Are McDonald's Hash Browns Actually Vegan?

McDonald's might be known for its hamburgers, but that doesn't stop vegan and vegetarian patrons from visiting the fast food giant. If you've been part of the plant-based community for a while, you probably know all of the tricks and modifications to ask for to make your favorite Mickey D's meals fit your diet — and might even have a list of favorite McDonald's vegan items up your sleeve (via Veg Knowledge).

But, if you're new to the lifestyle, it can be confusing, and it's not always as easy as asking for a McGriddle without the meat and cheese. One question that seems to come up a lot for those who don't eat meat or other animal products has to do with hash browns. It seems they should be safe for consumption, right? Essentially fried potato patties, you'd assume you can eat them as-is and wouldn't even have to ask for a recipe change. But are they actually vegan? The answer may surprise you.

McDonald's hash browns are only vegan in certain countries

While it might be disappointing for some to learn, McDonald's hash browns aren't always vegan. If you live in the UK, you're good to go. According to Choose Veganism, the recipe and ingredients used in UK McDonald's restaurants are certified vegan.

However, the same can't be said for U.S. locations. Choose Veganism reveals that while McDonald's in the United States use the same base ingredients for the hash browns — potatoes, vegetable oil, salt, and cornflower — they also contain "natural beef flavor."

While it seems that it's inconclusive whether this flavoring actually contains beef, it does have milk in it. As Eater describes, the fine print on the McDonald's website explains that the starting ingredients in the beef flavoring are "hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as its starters." That right there knocks it out of consideration for anyone who doesn't eat any animal byproducts.

Despite not specifically mentioning beef as an ingredient in the beef flavoring, McDonald's does note, in very tiny lettering, "We do not promote any of our U.S. menu items as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free."

So, at least for now, McDonald's hash browns — and their fries as well — aren't vegan if you live in the U.S. Maybe one day they will be, but if you want vegan hash browns from Mickey D's you're gonna have to take a trip across the pond.