Sections on this page
- What’s the Controversy Around McDonald’s Apple Pie?
- How Much Apple is Really in the McDonald's Apple Pie?
- How Has the Recipe Changed Over the Years?
- Where to Find Fried Apple Pies
- How Healthy is a McDonald’s Apple Pie?
- Frequently Asked Questions
McDonald’s apple pie has been a fixture on the fast-food chain’s dessert menu for decades, but it’s no stranger to controversy. If you have wondered about the actual ingredients in the recipe, you aren’t alone. Internet users have speculated about the legendary fruity concoction for years. Read on to find out what’s really in that apple pie and how it’s changed over the decades.
What’s the Controversy Around McDonald’s Apple Pie?
People have suspected for years that the apple pie actually contains potatoes, pears, or even crackers. Despite McDonald’s assertions that its pies do contain apples, the controversy has persisted.
In 2002, when a public forum asked readers what the main ingredient in these desserts was, a popular response was potatoes. To add fuel to the fire, a rumor developed in Australia that the pies actually contained choko, also known as a vegetable pear or mango squash.
The rumors appear to originate from the public’s mistrust of large corporations, particularly McDonald’s, and the belief that they might slip in a less expensive substitute to save money. Similar rumors plagued McDonald’s milkshakes, which some believe do not contain any dairy products, even though they do.
How Much Apple is Really in the McDonald's Apple Pie?
The current version of the apple pie from McDonald's recipe contains 100% American-grown apples—a combination of the following varieties:
- Golden Delicious
- Ida Red
The type of apples in the pies vary by season.
McDonald’s dials up the flavor in its apple pies by using an ingredient called dehydrated apple powder, which soaks up some of the liquid released from the apples during baking. In comparison, other pie recipes tend to use a thickening agent to keep the filling together.
How Has the Recipe Changed Over the Years?
The original version was a fried apple pie recipe cooked up by Knoxville, Tennessee, franchisee Litton Cochran in 1960. Cochran grew up eating his mother’s tiny fried turnover-style apple pies and decided to hire his mother and sister as dessert chefs to add their own unique home-cooked kitchen creation to the menu.
1968: McDonald’s Debut
The pie’s popularity eventually drew the attention of McDonald’s corporate headquarters, officially debuting on the nationwide menu in 1968.
The deep-fried version, served hot in a cardboard sleeve, even inspired its own Apple Pie Tree character that appeared in brand marketing campaigns and restaurant play areas.
1992: Baked > Fried
In 1992, McDonald’s switched to a baked version to appeal to more health-conscious consumers. While the swap might have seemed healthier, the baked pie actually carried the same amount of fat as the old one—and 20 additional calories. The only “healthier” change was a sodium reduction (90 milligrams instead of 240) and no cholesterol instead of 6 milligrams.
2016: Sliced Instead of Diced
In 2016, McDonald’s test-drove a new recipe for its apple pie in 950 restaurants in North Carolina and Southern California. The new recipe used large slices of apples instead of diced, baked inside a lattice crust. Explaining the reasoning behind the proposed changes, a spokesperson stated that the overall effect was to provide “an old-fashioned apple pie with homemade taste and aroma to match.”
2018: New and Improved Version
Satisfied with the early reception, in September 2018, McDonald’s officially unveiled the latest iteration of its apple pie. The new version boasted fewer ingredients, a lattice crust, sliced apples (instead of diced), and a touch of cinnamon.
Instead of high fructose corn syrup and brown sugar, the new version used apple juice concentrate and invert syrup (a mixture of glucose and fructose). It also eliminated some ingredients, including sorbitol, dextrose, and soy lecithin. The lattice crust with sprinkled sugar topping replaced the more liberal usage of sugar and cinnamon from the previous recipe.
Perhaps most importantly, McDonald’s also pledged to use American-grown apples only. In the past, the apples used in the apple pie may have come from other locations.
The recent changes to the apple pie recipe were part of a more significant effort to remove artificial preservatives from certain menu items, such as the Chicken McNuggets.
McDonald's has released more than 40 different fillings and seasonal pie flavors over the years. Other flavors include cherry, strawberry and crème, pineapple, blueberry, and pumpkin. None, however, have created as much controversy or inspired such a devoted fanbase as the apple pie.
McDonald’s apple pie enthusiasts took to social media to voice strong opposition to the changes. “McDonald’s changed their apple pie crust, and we should be rioting in the streets,” said one disgruntled Twitter user. Another lamented the change, “Not even the apple pies taste the same anymore at McDonald’s. My cravings were disrespected today.”
Where to Find Fried Apple Pies
When McDonald’s switched its apple pie recipe to the baked version in 2018, most American franchises followed suit. However, internet commenters have reported specific locations sticking to the deep-fried pie, such as Jacksonville, Tampa, and Des Moines. As of this date, the entire state of Hawaii still serves the deep-fried apple pie recipe.
According to Honolulu Magazine, Hawaii franchise owners banded together to convince the McDonald’s higher-ups that continuing to serve the fried apple pie made good business sense due to a higher demand for the fried version in the Aloha State.
The fried pie also lives on in some international locations, including Hong Kong, Mexico, Sydney, Stockholm, and Milan.
How Healthy is a McDonald’s Apple Pie?
You won’t find McDonald’s apple pie highly ranked on any nutritionist’s health food list, but it isn’t the worst choice you could make if you’re craving a sweet treat. Clocking in at 230 calories, the baked apple pie is the safest bet for the calorie-conscious on McDonald’s dessert menu.
It also has:
- 11 grams of fat
- 6 grams of saturated fat
- 14 grams of sugar
- 33 grams of carbs
The current version doesn’t contain preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial colors. The apple pie is also free of animal products, making it the only vegan option on the dessert menu.