Onion rings can be vegan, but it depends on the batter.
Batter often contains eggs or milk products.
If you go out to a restaurant, it is not safe to assume that their onion rings are vegan. You’ll need to ask for more details.
Based on what I’ve seen, it’s about a 50/50 chance.
Let’s look at onion rings at a few fast food restaurants so you know what to expect.
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Harvey’s Onion Rings in Canada Are Vegan
The ingredients in Harvey’s onion rings are:
Onions, water, enriched bleached wheat flour, yellow corn flour, salt, sugar, defatted soyflour, leavening, dextrose, spice extractive, polysorbate 60: blanched in vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola)
There’s a chance that the sugar is not vegan, but it likely is in this case. All the other ingredients are clearly vegan.
They are also cooked in canola oil.
Burger King Onion Rings Are Not Vegan
On the other side, onion rings at many fast food restaurants have multiple non-vegan ingredients.
Here is a snippet of the ingredient list for BK onion rings:
Contains 2% Or Less Of :…Natural Flavors, Grill Flavor (From Sunflower Oil), Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Modified Palm Oil, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Whey…
Whey is derived from milk and is never vegan.
Arby’s Onion Rings Are Not Vegan
Arby’s onion rings have similar ingredients to Burger King’s:
Onions, Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Food Starch, Corn Flour, Onion Powder, Salt, Sugar, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Whey, Yeast, Yellow 5, Yellow 6. Cooked in Corn Oil.
Since there’s whey in them, it’s clear that onion rings at Arby’s are not vegan friendly.
Additionally, there are artificial colors in them, which some vegans don’t eat. It’s a grey area for some, see is yellow 5 vegan for more detail.
Red Robin Frozen Onion Rings Are Likely Vegan
While I can’t say for sure, there’s a high chance that Red Robin onion rings are vegan friendly.
Here are the ingredients in them:
Onions, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Sugar, Corn Flour, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Yeast, Leavening, Spice, Sodium Alginate, Natural Flavor.
Natural flavor is my big concern, since it’s an umbrella term that can contain both animal and plant ingredients (see: are natural flavors vegan?). However, considering that the product doesn’t say “contains:milk”, it’s probably not an issue.
The other potential issue is the sugar, since some sugar isn’t vegan. That’s a gray area among vegans, and probably isn’t an issue here, but I thought I should mention it.
Based on those assumptions, I would say that Red Robin onion rings are probably vegan friendly.
Are Onion Rings Vegan?
While onion rings can be made vegan, they often contain animal ingredients if you buy them at restaurants.
You’ll need to look up the ingredients of the onion rings for the restaurant that you’re interested in, or contact them if that information isn’t easily available.
It’s a pain, but this isn’t a food that you can safely assume is vegan.