The Gracoro is a perennial favorite fast-food item that many people look forward to every winter in Japan. Even those who don't usually eat at McDonald's are known to make an exception for the comforting hot sandwich. Actually, if you ask McDonald's Japan, it's a burger.

It was released as a regular menu item in 1993 as the グラタンコロッケバーガー (guratan korokke bāgā | Gratin croquette burger), but in 2021, its nickname, グラコロ gurakoro, became its official name instead. Stylized in English as "Gracoro," it's a portmanteau of グラタン and コロッケ the words "gratin" and "croquette" in the katakana syllabary usually reserved for foreign words and personal names.

Although it's mostly made of carbohydrates, with a heart of macaroni and white sauce in the center, breadcrumb breading and the whole thing sandwiched in buns, the Gracoro is a best-seller for McDonald's in Japan, and even has its own fan club, the グラコロ同盟 (Gracoro League). You could call it a guilty pleasure.

Trying the Gracoro

This is what the Gracoro looks like when you buy it. The design on the paper wrapper makes it look like the Gracoro is bundled in a scarf, conveying the notion that it's perfect to warm you up in winter.

Photo by grape Japan

As indicated in the small print in Japanese, it also contains crab and shrimp (as a flavoring in the white sauce), which means you may want to avoid the Gracoro if you're allergic to either of them.

By the way, we didn't put the smiley face on the bag. In McDonald's Japan, you can order a free smile, and this is what it looks like when you order one for takeout.

Photo by grape Japan

Inside, you can see the savory croquette sauce. You can ask them to hold the sauce or add extra sauce for both the croquette sauce seasoning the breading and the egg sauce spread on the buns (some branches may not take customization requests).

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There's a bed of shredded cabbage and egg sauce beneath the croquette patty.

Time to dig in.

Photo by grape Japan

Cutting our Gracoro in half with a kitchen knife ended up squashing it a bit so it may seem smaller than it would when you buy it, but we wanted to show you what it looks like inside.

The combination of crispy breading seasoned with a savory sauce on the outside and the hot, creamy gratin filling on the inside, the fresh shredded cabbage and an egg-based sauce, and the lightly sweet and chewy buns make for a comforting and satisfying combination. It's not hard to understand why people keep coming back to it year after year.

Photo by grape Japan

The Gracoro costs 370 JPY (incl. tax).

Seasonal varieties

The Gracoro will always be available in its standard format but you're also likely to find special versions on the menu. For the winter 2022 season, you'll find the ふわとろたまご濃厚デミグラコロ (fuwatoro tamago nōkō demi gurakoro | Gracoro with soft and creamy eggs and rich demi-glace sauce.

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As the mame indicates, this version adds scrambled eggs and a demi-glace sauce for a more luxurious taste.

Photo by grape Japan

The Gracoro with soft and creamy eggs and rich demi-glace sauce will set you back 420 JPY (incl. tax).

Whether it's the classic version or the seasonal special, the Gracoro is a unique item you won't find at any other McDonald's and something you might want to try when you visit Japan.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.