- McDonald’s has rolled out a new vegan cheeseburger with a Beyond Meat patty in the UK.
- I compared it with KFC’s vegan chicken burger, and both tasted great.
- KFC’s burger needed more toppings and the McPlant didn’t stand out from other vegan cheeseburgers.
McDonald’s rolled out sales of its new plant-based burger, the McPlant, in the UK in October. It started trialling it at eight restaurants in the US in November.
But KFC UK started selling a vegan burger, using a meat-free patty developed by Quorn, in early 2020. The burger has been on and off menus ever since, with multiple name changes, but is currently sold as the “KFC Vegan Burger” at the fast-food chain’s “most popular vegan restaurants.”
The McPlant is available at close to 300 of McDonald’s roughly 1,300 restaurants in the UK.
As a percentage this seems small, but the huge number of McDonald’s restaurants means the McPlant is still on offer in at least eight locations in Leeds, a city in northern England. The number of KFCs selling its vegan chicken burger are much more limited, with only two KFC locations in Leeds selling it.
But I managed to get my hands on one of each and compared them.
Both came in packaging designed specifically for that product. KFC’s was more eye-catching with its large, bold text, and I liked the wording. For its McPlant box, McDonald’s went for packaging typical of vegetarian products, with shades of green and a leaf image.
Opening the boxes, the burgers were notably different. KFC’s vegan burger is similar to its chicken sandwich, with a slightly more oval-shaped bun and a large plant-based Quorn fillet, also oval-shaped, that protruded from the bun. The McPlant is more similar to a cheeseburger, with a round beef-style plant-based patty and vegan cheese.
Inside, the burgers looked totally different.
The KFC burger was served on top of a bed of vegan mayo and lettuce — and lots of it.
The Quorn fillet was delicious. It tasted of and looked like chicken, and had a texture to match. The fillet was coated in KFC’s famous mix of 11 herbs and spices, which made it pretty much indistinguishable from KFC’s regular chicken.
The burger tasted really good, and though I love cheese I’m glad it didn’t come with any as I think this would have ruined the taste. Some tomato or a sauce with more flavor wouldn’t have gone amiss, though.
KFC is famous for its gravy, but sadly this isn’t vegan. Instead, I got a pot of its Kentucky Smoky BBQ Sauce to dip my burger in for a bit of extra tang — but I thought this tasted a little like cough medicine.
McDonald’s McPlant came with generic burger toppings — lettuce, onion, ketchup, tomato, mustard, and pickles — as well as a vegan cheese alternative and vegan sandwich sauce.
The McPlant tasted delicious. I really like it with the vegan cheese, though it didn’t melt at all, unlike the dairy-based cheese slices in McDonald’s other burgers. The pea-protein patty, developed with fake-meat giant Beyond Meat, was quite sweet.
Both fast-food chains made their burgers with heavyweights from the fake-meat industry, and both got backing from key plant-based groups, too.
McDonald’s developed its McPlant with Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat, which sells its plant-based beef, pork, and poultry directly to consumers in stores as well as to a range of restaurants, including TGI Friday’s. The McPlant has been approved by the Vegetarian Society.
KFC’s vegan burger uses a Mycoprotein fillet developed by Quorn, a UK-based company that sells its fake meat in stores both as a cooking ingredient, like mince, and in preprepared meals, like lasagne and sausage rolls. KFC says that the fillets are coated in KFC’s herbs and spices and fried in vegetable oil before it comes to its restaurants, and is finished off in its ovens before serving.
And both burgers have won prizes from PETA UK – the McPlant for the best vegan burger in 2021, and KFC for the best vegan chicken in 2020.
KFC does, however, warn customers that its vegan burger may come into contact with non-vegan ingredients during preparation and cooking.
The two burgers came in at very different prices.
Because the KFC vegan burger is only available at very limited restaurants, I had to order it from delivery service Just Eat, where it cost £5.49 on its own — the same price as KFC’s Fillet Burger — or £6.49 with a drink.
Interestingly, it wasn’t possible to order it as a meal with fries because KFC doesn’t list its fries as vegan. KFC says that this is because it cooks its fries in the same oil as its popcorn chicken — which surprises me, because it still lists its fries as vegetarian.
The McPlant cost £3.79 ($5.07) on its own, rising to £5.29 ($7.08) as a medium meal and £5.69 ($7.62) as a large meal. This is the same as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
This means you can get a McPlant with medium fries and a drink for less than the price of a KFC vegan burger on its own.
Ultimately, I thought both burgers tasted great, with the main difference being that one was made to mimic a chicken burger and the other a cheeseburger. Both did a great job at replicating both the flavor and texture of meat.
KFC’s vegan burger was a lot harder to track down, and I’m not sure it’s worth the difference in price, but if you don’t eat meat or are trying to reduce your consumption then it’s probably one of the best fake-chicken burgers you can get from a chain restaurant.
As for the McPlant, it tasted great, but with more and more restaurants offering similar vegan cheeseburgers I’m not sure how much its offering stands out. As a replica for a standard cheeseburger it was excellent, but lots of fast-food chains offer these. The McPlant would need something special beyond its low price to differentiate it. Partnering with a big-name brand like Beyond Meat is a great place to start, though, and paves the way for McDonald’s to spruce up its vegan offerings in the future.