Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan? It Depends (Simple Trick to Know for Sure)

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Carbon Offsets Credits | March 20, 2024

Man getting McDonald’s fries from the drive thru window wonders what are McDonald’s fries ingredients and are McDonald’s fries vegan?

If you are wondering are McDonald’s fries vegan since the key ingredients are oil, salt, and potatoes, you may be stunned to know that this may not be true in some cases.

Fortunately, there’s a simple trick to know are McDonald’s fries vegan, just check the country you’re in! Eating local determines, largely, whether those fries are vegan or not.

That’s right. If you are wondering are McDonald’s fries vegan, the location of the store makes all the difference.

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan? Europe vs the USA

Unlike the McDonald’s branches in the United States, the fries from European restaurants are entirely vegan and have the Vegetarian society’s approval. They use potatoes and a mixture of rapeseed and sunflower oil, and cooks use separate fats without animal products.

The versions are available in European countries like the UK and are plant-based, and like in the US, the fries still have a great taste. However, fries in the US are cooked in corn, soybean, and canola oil, and there are chances of cross-contamination.

McDonald’s Fries Ingredients: All Components Used

McDonald’s fries are famous because they are tasty and affordable, but if you are keen on carbon ecological footprint calculators, you would want to know about all the ingredients involved. Here are some of the components;

  • Potatoes
  • Salt
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil
  • Natural beef flavor
  • Hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Hydrolyzed wheat
  • Citric acid
  • Hydrolyzed milk
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane, dextrose, and pyrophosphate
  • TBHQ

Each ingredient has a particular purpose, and they all work together to help bring out the taste everyone loves. While the potatoes, oil, and salt are the main ingredients, the rest are additives and preservatives that keep the potatoes tasty and fresh for sale.2

Sliced potato fries seasoned with salt and parsley on a white plate.

(Image: Fernanda Martinez12)

The only concern is for people on vegan diets and those with celiac disease, given the beef flavor and wheat. Luckily, when Toxic TBHQ comes in minimal amounts,8 it’s safe for consumption.

Read More About: Why is Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Important? (Full Answer)

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian? UK Perspective

The McDonald’s chains in the UK are among the first in the world to adopt 100% vegetarian fries for customers. They ensure that there are no meat products in the ingredients and cook them separately, meaning no cross-contamination.3

The chips in the UK contain potatoes and plant-based cooking oils, explaining why they have gained approval from the Vegetarian Society. Unlike in the US, UK fries don’t include the beef flavor and lack wheat or milk, making them suitable for gluten and lactose-intolerant consumers.

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan: Effects of McDonald’s Fries Beef Flavoring on Vegan and Vegetarian Customers

Adding beef flavoring is one way McDonald’s outlets improve the taste of their fries, but it contains wheat and hydrolyzed milk, which some customers avoid. It will affect you if you are lactose intolerant, on a strict vegan diet, or against animal cruelty.

Luckily, if you live in the UK, you can get the perfect fries that are mindful of your diet requirements, although the case is different for US restaurants. Still, you can indulge in other meal options from McDonald’s if you are a vegan customer in the US.1

Are McDonald’s Fries Halal and How Do You Tell the Difference?

Generally, McDonald’s foods are not Halal,9 depending on the country and the outlet’s laws.

For instance, if the cooking involves vegetable oil and there is no cross-contamination with equipment used to fry meat, the food is considered halal.

Close up of McDonald's fries inside the fry baskets.

(Image: FL FLPhotography.li13)

However, the fries are Halal in regions cooking non-vegan meals where the fries mix with beef flavors or are cooked in oils used for frying meat (find out about meat carbon footprint). You will find Halal fast foods in Muslim-dominated areas like Saudi Arabia, where the branches follow strict halal rules.

Since the restaurants in the UK are vegan certified, many conclude that they are Halal, and you can regard the US McDonald’s lacking the vegetarian certification as non-Halal. It all depends on the region, and there are high chances of finding Halal McDonald’s meals in countries with a high Muslim population.

Are McDonald’s Fries Dairy Free? Are They Vegan and Ideal for Lactose Intolerant Consumers?

McDonald’s fries are dairy-free depending on the country, laws surrounding operations, and the particular restaurant you order from. However, the menu options are limited, and it is best to disclose your allergies while buying to avoid eating anything you are allergic to.

