This Is the Secret Ingredient Behind the Addictive Flavor of McDonald’s Fries

Updated: Jan. 18, 2023

There's one ingredient in McDonald's fries that makes them so dang addictive—and it's not the salt. Find out what really punches up their flavor.

There are matchstick fries and steak fries; crinkle-cut fries and waffle fries; cheese fries and sweet potato fries. But among all the rest, McDonald’s french fries are an old standby. There’s something about the flavor that we just can’t stop eating—similar to how we can’t seem to resist McDonald’s Coke, Sprite, or chicken nuggets.

And no, it’s not just in your head that these fast-food fries are one of the most addictive foods. One secret ingredient keeps you coming back for more. But before we reveal it, let’s take a step back and talk about the food facts surrounding the ingredients in McDonald’s fries ingredients.

What are McDonald’s french fries made of?

Fresh potatoes are washed, peeled, cut, and blanched to make McDonald’s fries, according to a video from the company. The factory they’re made in also adds chemicals to keep the potatoes a uniform light yellow color (but no, that’s not behind their addictive flavor). After that, the cut potatoes are fried for less than a minute before getting frozen and sent to McDonald’s locations. At the restaurant, those frozen strips are cooked in oil and salt before landing on your tray in that red box. Learn the trick for getting fresh french fries every single time.

How many ingredients are in McDonald’s french fries?

Who hasn’t been curious about McDonald’s fries ingredients? According to McDonald’s, their signature fries are made with 10 ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Natural beef flavor (which contains wheat and milk derivatives)
  • Dextrose
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Salt

What makes McDonald’s french fries taste so good?

It all started in the 1950s when the shortening company that gave McDonald’s vegetable oil couldn’t afford the equipment needed to hydrogenate the oil, which would extend its shelf life. So the supplier gave a blend of oil and beef fat instead, according to NPR.

Over time, McDonald’s and other fast-food joints made the beef fat part of their signature fry flavors. But in the 1980s, fast-food restaurants took the ingredient out when health advocates criticized how much “bad” saturated fat it added.

McDonald’s wanted to keep its signature beefy flavor but without the beef fat itself, so it came up with a solution. Now the fast-food chain adds “natural beef flavor” to its vegetable oil to give its fries their irresistibly meaty taste.

Are McDonald’s french fries vegan?

In the United States, McDonald’s french fries are not vegan, because the natural beef flavor is made with milk derivatives. However, if you’re across the pond in the United Kingdom, the fries (or “chips” as they’re called in the UK) are vegan since they’re not made with that beef flavor or coated in any animal substances.

For more McDonald’s trivia, read up on why the McFlurry spoon has a square handle.