Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian? 

Potatoes, oil and salt – three ingredients we know are needed to make crispy, golden fries. Based off of these ingredients its easy to assume that McDonald’s world-renowned French Fries would be suitable for vegetarians and vegans to consume. As it turns out, there’s more to the story than you might think. Let’s see Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian? 

Are McDonalds Fries Vegetarian? 

The simple answer is no. Unfortunately, in the US, McDonald’s french fries are not suitable for vegans and vegetarians as they contain natural beef flavoring. Even though it is not known whether the flavoring contains any beef itself, we do know that the ingredient is made up of wheat and Milk Derivatives – Milk being an ingredient that does not form part of the vegetarian/vegan diet.

Beef flavoring? Seems rather random, doesn’t it? Read more to discover the reason behind their decision to include this additive to their fries’ ingredient list. 

Why Beef Flavoring? 

In the past, McDonald’s would prepare their fries in an oil that comprised predominately of beef tallow (which is rendered fat from a cow). However, in the late 1990s, campaigns against foods that increased cholesterol and heart disease were on the rise and McDonald’s found itself at the centre of these conversations. Due to growing health concerns around their menu, McDonald’s made the decision to switch from cooking their fries in the animal lard to making them in vegetable oil.  

How Did Consumers React To This Change? 

The switch to vegetable oil lead to an obvious change in the taste of the fries that left McDonald’s customers unimpressed. The beef tallow was in fact what was giving the fries their distinguished taste. It is then that McDonald’s began adding natural beef flavoring to their potatoes during processing, to bring back the delicious flavor their fries were known for.

Vegetarians were then thrilled to discover that the fries were no longer cooked in animal fat, but were unaware that beef flavoring was being added to them. Upon uncovering this, a group of vegetarians and Hindus placed a Class Action Lawsuit against McDonald’s. This resulted in the company having to issue out an apology as well as pay out 10 million dollars to those involved in the suit and various vegetarian groups around the US.

What Exactly Is In These Fries? 

Now when you visit their website you will find that McDonald’s specifically mentions that none of their menu items, including their French Fries, are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

The ingredients of their French Fries, as stipulated on the McDonald’s website, are:


    ●Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil) 

    ●Natural Beef Flavor [wheat And Milk Derivatives]*)


    ●Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (maintain Color) 


*natural Beef Flavor Contains Hydrolyzed Wheat And Hydrolyzed Milk As Starting Ingredients

The fast food chain is not required to disclose if its flavoring contains any actual meat in it. In addition to that, the fries are not prepared separately from the animal products. This may pose as an ethical conflict for vegetarians and vegans who are firmly against eating anything prepared with or near animal products (to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination of their food with animal products). 

What About McDonald’s Chains In Other Countries? 

This is not the case all over the world. The UK is a great example, as their McDonald’s fries have been officially accredited to be 100% vegan by the Vegetarian Society. Their French Fries are prepared with only potatoes, a blend of vegetable oils, dextrose and salt.

McDonald’s South Africa states: “Our famous French fries are 100% suitable for vegetarians. No beef flavouring or any other non-vegetarian ingredients are used in the process of making our fries.” Canada, Australia have also said that their fries are suitable for vegetarians, although there have been concerns about how the oil used to prepare the fries is not separated from the oil used to prepare animal products. 

Vegetarians across the US, and parts of the world, had hoped that the lawsuit filed against them in 2001 would have incited McDonald’s to remove the beef flavoring all together. However McDonald’s has said that they will not be changing the ingredients of their fries in the US. They have started testing their McPlant burger at selected restaurants across the US as of November 2021. 

The Final Verdict 

While most McDonald’s locations around the world have declared their fries to be vegetarian and vegan friendly, in the US they are not. And even in those locations it is hard to ignore the very high chance of cross-contamination with animal products during the preparation of the fries. McDonald’s US has stated that they have no plans of changing the recipe of their fries but do plan on extending their menu to offer more plant-based options. Until then, as a vegetarian, you’ll just have to settle for some Apple Slices if you want to eat at the fast food joint.

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian? 

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