The Super Rare McDonald's Brats You've Probably Never Tried

There are a few things certain in life — death, taxes, and that outside of Wisconsin, nobody you know has ever suggested visiting McDonald's for a bratwurst. A Midwestern favorite, bratwursts have been available at select McDonald's locations on-and-off for many years, having disappeared in 2009, reappeared in 2016, and disappeared again in the years since. The last time the product graced the menu, it was available at over 100 Milwaukee-based stores. 

These Johnsonville Brats were simple to make. They were served in a bun and topped with ketchup and mustard. At this time, it's unclear if the bratwursts will ever return to the menu again. Johnsonville, the company that supplied the brats to McDonald's stores, is based out of none other than Wisconsin. When the owners Ralph and Alice Stayer founded the company in 1945, they set out to create bratwursts made of scrap-free pork. By 1950, they were selling their signature sausages across the state. 

With demand in the state, it makes sense why McDonald's decided to sell brats. Bratwursts, which have differences when compared to sausages, have long been a mainstay in Wisconsin, and they have an interesting history that explains why.

Why are bratwursts so popular in Wisconsin?

McDonald's knows just how to target specific markets, which is why menu items sometimes differ from state to state and country to country. In China, the brand offers an Asian specialty called taro pie, and in Canada, stores sell poutine-style fries made complete with cheese curds and gravy. This marketing tactic is why bratwursts in Wisconsin stayed successful for so many years, as the American state is where this grease-laden favorite tends to thrive.

Originally made in Germany, immigrants brought bratwursts to America. In 1954, bratwursts made their Wisconsin sports debut at Milwaukee County Stadium. Paired with baseball, brats became more popular than ever, served to fans looking for a meal while watching live sports. In fact, the stadium still whips up brats during games. Prior to this, the German sausage first started gaining popularity in the Wisconsin town of Sheboygan in the 1920s, according to the New York Times. 

People from the area prepare the food a bit differently than the rest of the state, according to Summer Breeze Outdoor Kitchens. For example, residents of Sheboygan insist on cooking brats using a charcoal grill. Condiments also differ. Sheboygan chefs deck out bratwursts with mustard, onions, pickles, and ketchup, and statewide, they're likely to be topped with sauerkraut. So while brats may be gone from the McDonald's menu for now, Wisconsin residents still can't get enough of the meal.