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The McRib starts with seasoned boneless pork dipped in a tangy BBQ sauce, topped with slivered onions and dill pickles, all served on a toasted homestyle bun. When everything combines you have BBQ pork sandwich perfection. But its availability is limited—we’ll make sure to let you know when the McRib is back.

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* Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

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Percent Daily Values (DV) and RDIs are based on unrounded values.

** Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The nutrition information on this website is derived from testing conducted in accredited laboratories, published resources, or from information provided from McDonald’s suppliers. The nutrition information is based on standard product formulations and serving sizes. Calories for fountain beverages are based on standard fill levels plus ice. If you use the self-service fountain inside the restaurant for your drink order, see the sign posted at the beverage fountain for beverage calories without ice. All nutrition information is based on average values for ingredients and is rounded in accordance with current U.S. FDA NLEA regulations. Variation in serving sizes, preparation techniques, product testing and sources of supply, as well as regional and seasonal differences may affect the nutrition values for each product. In addition, product formulations change periodically. You should expect some variation in the nutrient content of the products purchased in our restaurants. Beverage sizes may vary in your market. McDonald’s USA does not certify or claim any of its US menu items as Halal, Kosher or meeting any other religious requirements. We do not promote any of our US menu items as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. This information is correct as of January 2022, unless stated otherwise.

The Untold Truth Of McDonald’s McRib

You know you’re doing something right as a top fast food spot when the entire internet rejoices at the return of one of your occasional menu items — even if it’s only back for a brief stay. McDonald’s stumbled onto something pretty special with the McRib, a sandwich from the quick serve king that causes people to stop what they’re doing and head to the Golden Arches whenever it pops back up on the menu — no matter how long (and slow) that drive thru line might be. So, what’s the deal with the McDonald’s McRib? Why does it cause such a stir, and is it really worthy of all the hype? Is it even really rib meat, and why can’t they just leave it on the menu? You might think you know what’s going on between those buns, but you don’t really know the whole story of the famed McRib. Until now.

A food scientist came up with the McRib process

Getting a McRib to look like a cute little rack of ribs may seem like sorcery, but its roots are actually as old as the original pig concoctions. The National Pork Producers Council (there really is one) approached University of Nebraska animal science professor Roger Mandigo to come up with a way to make “shaped pork” out of pork trimmings to sell in fast food restaurants — specifically McDonald’s.

Mandigo basically took the sausage making method and revamped it using salts and other additives to hold everything in place. His first concoction was shaped like. a pork chop. McDonald’s wisely asked for something people would actually want on a bun, and requested that the Franken-pork resemble the boneless part of a backrib. And thus, the McRib happened.

You’re not eating a gym mat — seriously

You’ve probably heard the tale, the only difference between a McRib and a gym mat is you can’t wrestle on a McRib. The stories floating around the internet are that the McRib shares many of the same ingredients as a gym mat! Turns out that’s not exactly the case.

Lopez Foods Vice President Kevin Nanke says the McRib contains only a few ingredients — meat, salt, dextrose, which is a natural starchy sweetener, and water. There are also a bunch of preservatives — but that’s to be expected because it’s not like they’re grinding and shaping McRibs right at the Mickey D’s down the street. Azodicarbonamide, the offending “gym mat” ingredient, isn’t in the official ingredients McDonald’s rattles off on their website. So don’t sweat the gym mats, it’s not in there.

But let’s play devil’s advocate and say that by some scientific reaction a little azodicarbonamide did end up in the McRib. The FDA says that small amounts are safe. So even if there was the big A-word in there, you’re A-OK to chow down on a McRib.

