How many times have you been on a long road trip and the only highway food sign points to a McDonald’s? Your omni friend pulls off the highway feeling elated at the thought of a so-called “Happy Meal”—but you only feel pain.
What can a vegan possibly eat at McDonald’s? Do you need to resort to the bruised apple under the seat or to the Larabar that you bought last year? At World of Vegan, we want to help!
We’ll be taking you through everything you can eat that’s vegan at McDonald’s, as well as what to avoid.
Be Forewarned: Your Options Are Limited
Sadly, at this time the list of vegan-friendly foods you can feel good (but let’s be real—not great) about ordering at McDonald’s is very small. We go into the true vegan options down below, but first, take a look at this list of items that you might have thought were safe, but are sadly not vegan.
Unfortunately NOT Vegan at McDonald’s (in the US):
- French Fries (contain milk and fried in beef fat)
- Hash Browns (contain milk and fried in beef fat)
- Donut Sticks (contain milk in sticks and sauce)
- Shakes (contain milk)
- Fruit Smoothies (contain yogurt)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (contain egg and milk)
Are McDonald’s Fries Vegan?
Sadly, NO. Even the french fries at McDonald’s aren’t vegan—at least not in the United States. Some other countries (such as Canada) do have vegan fries, but if you’re in the US, pass on the fries.
Generally, when vegans swing by burger joints, we can sigh and say, “Well, at least the fries are vegan.” That this is not the case at McDonald’s is a travesty we may never get over.
HISTORIC NEWS: Vegan McPlant Burger Launches at Select McDonald’s Locations!
After decades of offering zero options catered toward vegans, McDonald’s has finally turned a corner with the launch of the new vegan McPlant Burger! This is essentially a vegan BigMac. They are doing a slow-but-steady rollout of the McPlant burger, and have thus far tested the McPlant burger in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and the U.K. It’s gotten rave reviews and is now starting to be tested in select U.S. McDonald’s locations.
What is the McPlant Burger Patty Made From?
The new McPlant is made with a Beyond Meat burger patty that has actually been certified vegan by the UK’s Vegetarian Society. Not only is the McPlant burger completely vegan, but McDonald’s has also made the decision to cook the vegan patties on a separate grill from their other meat and dairy items. While cooking vegan items on a grill that’s not exclusively vegan is acceptable to many (but not all) vegans, it’s still a very nice gesture that we certainly appreciate.
What is on the McPlant Burger, you ask?
The standard fixin’s that come on a McPlant burger—besides the Beyond Meat patty—include vegan sandwich sauce, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and the much anticipated McDonald’s vegan cheese! According to McDonald’s, they tested dozens of vegan cheese brands from many different countries before setting on coconut oil-based cheese slices made in collaboration with an Irish company called Kerry. The vegan cheese slices look just like a classic orange slice of American cheese—and many people have said they tastes nearly identical!
It’s only a matter of time before the McPlant burger is available at every McDonald’s location, just as the Burger Kind Impossible Whopper and Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star burgers have become a staple on every menu. The list of McPlant locations is quickly growing and we eagerly await the McPlant burger USA rollout!
McDonald’s McPlant Burger Taste Test Video (from a London location):
Are McDonald’s Apple Pies Vegan?
Yes, sweet friends! The McDonald’s apple pies are vegan! They are what we call “accidentally vegan.” McDonald’s certainly didn’t design them for specifically vegans, but they don’t happen to include any animal products! No meat, no eggs, no milk, no butter, and no dairy whatsoever.
Another question many ask—are the McDonald’s apple pies made with real apples? Yes, in fact they are! They also contain apple powder (for deeper flavor), wheat flour (sorry, gluten-free friends), brown sugar, cinnamon, apple powder, palm oil (I know, not the best), salt, and high-fructose corn syrup.
What about the sugar? Is the sugar in these Apple Pies vegan? It’s not made with vegan-certified sugar, but we still consider it vegan (in the same way that vegetables are considered vegan even if they’re grown in cow manure). If you’d like to learn more about the vegan status of sugar, read our “Is sugar vegan?” article.
What do the nutrition facts look like? While I doubt many of you are swinging by McD’s for a healthy treat, you may be curious about the nutrition profile. McDonald’s apple pies contain 230 calories each, 2 grams of plant-based protein, 11 grams of fat, and 33 grams of carbs. There we have it! Imperfectly and accidentally vegan apple pies at McDonald’s.
Vegan Options at McDonald’s (in the U.S.)
There aren’t any plant-based meat options at most McDonald’s locations yet, but there have been hints that they may offer a veggie sausage or plant-based burger in the future. And if the fast-growing vegan options at other fast-food restaurants are a sign, it’s only a matter of time for McDonald’s to follow suit. Cross your fingers!
We’ve seen the new vegan options explode in popularity at fast-food giants like Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell, Del Taco, and more. So, c’mon McDonald’s…what are you waiting for?
For now, here’s what you can order from the McDonald’s vegan menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—and how you can get creative with these very limited options.
