Whether you are vegan, semi vegan, vegetarian, or trying out this sort of lifestyle for the first time, you are probably already struggling when it comes to ordering food in restaurants or fast food outlets.
How do you know what you can eat? Fast food is the worst because you need to make quick decisions or risk holding everyone up, so you can’t ask too many questions.
That’s why we’ve put together the best vegan options at McDonald’s in the US to help you work out what you can order.
McDonald’s in the USA is massively lagging behind McDonald’s in other countries like the UK, Sweden, Finland, etc. However, it does have some vegan options to choose from, including things like baked apple pie, side salad, and the option to order some sandwiches with just vegetables. Some drinks, like apple juice, soda, and iced coffee also fit the bill.
Vegan Breakfast Foods You Can Eat
If you’re popping by a McDonald’s for breakfast, you may have a slightly better time than if you go for other meals. After all, you probably don’t want fries, a burger, or chicken nuggets at that time anyway, so you may find it easier to find something to suit you.
The breakfast range isn’t huge, but you do have a couple of choices.
The first is the McDonald’s fruit and maple oatmeal, although you do need to tell them that you don’t want cream or milk on it. You can ask for water instead, as they don’t provide plant milks – which is frustrating, given how many food outlets do now at least offer something like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk, and this can make breakfasts much more palatable.
However, if you’re okay with water in your oatmeal, you should be fine to eat their fruit and maple option.
You can also opt for a plain English muffin, or a kind of jelly. Often, your choices here will be strawberry or grape, so you do at least have a choice, although it is pretty limited really.
Overall, breakfast is disappointing, but some of the snacks are vegan, so consider some apple slices if you are still hungry.
Vegan Lunch And Dinner Foods You Can Eat
The after-breakfast menu is also quite tricky for vegans. You might think that you’ll just get fries and it’ll be simple, but very surprisingly, in America, McDonald’s use “Natural Beef Flavor” in their fries, and this contains derivatives from milk, so it is not vegan friendly.
It is a mystery why this is necessary, as the McDonald’s restaurants in every other country in the world serve fries that are suitable for vegans. Hopefully, this is something that McDonald’s can be encouraged to change soon, so at least vegans can get a portion of fries when they are hungry.
So, that aside, what can you eat?
You are pretty limited, unfortunately. Apart from ordering meatless and plain sandwiches (and who wants to do that?), the best thing on the menu is probably the side salad. That doesn’t sound very exciting, no matter how much you enjoy leafy greens. Other salads on the menu might look vegan, but they all contain meat of some sort, a dairy-based dressing, or cheese.
For those who feel up to asking for modifications to a salad, you could request the Southwest Chicken Salad, but you will need to ask them to take off the chicken, cheese, and dressing in order to make this vegan (as the dressing is dairy-based).
That might sound like a lot of work, but it’s a nice salad with lots of good ingredients, including corn, black beans, and peppers. Compared with a side salad of tomatoes and lettuce, it’s definitely a better option, so consider doing this.
However, you should always check your food modifications have been listened to; do not just dig into your salad without inspecting it first for any sign of chicken or cheese, just in case your order didn’t get put through correctly or someone made a mistake.
What Else Can You Eat?
Even in terms of snacks and side dishes, the food is very limited. If you enjoy fruit, consider the apple slices that come with kiddie meals; these can be ordered as a side instead.
Alternatively, the only other vegan option is the baked apple pie. You might be surprised to learn that this is vegan, but it is, and it’s probably the only thing on the menu that’s worth getting excited about. It is hot, crispy, and delicious, with apple and cinnamon in it.
It is worth noting, however, that the pies contain L-Cysteine, and the source of this is not clear. It is possible that this ingredient comes from duck feathers. If so, you may prefer to avoid even the apple pies until this ingredient is removed – depending on how strictly vegan you are.
While McDonald’s isn’t serving their vegan customers sufficiently, there is at least one thing on the menu that is enjoyable, although it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, of course – and it probably won’t pair well with the apple slices if you opt for those.
How about to drink? Is the range any better here?
Well, you are in luck if you enjoy sodas, because the full range of McDonald’s sodas is vegan. You can order any that you like. You can also opt for either orange juice or apple juice if you prefer.
If you want a Minute Maid Slushie, that’s okay too, because all of the flavors are vegan. Whether you want Blue Raspberry, Sweet Peach, or Fruit Punch, you’re fine!
Further options include coffees, but make sure you ask for milk to be omitted, and check that this is possible before confirming your order. Until McDonald’s gets some plant milks on the menu, black coffee it will have to be!
Sadly, you cannot drink smoothies, shakes, or McFlurries, as these all contain dairy and are not suitable for vegans. However, at least you do have a few different options for hot and cold drinks, even if you can’t enjoy a McFlurry!
What About Sauces?
Given the sparsity of the menu, you might feel that the sauces being vegan or not vegan is relatively unimportant, but just in case you want to know, we’ll briefly cover the vegan-friendly sauces on offer too.
You can have Tangy Barbecue Sauce or Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce, so if you can find something to dip in them, you may enjoy a good meal at McDonald’s. Unfortunately, none of the current offerings are particularly appealing for dipping in sauces, as the apple pie and apple slices probably wouldn’t make a great mix – and nor would the oatmeal.
Is This Changing?
You might be wondering whether McDonald’s is discussing expanding the vegan menu (as it should be). It’s hard to know. There are talks about adding vegetarian or vegan chicken nuggets and burgers soon, but with the fries still not being suitable for vegans, it’s not looking super hopeful.
Vegan options at McDonald’s in the US are pretty much non-existent, and as salads have been harder to get this year, there is almost nothing you can eat there. Hopefully, the restaurant will do better in the coming years!