eggs.
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