No, Zaxby’s fries are not vegan. They are cooked in vegetable oil that contains animal products.
What Are Zaxby’s Fries Made Of?
Zaxby’s fries are made from potatoes that are cut into strips, soaked in water to remove starch, and then fried in a blend of oils including soybean oil and beef tallow. The use of beef tallow, which is rendered and clarified beef fat, makes Zaxby’s fries non-vegan.
Some key ingredients in Zaxby’s fries include:
- Vegetable oil (soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil)
- Beef tallow
- Natural beef flavor
- Sodium acid pyrophosphate (leavening agent)
The use of beef tallow and natural beef flavors, which are likely derived from meat or dairy, means that Zaxby’s fries contain animal products and are not considered vegan or vegetarian.
Why Do Zaxby’s Fries Contain Beef Tallow?
Many fast food restaurants use small amounts of beef tallow in their fryer oil as it enhances the flavor of fries and gives them a crispy, crunchy exterior.
Beef tallow has a high smoke point so it can withstand the high heat of commercial fryers. It also solidifies at room temperature which prevents excessive oil absorption.
The beefy, meaty flavors imparted by tallow complement the starchiness of fried potatoes. This is why beef tallow remains a popular ingredient in frying oils, despite the availability of vegetable oil alternatives.
However, the use of animal-derived beef tallow makes the fries unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians. It also means the fries are not halal or kosher.
Potential Vegan Substitutes for Beef Tallow
Fast food chains looking to make their fries suitable for vegans and vegetarians have a few potential alternatives to beef tallow:
- Oils: Soybean, canola, sunflower, palm oil, coconut oil, and crisco shortening made from vegetable oil could potentially replicate the high smoke point and crispy texture of beef tallow.
- Animal Fat Alternatives: Rendered fats from plants like coconut and palm can mimic the properties of tallow. Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) is sometimes used as a vegan alternative.
- Vegan Flavorings: Smoked salt, yeast extracts, potato broth, and spices like paprika can impart flavor without using beef components.
However, finding the right blend of oils and flavorings to match the distinctive taste of beef tallow fried potatoes can be challenging. Some vegan fries may seem less rich and flavorful compared to those containing traces of meat or dairy.
Do Any Fast Food Places Offer Vegan Fries?
Most large fast food chains use small amounts of animal products like beef tallow to enhance flavor in their fry oil, making fries non-vegan. However, some exceptions include:
- McDonald’s: Uses purely vegetable oil for fries in the U.S. Contains milk allergen due to shared fryers, but fries do not contain animal ingredients.
- Burger King: Also uses dedicated vegetable oil, but cross-contamination is possible.
- Wendy’s: Uses a dedicated vegan fryer to avoid cross-contact with meat products.
- Taco Bell: Fries are vegan and cooked in dedicated vegetarian fryers.
So while most large chains use small amounts of beef tallow, some have made menu changes in recent years to offer vegan fry options. However, veggie fries cooked in separate vegan fryer oil are generally the best bet for avoiding all animal products. Smaller regional chains likely use 100% vegetable oil as well.
Are Zaxby’s Fries Nutritious?
Like most fast food fries, Zaxby’s fries are high in calories, fat, and sodium with minimal nutritional value.
Here are the nutrition facts for a medium serving of Zaxby’s fries (117g):
- Calories: 310
- Total Fat: 15g
- Carbs: 41g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 420mg
As you can see, over 40% of calories come from fat. There is also a high amount of sodium and carbs with minimal protein.
French fries provide calories mainly from starch and fat with few vitamins, minerals, fiber, or other nutrients. The high fat and sodium content also makes them unhealthy in large quantities.
Occasionally enjoying Zaxby’s fries as a treat is fine, but they should not be a regular part of a balanced, nutritious diet due to:
- High calorie and fat content
- High sodium
- Minimal vitamins, protein, and other nutrients
- Fried and processed
Healthier Fries Options
If you enjoy fries but want a healthier option, here are some tips:
- Sweet potato fries – More nutrients than regular fries
- Air fried – Uses no oil and less fat than deep frying
- Baked fries – Also lower in fat than fried
- Thinner or shoestring cut – More surface area = crispy with less potato
- Limit portion size – Stick to small or kid-sized fries
- Dip in ketchup, not mayo or cheese sauce – Saves calories
- Split a serving or substitute a salad – Cut calories in half
Also choose places that use healthier oils without beef tallow for frying. While not as healthy as whole foods, these tweaks help make fries a bit less detrimental to your diet.
Vegan Fried Foods at Zaxby’s
While Zaxby’s fries contain beef tallow, making them non-vegan, there are some other fried foods at Zaxby’s that may fit a vegan diet:
- Fried Pickles – Uses standard breading and fry oil, both likely vegan
- Onion Rings – If made with standard non-egg wash breading, should also be vegan
- Tater Chips – Fried potato chips could be vegan if cooked in same oil as fries
- Fruit – Fried fruit like apples may use vegan batter and oil
However, it’s best to check with the location to be sure no animal products are used in prep and frying of these menu items. Cross-contact with non-vegan ingredients can happen in the fryer.
Overall Zaxby’s limited vegan options beyond salad and plain baked potato. Those following a plant-based diet will have difficulty finding suitable choices.
In summary, Zaxby’s season their fries and fryer oil with beef tallow, an animal fat derivative that gives their fried potatoes a signature rich flavor.
The use of beef tallow and natural beef flavorings means Zaxby’s fries are not considered vegan or even vegetarian. However, some other fried foods like pickles or fruit may be vegan if cooked in standard vegetable oil.
Those looking for vegan fast food fries can check restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s that use dedicated vegetable oil in separate vegan fryers. But the best option is to bake fries at home and flavor them creatively with spices, herbs, ketchups, and vegan cheese or mayo options.
While an occasional indulgence in regular fries is fine, they are best consumed in moderation as a small part of an overall healthy diet, due to their high calorie, fat, sodium and low nutritional content.