How to Make Eating Big Macs Totally Acceptable (For Vegetarians Too!)
Say what you will about McDonald’s, but it is the delicious stuff of dreams. Particularly drunk 2:00 am dreams. As a vegetarian, the forbidden fruit of McDonald’s is constantly tempting me, so I took matters into my own hands and made some Mickey-D classics at home: Big Macs, Filet-O Fishes, fries, and Shamrock Shakes. I knew I wanted to share the love, so some friends came over to help me assemble, eat, and review our experiment.
First up was some serious research. The internet is so helpful, guys! I found this little file, supposedly from a Geocities website of a former McDonald’s manager. It has recipes for seasonings, sauces, how to cook burgers, and how to assemble every dish (including ones I’d never heard of before – what the fuck was a McDLT?). [Ed: It became the Big N' Tasty, which is the best McDonald's menu item.] I pulled some tips from here, including the burger seasoning, how those onions get so tiny, and toasting buns (don’t worry – all recipes are listed below).
Lifehacker has a great article about making different fast food classics at home, and I pulled from several elements of a Local Lemons post that they cite about making sustainable and organic Big Macs, particularly the special sauce. After researching Filet-O Fish recipes (my personal favorite and an occasional non-vegetarian indulgence), I thought why mess with a good thing, and kept the recipe basic. I did not make my own tarter sauce, but this website has a good looking and easy recipe if you are so inclined. I did think briefly about trying to make authentic fries, especially after reading this awesome Serious Eats article about how to duplicate them, but ultimately my hatred of frying things on my stove won and I made seasoned baked fries. Finally of course, we needed dessert, and since ’tis the season for green, the obvious choice was Shamrock Shakes. If you own a blender or milkshake maker, this was definitely the easiest portion of the night.
The food was a success – the special sauce was surprisingly accurate in taste, if not in color. One friend described getting “definitely whiffs of McDonald’s” throughout the night. Everyone claimed everything was delicious, but I do have very polite friends. This would all make excellent party food, especially if you wanted to make littler versions of each dish.
And now for the most important part: the recipes. The recipes below are copied directly from the sources, but I let you know in parentheses if I made any substitutions or if I have any recommendations for the future.
I used a veggie burger recipe from Lukas Volger’s book Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. This is a basic bean burger since I didn’t want to overpower any other McDonald’s flavors. You bake them, so they can come out a little dry. Since I made these ahead of time, I reheated in oil on the stove, which helped the dryness. I totally recommend this book, by the way. It has fantastic veggie burger recipes with easy ingredients, and tons of recipes for buns, condiments, sides, and dressing items. You could also easily use Boca or Morningstar burgers for this if you want to cut down on prep time.
Easy Bean Burgers (makes four burgers)
1.5 cups cooked beans (can use any kind – I used black beans and chickpeas)
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup roughly chopped parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan (I used a dairy-free substitute)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (mine wasn’t freshly ground and it was fine)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (also not fresh, still fine)
¾ cup toasted bread crumbs, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a mixing bowl, mash the beans using a potato masher or fork (this would have been easier in a food processor or blender). Fold in the eggs, parsley, Parmesan, mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Fold in the bread crumbs, adding more if the mixture is too loose. Let sit for 5-10 minutes for the crumbs to soak up some moisture. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties.
3. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 6-10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
This is from the former manager, who promised every McDonald’s burger was sprinkled liberally with this season. I would not be at all surprised.
4 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Mix all ingredients well in a spice shaker with big enough holes to allow pepper to flow. Makes about 3 ounces. Use on ALL McDonald’s hamburgers. (If you’re allergic to MSG, then just use salt and pepper.)
We recommend that you accompany the manufacture of special sauce with a beer.
I used the recipe from Local Lemons, and while my arm certainly hurt from all the whisking, it did turn out delicious. Also, I drank a beer during the process, which helped.
1 large shallot, minced (my grocery store didn’t have shallots, so I just used a small onion)
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup portions
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar, separated (I used cider vinegar)
1/2 cup organic ketchup (I make my own ketchup, which is crazy easy. Go light on the cloves, though)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar (Used regular granulated sugar)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoons sweet relish
2 teaspoons lemon juice, separated
1 tablespoon Paprika
The special sauce and ketchup.
In a large bowl, beat together egg yolk, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Take a kitchen towel and roll it into the shape of an “O.” Place your bowl on top of the towel – this will prevent it from moving around when whisking the aioli. While whisking, add a few drops of olive oil. Keep whisking, and add a few more drops. And a few more. When your sauce begins to thicken, add olive oil in a very slow stream, whisking constantly. Your arm should hurt at this point. When all of the olive oil is incorporated, taste for salt, and add last teaspoon of lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, whisk together ketchup, sugar, minced shallots, 1 tablespoon sweet relish, 1 tablespoon vinegar, paprika and a pinch of salt. Whisk in ½ cup of olive oil in a slow stream.
Slowly add the French dressing to the aioli. Stir to combine, and taste as you add the dressing – you may need not all of it. I had about 2 tablespoons of the French dressing left over. Garnish with a pinch of paprika on top.
Big Mac, Big Finish
I toasted my store-bought buns on the stove top, then cooked the burgers in a little oil in a skillet. I sprinkled on the magic seasoning and cooked each side for about a minute and a half. After flipping the burgers, I sprinkled my rehydrated minced onions (4 parts water to 1 part onion, covered and refrigerated for 30 minutes). In the future, I will also put my cheese on while the burgers are cooking, since it didn’t melt as much as I’d like. I used Daiya cheese for my burgers and Kraft singles for everyone else’s.
After the burgers are done cooking, place one on the bottom bun. Then put lettuce, second bun, second burger, pickles (it’s totally worth it to make your own quick pickles – chop up a cucumber, soak for a couple days in equal parts vinegar and water and add whatever seasonings you want), special sauce, and bun crown. Viola! Big Mac, ready for eating.
As I mentioned, I hate frying. Oil gets everywhere and it’s hard to clean and I feel like there’s so much time pressure. Instead I baked these fries. I have heard it’s good practice to soak the raw potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes before to get rid of some excess starch (and then drying them as much as possible), but I am always running too far behind.
Cut as many russet potatoes as you want into approximately ¼ in. matchsticks. Toss in oil, salt, and pepper, put on a cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 45 minutes, tossing every 15.
Unless you want to catch, kill, and bread your own fish, this sandwich is pretty easy. This tasted identical to the real thing.
The Final Filet Frontier
I bought some Dr. Praeger’s fish patties, cooked them in the oven according to directions, put them on a bun, covered with cheese and added tarter sauce.
Making milkshakes is always fun and easy; I’m not sure why I don’t do it more often. This recipe came from Food Geeks and makes two decent servings.
2 cups vanilla ice cream (I used So Delicious Coconut ice cream, since I’m allergic to dairy)
1-1/4 cups milk, 2% lowfat (I used almond milk here)
¼ tsp. mint extract
8 drops green food coloring
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Stop blender to stir with a spoon if necessary to help blend ice cream. Pour into 12-ounce cups and serve each with a straw.
We will live forever in this beautiful mint shake
- Gretchen Neidhardt