McDonald's French Fries Aren't Just Potatoes — Here's What's in Them

What goes into a crispy and delicious McDonald's french fry?

McDonalds French Fries
Photo: McDonalds/Allrecipes

We love to debate food. Whether it's a Coke vs. Pepsi contest, if pineapple belongs on pizza or not, or which fast-food chain has the best french fries in the business. However, if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that whenever you're under the Golden Arches, it's impossible to resist ordering hot and crispy McDonald's french fries.

Mickey D's french fries are the gold standard for fast-food fries. They're crispy on the outside with a light and fluffy texture on the inside — and when you receive a hot and fresh batch, you feel like you've won the french fry lottery.

But did you know that McDonald's french fries aren't just made from potatoes? They're actually made up of about 10 or so different ingredients. Read on to find out what they are.

What's In McDonald's French Fries?

Ten ingredients definitely sounds like a lot for a simple french fry. But there are good reasons that McDonald's uses each of those components in their fries. And for all the naysayers out there, no McDonald's fries are not chemical potato goop shaped into fries. Instead, they are made up of potatoes, vegetable oil (which contains canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and natural beef flavor with wheat and milk derivatives), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and salt.

McDonald's publicly shares this information, but they also did a deep dive ad campaign in 2014 that explored how their food was made. The "Our Food. Your Questions." campaign enlisted the help of former "MythBusters" co-host Grant Imahara to take viewers behind the scenes of what happens in the McDonald's potato supplier factory.

In the video, we learned that McDonald's fries go through a lengthy process that requires each one of the ingredients to make them taste the way we know and love. Here's what McDonald's fries are made of and how they're made:


Yes, McDonald's fries are made from real potatoes. The fast-food giant uses what they call "premium potatoes" to make their fries. The potatoes consist of different varieties, like Russet Burbank, Russet Ranger, Umatilla Russet, and Shepody.

Vegetable Oil

Before the 1990s, McDonald's fries were actually cooked in straight beef fat to give them their world-famous taste. But they moved to a vegetable oil blend after consumers complained about the amount of saturated fat in McDonald's foods.

Nowadays, McDonald's french fries are fried in a pretty ingredient-heavy oil blend. The blend includes canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, and natural beef flavor. Now the different oils are probably pretty self-explanatory. But what is "natural beef flavor"? That's what gives McDonald's french fries their signature taste.

McDonald's states their beef flavor contains both hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk. This, unfortunately, means McDonald's fries are not vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.


Dextrose is a type of sugar that is very similar to glucose — meaning it's often used to replenish energy in the body. It's used in a lot of processed foods to extend shelf life. McDonald's also uses it to ensure the fries have a consistent color no matter what potato they use or what season we're in.

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate

Sodium acid pyrophosphate is another chemical additive that's seen in a lot of processed foods. And McDonald's also uses it to keep the fries' color consistent because it prevents the fries from graying during the freezing step.


This one is a no-brainer. McDonald's uses salt to simply enhance the flavors of their french fries. According to their site, they add a small amount of salt after the fries are cooked.

How Are McDonald's Fries Made?

If you thought the ingredient list was long, wait until you find out how long the process from potato to a hot and crispy french fry is. In McDonald's "Our Food. Your Questions." campaign, Imahara shows the "reverse engineered" science behind how the golden treats are made.

They start as potatoes that are harvested and transported to the factory. The supplier peels, blanches, and cuts the fries with a water gun knife — which shoots the potatoes through the machine at a whopping 60 to 70 miles per hour (what?!).

Next, the fries go through the "ingredient dip," which ensures consistency in color and taste (it's why every McDonald's fry tastes the same no matter which restaurant you're dining at). This is where they add the dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate.

Then, the fries are dried and partially fried. The first frying gives the potatoes their crispy outer shell (then the rest of the frying is done at the restaurant). This is also why you may see some people claim that McDonald's fries have more than 10 ingredients — because the potatoes are double-fried so the vegetable oil ingredients may be listed twice.

The partially fried fries are then frozen and delivered to a McDonald's restaurant near you where they are freshly fried to order and salted to perfection for you to enjoy.

So, no, McDonald's fries aren't strictly potatoes, but we still love them just the same — especially if they're served alongside Mickey D's ketchup and their delicious Coke!


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love