It flopped at first — for financial reasons

Despite making it way past the chopped beefsteak in terms of availability, the McRib wasn’t the rousing success you might think. Competition on the menu came from the also-new Chicken McNugget, plus the burgers, so it didn’t take off as McDonald’s had hoped. There was another problem — pork prices. Sales didn’t match the increasing price of pork, so in 1985 the McRib disappeared from the menu. As much as the McRib is looked upon nostalgically as this item that got people rolling into McDonald’s it was truly the Chicken McNugget that vaulted McDonald’s into their untouchable status as the Fast Food King. And the menu only had room for one white meat — bye bye McRib.

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The real reason for the first comeback

Despite its absence from menus, a stray store here or there would occasionally have the McRib on their menu, and a very brief return in 1991 didn’t create the craze you associate with the McRib today. The first real comeback happened in 1994, all thanks to a movie.

McDonald’s has always loved product tie-ins. Even way back in 1979 Happy Meals featured a Star Trek tie-in, because what little kid doesn’t love Star Trek? Except all of ’em. The Arches tightened up their game over the years and eventually in the ’90s they got a little more sophisticated with the tie-ins. You may recall the closing credits of the cartoon The Flintstones feature a giant rack of ribs. When the Flinstone’s movie premiered, McDonald’s had an epiphany, “Why not bring our ribs back?” And thus, the first national McRib return happened. Oh, and pork prices were down again. That helped too. As quickly as the movie faded from our attention spans, the McRib did the same. And pork prices rose again, which certainly helped its departure.

McDonald’s created the “cult following”

After a few false starts in the early 2000s, McDonald’s announced a “farewell tour” for the “Beloved” McRib. The internet awoke to a website (now defunct) that called for signatures to a fake petition for the McRib to remain forever, and the fictional Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America sponsored the rallying cry. And of course it was all McDonald’s.

Despite the impossibility of a boneless pig and the ridiculous ads they ran, for some reason people didn’t completely catch on to the charade. Each time the farewell tour extended, the rallying cry was “it worked” — and it certainly did; McDonald’s created a true cult following for their own food. Urban Dictionary marks “McRib Mania” with an entry in 2010, and by 2011 news outlets reported on the return of the pork patty. Laugh all you want, but the success is in the profits, the McRib is a cult hero now.

It’s actually not that popular

So despite all the hype, all the mania, all the people driving everywhere with their one-star apps trying to find the McRib, why doesn’t McDonald’s just keep it on the menu all the time? Well, turns out, it’s just not that popular.

High pork prices might have chased it away in the 80s, but the bottom line is that McDonald’s didn’t sell enough of them to justify the supply cost. For something to make it at McDonald’s it needs to be massively huge; McNuggets? Good. Arch Deluxe? Bad. So McDonald’s did what they’re very good at; they created an advertising campaign that made the McRib into the cult thing that people want. And they can roll it out when pork prices dip — like in November when that usually happens. There’s nothing wrong with liking the McRib, but it’s not there all the time because you’re in a small minority.

It’s super salty because it has to be

The McRib is made from boneless pork picnic, a cut that’s known to be “tough and fatty” but certainly edible with a little magic. That process to “form” the McRib specifically involves using salt to extract proteins and using those to bind the meats together into a shape. And it takes a whole lot of salt to pull that magic trick off. One McRib will provide you 36 percent of your daily intake of salt; if that feels like a lot, that’s because it is. But considering McDonald’s infatuation with salt, it’s not that bad of a choice at the Golden Arches.

Basically, salt added to the process will restructure the protein and act as an emulsifying agent. So the key to the dish — and the secret to getting the pork to look like you want it to — is the salt. But there’s other stuff going on to make the magic happen as well.

A classically trained chef concocted it

If you figured the guy who came up with all the ideas for the food at McDonald’s started as a fry cook and worked his way up, guess again. Chef Rene Arend, Luxembourg born and trained in France, worked the kitchen at the Whitehall Club in Chicago, a favorite of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. He begged Arend to join the Arches and in 1976 McDonald’s had it’s very first executive chef.

