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Everything You Need to Know About McDonald’s Fries

Golden and crisp fries are one of the most popular items on the McDonald’s menu. From the shape and color to the smell of a hot batch, there’s a reason why McDonald’s fries have become a fast-food staple.

McDonald’s fries are made of real potatoes and have 110- 490 calories. McDonald’s fries are not vegan or vegetarian since they contain beef flavor. You cannot order McDonald’s fries during breakfast, but they are available after 11 am until closing. The best way to reheat McDonald’s fries is to rehydrate and crisp them. 

McDonald’s fries have evolved throughout the years, but they’ve remained one of the most popular menu items at locations worldwide. In this article, we’ll investigate what makes McDonald’s fries so good and what anyone with dietary concerns should know.

What Are the Ingredients in McDonald’s Fries?

The ingredients in McDonald’s fries are a mix of Russet and Shepody potatoes, vegetable oil, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and salt.

The first ingredient in McDonald’s fries is potatoes. This includes a mix of Ranger Russet, Umatilla Russet, Russet Burbank, and Shepody potatoes.

The next ingredient in McDonald’s fries is Vegetable oil. The current vegetable oil blend is made of Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Canola Oil, and Corn Oil.

Natural beef flavor containing what and milk derivatives is added to the vegetable oil for flavoring.

Citric acid is also added as a processing aid, as is dimethylpolysiloxane, an ingredient used to reduce oil splatter when cooking.

Dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate are added to preserve the golden color of fries, and salt tops them off.

Are McDonald’s Fries Vegetarian or Vegan?

McDonald’s explicitly states that they do not advertise any of their products as being vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Although McDonald’s has changed how they cook their fries over the years, they have always included some animal products in the recipe.

French fries have been a part of the McDonald’s menu since 1949, when they replaced the original side of potato chips.

In the company’s early years, McDonald’s cooked their fries in a blend of 93% beef tallow and a bit of vegetable oil, which also became known as Formula 74.

Beef tallow is a rendered form of beef fat used as an affordable option for the restaurant but came with the bonus of adding the unique and addictive flavor that the fries became known for.

This recipe changed in 1990 when McDonald’s gave in to the pressure to change its oil to a healthier option. This change was pushed by a man named Phil Sokolof, who advocated against saturated fats.

After suffering a heart attack in 1966, he actively worked to stop cooking with saturated oil for a major food change.

McDonald’s began using vegetable oil instead, and this blend has been changed two more times since.

But switching to any vegetable oil from beef tallow greatly altered the famous taste, so McDonald’s began adding natural beef flavor to mimic the old recipe.

Even today, McDonald’s continues to use natural beef flavor to give their fries that signature flavor.

They are now sure to mention that the primary ingredient in this beef flavor, which creates the savory taste, is wheat and milk derivatives.

This means that McDonald’s fries are still not considered a vegetarian or gluten-free option.

How Many Calories Are in McDonald’s Fries?

McDonald’s fries come in sizes ranging from Kids to Large and contain between 110 and 490 calories per portion.

There is only one size on the kids’ menu, and each portion contains approximately 110 calories.

There are three sizes available on the regular menu – small, medium, and large. On average, a small order of McDonald’s fries has 220 calories, a medium order has 320 calories, and a large order has 490 calories.

McDonald’s FriesCalories

In addition to having a reasonable calorie count, the switch from beef tallow to vegetable oil also means that McDonald’s fries no longer contain any cholesterol.

And while the fat content can be up to 30% of the recommended daily value in a large order, only a small portion of this is saturated fat.

McDonald’s fries have a nice balance of other macronutrients. The carb content ranges from 5% to 24%, but the dietary fiber content is between 5% and 21%.

McDonald’s Fries also contain some protein, with 2 grams in a kids’ order and up to 7 grams in a large size.

Other nutrients found in McDonald’s fries include potassium, iron, and calcium.

Are McDonald’s Fries Real Potatoes?

The primary ingredient of McDonald’s fries is real potatoes. They are cut and prepped, then fried in oil with natural beef flavoring to create the signature side.

Although the signature beef flavor may no longer come directly from beef tallow, the potatoes used to make McDonald’s fries are still very real.

They’re made primarily from Russet potatoes that are cut into the signature shape by being propelled through a grid of knives.

Do McDonald’s Fries Have Too Much Salt?

McDonald’s fries have a list of ingredients, but salt is listed as the last. So, relative to average daily nutritional values, the fries don’t have too much salt.

The largest single order of fries will come in at 17% of your daily sodium intake. Less than that are the medium fries at 11%, small fries at 8%, and kids’ order at 4%.

McDonald’s FriesSodium (milligrams)% Daily Value
Kids90 mg4%
Small180 mg8%
Medium260 mg11%
Large400 mg17%

If you want to reduce the amount of salt on your fries, all you have to do is mention it when you place your order, and no additional salt will be added to your fries.

