Food and Drink

5 Differences Between McDonald’s in the UK and in the US

mcdonalds uk vs us big mac and fries

McDonald’s is one of the most popular fast-food chains in the world, with restaurants in over 100 countries. Aside from the fact we Brits call it “Maccies”, there are some other crucial distinctions between the UK and the US.

In this article, we’ll take a look at five of the most notable differences between McDonald’s in England and in America, including the menu, portion sizes, ingredients, calories, price, and more.

1. Menu

One of the biggest differences between McDonald’s in the UK and the US is the menu. Some items are only available in the UK, some items are only available in the US

McDonald’s Breakfast Menu

Starting with the breakfast menu, we can start to see where the UK and US differ. The US McDonald’s menu is much more expansive than the UK menu. 

It shares every item from the UK menu, apart from the Breakfast Roll and other ‘Roll’ items, the Cheesey Bacon Flatbread, Muffin with Jam, and all the Porridges.

While the US menu; replaces ‘Rolls’ with ‘Biscuits’, and has the McGriddle, Sausage Burrito, and Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. It’s also worth mentioning that the US menu does also have pancakes, but opts to call them ‘Hotcakes’.

mcdonalds american breakfast menu

McDonald’s Burger Menu

McDonald’s burgers in the UK and the US, are for the most the same. However, there are some distinct differences to watch out for. The US menu has the McDouble, while the UK menu has the Big Tasty (and with Bacon) for a limited time only. 

Not to mention, the UK menu opts for healthier options such as the McPlant and Vegetable Deluxe. Looking at the chicken and fish sandwiches, the menus are pretty similar. While the UK has the McSpicy and McCrispy, the US offers ‘Deluxe’ versions of these and opts to call the McSpicy, the Spicy McCrispy.

mcdonalds american burger menu

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and Selects Menu

Interestingly, the UK has a wider selection of chicken items on the menu. With the US menu having a wider selection of Chicken McNuggets portion sizes, and the UK menu having the addition of the Chicken Selects.

mcdonalds american mcnuggets menu

McDonald’s Beverages Menu

As you’d expect when looking at the beverages across countries, they’re pretty similar. But there are some discernible differences, for example, the US stocks Dr Pepper whereas the UK does not.

While the UK has the Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, the US kicks it up a notch with both the Frozen Fanta Blue Raspberry and the Frozen Coca-Cola Classic. 

mcdonalds american beverages menu

McDonald’s McCafe Coffee Menu

Just having a quick skim over the menu, you can already tell that the US beats the UK on this one. Alongside all of the items on the UK menu, the US goes above and beyond, introducing more syrups, more iced versions of coffees, and new coffees entirely.

The main differences to note are iced versions of Lattes and Frappuccinos, but Mochas, Caramel macchiato, and more. There are also some exclusive additions such as the Americano, Premium Roast Coffee, French Vanilla Latte, and the Mocha Frappe.

mcdonalds american mccafe coffee menu

McDonald’s McFlurry Menu

McFlurrys are a sweet treat staple of McDonald’s, not only in the UK and US but around the world. So it’s only natural that the menu would change to highlight preferences between these countries. 

The flavours available can swap and change considerably, introducing new limited edition flavours such as the Creme Egg in the UK and Strawberry Shortcake and Peanut Butter Crunch in the US. But in the UK, the standard menu consists of Oreos, Maltesers, and Smarties. While in the US, you can find Oreo and M&Ms.

mcdonalds american mcflurry menu

McDonald’s Condiments Menu

Another difference between the UK and US McDonald’s menus is the condiments (or dips).

UK McDonald’s has a wider variety of sweet condiments, including Sweet Curry and Sweet Chilli. While US McDonald’s has a wider variety of condiments in general, such as Spicy Buffalo, Creamy Ranch, Honey Mustard, and Mayonnaise. Not to mention, some limited-time-only additions such as Mambo Sauce and Sweet & Spicy Jam.

mcdonalds american condiments menu

2. Portion Sizes

Another difference between McDonald’s in the UK and the US is the portion sizes. As to be expected, the portion sizes in the US are larger than the portion sizes in the UK. However, this isn’t a cut-and-dry rule for each and every item on the menu.

McDonald’s Drink Sizes

The drink sizes at McDonald’s are where you can see the most sizable difference between the UK and the US.

As you can see below, the drink size portions at McDonald’s in America are an average of 66% bigger than in the UK. With the large drink being 70% bigger in the US.

Drink PortionSize (UK)Size (US)Difference
Small250ml454ml (or 16oz)+81%
Medium400ml596ml (or 21oz)+49%
Large500ml852ml (or 30oz)+70%

McDonald’s Fries Sizes

When looking at the fries portions at McDonald’s there is a slight difference between the UK and the US. However, even McDonald’s has stated on their website that the weight and size of their fries are subject to change.

And that’s to be expected, but we can at least see a small increase in the small and large sizes when looking at America compared to the UK.

Fries PortionSize (UK)Size (US)Difference
Small80g85g (or 3oz)+6%
Medium114g113g (or 4oz)
Large150g170g (or 6oz)+13%

McDonald’s Chicken McNugget Sizes

Interestingly the US McDonald’s doesn’t always follow suit with the UK. Particularly when looking at the portion sizes for Chicken McNuggets and how many pieces there are.

mcdonalds american chicken mcnuggets sizes

The UK McDonald’s menu offers the choice of 6, 9, or 20 McNuggets. Whereas, the US McDonald’s menu provides 4, 6, 10, 20, and 40 pieces to choose from. Not only offering a smaller portion but also considerably bigger too.

