Answering urgent calls from vegans and flexitarians everywhere, and buttressed by a growing demand for meat-free options, McDonald’s UK has finally released a vegan burger. Dubbed the McPlant burger, fast-food aficionados can now enjoy a hearty dose of nostalgia and pea protein, but can it claim the top spot in the race to become the favourite convenience food chain for plant-based eaters? We gave the McPlant a try. Here’s what you need to know.
Overall: the McDonald’s McPlant is a faithful homage to a fast-food classic
McDonald’s UK tentatively released its long-awaited McPlant burger in 10 locations on September 29th, 2021 before rolling out to 250 restaurants UK-wide on October 13th. With the plant-based protein sector enjoying exponential growth of 49% over the past three years, in Europe alone, many have commented that McDonald’s has been slow to get on the flexitarian train. Now that the McPlant has landed though, it has received mixed reviews. While most consumers acknowledge that the Beyond Meat used for the patties is hard to distinguish from real meat, the general consensus seems to be that the portion size could be more generous. The only way to make an informed judgment is to try it for yourself, so we did just that. Below, our complete review.
The taste is instantly recognisable as McDonald’s
Opening the McPlant box was a revelation, with an unmistakable McDonald’s aroma released instantly. The first bite added an extra layer of nostalgia too. The mix of small-cut white onion, burger sauce, cheese, and a well-cooked patty tasted exactly as we remember a standard cheeseburger tasting and there was a quick check needed to ensure we hadn’t accidentally eaten a hamburger. The flavours worked well together; nothing stood out as ‘fake’ and it seems fair to assume that plenty of meat-eaters would be fooled by this. It also looked appetising, despite some mayo slip in transit.
The Beyond McPlant patty works well
The star of the show, the Beyond Meat patty has been formed and seasoned to perfectly imitate standard McDonald’s burgers. The texture is the right combination of juicy and compact, so it feels like quality ground beef that has been pressed into a specific shape; the nuances of pea protein add just enough chew to make this a scarily good beef alternative. Veggie burgers of the past were often a little too dense and with none of the crumble that real meat offers, but this patty has encapsulated both a flavourful taste and great mouthfeel.
The cheese fooled us
Vegan cheese is hard to get right but the McPlant has used the usually tasteless and plastic-like texture of traditional burger cheese to its advantage. Here, you’ll find a smooth, easy to chew, and all-but-indistinguishable bright yellow slice of cheese that would be just as at home in a regular meat Happy Meal. It softens next to the heat of the patty nicely and adds a pleasing textural diversity to the bun. After a 2019 Violife poll revealed that 45% of Brits would try plant-based eating if cheese alternatives were more comparable, the significance of the success here shouldn’t be underestimated.
What we’d like to see in the future
As McDonald’s first vegan meat release, the McPlant is a significant step forward. It tastes good and offers meat-free eaters an easy option. It also demonstrates a clear shift in consumer demand—but we have to agree with other reviewers that feel the burger itself is on the small side. In the future, we would welcome bigger patties, maybe in the form of standard menu alternatives. A Beyond Quarter Pounder with Cheese would no doubt be a hit, as would a Beyond Big Mac (plus better value for the money).
Final Verdict: 7/10
The McDonald’s McPlant gets a 7/10. It’s an incredibly close match to standard menu items and has clearly been developed with this goal in mind.
The McPlant is available at 250 selected restaurants in the UK and costs £3.49 on its own or from £4.89 as part of a meal deal. Limited release in the US has also been announced, though it’s worth noting their version is not vegan.
Lead image courtesy of McDonald’s.