Why Are McDonald’s Fries So Good?

McDonald’s fries are so good because they cater to all our senses. Not only do McDonald’s fries taste different from other fries, including those from other fast-food chains, but the way they feel, smell, look, and even sound make them stand out from the rest.

Their taste is naturally one of the main reasons why McDonald’s fries are so good. The added natural beef flavor gives them a unique flavor reminiscent of the beef tallow they were originally cooked in.

A scent can account for most of our flavor experience, and the smell of McDonald’s fries is unforgettable.

Hot oil, natural beef flavor, and deep-fried potato come together to create an aroma that makes mouths water.

The feel of McDonald’s fries is unique as well. They are known for being crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

This is due to both the shape of the fries and the way they are fried. McDonald’s fries are intentionally cut long and skinny to be the perfect size for the desired texture.

They are then deep-fried twice – once briefly at the factory and one more time at the restaurant – to create a crisp outer shell for just the right balance of textures.

The outer crisp is an appealing texture, and the crunch it makes while eating is a pleasing sound.

McDonald’s fries are reminiscent of the potato chips they once served as a side but are warm and soft enough for anyone to enjoy.

The sound also becomes associated with McDonald’s fries, stirring up a familiar and comforting feeling whenever it’s heard.

All chefs know that how the food looks plays a big role in its appeal, and this detail was not missed by McDonald’s.

All fries are spayed with dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate to retain their golden yellow color that would otherwise disappear after being fried twice.

Can You Reheat McDonald’s Fries?

McDonald’s fries can be reheated, but it may be difficult to get them to their original state. The best way to reheat McDonald’s fries is first to rehydrate and then crisp them.

Fries can be rehydrated by microwaving them while covered in a damp paper towel. They can also be reheated, covered with a small sprinkle of water on a stovetop, or covered with foil in an oven.

To bring the crisp back, it’s best to fry them in an air fryer to avoid having to add more oil. However, they can also be reheated in a broiler, baked uncovered in an oven, or pan-fried with some oil.

Can You Get McDonald’s Fries in the Morning?

Unfortunately, you cannot get McDonald’s fries in the morning. Fries are not available during breakfast hours, but they are available through lunch and dinner and on the late-night menu.

McDonald’s breakfast hours are from 5 am to 11 am every day, except for Fridays when it is served until 11:30 am. McDonald’s fries are available after breakfast, from 11 am or 11:30 am until 5 am the next day.

How to Get Free McDonald’s Fries

McDonald’s gives free fries regularly through its exclusive coupons and deals. The best way to access McDonald’s deals is by downloading the mobile app. McDonald’s also offers free fries on National French Fry Day, and some locations will offer a free refill of fries.

The best way to access McDonald’s coupons and deals is by downloading the McDonald’s app. They change these deals often and may offer free fries for customers who use the app for the first time.

In addition, National French Fry Day is on July 13, and most McDonald’s restaurants honor the day by giving out free medium-sized fries.

If you’re willing to pay for your first order, you can also use an easy restaurant hack to double it. It was recently released on Tik Tok that McDonald’s offers free refills on fries, and all you have to do is ask for it.

However, this is not an official statement from McDonald’s, so don’t be disappointed if the specific location you try to get a free refill at chooses not to honor this request.

McDonald’s vs. Burger King Fries: Which Is Better?

McDonald’s has historically been recognized as having better fries than Burger King, and much of that had to do with their original recipe. Although some people may prefer Burger King’s fries for specific dietary reasons, McDonald’s fries are still the most popular.  

McDonald’s fries have been one of the most popular menu items since the beginning of the chain, and this was once due to them being fried in beef tallow.

These days, the natural beef flavor used in the blended vegetable oil instead continues to give McDonald’s fries their unique taste.

McDonald’s fries also have fewer calories and sodium per order than Burger King fries. However, McDonald’s is still not able to label their fries as vegetarian or vegan, whereas Burger King fries are made without animal byproducts.

Which fries are better will depend on what each person enjoys and looks for in their food. However, we feel that if you’re looking for a crisp side with your meal, then McDonald’s fries are better.


From the crisp texture to the “secret ingredient” that mimics the flavor of its original fries, McDonald’s has taken strides to set itself apart from its competition. The taste and smell of McDonald’s fries are recognizable anywhere.

While McDonald’s can still improve by making them without animal byproducts or gluten, their fries have been on the menu since the start and continues to be a customer favorite.

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Last Updated: November 12, 2022

About the Author

Lana Kisner is a writer on the team with more than 15 years of experience in the food service industry.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling, exploring new restaurants, listening to live music, and hiking with her dog.