As the big (Mc)Cheese Arend also had the task of coming up with new foods for McDonald’s to roll out. A trip to South Carolina tickled his fancy; he tried pulled pork, a southern staple, and quickly discovered the secret to it — dressing up lower quality cuts of pork in a tangy sauce to create an edible delight. When you put it like that it’s not very appetizing, but it’s not too far off from what the McRib originally was.

The bun is familiar

That hoagie style bun may seem like an outlier in the McDonald’s family of foods, but it’s actually a leftover from another attempt at making a “non-hamburger” addition to the menu. A few years before the McRib hit stores, McDonald’s tested a chopped beefsteak sandwich — a delicious concoction of chopped beefsteak and onions on a hoagie style roll and an optional steak sauce to top it off. To this day it remains the greatest thing I ever had from McDonald’s, but alas, it wasn’t to be. The beefsteak sandwich never made it out of testing stage despite getting a few commercials on national TV. The only thing that remains of the beefsteak is the bun — but now it has sesame seeds.

Want to know where the McRib is? There’s an app for that

Despite the tom foolery to get it going, the McRib craze is real today. The McRib’s November 2017 return saw the same news reports we all saw before — and there’s even a website dedicated to finding locations that still carry it. This way you can drive hundreds of miles to get a pork sandwich. Sure, there’s no guarantee they’re 100 percent accurate (they rely on loyal McRib fans to report when and where they saw their beloved sandwich) but when you’re desperate for a McRib you’ll roll the dice on user-created info. Maybe just make a call to the restaurant in question before you set out on your adventure.

Copycat McDonald’s McRib Recipe

McDonald’s McRib is a relatively simple sandwich: pork, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions, served up on a hoagie bun. It doesn’t seem like the type of thing that would make people crazy, and yet it has an incredibly devoted following. Over the years, it’s popped on and off the menu at McDonald’s across the nation, creating what The Atlantic refers to as the “Cult of the Elusive McDonald’s McRib.” In fact, the sandwich is so popular, it spawned a McRib Locator website, allowing fans to find a McRib or share the most recent sighting of the hard-to-find sandwich.

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What makes this sandwich so craveable? Forbes argues that the sandwich achieved cult status because of McDonald’s brilliant marketing campaign. It’s so well hyped when it’s re-released — enticing people with quite a bit of urgency, using language like, “Get it while it lasts!” — that it creates its own buzz. That might be true, but the flavor of the sandwich has to hold up to the excitement. This is where the McRib truly shines. It’s simultaneously sweet, salty, savory, and sour, stimulating your taste buds at the mere thought of taking a bite. We would be lying if we said our mouths aren’t watering just thinking about it.

Instead of waiting until the next McRib release, why not try making it at home? It seems like something that would be close to impossible, but when we put our McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe to the test, we were pretty amazed at the results.

Gather the ingredients for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

The first step to making a copycat McDonald’s McRib sandwich was gathering the right ingredients. McDonald’s product page was down at the time we wrote this article since that sandwich wasn’t currently available, so we couldn’t get the information straight from the source. To make matters worse, there are a lot of rumors out there about the McRib and what it may (or may not) contain.

Luckily, the McRib Locator blog debunked the theories that the patty is made from kangaroos or unicorns when they posted the list of ingredients. The pork patty is regular pork — ground up from the pork shoulder.

From there, we just needed to create a patty by grinding the pork with water, salt, and sugar — McDonald’s uses dextrose, a sugar derived from corn, but we swapped in regular granulated sugar because it’s easier to find. Then, the patty is dipped in McRib Sauce, a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce similar to Hunt’s Original.

Based on the ingredients list, we decided to make our own barbecue sauce using ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, and spices (ground cumin, ground coriander, and chili powder). The only things left to pick up was sliced pickles, chopped onions, and a hoagie-style roll.

You’ll find a full ingredients list, including quantities and step-by-step directions, at the end of this article.

