Dipping Sauces
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The Best — and Worst! — Fast-Food Sauces

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Dipping Sauces
WinThom/istockphoto

Sauce to the Races

While there are a few staple dipping sauces that most fast-food chains offer (think ranch, barbecue, and honey mustard), the reality is that most of those condiments taste pretty much the same across the board. Specialty sauces that offer unique flavors like Burger King's Zesty Sauce or Arby's Horsey Sauce, though? They're different. They're crucial. Because we are heroes, we tasted 24 specialty fast-food sauces — here's what you need to know, including which ones to avoid followed by the best fast-food sauces in the game that are not to be missed.


Related: The Best Fast Food Deals to Grab Right Now

Zaxby's Buffalo Garlic Sauce
Cheapism

Best Buffalo Variation: Zaxby’s Buffalo Garlic Sauce

It’s all in the name with this one — Zaxby’s house Buffalo sauce is heavily flavored with garlic, and there’s no denying that it works. Despite the radioactive orange color, this is a nice, thick, Buffalo sauce that clings well to chicken and truly benefits from that extra garlic kick.


Related: Fast Food Sauces We Loved (and Loathed) That Have Been Discontinued


Bojangles BBQ Sauce
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Worst BBQ Sauce: Bojangles

We’re not sure how the same restaurant that made the world’s most bangin’ honey mustard ended up cranking out this slimy nightmare but anything is possible. This is less of a barbecue sauce and more of a dark, brown, gooey ketchup. It’s wildly sweet and so desperately lacking that smoky, Worcestershire-y taste. If this winds up in your takeout bag, drop kick it into the garbage.

Bojangles Creamy Buffalo Sauce
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Most Depth: Bojangles Creamy Buffalo

There is something strange that happens with Bojangles’ Creamy Buffalo sauce. At first, you’re tasting mediocre Buffalo sauce, but then all of a sudden you can taste blue cheese, and then out of nowhere, there’s a hint of celery, and all of a sudden this Buffalo sauce doesn’t taste mediocre at all. It’s almost as though their sauce contains every element of a classic wings meal. What a rush.

McDonald's Buffalo Sauce
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The "It'll Do" Award: McDonald's Spicy Buffalo

Mickey D's Buffalo sauce has that nauseating consistency that many "creamy" sauces do, but the flavor is not bad and it's decently spicy. It's not the best Buffalo sauce you'll find, but it's certainly not the worst. It'll do.

McDonald's Sweet&Sour Sauce
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Is It Even a Sauce?: McDonald's Sweet & Sour

The Sweet & Sour sauce that McDonald's is serving is truly an enigma. We couldn't taste it after our first dip. We couldn't taste it after our second dip. We couldn't taste it when we stuck a finger into the container. We couldn't taste it when we dumped it all over our faces. McDonald's Sweet & Sour sauce doesn't taste like anything. How did they achieve this? Hats off to them.


Related: Why McDonald's Fries Used to Taste Better

Chick-fil-A Polynesian Sauce
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Most Useless: Chick-Fil-A Polynesian Sauce

If you've ever tasted a sweet chili glaze but thought, "I wish this had no heat and also had a ton of ketchup mixed into it," then this sauce is for you. If you've never thought that — because nobody ever has — then this sauce is not for you. However, Chick-Fil-A has so much faith in it that it's one of the brand's sauces you can even buy at Target and other stores. Go figure.

Burger King Zesty Sauce
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Biggest Oopsies: Burger King Zesty

When you're the King, you're surrounded by Yes Men, and in the sauce game that's not a good thing. We all need a bit of editing from time to time, and if somebody had tasted the King's Zesty sauce, they might have been able to tell him that something that tastes like Thousand Island dressing mixed with garlic and about a gallon of Vlasic pickle juice is a bad idea. Unfortunately, nobody did, so here we are. Amazingly, Burger King says it's their most popular sauce and temporarily ran out during a horseradish shortage in 2020.


Related: The Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Jack in the Box Teriyaki Sauce
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Biggest Whiff: Jack in the Box Teriyaki Sauce

This must be meant exclusively for their Teriyaki Bowl, but they offer it as a choice of dipping sauce when you get nuggets, so at some point in the future you may be tempted to try it out. We're here to tell you not to do that. It's thick and glazy, far too sweet, and will Venom-style absorb whatever you dip in. Avoid it at all costs.

Arby's Bronco Berry Sauce
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Biggest Head-Scratcher: Arby's Bronco Berry Sauce

Not quite sure where to begin here. Arby's has a sauce called "Bronco Berry". It's basically jelly. At first we thought, "Why does Arby's serve a dipping sauce that's basically jelly?" but then we learned that Bronco Berry is served with their jalapeño poppers. Then we thought, "Why does Arby's serve jelly with their jalapeño poppers?" Let us know if you find out. This sauce has a major fan base, as there are numerous copycat recipes on the internet.

Arby's Marinara Sauce
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No Horse in This Race: Arby's Marinara

Arby's makes marinara sauce for its mozzarella sticks. It's okay. Don't dip fries or nuggets in it. Because, ya know, it's marinara sauce. We're not really sure what else there is to say.

