Are Onion Rings Vegan? (Here Is Everything You Need To Know)

Onion rings are a very popular snack food regardless of the country you live in and you can typically find them at fast-food restaurants, and in supermarkets at the frozen foods aisle. 

Unfortunately, most onion rings are not suitable for vegans because the standard recipe, particularly the flour mixture used to coat the onions, contains eggs and milk. 

However, some restaurants or brands prepare the flour mixture without eggs and milk, so you should be able to find onion rings that are vegan-friendly.

Breaking Down Onion Rings Brands

Let’s look at some brands (ones that you find online or in stores), and see if we can find some vegan options we can consume without feeling guilty about it.

Alexia Crispy Onion Rings

Alexia Onion Rings
Photo by kiliweb, CC BY-SA 3.0 per Open Food Facts.

Ingredients: onions, wheat flour, Whole wheat flour, expeller pressed canola oil, corn starch, cane sugar, sea salt, onion powder, inactive dried yeast, garlic powder, yeast, guar gum.

These onion rings are available at Walmart.

They’re technically vegan and compared to most brands, they have fewer additives. However, because they contain processed sugar, that might be an issue for some vegans.

If you’re familiar with how cane sugar is processed, you will know there’s a chance that the sugar in the onion rings was processed in an unethical way. 

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Refined Sugar Isn’t Always Vegan

Refined sugar can be made from cane sugar or beet sugar.

They both taste the same, and they’re equally used throughout the United States.

However, their refining process is different.

While refined sugar made from beets is made using a diffuser and mixed with additives to crystalize, the one from sugar cane may require a decolorizing agent, which in many cases refineries use bone char. 

Bone char is basically carbonized cattle bones, so it has a charcoal-like appearance. Unfortunately, this is not something you can find out by simply checking a label, so you often have to contact brands to know whether they source their sugar from refineries that use bone char. 

Even then, it’s difficult to know with 100% certainty, because while you might have suppliers that may source one type of sugar, you also have many that have a mixed pool of sugar suppliers, including ones that use bone char, which makes it impossible to trace the sugar back to its source.

Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings

Onion Rings
Photo by kiliweb, CC BY-SA 3.0 per Open Food Facts.

Ingredients: enriched cornmeal (cornmeal, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), vegetable oil (corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil), salt, and less than 2% of the following: corn starch, sugar, cornflour, buttermilk, maltodextrin (made from corn), onion powder, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed corn protein, dextrose, garlic powder, natural flavors, gum arabic.

Right off the bat, we can see that Funyuns contain buttermilk— a milk derivative.

Buttermilk was once a liquid leftover from churned butter, an unpasteurized cream that matured for a few days while undergoing fermentation. As the natural sugars in milk converted into lactic acid via fermentation, the milk gained a thick and creamy appearance.

However, nowadays milk and cream are pasteurized, so there is no natural fermentation; therefore, what you have now is cultured milk, which is thickened by adding lactic acid into pasteurized skim or low-fat milk. 

While I’m not entirely sure about which plant-based ingredient replaces buttermilk in industrialized products, I know that soy milk combined with white vinegar is a suitable replacement in homemade recipes. 

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Which Restaurants Sell Vegan Onion Rings. 

In most restaurants, they add buttermilk and eggs to the flour mixture, which some say it’s essential because it adds crispiness to the end product, and there is also the possibility that onion rings may get deep-fried in animal fat, instead of vegetable oil.

I have gathered information from different websites, particularly of fast-food chains, to help you figure out which ones actually sell vegan onion rings. 

Here is a quick table to help you out: 

Restaurant Vegan Onion Rings?
Sonic Yes
Harvey’s (Canada) Yes
Pizza Pizza’s Yes
Burger King Contain Milk
Carl’s Jr Contain Milk
Fatburger Yes
Jack In the Box Contain Milk
Astro Burger Not Certain
A&W Restaurants Contain Milk
Arby’s Contain Milk
Pizza Hut Yes
Dairy Queen Contain Eggs and Milk
Popeyes Contain Eggs and Milk

As you can see from the list above, there are comparatively fewer restaurants offering vegan-friendly onion rings, but don’t let that get you down because you can also find vegan onion rings in most supermarkets.

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Homemade Vegan Onion Rings

The easiest way to eat vegan onion rings (without the trials and tribulations that come with talking to restaurant staff and checking each brand’s ingredient label) is to make them at home. 

Making vegan onion rings allows you to completely exclude animal ingredients, including the ones that are a bit controversial (sugar), and you can also cook the onion rings more healthily. 

Instead of deep-frying onion rings with unhealthy quantities of oil, you can either bake or air fry them.

Here are three delicious vegan onion ring recipes:

I’d recommend you to start with the first one if you have an air-fryer at home.

Otherwise, the other two are also equally delicious and easy to follow.

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Basically, you can find vegan and non-vegan onion rings. However, It depends on the brand of frozen onion rings you buy, or on the restaurant you’re visiting.

Most restaurants will probably use milk and eggs to make onion rings because that’s how they’re traditionally made, and it seems like such ingredients help with the texture, but you can also find vegan options at some fast-food restaurants such as Sonic Drive-In, Pizza Hut, and Fatburger. 

If you are not sure whether some onion rings might contain animal ingredients, either contact the brand or speak with the staff at the restaurant, as they usually have an allergy menu that you can read. 

Onion Rings FAQs

Do onion rings have gluten?

Onion rings are traditionally made with wheat flour, so they’re not suitable for people with a gluten allergen. However, making gluten-free onion rings at home can be done quite easily by replacing wheat flour with gluten-free flour such as rice flour or cornflour. 

Are A&W’s onion rings vegan?

A&W’s onion rings are technically vegan because they don’t contain ingredients like eggs or milk, however, they contain palm oil, which some vegans refuse to consume because of the link to deforestation.

The onion rings at A&W’s cost $3.29, according to the fast-food chain’s official website. 

Are Red Robin’s onion rings vegan?

Red Robin’s onion rings are technically vegan as the flour mixture doesn’t contain any eggs or milk; however, their onion rings contain sugar, which some vegans avoid because of the possibility of it having been processed with bone char, a decolorizing agent obtained from carbonized cattle bones.

Their towering onion rings cost $9.00, but you can find a frozen version of their crispy onion rings at Walmart selling for $2.78. 

Are Burger King’s onion rings vegan?

While Burger King’s onion rings do not contain eggs, they have whey as one of the ingredients, therefore, they’re not suitable for vegans. In addition, they also contain palm oil and sugar, which some vegans choose to them being produced/cultivated in an unethical and unsustainable way. 

Are Jack in The Box’s onion rings vegan?

Jack in the Box’s onion rings doesn’t contain eggs, but it does have dried whey and buttermilk powder, which are both not suitable for vegans. 

Are Hungry Jack’s onion rings vegan?

Unfortunately, Hungry Jack’s onion rings contain whey powder, which is a milk derivative. Therefore, they’re not suitable for vegans. 

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for over five years! I've set up this blog because I'm passionate about veganism and living a more spiritually fulfilling life where I'm more in tune with nature. Hopefully, I can use Vegan Foundry as a channel to help you out on your own journey!