KFC’s New ‘Vegan’ Beyond Fried Chicken Is Not Actually Vegan

Plant-based meat has officially infiltrated pretty much every fast food restaurant in the game. Burger King has the Impossible Whopper, White Castle has Impossible Sliders, Dunkin’ has the Beyond Sausage Sandwich, and, now, even KFC (a fast food chain that’s literally all about chicken) has hopped on the bandwagon.

Recently, KFC started testing out plant-based chicken nuggets and wings—which they call Beyond Fried Chicken (a.k.a. fried chicken made with Beyond meat)—in certain parts of the U.S.

It was a BFD. One Atlanta restaurant sold out of Beyond Fried Chicken in less than five hours. People lined up before the restaurant even opened, and the drive-thru line wrapped around the parking low twice.

Now, KFC has expanded their Beyond Fried Chicken test to more than 70 spots in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, throughout February, according to a press release.

“We’ve really pushed the limits to develop plant-based chicken that I think will have KFC and plant-based protein fans saying, ‘That’s finger lickin’ good,’” Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer at KFC U.S., said in the release.

How exactly does this whole chicken-less fried chicken thing work, though? Here’s everything you need to know about KFC’s new Beyond Fried Chicken.

What’s KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken made of?

KFC shared online that Beyond Fried Chicken primarily gets its protein from soy, wheat, and pea proteins.

Want more specifics? Here’s the full ingredients list:

Water, Enriched wheat flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Soy Protein Isolate, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Enriched bleached wheat flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Wheat Gluten, Natural Flavor, Yeast Extract, and less than 2 percent of: Breadcrumbs (Wheat Flour, Distilled Vinegar, Sea Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Inactive Yeast, Spice Extractives), Chili Pepper, Citric Acid, Garlic Powder, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Modified Wheat Starch, Onion Powder, Pea Extract, Rice Flour, Salt, Spice, Titanium Dioxide (for color).

Yeah, it’s long—but, plant-based or not, this is fast food, after all.

Is Beyond Fried Chicken vegan?

Here’s the kicker: According to KFC, their Beyond Fried Chicken is 100 percent plant-based, but it’s prepped in the same fryers as KFC’s actual chicken. So, it could get contaminated with residue or fat from that real chicken, and therefore isn’t technically even vegetarian, let alone vegan.

Is Beyond Fried Chicken gluten-free?

KFC says they bread their Beyond Fried Chicken in a mixture similar to their popcorn nugget breading, meaning that the plant-based option is not gluten-free.

Real Talk: Is Beyond Fried Chicken healthy?

“When we talk about eating more plant-based foods, this isn’t what we mean,” says New York City-based dietitian Samantha Cassetty, RD. “Just like regular fast food, this isn’t an everyday food.”

Jessica Cording, RD, nutritionist and author of The Little Book of Game-Changers, agrees: “Fried chicken is still fried chicken. Just because something is plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy.”

“There’s some difference in nutrients, but it’s still fried protein at the end of the day,” says Cording. “If a regular part of your diet, fried foods—whether plant- or animal-based—can have a negative effect on your health.”

Plant-based faux meats are also often made with heavily processed ingredients and contain excessive amounts of sodium—neither of which are great for you, adds Cassetty.

Still, you’re not going to torpedo your healthy eating goals by treating yourself once in a while. “If you’re curious about plant-based foods and you want to give these a try, they can fit in a healthful diet,” Cassetty says. As long as 75 percent of your eats come from minimally-processed plant foods, such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and avocados, you’re good.

Does KFC offer other plant-based options?

As of right now, KFC doesn’t have any other plant-based meal options on the menu.

However, certain KFC side orders, like green beans, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and sweet kernel corn, fit the bill.

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