3. Ingredients

The ingredients used in McDonald’s food can also vary depending on the country. For example, McDonald’s fries in the US are cooked in vegetable oil, while McDonald’s fries in the UK are cooked in rapeseed oil.

McDonald’s Fries Ingredients

The main difference between the UK and US McDonald’s fries ingredients is the amount of ingredients and the use of hydrogenated oil.

  • Number of ingredients: US fries have 14 ingredients, while UK fries have 4 ingredients.
  • Hydrogenated oil: US fries contain hydrogenated soybean oil, while UK fries contain non-hydrogenated rapeseed oil.

Hydrogenated oils are a type of unhealthy fat. Rapeseed oil, on the other hand, is a healthy fat that is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat.

Another difference between the two fries is that the UK fries may contain dextrose, which is a type of sugar. However, the amount of dextrose used is very small, and it is added to help maintain the color of the fries.

Overall, UK McDonald’s fries are healthier than US McDonald’s fries because they have fewer ingredients and do not contain hydrogenated oil.

McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce Ingredients

There are a few key differences between the UK and US McDonald’s Big Mac ingredients:

  • Number of ingredients: UK Big Macs have 17 or 18 ingredients, depending on the recipe, while US Big Macs have 16 ingredients.
  • Type of oil: UK Big Macs are made with rapeseed oil, while US Big Macs are made with soybean oil.
  • Sweet relish: US Big Macs contain sweet relish, while UK Big Macs do not.
  • Sugar: US Big Macs contain high fructose corn syrup and sugar, while UK Big Macs may contain glucose-fructose syrup and sugar, or just sugar.
  • Artificial ingredients: US Big Macs contain propylene glycol alginate, while UK Big Macs do not.

Overall, the UK Big Mac ingredients are slightly healthier than the US Big Mac ingredients because they do not contain sweet relish or propylene glycol alginate.

4. Calories

As a result of the different portion sizes and ingredients, the calorie content of McDonald’s food can also vary depending on the country. In general, the McDonald’s food in the US is higher in calories than the McDonald’s food in the UK.

For example, the US Big Mac has 590 calories, while the UK Big Mac has 493 calories. The US large fries have 480 calories, while the UK medium fries have 444 calories.

McDonald’s Fries Calories

Fries PortionCalories (UK)Calories (US)Difference
Small237 cal230 cal
Medium337 cal320 cal
Large444 cal480 cal+8%

McDonald’s Burgers Calories

This is another area where we can see a bit more of a difference when looking at the UK McDonald’s and the US. Particularly in the Big Mac where there is a whopping 19% difference!

Burger PortionCalories (UK)Calories (US)Difference
Hamburger251 cal250 cal
Cheeseburger298 cal300 cal
Double Cheeseburger438 cal450 cal+2.7%
Quarter Pounder with Cheese507 cal520 cal+2.5%
Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese739 cal740 cal
Big Mac493 cal590 cal+19%

5. Price

The price of McDonald’s food can also vary depending on the country. In general, the McDonald’s food in the UK is cheaper than the McDonald’s food in the US.

Below we have mapped the top ten price differences between McDonald’s items in the US and the UK. 

The majority of these are burgers, with the US Big Mac costing more than 95% of that in the UK. Not to mention, a plain cheeseburger is nearly a whole £2 cheaper in the UK than in the US.

ItemUK Price (£)US Price (£)Difference
Big Mac®£3.37£6.58 (or $8.29)£3.21
Quarter Pounder® with Cheese£3.37£6.35 (or $7.99)£2.98
Medium French Fries£1.44£3.80 (or $4.79)£2.36
Filet-O-Fish®£3.36£5.47 (or $6.89)£2.11
Triple Cheeseburger£2.98£4.76 (or $5.99)£1.78
Cheeseburger£1.16£2.93 (or $3.69)£1.77
Double Cheeseburger£1.89£3.49 (or $4.39)£1.60
Hamburger£1.03£2.61 (or $3.29)£1.58
McChicken®£3.37£3.88 (or $4.89)£0.51
6 pc. Chicken McNuggets®£3.37£3.80 (or $4.79)£0.43

The dollar-to-pound conversion used was the average throughout 2023, being 0.79423 GBP to 1 USD.

Final Thoughts from UK vs. USA

So, there you have it! 5 of the most notable differences between McDonald’s in the UK and the US.

Which McDonald’s is better? That’s up to you to decide. But one thing is for sure: there are some key differences to be aware of if you’re planning on visiting McDonald’s in either country.

McDonald’s UK vs. US FAQ:

Is the UK McDonald’s menu healthier than the US McDonald’s menu?

Overall, the UK McDonald’s menu is slightly healthier than the US McDonald’s menu. This is because the UK McDonald’s menu contains more items that are lower in calories and fat, such as the Veggie Deluxe burger and the Chicken Legend sandwich.

Are portion sizes in the US bigger than in the UK at McDonald’s?

Yes, in general, the portion sizes in the US are bigger than the portion sizes in the UK at McDonald’s. This is true for both food and drinks.

For example, large US soft drinks are 70% bigger than UK soft drinks. The US Big Mac is also slightly larger than the UK Big Mac.

Is the Grimace shake on the UK McDonald’s menu?

No, the Grimace shake is not available in the UK McDonald’s menu. The Grimace Shake is a promotional item that is only available in the US.

Sources:

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