Sustainability made simple

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan? Why Not and What’s In Them

are mcdonalds french fries vegan
Foto: CC0 / Unsplash / Brett Jordan

They’re no longer cooked in beef fat, but does that make McDonald’s fries vegan? Unfortunately, animal products still sneak into these famously tasty fries — and others. Let’s take a closer look at if french fries are vegan.

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. The options for vegans, vegetarians and generally sustainability-conscious consumers are extremely limited.

But are french fries vegan? It’s unfortunately not the case most of the time. Some manufacturers and restaurants actually use animal ingredients in their fries. Let’s take a closer look.

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan? Big Nope

Fries from McDonald’s are not vegan, at least not in the US. One of the many ingredients in delicious, salty McDonald’s fries 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.

So, what’s the closest fast food alternative — what french fries can vegans eat?

Are Burger King Fries Vegan? They Can Be

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 know what’s in them, why not make them yourself? Scroll down for a simple recipe for vegan and vegetarian fries.

What to Watch Out For When Ordering Restaurant Fries

Vegan Burger and Fries
It’s not hard to find vegan french fries — but if you’re not sure, just ask! (CC0 / Unsplash / Jiroe)

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 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 oil, which is problematic for a variety of reasons (like rainforest destruction, child labor and long transportation distances — or “food miles”.)

Furthermore, some 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).

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Milk, cheese, or other dairy by-products can be added to 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. When in doubt, 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. For more information, read, Is Ketchup Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need to Know.

Homemade Vegan French Fries Recipe

If you make french fries at home, you can season them with whatever you like! (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / matthiasboeckel)


  • Potatoes (Russet or Idaho are the best varieties as they have the lowest moisture content)
  • Salt
  • Fat for frying (any oil with a high smoke point is good, but 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. However, be careful when cooking with large amounts of hot oil.

A useful trick for homemade french fries is soaking your chopped potatoes for at least an hour in cold water. Soaking them removes excess starch, making the fries firmer and crispier. Dry them thoroughly before frying.

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 deliciously crispy and brown.

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