The basis of a McRib sandwich is the pork meat patty

There have been a lot of theories over the years about what McDonald’s puts in its McRib sandwich patty. In 2011, Chicago Magazine reported that it is made with real meat, but that meat is likely restructured meat products. These less desirable parts of the pig (like the heart and stomach) are made more palatable by chopping them up and turning them into patties, mixing them with salt-soluble proteins that hold the meat together like “glue.”

In a 2009 Maxim article (via Yahoo!), Rob Cannell, then director of McDonald’s U.S. supply chain, confirmed that there is very little rib meat in the patties. That doesn’t mean it’s not meat, though; he explained it’s made primarily from pork shoulder meat. It’s “chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks like a rib back. Then we flash-freeze it. The whole process from fresh pork to frozen McRib takes about 45 minutes.”

You can grind up your own shoulder meat if you like, but we used pork chops because they’re easier to buy in smaller quantities. If you don’t want to mess with the whole grinding part, you could also start with pre-ground pork. You’ll definitely want to whip it together with the salt, sugar, and water, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough to form into patties.

Choose the right type of bun for this McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

Most of McDonald’s sandwiches are sold on a toasted sesame seed bun, but not the McRib. After the meat goes through the grinder, it’s shaped to look like a rack of ribs. According to NPR, the scientist that created the pork patties originally formed them into the shape of a pork chop. McDonald’s wasn’t keen on serving pork chop sandwiches and asked for the patties to be shaped “like the boneless part of a backrib” instead. Because pork ribs are rectangular in shape, that decision required a different style of bun.

It’s nearly impossible to find an exact replica of the McRib’s homestyle roll, but most hoagie buns will do. You don’t want to use French bread or another type of crusty bread, because the McRib bun is most definitely soft. You might not be able to find one with the semolina dusting on top (we couldn’t), but look for 6-inch hoagie rolls. Sara Lee Center Split Hoagie Rolls or Francisco International French Sandwich Rolls were the closest matches we could find.

Start by making the pork patty for your McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

Okay, enough talk about ingredients; let’s get cooking! The first step for making the McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe is grinding up the pork. Since most people don’t have a meat grinder, we’re going to use a food processor instead. It works surprisingly well, but you do have to cut the pork into 1-inch pieces before you get started. If you threw the entire chop into the food processor, it would grind unevenly, leaving you with some larger pieces and some overprocessed pieces.

After you break down the pork chops, place the cubes in a food processor. Add the salt and sugar to season the pork, and a few tablespoons of water to help the pork come together to create a sticky mixture. You definitely want to use cold water here; hot water would start cooking the pork, which we definitely don’t want. When the mixture is smooth and looks like ground pork, you’re ready to shape and freeze the patties.

Let the patty freeze for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

Now it’s time for the part that might seem difficult or overwhelming: You get to shape the ground pork so it looks like fake ribs. Before getting started, we were worried about this step, but we actually had a lot of fun with it. Start by dividing the ground pork into four 4-ounce portions. If you have extra meat, don’t make the patties larger because they won’t fit on the buns if they’re too long or wide. We suggest sticking to the 4-ounce patty and using any leftover pork for another dish.

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Wet your hands under cold, running water to make the patties easier to form. Then, working with one patty at a time, form each portion into a rectangle that’s roughly 6-1/2 long by 3-inches wide. If you need a visual reference, take a peek at the hoagie roll: that’s the shape you’re going for. Using your fingers, create little indentations in the patties to make them look like “ribs.” Don’t worry about perfection here; McDonald’s likely uses a machine to make their patties look perfect, and yours certainly won’t look the same. The indentations don’t affect the final flavor at all, so don’t stress it too much.

Place the patties on a piece of parchment paper and cover them with another piece of parchment. Freeze the patties until they’re frozen solid, which should take about two hours. If you want to save the patties for later, transfer the frozen patties to a freezer bag.

