In addition to getting rid of PlayPlaces and its Supersize option, McDonald’s has quietly axed multiple menu items over the years. Some products developed a cult following, while others overstayed their welcome. (Replacing beef with pineapple was not Ray Kroc’s best business decision.) From vegetarian McNuggets to fast-food pasta, you may remember these discontinued items from McDonald’s history.
Before the Chicken McNugget hit menus, McDonald’s sold a vegetarian nugget made of deep-fried, breaded onions. Exclusively available in select U.S. markets in 1978 and 1979, the Onion Nugget was one of the first items to accompany the chain’s famous burgers and fries. Though it had its fans, the side dish never made it to the broader market. In the early ’80s, the concept was redeveloped into the bite-sized chicken McNuggets customers know today.
McDonald’s made a big bet on pizza in the late 1980s—the chain even went so far as to develop a quick-cooking oven and widen their drive-thru windows in order to serve the pies in a fast-food setting. Despite their efforts, however, the item disappeared from the menus of most restaurants within a few years. There is a lone McDonald’s in Orlando, Florida, that still fights the good fight by not only continuing to offer the McPizza, but allowing customers to choose their own toppings.
In 2013, McDonald’s experimented with a different type of non-chicken nugget. Fish McBites presented the crispy pollock of a Filet-O-Fish sandwich in a bite-sized package. Customers weren’t crazy about the seafood nuggets, and they were discontinued that same year (but not before inspiring some truly bizarre marketing, as you can see above).
If McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc had his way, a “burger” featuring pineapple instead of beef would have claimed the Filet-O-Fish’s spot on the menu. In an attempt to find a meatless alternative for Catholic customers during Lent, an Ohio franchise pitted the two sandwiches head-to-head in 1963. Franchise owner Lou Groen was behind the fried fish sandwich, and Kroc was responsible for the Hula Burger, which consisted of a pineapple slice topped with cheese on a bun. The Filet-O-Fish was by far the more popular of the two items, and it earned a permanent spot on the menu while the Hula Burger was chalked up as a failed experiment.
It’s easy to see why McSpaghetti never reached the level of the Big Mac or McNuggets: Pasta and marina sauce in a box didn’t translate as well to fast food service. Though it was discontinued in the U.S. in the 1980s after first appearing in 1970, the dish can still be purchased in McDonald’s in the Philippines.
McDonald’s introduced the McHotDog in 1995, and it was discontinued by the end of the decade. Though Ray Kroc wasn’t alive to witness the product’s failure, he predicted it in his 1977 autobiography Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s. His warning on the perils of processed meat reads: “There’s damned good reason we should never have hot dogs. There’s no telling what’s inside a hot dog’s skin, and our standard of quality just wouldn’t permit that kind of item.”
McDonald’s is hardly haute cuisine, but in 1996, the chain developed a burger that catered to more refined palates. The Arch Deluxe featured such luxurious ingredients as peppered bacon, “Dijonnaise,” and bakery-style rolls. It also came with a luxurious price tag—the burger cost up to $2.50 (around $4.60 today) in some markets, making it more expensive than a Big Mac. The company’s $300 million marketing campaign wasn’t enough to convince customers that its food could be classy, and the Arch Deluxe was discontinued shortly after it debuted, amounting to one of the biggest flops in the company’s history.
In 2019, McDonald’s released a new McFlurry flavor for the holiday season. The Snickerdoodle McFlurry featured crunchy cookie pieces mixed into a vanilla soft serve base. Despite the product’s positive reception, it was only available for a limited time. Today, McFlurry fans have to choose from one of the classic flavors like Oreos and M&Ms around the holidays—at least on days when the machine that makes them is working.
The Fruit and Walnut Salad was part of McDonald’s push to offer lighter fare in the 2000s. Consisting of nuts, apples, grapes, and low-fat yogurt, the item was meant to appeal to the chain’s health-conscious clientele—though, those customers were apparently few and far between. The salad suffered the same fate as many of McDonald’s “healthy” items and was discontinued in 2013, eight years after it was introduced.
McDonald’s has found plenty of success with chicken, but bone-in products were still new territory for the company in 1990. That year, they took a gamble on Mighty Wings. Unlike other products on this list, the deep-fried hot wings performed better than expected. They were conceived as a limited-edition item, but they were popular enough to earn a spot on menus until 2003. A cult following contributed to their brief revivals in 2013 and 2016, but in the end, Mighty Wings proved too costly and complicated to stick around for good.
Instead of a fancy ingredient, the appeal of the McDLT (McDonald’s Lettuce and Tomato) was in the packaging. The burger came in a special Styrofoam container that separated the patty from the lettuce and tomato. This ensured “the hot stays hot,” and the “cool stays cool,” as the advertisements starring a young Jason Alexander boasted. It was introduced in the 1980s and discontinued at the start of the following decade as the company moved away from polystyrene packaging.