Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (2022)

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (1)

Dane RiveraTwitterContributing Writer

Dipping sauces are a quick and easy way to elevate the often one-note flavors of McDonald’s fries and McNuggets (that one note typically being salt) to a level one might call “almost complex.” Okay, maybe “almost complex” is still be too strong a phrase, but our point is that McDonald’s dipping sauces make their food significantly better — which begs the question, which of McDonald’s dips and condiments tastes the best?

This is probably an actual question you’ve asked yourself in the drive-through — considering McDonald’s offers one to two free dipping sauces with your meal but chargers for extra sauce, thus forcing you to pick a team. Are you all about the Tangy BBQ? Are you a Ranch person? Have you even bothered to try the full lineup?

With the weekend approaching, we decided to find out which sauce tastes the best by taste testing all of them on the two best McDonald’s foods to dip — French fries and McNuggets.

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (4)

Currently, McDonald’s has the following dips and condiments:

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Spicy Buffalo
  • Sweet n’ Sour
  • Hot Mustard
  • Ranch
  • Tangy BBQ

…And, beginning March 31st for a limited time and while supplies last…

  • The legendary Szechuan Sauce.

Pro tip: If you order all of these sauces in one go, as I did, whoever is working will be sure to remind you that you’re paying for each of these sauces (helpful!). They will also treat you like a weirdo who is somehow trying to prank them (less helpful!). Anyway, let’s dip, starting with the worst of the sauces…

8. Tangy BBQ

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (5)

Tasting Notes:

I’m sorry if you’re team Tangy BBQ but this is legitimately the worst, let me emphasize, the worst, barbecue sauce I’ve ever tasted in my life. It hardly even tastes like BBQ sauce, you would only classify it as such because of the color — which looks more like slightly dark ketchup than your typical BBQ. The sauce goes very heavy on the vinegar notes with a sweet tomato-forward flavor.

There are no traces of smoke here, it’s sugary sweet and bright with a tangy almost sour after taste. Truly the weirdest BBQ sauce ever.

Fries Or Nuggets?

Neither, this sauce tastes equally bad on the nuggets and fries. Once the saltiness of the chicken and fries meets this overly tangy and sweet sauce, the sour flavors come to the forefront causing a wince-inducing experience.

7. Mustard Packet

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (6)

Tasting Notes:

Mustard is a wonderful condiment, it’s packed with all sorts of complex, earthy flavors, McDonald’s mustard though doesn’t quite… cut the mustard. Sorry, but really, this mustard doesn’t have the complexity of a good blend — it’s a little bit blunt and bitter, with a vinegar dominant flavor. It pairs nicely with beef but as a dip for fries or nuggets, it’s useless.

Fries Or Nuggets?

Fries. Mustard on nuggets just doesn’t really work, the bitter flavors of yellow mustard don’t do anything to elevate the salty flavor and crispy texture of the McNugget. On fries, they’re enjoyable enough, but they’re nobody’s first choice. You’re much better off blending the ketchup and mustard together if you go the fry route.

6. Ranch

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (7)

Like McDonald’s Tangy BBQ, the flavor of McDonald’s Ranch comes across as tasting cheap, more an approximation of ranch dressing than actual ranch dressing. It’s very sour-forward, with a sort of powdered sour cream and onion flavor with a loose milky consistency. It’s sour in flavor and smell, very off-putting.

Fries Or Nuggets?

You’re going to want to dip fries in Ranch, not the nuggets. The salty slightly sweet flavor of McDonald’s crispy french fries pairs better with the sour cream and onion flavor of this ranch dressing, on chicken it takes on an almost stomach-turning flavor.

5. Ketchup

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (8)

Tasting Notes:

As far as I can tell, McDonald’s has its own proprietary ketchup — that’s pretty dope, but it tastes almost exactly like Heinz. I know this because I also did a ketchup ranking not too far back, so I’m pretty zeroed in on the nuances of the different brands, and this has that same bright and slightly sweet flavor that Heinz has. It’s kind of hard to hate on ketchup, so the biggest insult we can give to the condiment is saying it’s mid-tier, which it is.

Nothing wrong with that though!

Fries Or Nuggets?

Ketchup tastes equally great on both! I like it a bit more for fries, I find the sweet bright tomato flavors pair nicely with the saltiness of McDonald’s fries, whereas on the chicken all it achieves is adding some moistness to the crispy mouthfeel.

4. Hot Mustard

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (9)

Tasting Notes:

Take “hot” with a grain of salt here because McDonald’s Hot Mustard sauce isn’t hot at all. There is a spice to it, but it’s spicy in the way garlic is spicy, not chili peppers. The flavor here is a bit blunt, and heavily vinegar-forward before settling into an intense sweet garlic flavor. It’s similar to McDonald’s mustard packets but with more interesting flavors that hit your taste buds in small waves.

