Are McDonald’s Hash Browns Vegan?

McDonald’s’ crunchy go-to breakfast side may or may not be vegan depending on where you get them. For US customers, McDonald’s hash browns are not vegan. This is different across the pond as they are vegan in the UK.

It’s sad to see us miss out yet again, but we are going to look at why they are not vegan and see what makes the UK version so different. 

Are McDonald’s Hash Browns Vegan in the USA?

Unfortunately, they are not. Due to the inclusion of milk, but also because they are fried in the same oil that meat products are fried in. So beef fat and milk are the two culprits.

McDonald’s hash browns in the USA are made with beef flavoring. This contains milk derivatives which swiftly removes them from being a potential vegan option.

Other places use the same recipe so this is not an issue for the US market alone. This is similar to the issue of Mcdonald’s fries. They are seasoned with beef flavoring. Again, expect to find milk products with this ingredient.

Unfortunately, this limits vegan breakfast options in Mcdonald’s. There is Fruit & Oatmeal if made with water, a toasted English Muffin with vegan topping, or a baked apple pie. 

Are They Vegan In The UK?

Yes, they are. The recipe is different so there is no beef flavoring to be found, nor are there milk derivatives.

They are also certified as vegetarian by the vegetarian society. This alone makes them a little closer to being vegan. If there is a chance that they are fried in oil that has come into contact with animal products, many will say that they cannot be certified vegan. What sets the UK McDonalds chains apart is that they make efforts to ensure there is no cross-contamination that other countries do not. 

They are on the McDonalds vegan menu, so we would like to think that this covers the way they are fried. 

They make it so they do not have to fry their chicken and fish near the hash browns. This will be off-putting for many vegans, but not all. They are fried in the same oil that is used to cook their veggie dippers. These are vegan-friendly. Still, it never hurts to ask how they are prepared and fried.

What Are They Made Of?

In the USA, hash browns are made mostly of potatoes and vegetable oil, but it is the inclusion of Natural Beef Flavor that makes them non-vegan.

This is made from wheat and milk derivatives so it is a firm no. The way they are prepared is also questionable. The same issue of cross-contamination occurs in Canada and Australia. 

McDonald’s Hash Browns made in these places could be fried in oil that is used to fry chicken and fish. For many vegans, this is reason enough to stay clear.

The full ingredients list for the USA recipe is below:

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, Extractives Of Black Pepper.

When comparing them to the UK recipe (below), it feels unfair that the recipe in the USA differs so subtly, but is unsuitable for veganism.

Potatoes, Blend of Non-Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils, (Sunflower, Rapeseed), Salt, Maize Flour, Dehydrated Potato, Dextrose, Stabiliser (Diphosphates), Black Pepper Extract.

How Are They Made?

Again, this differs by country.

In the USA, McDonald’s Hash Browns are not vegan because they are made with beef flavoring, but it is also the way they are fried that is not vegan friendly.

They are fried in the same oil used to cook animal products like chicken and fish. In 1990, they switched to sunflower oil to make them healthier but have since started adding beef tallow to the oil to make what they believe are improvements to the taste.

This is not the same in the UK. Hash browns are fried in separate oil to keep them vegan friendly. This is the same oil used to fry other vegan-friendly products and kept separate from the meat products. 

It is one of the best places for buying McDonald’s products as a vegan because there is no risk of cross-contamination whereas the USA, Canada, and Australia cannot guarantee this.

Both Canada and Australia use vegan-friendly ingredients to make their hash browns, but the lack of a cross-contamination guarantee means they are not vegan.

Do They Have Dairy?

In the USA, the inclusion of Natural Beef Flavoring means there is dairy. Made with milk derivatives, this is enough to ensure they are not vegan. 

They are fried in the same oil used to fry donut sticks which contain wheat and a milk allergen so again, they are not suitable. Remember, fries made in the USA also contain dairy. It feels like a bit of a hidden ingredient since you would not expect it, especially since this is not included in all of their recipes around the world.

In the UK, McDonald’s fries do not contain dairy. The ingredient profile is vegan and the way they are prepared means there is no risk of cross-contamination with donut sticks or animal products.

For Canada and Australia, their hash browns do not contain milk and are made of vegan ingredients. Although in Canada they are cooked separately, there is no cross-contamination guarantee. 

Final Word

Hash browns always seem to be a simple recipe of shredded potatoes and oil, but looks can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, McDonald’s hash browns have a lot of work to do in the USA.

Our only hope is that they follow the UK market’s lead and make vegan-friendly hash browns, prepared in vegan-friendly oil.

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