After deciding to pursue a plant based diet, even the best of us are hit with some cravings for out old favorite foods. Fast food is by far the worst offender, and McDonald’s is the most ubiquitous (and maybe even most crave-able) fast food joint out there.
You’re probably thinking that there must be something on their menu that you can get away with eating in order to satisfy those pesky cravings. A lot of people opt for fries, thinking that a potato product can’t possibly do any harm. But are they mistaken?
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian?
Surprisingly, McDonald’s fries are not vegetarian! They actually contain beef fat as a flavoring agent and come pre-made to all locations, so it is not possible to order them animal product-free.
If you found this surprising, be sure to check out the rest of the article for even more that you never knew about McDonald’s and vegetarian food.
Why Aren’t McDonalds Fries Vegetarian?
McDonald’s fries are not vegetarian because they are made with beef fat. They are fried in the same vegetable oil as most other things in the restaurant, and the beef fat mainly adds flavoring to the fries.
According to several sources, McDonald’s used to cook all of its fried foods in a mixture of vegetable oils and beef tallow (or rendered beef fat). This did give them a delicious flavor, but significantly increased the cholesterol. As a result, they started adding just a bit of beef fat to their fries to preserve their signature taste but lessen the health risk.
Do McDonald’s French Fries Have Meat?
While they don’t technically contain meat, they do contain beef fat. This is obviously derived from meat, and as such most vegetarians won’t eat it. This is a shame, and I’ve certainly met plenty of plant-based eaters who had no idea that they were eating an animal product. Most people wouldn’t expect fried potatoes to contain any meat derivatives, of course.
What Can Vegetarians Eat at McDonalds?
While fast food chains became famous for their classic burger, fries, and milkshakes, there are now plenty of plant based options for vegetarians. McDonald’s is no exception to this, and you’ll certainly be able to find something meat-free to suit your tastes.
Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed, fries are off limits at McDonald’s. This also goes for their hash browns, which is super sad! Don’t be too bummed, though, since breakfast time still has ample veggie-friendly options.
The classic egg and cheese biscuit is everyone’s standby choice, and now that most McDonald’s are serving breakfast all day we can enjoy something filling and protein-rich after 10:30 am. They also serve great yogurt parfaits that come in a few different flavors and are packed with fruit and granola. Fruit and Maple oatmeal is a solid choice for a warm light breakfast as well.
Their coffee isn’t too bad either, and their new McCafé menu has lots of tasty drinks that you’ll recognize from your favorite specialty coffee shop. Their smoothies are also vegetarian, and they make a great addition to some of the lighter breakfast or meal options.
While all of their salads come standard with meat (except the side salad), don’t be afraid to customize. Simply skip the meat and get extra of your favorite toppings. The dressing and toppings can make or break the dish, so get creative and remember that you can mix and match just about anything.
Sadly, unlike many of its competitors, McDonald’s has yet to introduce any kind of veggie burger. While pescatarians can enjoy a Filet-o-Fish, those who don’t eat any animal meat are stuck with very few sandwich choices.
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What Can Vegans Eat at Fast Food Restaurants?
Vegans have an even harder time than vegetarians do finding suitable options when dining out. Thanks to the rise in popularity of plant-based foods and beverages, there has never been a better time to be vegan. Almost every restaurant will have at least something vegans can enjoy, and many brands have even started marketing directly to plant based eaters, which is great news!
As with vegetarian options, vegans will have the best luck finding something to eat on the breakfast menu of most fast food places. This is doubly true for chain coffee shops, which some don’t consider fast food, but I feel that lots of them fall into the same broad category.
For example, Starbucks offers three milk alternatives (soy, coconut, and almond) in US markets and is working on debuting a fourth (oat milk) soon across the country. This means that your morning latte can be enjoyed animal-product free. They even have some vegan food options as well, such as most of their bagels and some pastry and ready-to-eat items. If you’re exploring dairy-free milk options, be sure to double check ingredients as brands can vary from store to store and some may contain other animal products.
Dunkin Donuts made a splash with its new Beyond Breakfast sandwich which features a meatless patty. Vegans can ask for no egg or cheese and pair it with some hash browns for a filling breakfast on the go.
Things tend to get a little more complicated around lunch time. While vegetarians can have a pretty hearty salad with some cheese and dressing, hardly any fast food places offer more than a handful of vegan salad or vegetable side options. Dry lettuce sure gets old quickly, so I recommend checking out Chipotle and their flavorful sofritas. Some don’t consider Chipotle to be fast food, but since they’re a fast-casual eatery I’ll include them anyways. Also, who doesn’t love Chipotle?
Chipotle’s tortillas are vegan, as well as many other toppings that you would expect such as veggies, guacamole, rice and beans. Paired with their spicy, tomato-ey soy based sofritas, you can have a really hearty and healthy meal for a pretty affordable price.
As for the “real deal” fast food places, many of them have actually introduced various takes on a veggie burger. Burger King’s Impossible Whopper is probably most well-known, but other chains like Carl’s Jr., Hardees, and even Denny’s have all added meat free patties to the menu recently. You’d need to be sure to order these burgers with no mayo, cheese, or any other animal products that they come standard with, but feel free to load them up with lots of veggies!
Last but not least, you can safely eat vegan fries at just about any fast food establishment besides McDonald’s.
Which Fast Food Fries are Vegan?
If you’re a vegan and you’re craving McDonald’s fries, it seems that you’re out of luck. Unfortunately, the fast food giant chooses to coat their fries with beef fat, making them out of bounds for both vegans and vegetarians. So where can you enjoy some delicious French fries?
Thankfully, every other major fast food chain that I’ve come across has vegan fries. They all fry in some sort of vegetable oil which varies between restaurants. It is typically canola, peanut, or even sunflower oil. The point is, there are no added animal products in their fries. Of course, at a restaurant that mainly serves burgers and fried chicken, there is always the potential for cross contamination as many products share the same oil. For this reason, some vegans choose not to eat at fast food restaurants at all.