How much sugar is in a McDonald’s Holiday Pie?

The McDonald’s Holiday Pie is a seasonal dessert offering that is available for a limited time during the holiday season at McDonald’s restaurants. It is known for its flaky, buttery crust and sweet filling. But with sweet treats, an important consideration is often the sugar content. So how much sugar is actually in a McDonald’s Holiday Pie?

The Basics of the McDonald’s Holiday Pie

First, let’s cover some of the key facts about the McDonald’s Holiday Pie:

  • The McDonald’s Holiday Pie is a hand-held dessert pie made with a flaky, buttery crust.
  • The filling consists of apples, cranberries, and cinnamon.
  • It is topped with white icing and decorative sugar crystals.
  • A standard McDonald’s Holiday Pie weighs approximately 3.4 ounces or 96 grams.
  • The pies are provided to McDonald’s restaurants by a supplier, Vesta Foodservice.
  • The Holiday Pie is only available for a limited time during the holiday season, usually from early November through December.

Nutrition Information on the McDonald’s Website

Now let’s look at what McDonald’s reports regarding the nutrition facts and ingredients for the Holiday Pie. This information can be found on the McDonald’s website.

According to the McDonald’s website nutrition information, one McDonald’s Holiday Pie contains:

  • Calories: 250
  • Total Fat: 12g
  • Sodium: 160mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 34g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 21g
  • Protein: 2g

So McDonald’s reports that there are 21g of total sugars in one Holiday Pie.

The ingredient list for the pies is as follows:

  • Apples
  • Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm, Palm Kernel, Coconut And/Or Cottonseed Oil)
  • Water
  • Corn Syrup
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Cranberries
  • Shortening (Palm Oil, Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil)
  • Dextrose
  • Cinnamon
  • Modified Tapioca Starch
  • Salt
  • Whey
  • Natural Flavor (Plant Source)
  • Egg
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Artificial Flavor
  • Tapioca Dextrins
  • Dough Conditioners (DATEM, Sodium Metabisulfite, Mono & Diglycerides, Ammonium Sulfate, Azodicarbonamide)
  • Sorbic Acid

As you can see, the filling ingredients include apples, cranberries, corn syrup, and hydrogenated oil. The crust also contains enriched bleached flour and shortening. So there are a variety of refined ingredients and added sugars used in these dessert pies.

Approximating the Added Sugars

To get a better sense of where all those 21 grams of sugar are coming from, we need to approximate how much is naturally occurring sugar from the apples versus added sugar that gets put in during processing and preparation.

According to USDA data, one small apple (about 4 ounces) contains around 12g of sugar. The McDonald’s Holiday Pie weighs 96 grams total. Even if we assume up to 25% of that is apples (24g), that equates to about 8g of naturally occurring sugar from the apple pieces in the filling.

That means the remaining 13g of sugar (21g total – 8g natural) must come from added sugar sources like the high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, and artificial flavors listed in the ingredients.

Added Sugars vs. Recommended Daily Intake

To put that 13g of added sugar in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than:

  • 6 tsp (25g) of added sugar per day for women
  • 9 tsp (38g) for men

A single McDonald’s Holiday Pie contains around 3 tsp of added sugars. So just one pie exceeds half of the recommended daily limit for women and over a third of the limit for men.

How the Holiday Pie Compares to Other Desserts

We can also compare the McDonald’s Holiday Pie to some other popular sweet treats.

Here is how the added sugar content stacks up against other dessert items (based on standard nutrition info for major brands):

Dessert Item Serving Size Approx. Added Sugars
McDonald’s Holiday Pie 1 pie (96g) 13g
1 Fun Size Snickers Bar 1 bar (21g) 10g
1 Fun Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup 1 cup (21g) 9g
1 Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Doughnut 1 doughnut (52g) 10g
1 Cup Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream 0.5 cup (66g) 7g

As you can see, the McDonald’s Holiday Pie falls somewhere in the middle – more added sugar than some candies and ice cream, but less than a doughnut. So while it’s high in added sugar, it’s not extraordinarily high compared to some other popular sweets.

Taste and Texture Impact of Added Sugars

Added sugars like corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup don’t just add sweetness – they also help impact the texture and mouthfeel of desserts like the Holiday Pie.

The corn syrup helps keep the pie filling moist, while the sugars interact with the starches and gums to provide a thicker, more viscous consistency and soft texture.

So while the 13g of added sugar may seem high, it likely helps achieve the distinctive gooey, softly melting texture that fans enjoy in the pie filling.

Are There Any Healthier Options?

For consumers who want to enjoy a sweet treat but limit added sugars, are there any healthier options when visiting McDonald’s?

A few lower sugar alternatives could include:

  • Strawberry & Crème Pie – 10g total sugar
  • Baked Apple Pie – 19g total sugar
  • Vanilla Cone – 12g total sugar
  • Hotcakes/Pancakes – 12g total sugar if served without syrup

While these items are still desserts and sweets, they contain slightly less overall sugar than the Holiday Pie. The Vanilla Cone and Hotcakes/Pancakes without syrup offer a significant reduction in added sugars for consumers looking for a lighter option.

Making Your Own Lower Sugar Version

For those who want to recreate the delicious taste of apple and cranberry pie at home with less added sugar, there are some options.

You can make adjustments like:

  • Use unsweetened applesauce in place of some or all of the high fructose corn syrup
  • Replace half the white sugar with erythritol or monk fruit sweetener
  • Use whole cranberries or cranberry sauce instead of corn syrup-heavy cramble filling
  • Cut back slightly on pie crust ingredients like sugar and butter

Experiment to find the right balance of sweetness and texture for your preferences. The end result can be a tasty apple cranberry pie with natural sweetness from fruit and significantly reduced added sugars.


The McDonald’s Holiday Pie is a sweet seasonal treat that many consumers enjoy. But with 21g of total sugars and about 13g of added sugars, it lands on the high end for recommended daily limits.

Compared to other popular dessert items, it is moderate in added sugars – more than some candies but less than items like doughnuts. The added sugars like corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup provide sweetness, moisture, and texture.

Consumers can choose options like Baked Apple Pie and Vanilla Cones for a bit less sugar, or experiment at home to make a lower sugar apple cranberry pie. So while the Holiday Pie is a indulgent seasonal delight, there are ways to enjoy its flavors in moderation.

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