Is McDonald’s Apple Pie Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

September 12, 2023

Navigating the world of food, especially when you’re trying to figure out if something like the McDonald’s apple pie is vegan, can be a tricky journey.

Often, manufacturers don’t make it easy, hiding behind complicated ingredient names that leave us scratching our heads.

But don’t worry! This article is here to uncover the truth and guide you on your vegan lifestyle journey.

Is McDonald’s Apple Pie Vegan?

McDonald’s apple pie is not guaranteed to be vegan. Ingredients like sugar might be processed with bone char, and others like niacin, riboflavin, and L-cysteine can be derived from animal sources. It’s advisable to check directly with the company for specific ingredient origins.

Is McDonald’s Apple Pie Cruelty-Free?

No, McDonald’s apple pie cannot be considered cruelty-free because of the inclusion of palm oil.

While palm oil itself comes from a plant, its production has been linked to deforestation, habitat destruction, and the endangerment of many wildlife species. This environmental impact directly harms animals, making products containing it a point of contention for those living a vegan lifestyle.

What Is McDonald’s Apple Pie Made Of?

The McDonald’s apple pie, a staple on the McDonald’s menu, is made up of a variety of ingredients. Here they are:

  • Apples
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Salt
  • Citric acid
  • Enriched flour
  • Wheat flour
  • Niacin
  • Reduced iron
  • Thiamine mononitrate
  • Riboflavin
  • Folic acid
  • Sugar
  • Palm oil
  • Water
  • Apple juice concentrate
  • Modified food starch
  • Invert syrup
  • Yeast
  • Cinnamon
  • Sunflower lecithin
  • L-cysteine
  • Yeast extract
  • Enzyme
  • Beta-carotene (color)


Apples originate from fruit trees and serve as the main filling in the pie. They are vegan.

Ascorbic Acid 

Ascorbic acid is a synthetic compound used as a preservative and is vegan.

Enriched Flour 

Made from wheat grain, enriched flour forms the main component of the crust and is vegan.


A mineral, salt is vegan and used for flavoring.

Citric Acid 

Derived from citrus fruits, citric acid is used as a preservative and is vegan.

Wheat Flour 

Wheat flour comes from the wheat plant and is used in the crust. It’s vegan.


Niacin is a vitamin commonly added for nutritional enrichment. While it is typically vegan, there are instances where its production or sourcing may involve animal-based processes or derivatives, making its vegan status in certain products uncertain.

Reduced Iron 

Iron is a vitamin added for nutrition, and it’s vegan.

Thiamine Mononitrate 

Thiamine is a mineral added for nutrition, and it’s vegan.


Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is another ingredient with a potentially ambiguous vegan status. Though it can be produced synthetically without animal involvement, there are methods and sources that might use animal-based ingredients.

Folic Acid 

Folic acid is an essential mineral added for nutrition. It’s vegan.


Sugar, often derived from sugarcane or sugar beets, can be vegan. However, its vegan status is uncertain in some products because it might be processed using bone char, which is derived from animal bones.

Palm Oil 

Extracted from the palm fruit, adds moisture and texture, and it is vegan, but not cruelty-free.


Water is the universal solvent and is vegan.

Apple Juice Concentrate 

Derived from apples, this concentrate is used for flavor and sweetness and is vegan.

Modified Food Starch 

A thickener, modified food starch is derived from various plants and is vegan.

Invert Syrup

A sweet syrup made from sugar, invert syrup is vegan.


A fungus, yeast is used for fermentation and is vegan because it doesn’t have a central nervous system.


A spice from the bark of trees, cinnamon is vegan.

Sunflower Lecithin

Extracted from sunflower seeds, sunflower lecithin is an emulsifier and is vegan.


L-cysteine is an amino acid that poses a concern for vegans. It’s frequently derived from feathers, human hair, or other animal sources. Given these prevalent sources, L-cysteine in many products is not considered vegan.

Yeast Extract 

A flavor enhancer, yeast extract derived from yeast and is usually vegan.


Are proteins that speed up reactions, but their source isn’t specified here. They may come from animal by-products.


Beta-carotene is a plant-derived colorant and is vegan.

Vegan Alternatives to McDonald’s Apple Pie

If you’re keen on enjoying a sweet treat without compromising your values, there are plenty of vegan alternative brands to the McDonald’s apple pie:

  • Homemade apple pies: Using vegan butter and ensuring all ingredients are plant-based. Try this recipe by Tasty.
  • Vegan pastries: Many bakeries now offer vegan options, including apple pies.
  • Vegan pie crusts: Available at many grocery stores, these can be filled with your choice of vegan-friendly fillings.
  • Vegan dessert brands: Such as Vegan Treats and Daiya, which offer a range of pies and desserts.


While the McDonald’s apple pie has ingredients like sugar, which can be derived from vegan sources such as sugarcane or sugar beets, it’s uncertain how McDonald’s sources theirs.

Combined with ambiguities around ingredients like niacin, riboflavin, and L-cysteine, its vegan status remains questionable. For those committed to a rigorous vegan lifestyle, making informed food choices remains paramount.

Fortunately, the increasing embrace of veganism means more transparent and ethical alternatives are available in the market.