Vegan Breakfast Options:
- Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (ask to be made with water and without milk or cream)
- Apple Slices
- English Muffin (plain)
100% Vegan Breads:
- English muffin
- Flour tortilla
- Artisan Roll
- Southwest Salad (without cheese or Southwest dressing)
- Premium Bacon Ranch Salad (without cheese, bacon or Ranch dressing)
- Side Salad (without cheese or dressing)
Vegan Newman’s Own Dressings:
- Balsamic and White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Raspberry Walnut and Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Classic Oil & Vinegar
- Zesty Italian
- Sesame Ginger
- Citrus Splash
Plant-Based Dipping Sauces and Condiments:
- Spicy buffalo
- Sweet and Sour
- Maple Syrup
Vegan Snacks at McDonald’s:
- Apple slices
- Baked apple pie (yes, it’s accidentally vegan!)
Drinks at McDonald’s:
- Hot coffee (without milk or cream)
- Iced coffee (without milk or cream)
- Orange juice
- Apple juice
- Iced tea (without milk or cream)
How to Make Meals From The McDonald’s Vegan Menu
McDonald’s Breakfast Ideas:
- Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (made with water), a coffee, and a side of apple slices.
- A toasted English muffin with margarine*, jelly*, or maple syrup* with a side of apple slices and an orange or apple juice. *(Some restaurants may have these available in the morning or during the day. Ask the cashier when ordering.)
- Baked apple pie alone or along with either idea above
Vegan Lunch & Dinner Ideas:
- Southwest Salad (with no cheese or Southwest dressing), dressing, beverage
- Premium Bacon Salad (with no cheese, bacon or Ranch dressing), dressing, beverage
- Southwest Wrap—order the Southwest Salad (no cheese or Southwest dressing), a flour tortilla (or two!), dressing, beverage. Ask for the flour tortilla(s) on the side and assemble your own veggie wrap by filling the tortilla with salad and topping with a dressing.
- Veggie Artisan Roll Sandwich—ask for any of the burgers or sandwiches without the meat, cheese, and mayo. Ask for extra lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Request a dipping sauce (like bbq, mustard or spicy buffalo), if desired, and a beverage.
- Basic Side Salad and a Wrap/Sandwich combo
McDonald’s Snack Ideas:
- Apple slices
- Apple Pie
- Any of the breakfast, lunch, dinner ideas
- Apple or orange juice
- Coffees or teas (without milk or cream)
Bring Your Own Extras & Add-Ons
If you’re able to keep some of these in your car, pocket, or purse, you’ll improve your chance of having a satisfying meal when visiting McDonald’s. They’re also perfect snacks on their own!
- Packets of nut butter (to top a toasted English muffin, tortilla or artisan roll)
- Hummus (to top a toasted English muffin, tortilla or artisan roll)
- Avocado (to top a toasted English muffin, tortilla or artisan roll)
- Packages of nuts (add to salad or oatmeal bowl)
- Fresh fruit (add to salad or oatmeal bowl)
- Dried fruit (add to salad or oatmeal bowl)
Individual container of plant-based milk (to add to coffee or tea to drink alongside a meal, or to add to the oatmeal bowl)
- Reusable cutlery, especially a knife (to cut the avocado or spread nut butter)
Find More Vegan-Friendly Fast Food Options
We know how it goes, sometimes you land at a McDonald’s and have to make it work. However if you’re able to convince your friends to swing by another eatery, fast food chain, or heck—even a gas station instead, you’ll likely have far better luck getting a filling meal. Here are some of the best fast food options for vegans.
Fast Food Chains With Vegan Burgers
Knowing that there are various vegan options at mainstream burger chains makes it much easier when traveling or hanging out with friends. These are tried and true chains which offer more than one choice for a meal. We promise you won’t leave hungry!
Fast Food Chains With Great Vegan Options
Growing Vegan-Friendly Fast Food Restaurants
Here are some up and coming chains that offer fantastic fast food, including mouth-watering veggie burgers, golden fries and scrumptious shakes!
- Veggie Grill (several locations in Northern and Southern California)
- Amy’s Drive-Thru (Rohnert Park, CA—more locations coming soon!)
- Burger Patch (Sacramento, CA)
- VeganBurg (San Francisco, CA)
- Friendly Toast (MA and NH)
How to Order Vegan at Other Chains
Don’t miss our comprehensive vegan fast food guide that breaks down what you can get at all the major fast food chains, such as:
Have you found any other options to be veganizable? Did you find something amazing that we missed? Send us a message and let us know and tag #worldofvegan and @vegan on Instagram to share your favorite vegan at McDonald’s creations with all of us!
Disclaimer: At the time of this vegan McDonalds article (last updated in August of 2021), all of the foods mentioned above are vegan. Since restaurants constantly update their menus, add or take away items, and reformulate menu items, please keep this in mind when ordering your food. There may be new items that are vegan and not listed above or items listed here as vegan, which are no longer vegan. Take care to double-check. Good luck!