Meanwhile, prepare the McRib BBQ sauce for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

While you’re waiting for the patties to freeze, you may as well make the best of the time by making the barbecue sauce. If you’re not into making everything from scratch, you can absolutely pick up a bottle of grocery store barbecue sauce. To stay as close to the original as possible, look for a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Sauces like Sweet Baby Ray’s are a touch on the sweet side for the McRib sandwich, but Hunt’s Original Barbecue Sauce or Bull’s Eye Sweet & Tangy get pretty close.

It’s really easy to make barbecue sauce at home, so give it a try if you have the time. There are a lot of ingredients here — ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander. Luckily, the steps are super simple: Just combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring it to a boil over high heat, and reduce the heat to a simmer. After about 15 minutes, the flavors will meld together and taste just like McRib sauce.

Cook the pork patty for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

When the McRib patties are good and frozen, the rest of the process comes together extremely quickly. There’s no need to wait for the patties to defrost; they’re so thin, they will cook in about three to four minutes per side, even when frozen. This is great news because it means you can double (or triple) this recipe and always have ready-to-cook McRib patties in the freezer.

When you’re ready to eat, preheat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is nice and hot (right before it begins to smoke), add the frozen pork patty — rib side up — directly to the griddle. After a few minutes, the patty should be a beautiful shade of golden brown on the bottom. Flip it over and let the rib side cook for the same amount of time, until it’s nice and browned. If you bought prepared ground pork, the National Pork Board recommends cooking the patties until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If you ground your own at home from a pork chop or pork shoulder, it only needs to be cooked to 145 degrees.

Dunk your pork patty into BBQ sauce for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

You’re going to want to dig into your McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe right away, but we recommend letting the pork patties cool for a minute or two before dipping them into the barbecue sauce. One of the reasons McDonald’s sandwich is so good is because it has a thick layer of sweet and tangy barbecue that clings to the patty. In our test batches, we found the sauce stuck best if it was around room temperature (not hot off the stove or cold straight out of the refrigerator). It also seemed to cling better if the pork patty had a minute to cool before we got to dunking.

It was also easier to dip the patty if we put the sauce into a large bowl first. We tried dunking the patties with our fingers, but that got really messy really quickly! It was definitely cleaner to use a set of tongs to lower the pork into the bowl of barbecue sauce. Give it a turn and pull it up, letting any excess drip off into the bowl.

Assemble the sandwiches for McDonald’s McRib copycat recipe

We’re almost ready to eat. The only step that’s left is assembling the sandwich. While the pork was cooling for its dip into the barbecue sauce, we buttered up the cut side of each hoagie roll. Then, we placed them onto the hot griddle until they were lightly browned, which only took about a minute. This step not only infuses buttery flavor into the bun, but it also warms it up, making it ready to receive the hot sandwich patty.

From there, place the barbecue sauce-dipped pork patties onto the bottom bun. Top the patty with a few pickle slices and a few tablespoons of the sliced onions. Put the top bun on and get ready to enjoy, because that’s it. This sandwich doesn’t have any fancy toppings, lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard, or ketchup. It’s so simple, but that might be why it’s so dang delicious.

How close did we get to the real McDonald’s McRib sandwich?

We have to say, we really really nailed it on this one! This sandwich satisfied every quality we dream about when we can’t get the McRib sandwich: A salty pork patty, covered in sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, served up on a warm and fluffy bun. It has everything your taste buds crave, all wrapped up in a messy package. Because, yes, that barbecue sauce does tend to drip, so you better eat this one over the plate.

If we’re being really critical, our faux rib formations didn’t quite hold up on the griddle. They were sort of there, but it didn’t look as much like a rack of ribs as McDonald’s. And, as we mentioned previously, our bun doesn’t have the semolina dusting on top, so it looked a little plainer than the original. But, none of these things affected the flavor. We would make this sandwich over and over again, and we’d absolutely recommend doubling the recipe so you always have a pork patty on-hand in the freezer.