I’ll never understand why McDonald’s ditched its delicious Honey Mustard sauce, which was both sweeter and spicier than this sauce.

Fries Or Nuggets?

It pairs much better with the nuggets than the fries. The salt of the fries muddies the sweet flavors of this sauce. On the nuggets, the white pepper and garlic flavor of the McNugget batter becomes emphasized by the slightly earthy flavor of this sauce.

3. Sweet N’ Sour

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (10)

Tasting Notes:

McDonald’s Sweet N’ Sour sauce attempts to capture the flavor of sweet ‘n sour dishes of takeout Chinese restaurants, and it almost gets there. As you may have noticed by now, a lot of McDonald’s sauces rely on sugar to deliver most of their flavor, and this sauce is no different. The word “sour” may be in the name, but make no mistake, there is nothing sour about this sauce — it’s corn syrup sweet. That said, it also has an interesting fruity component to it which adds a lot of depth. It tastes like apricot and plum with a brown sugar after taste that makes it incredibly addictive to dip into.

Fries Or Nuggets?

Nuggets are the play with this sauce. The way the sweet fruit and brown sugar flavors pair with the crispy light batter of the McNuggets tastes like a fast food version of sweet and sour chicken.

2. Spicy Buffalo

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (11)

Tasting Notes:

McDonald’s has sadly discontinued its Mighty Hot Sauce so for fans of spicy sauces, the Spicy Buffalo is all we have. The good news is that unlike McDonald’s Ranch and BBQ sauce, this actually tastes like it’s supposed to taste. The Spicy Buffalo has a cayenne pepper forward flavor with garlic and onion notes that settle into a pronounced lingering sizzle on the palate. It’s a great sauce, and if it weren’t for the legendary Szechuan, it would’ve taken the number one spot easily.

Fries Or Nuggets

C’mon, this is buffalo sauce we’re talking about here, you have to eat this on the McNuggets. When the cayenne dominant notes mix with the crispy salty flavor of the McNugget batter, you’ve got one of the best boneless wings in fast food. Grab a nugget, dip it in sauce, and then sandwich it between a small stack of fries. You’ll get your hands dirty, but you’ll have a crispy, salty, spicy treat that comes across better than any McDonald’s chicken sandwich so far.

1. Szechuan Sauce

Ranking Every McDonald’s Dipping Sauce, Tasted On Fries And Nuggets (12)

Tasting Notes:

We have to give the number one spot to McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce. Maybe it’s just the novelty of having something new, but this sauce is just tasting the best to me right now. The sauce will be available for a limited time while supplies last (something McDonald’s anticipates will be “a few days”) beginning March 31st but McDonald’s sent me over a small box of five that I will be now guarding with my life.

Ever since Szechuan Sauce (which was released to coincide with Disney’s Mulan in 1998) was mentioned in an episode of Rick and Morty, it’s gone on to enjoy legendary status amongst McDonald’s fans. And here’s the truth: It delivers!

Like all of McDonald’s sauces, the Szechuan is dominated by sweet notes. It’s not in the least bit spicy or hot, flavors most commonly associated with sauces from the Sichuan province of China. Instead, the sauce leans more on brown sugar ginger flavors, almost Teriyaki-like with a smokey after taste. The island of Japan is about 2000 miles away from the province of Sichuan, but… good try McDonald’s!

Aside from not really delivering on the expected heat, this sauce is pretty damn tasty with a sweet soy sauce flavor (not sure there is actual soy sauce in it though) that balances salty and sweet notes perfectly with a sweet smokey finish.

I can’t figure out why McDonald’s makes delicious sauces like the Szechuan, Mighty Hot, and Honey Mustard limited when they are leagues better than the stock sauces, but here we are, living in an age of artificial scarcity for the sake of hype. Rarely is that hype justified, and if you approach this sauce with a bunch of hype and anticipation, we’re telling you straight up that you’re going to be disappointed.

It’s good, but it’s not that good. At the end of the day it’s a just sugar-loaded sauce, which McDonald’s has many of.

Fries Or Nuggets?

It’s equally great on fries and nuggets and for that reason, we’re putting it just above the Spicy Buffalo. The sweet brown sugar and slightly smokey sauce pairs perfectly with the crispy mouthfeel of the chicken, and its subtle vinegary notes play nicely with the salty fries, offering some of that smokiness that the BBQ sauce is sorely missing.

Get it while you can, but if you miss it, just make your own: sugar, a splash of vinegar, corn starch, a splash of apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sesame seed oil. Half the ingredients, double the flavor.

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