Most McDonald’s branches in the US use milk and wheat, making them unsafe for lactose and gluten-intolerant customers. The two ingredients are vital in giving the fries their beef flavor, and you should always check with the servers before you order.

Is McDonald’s Fries Vegan? Can You Eat at Any Restaurant in the World While on a Vegan Diet?

If you love traveling and enjoy delicious vegan fries, you should note that McDonald’s states that the food in some countries is not ideal for vegetarians.

United States

If you are vegan and are living in the US, the franchise is clear that the French fries are not suitable for you. They feature beef flavoring, which constitutes milk and wheat that contradict your diet.

Previously, they cooked using animal fat, and customers complained when they switched to vegetables, forcing the company to add beef flavor to improve the taste.6

United Kingdom

Luckily, the fries in the UK are entirely vegan, and McDonald’s confirms that they are safe for vegetarians. The preparation involves rapeseed and sunflower oil blends, and they fry it separately from animal products.


You can consider Canadian McDonald’s fries perfect if on a vegan diet, given that they don’t have any animal products. However, the company states that the products are not vegetarian-certified and may contain animal ingredients. Similarly, they cook separately, but there are no guarantees of non-contamination.


Fries are generally considered vegan since they don’t contain animal ingredients, but in Australia, there may be chances of cross-contamination. They may be cooked using the same equipment handling milk and eggs; therefore, it is best to avoid them if you have any allergies.

Understanding McDonald’s Fries Ingredients: Vegetarian Version

It is expected to ask yourself, are McDonald’s fries vegan, and, if so, what ingredients are involved in the manufacture?

Unlike in the US, outlets in the UK are certified as vegetarian, eliminating animal products in all the production stages.

A night photo outside of a McDonald's Restaurant.

(Image: Visual Karsa14)

After adding the preservatives, they dip the potatoes in a mixture of non-hydrogenated vegetable cooking oils, which are healthier than animal fat. The chemicals maintain the potatoes’ freshness, giving a particular kick to the taste.4

Salt is also vital for flavoring, and the staff also checks the chemical levels they use to avoid poisoning the consumer and ensure that they adhere to all the FDA rules.10

McDonald’s Fries Ingredients US vs UK: What Is the Difference? (Are McDonald’s Fries Ingredients Vegetarian?)

Although the fast food giant strives to produce a uniformly high-quality product, not everything stays the same. Every country has different preparation procedures, and sometimes the ingredients vary.

Every region has a unique customer preference and rules governing business conduct. Therefore, you will notice that the US and UK fries use different ingredients, although the outlet maintains that there is no difference in the taste.

The US McDonald’s fries are not vegan, but the process still involves the highest FDA safety regulations. Besides the potatoes and salt for flavoring, the cooking involves vegetable oils like corn, soybean, and canola.

They also have chemical preservatives and natural beef additives from milk and wheat. On the other hand, UK chips are certified vegan, comprising potatoes, a mixture of non-hydrogenated vegetable cooking oils, and safe levels of additives and preservatives.

UK McDonald’s FriesUS McDonald’s Fries
Have approval from the Vegetarian SocietyNot accredited as vegetarian
Don’t have beef flavoringHave beef flavoring
Fit for lactose and gluten-intolerant consumersIt contains milk and wheat allergens
Cooked separatelyNot cooked separately
Contains vegetarian ingredientsVegetarian ingredients not disclosed
There is no cross-contaminationThere are chances of cross-contamination
Cooking oil is a mix of rapeseed and sunflowerCooking oil is a mix of canola, soybean, and corn

Are McDonald’s Fries Real? What Is the Preparation Process?

All McDonald’s fries are natural, like the ones you make at home, but the difference is in the distinct taste. It starts with selecting the highest quality potatoes of various varieties like the Umatilla Russet, Shepody, and Russet Burbank.

They go through the peeling, blanching, and chopping process using advanced machines, followed by mixing with the ingredients to help bring out the fantastic color and taste. This process explains why all the fries taste the same in all restaurants.

Drying and partially frying give the fries their signature crispy outer layer then the restaurants handle the final frying process on their end. The result is a unique taste that keeps customers coming back for more.

What Does McDonald’s Fry Their Fries In? Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan?

All McDonald’s use vegetable fat for cooking (not animal-based), but the type varies in different countries. The UK outlets use rapeseed and sunflower oil, making them vegan, while canola, soybean, and corn are used in the US.

