Are Burger King onion rings vegan?

Onion rings are one of my favourite side dishes. When I first became vegan and was looking for a cruelty-free treat that I could order when my friends went out for burgers. I really hoped that Burger King’s onion rings would be vegan, because they were always my go-to snack or side dish. No such luck! Burger King’s onion rings contain all sorts of things I don’t want in my vegan diet. Whey is the biggest problem, but there are other ingredients I don’t eat as well. Fortunately, vegan onion rings are available elsewhere and Burger King does offer vegan sides.

Are Burger King onion rings vegan? No, they are not. They contain whey, a dairy product. They are also prepared alongside meat, fish and chicken, often being fried in the same oil. Some of Burger king’s other side dishes are vegan and you can find vegan onion rings elsewhere.

You’ve arrived on this page because you’re looking for advice and information on fast food options for vegans. Does Burger King serve vegan onion rings? What other Burger King dishes are vegan? Where can you get vegan onion rings? What ingredients should you watch out for? Can you replicate your favourite fast-food snacks at home? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

You’ll learn why onion rings might not be vegan, where you can get vegan onion rings, and what Burger King foods are okay for you as a vegan.

Are Burger King Onion Rings Vegan?

No, Burger King rings aren’t vegan. I was as disappointed as you, reader, but Burger King make their onion rings with a number of ingredients that aren’t okay for vegans.

The worst offender is whey. Whey is a milk protein used to round out the favour of some foods and to hep provide a crispy texture. Obviously, since it’s a milk product, whey is not something vegans can consume.

Burger King’s onion rings also contain other ingredients which, while plant-based, are problematic for vegans. One is sugar. Some sugar — in fact, about half of all cane sugar — is refined using bone char. This is an animal by-product. While not all vegans are concerned about bone char, I personally prefer to avoid foods produced using animal products even if they don’t end up in the food.

Another dubious ingredient is modified pal oil. This is a vegetable oil derived from palm fruit. While it could be vegan if it was sustainably grown, most palm oil is produced in environmentally destructive ways. The surrounding jungle and wilderness is slashed and burned, with vast tracts being set on fire to make way for palm oil farms. This obviously kills the animals (including endangered creatures like orang-utans). Again, whether or not you consume palm oil as a vegan will depend on your point of view. Some regard it as okay because it’s not actually an animal product. Others abstain and look for cruelty-free alternatives.

If you’re a vegan for health reasons, you have yet another reason to avoid Burger King’s onion rings: they’re just not that good for you. Onion is healthy enough, but then Burger King add a layer of batter with over 30 different ingredients. These include several that are rather dubious from a health perspective, not least the saturated fats that the rings are fried in.

What Burger King menu items are vegan?

If you can’t eat the onion rings at Burger King, what can you eat? Well, the pickings are a little slim for vegans (it’s a burger chain, after all), but you can find a few items that are safe enough. What’s on offer will depend on your region.

Diners in the US can order the Impossible Patty without mayo, but elsewhere there aren’t any vegan burger options. In the UK, Burger King only offers a veggie patty which is made with eggs and milk.

BK’s sides are a bit limited if you’re a vegan. They do offer French Fries, which are theoretically vegan… until BK dunks them in the same fryer as the meat and cheese products they sell.

In many regions, BK offer a green garden salad that you can order with vegan dressing. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen this at any UK outlets and Burger King’s UK site makes no mention of salad. The nearest thing they have to a truly vegan option in the UK are apple slices.

Burger King has some diet soda options for vegans who are avoiding cane sugar, and the black coffee is also free from animal products. In a busy fast food restaurant, of course, incidental contamination with animal products is common.

If your friends insist on a UK Burger King for lunch, I’d recommend having a snack beforehand as you’re not going to be eating a meal there. You can nibble fries (dubious) and apple slices, and sip a black coffee — that’s about it. Diners in the US have a better range to choose from, and I understand that BK in other countries is a bit more progressive.

Where can I get vegan fast food?

Fast food for vegans will always be a bit of a compromise. Some chains are better than others for vegan sides and even fully vegan meal options. Many fast food chains are ethically dubious, and thus avoided by vegans.

McDonald’s is frankly an ethical nightmare, despite claiming to have cleaned up their act. Still, if you’re short on food options, they will do in a pinch. McD’s now offer salads which can be vegan if you choose an egg and dairy free dressing, and more-or-less vegan French fries. McDonald’s apple pie is also vegan. There’s a small chance of contamination, but the apple pie is fried separately from other foods that aren’t vegan.

My go-to place for vegan options is Subway. While you’d struggle to put together a balanced meal, they do have plenty of vegan options. Excitingly, UK Subways are now offering Beyond Meatballs, which are fully vegan. If you add plenty of salad and choose a vegan sauce, you can do quite well.

Surprisingly, pub chains are now a decent option for vegans. Even if you don’t drink, stopping off at the pub often reveals a tasty vegan option or two. Salads, chips, and even some mains can be vegan depending on the chain. Check the website for your local, have a look at the menu, or ask staff. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Some Mexican and Tex-Mex chains have good vegan options. Nando’s is pretty good for vegan options. They try to avoid cross-contamination and have a few good veegie items on the menu. Their vegan PERInaise is my favourite vegan mayo.

Another possibility is an Italian restaurant. Some Italian chains are pretty good about vegan options. As well as the usual salad, you can usually get a no-cheese pizza or egg-free pasta with tomato-based sauce. Check the menu before you book, of course.

Vegan onion rings at home

If you’re looking for a quick snack, frozen onion rings are fun. They’re not the healthiest option but once in a while won’t hurt. Be careful when shopping because, like Burger King’s onion rings, many are made with whey or other non-vegan ingredients.

You can cut to the chase and check out the freezer section of your local health food store for frozen onion rings. I tend to find this the simplest option. The staff understand what I’m looking for and I don’t have to launch into an explanation of what “vegan” means.

In your regular supermarket or freezer centre, here are some brands to look out for. Bird’s Eye make vegan onion rings. Aviko’s battered onion rings are free of animal products but contain palm oil. You could also check out some of the supermarket’s own brands — sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised. My favourites are Aunt Bessie’s onion rings. They are dairy and egg free, and also have no palm oil; make sure you don’t pick up the cheese version by mistake, though.

If all else fails, whip up a batch of vegan batter, slice an onion and make your own. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s on your plate — and you can choose healthier cooking methods, too.

Robert Van De Ville

Robert Van De Ville is a registered nutritionist, he earned his degree in nutrition from California State University. Now based in London UK. An author of the upcoming book, researcher and dedicated vegan activist.

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