Who doesn’t love a good hash brown? The crispy outside, soft and tender inside, the overall potato-ey goodness… what’s not to like? Making your own hash browns is simple enough, but the convenience and tastiness of a fast food breakfast is enough to draw just about anyone in. 

However, those with dietary restrictions might have a trickier time finding something they can eat at your average fast food restaurant. McDonald’s is by far the most common burger joint in America, so what happens if you’re vegan and you want to enjoy one of their delicious hash browns?

Are McDonald’s hash browns vegan?

McDonald’s hash browns contain both beef and milk ingredients, meaning they are definitely not vegan. It seems that all of its potato products (including fries) contain beef fat derivatives, making them off limits for both vegans and vegetarians. 

What are McDonald’s hash browns made of?

According to their official website, the ingredients in McDonald’s hash browns are as follows:

Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [wheat And Milk Derivatives]*), Salt, Corn Flour, Dehydrated Potato, Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (maintain Color), Extractives Of Black Pepper. *natural Beef Flavor Contains Hydrolyzed Wheat And Hydrolyzed Milk As Starting Ingredients

McDonalds Website

The first ingredient is potatoes, of course, which is promising. However, the breakdown of the “vegetable oil” category includes “natural beef flavor”, which seems counterintuitive. Since when is beef a vegetable? It can be assumed that they have combined beef fat in with their regular vegetable oil mix in order to homogenize it. 

It then goes on to state that the natural beef flavor also contains wheat and milk, making McDonald’s hash browns both not gluten free and not dairy free. This is certainly disappointing, since it rules them out for basically anyone with any major dietary restriction. 

Do McDonald’s hash browns have dairy in them?

Although it is probably a very trace amount, McDonald’s hash browns do contain dairy. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can most likely get away with eating them anyways. The amount of dairy in them is very small, and seems to only be present due to the “natural beef flavor”. It’s hard to tell exactly how much milk protein is actually present, but the bulk of the hash brown is simply potatoes and oil. However, vegans will still have to avoid the hash browns at McDonald’s. 

Is anything at McDonald’s vegan?

Vegetarians might struggle to find meat-free choices at McDonald’s , but vegans definitely have it even harder! So, what can you eat at McDonald’s if you’re vegan? There aren’t a ton of options, but you can still find a few things to grab next time you find yourself in the drive thru.

As always, a lot of meatless meals are available at breakfast time. One great vegan option is the Fruit and Maple oatmeal. It is a hearty and warm breakfast that even has some apples and raisins mixed in. Ask for no cream to be extra sure that it’s vegan safe. 

A side salad or some apple slices go great with any meal or as a standalone snack. The side salad even has a few different types of leafy greens to mix up the texture and elevate it one step above the classic iceberg-lettuce-and-tomato number that we’re all familiar with. Their balsamic vinaigrette is dairy and animal product free and tastes great too. 

For salad fit to be its own meal, check out the Southwest Salad (minus meat and cheese, of course). The beans provide some quality plant protein, and the corn and tomatoes give it a great texture and crunch. Again, balsamic dressing is going to be your best bet to avoid any accidental dairy. 

Drink-wise, you’re probably looking at a black coffee since their McCafé drinks all come with dairy in some form . You can also check out the slushies, which aren’t exactly a diet food but are still a refreshing treat. For dessert, you can actually have one of their apple pies! I had no idea that these didn’t contain any animal products, but it sure is great news. 

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How vegetarian-friendly is McDonald’s?

McDonald’s hasn’t made as many strides in becoming more friendly to plant based eaters as some of its competitors have. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have vegetarian options, however. While you won’t be able to enjoy Big Mac (unless you get it without the patties, which could be something interesting to try), there are still plenty of things you can grab next time you’re in the drive thru. Let’s break it down by food category:


Fries are a vegetarian staple at fast food restaurants. While they aren’t exactly a health food, they sure do taste good! We’ve already established that the hash browns at McDonald’s aren’t good for vegetarians or vegans, so what about their fries Interestingly enough, the fries at McDonald’s contain beef ingredients and are not suitable for vegetarians. This is definitely a bummer, and it’s not something that most people would expect to find in a potato-based food. 

McDonald’s side salad contains no meat, but isn’t exactly a meal on its own either. I would highly recommend ordering one of their entrée salads instead and asking for no meat. Feel free to dress it up with extra cheese and other toppings, or swap out dressings for a new twist. 

Apple slices contain no meat, of course, and are probably one of the healthier menu items out there. Another fruit-filled side is the yogurt parfait, which is a pretty good sized dish. It is also high in protein and healthy fats. 


Breakfast at fast food places is a vegetarian’s paradise. While most entrees come standard with some kind of meat like bacon or sausage, it is always possible to order no meat and still get a really filling meal. Egg McMuffins and biscuits are super tasty, and some of their McCafé drinks rival Starbucks! Smoothies make a decent meal replacement at any time of day as well. 

Lunch and Dinner

McDonald’s is a little behind the game when it comes to veggie burgers. They have yet to introduce their own, unlike other traditional burger places like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. While not having a plant-based patty isn’t ideal, you can still order any sandwich without the meat if you want to. Some will definitely lend themselves to this better than others, but be sure to ask for extra lettuce or other veggies to make up for it. 

If you’re pescatarian, you can try a Filet-o-Fish, but otherwise you’ll be in the same boat when it comes to finding meat-free entrees. 

Related Questions:

Are McDonald’s hash browns gluten free?

Sadly, their hash browns are not gluten free. In the ingredients list above in the article, we can see that they contain hydrolyzed wheat. Additionally, according to McDonald’s website, they are cooked in the same fryer as their donut sticks. This means that they also have a trace amount of exposure to the wheat and dairy allergens that could come through via cross contamination. 

If you are gluten free, I would recommend staying away from McDonald’s hash browns. In any restaurant, it is very difficult to prevent cross contamination. This is especially true for gluten, since wheat and flour are such critical ingredients to so many menu items.