On the other hand, vegan restaurants in Australia fry their fries in canola oil while hydrogenated soybean and canola are used in Canada.

McDonald’s Fries Calories, Carbs, Proteins, And Fats Levels

Your food footprint has a massive impact on the environment, and if you are conscious of carbon emissions, it is best to check your calorie intake. Based on the new food regulations,11 the consumer should know how many calories are in fast foods.

McDonald’s fries have various proportions, each with a specific calorie count.5

You can order a kids’ meal or go for a small, medium, or large meal based on your preference, but the general rule is that the calorie count increases with an increase in serving.

Kids11015 g2 g5 g
Small23026 g3 g11 g
Medium32043 g5 g15 g
Large48065 g7 g23 g

How Many Ingredients Are in McDonald’s French Fries: McDonald’s French Fries Ingredients

The typical components in all French fries are potatoes, cooking oil, and salt to taste, but McDonald’s adds unique ingredients to create a signature taste.

Closeup of McDonald's fries inside the fries holder.

(Image: Brett Jordan15)

The ingredients in US outlets include vegetable oil (a mix of canola, soybean, and corn), beef flavor (containing hydrolyzed milk and wheat), and other distinct chemicals. McDonald’s fries have more than ten elements, and the restaurant explains some of them on the website.

  • Citric acid- an additive that helps keep the cooking oil fresh.
  • Dextrose- natural sugar that gives the fries a golden color.
  • TBHQ- antioxidant and preservative that keeps the oil fresh until the fries reach the restaurant.
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane- helps reduce oil splatter and foaming.
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate- keeps the potatoes from discoloring after freezing when on their way to the restaurant.

McDonald’s Fries Scandal: Famous Lawsuit

The largest fast-food restaurant worldwide has been party to several legal cases over the decades.7 One big blow was in 2001 when Hindus and Vegetarians sued it for not disclosing that their fries contain beef tallow.

The restaurant denied the claims, stating that they never lied about the “natural flavor,” but more grave reports arose about the matter. For instance, some staff members claimed the fries were vegetarian, and the groups were infuriated by the false advertising. The plaintiffs took advantage of McDonald’s bad publicity at the time and demanded $75 million.

The counteroffer was $5 million, but both parties later agreed on $10 million, with the “vegetarian groups” receiving $6 million. The restaurant apologized but insisted that the preparation method would not change and that other countries prepare the fries differently.

Read More About: 18 Meat Carbon Footprint Facts: The Emissions of Every Meat Type

Unfortunately, the US branches are not vegan since animal products are present in the beef flavor that contains milk and wheat. It is best to avoid them if you follow your diet to the letter or are allergic to animal products. Therefore, to answer the question, are McDonald’s fries vegan, you can always visit your nearest outlet and talk to the branch manager for clarity on the ingredients used.

Frequently Asked Questions About Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan

What Kind of Salt Does McDonald's Use on Their Fries? Is It Common Table Salt?

McDonald’s uses unique salt that is made exclusively for industrial use. It is made of finely ground particles placed in tiny packets and stays in that state for a long time without clumping or forming particles.

What Percentage of McDonald's Fries Are Potato?

It is unclear how much of the fries are potatoes, but they are not 100% pure, thanks to the coating of vegetable oil and other additives. These ingredients are critical in the blanching process, after which the fries are frozen and transported to the restaurant.

Still Wondering Are McDonald's Fries Vegan?

If you are on a strict vegan diet and still want to enjoy the delicious flavor of McDonald’s fries, you will be glad to know that it is available in some countries like the UK. They are certified vegan, and you can eat at any regional restaurant, helping increase your carbon offset credits.


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8Gharavi, N., Haggarty, S., & El-Kadi, A. O. (2007, January). Chemoprotective and Carcinogenic Effects of Tert-Butylhydroquinone and Its Metabolites. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from <>

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10International Food Information Council (IFIC) & U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018, February 6). Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors. FDA. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from <>

11Stewart, H. & Morrison, R.M. (2015, February 2). New Regulations Will Inform Consumers About Calories in Restaurant Foods. USDA Economic Research Service. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from <>

12Photo by Fernanda Martinez. Resized and changed format. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

13Photo by FL Resized and changed format. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

14Photo by Visual Karsa. Resized and changed format. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

15Photo by Brett Jordan. Resized and changed format. Pexels. Retrieved from <>