Domino's Garlic Sauce
Karen M./Yelp

Pure Sin, Yet Still Tempting: Domino's Garlic Sauce

Occasionally in this world, we do the wrong thing even when we know that it is the wrong thing to do (for instance, you may have eaten a Cinnabon at some point in the last decade). Though gluttony is quite literally one of the Seven Deadly Sins, sometimes we just have to fill our bodies with something delicious, despite the fact that it may as well be borderline poison. The Garlic Sauce from Domino's is just that. It tastes like 10 sticks of butter melted with garlic. It's delicious. It's poison for your body. Domino's Garlic sauce is pure sin.

Arby's Sauce
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Most Original Sauce: Arby's Sauce

Say what you will about Arby's, but they're blazing their own trail. Sure, they occasionally put out a marinara sauce for no reason and serve their jalapeño poppers with breakfast jam, but they're standing out from the crowd. Their namesake sauce is no exception: it's completely original, and a must-try. Sweet, tangy, spicy-ish, and full of bold Worcestershire flavor. Make sure it's on your sandwich.


Related: You Have to Try These Famous Sandwiches in Every State

Chick-fil-A Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce
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Best Barbecue Variant: Chick-Fil-A Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce

Essentially every fast food barbecue sauce tastes the same, but Chick-Fil-A has done a great job differentiating themselves. Theirs has all those smoky flavors you crave in a barbecue sauce, but it also tastes like they've dumped a little bit of honey mustard in there and mixed it together — and since their honey mustard is already mostly honey to begin with, this really ramps up the sweetness and creates a whole new barbecue sauce. It's incredibly tasty.

Popeyes Blackened Ranch Sauce
Tripadvisor

Best Ranch Variant: Popeyes Blackened Ranch

It's pretty simple here. Popeyes, as they are wont to do, has taken a sauce that you can find anywhere and improved on it. Though they still offer a great normal ranch, they are slinging a Blackened Ranch alongside it. It tastes exactly like it sounds: ranch dressing mixed with zesty "blackened" seasoning, like something you'd taste in fried catfish. It's very New Orleans. It's very delicious. And also hard to find, according to Reddit Popeyes fans.


Related: Fast Food Deals to Feed the Whole Family

Chick-Fil-A Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Sauce
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Best Glaze-Style Sauce: Chick-Fil-A Sweet & Spicy Sriracha

There are a lot of thick, jammy, glaze-style sauces on the market today, but none of them are even half as good as the one that Chick-Fil-A is busting out. It's almost like their Polynesian sauce was just a first draft, but realized they could fix it by adding that signature Sriracha red jalapeño spiciness. It tastes great on nuggets, fries, and the tips of your fingers.


Related: Exotic Condiments to Add Zing to Meals

Arby's Spicy Three Pepper Sauce
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Best Pepper Sauce: Arby's Spicy Three Pepper

Every chain has a spicy sauce or two, but for the most part they're variations of Buffalo or Sriracha. Arby's Spicy Three Pepper is different: darker, spicier, and more like a steak sauce. It makes sense, considering they specialize in roast beef. You want this sauce on your sandwich. You might even want this sauce on a steak.


Related: We Tried 20 Popular Hot Sauces — and These Are the Best

Arby's Spicy Buffalo Sauce
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Best Buffalo Sauce: Arby's Spicy Buffalo

Most fast-food Buffalo sauces come with the same caveat: they're all so globby and "creamy" that the whole experience is a little nauseating. All, that is, except Arby's. Their Buffalo sauce tastes like, well, actual Buffalo sauce. You'd do just fine dumping these on some wings.


Related: This Beloved Arby's Menu Item Is Making a Comeback


Popeyes Hot Sauce
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Best Spicy Sauce: Popeyes Hot Sauce

Popeyes, if you've been paying attention, just can't mess up. They know that simplicity is key, and nowhere is that exemplified more than in their signature hot sauce. If you like New Orleans-style pepper sauces like Crystal or Red Rooster, you'll love what Popeyes has going. We'd buy it by the bottle. 

Arby's Horsey Sauce
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Best for Sandwiches: Arby's Horsey Sauce

As a society, we've accepted that horseradish is the condiment of choice when it comes to roast beef sandwiches. Arby's Horsey Sauce is essentially just horseradish mayo, and thanks to that nostril-stinging horseradish flavor, Horsey sauce can take any sandwich to new heights. Stockpile it. You'll want it on every sandwich you ever eat.

Chick-fil-A Sauce
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Best for Nuggets: Chick-Fil-A Sauce

There's a lot to say about the Chick-Fil-A organization — most of it bad — but there's one thing that's undeniable: their titular Chick-Fil-A Sauce is a heavyweight of the highest degree. It exists simultaneously in the barbecue sauce and honey mustard space, tasting like both of them combined while also somehow tasting like neither. Chick-Fil-A Sauce is truly in a league of its own, offering a chance to add some flavor to the incredibly overrated chicken. Any nugget or tender would benefit from it.

Bojangles Honey Mustard Sauce
Cheapism

Best Honey Mustard: Bojangles Honey Mustard

There’s a specific type of person who would fall in love with Bojangles Honey Mustard, and we are that person. Bo is heavily favoring the honey on this one, making the mustard flavor show up as more of an afterthought. It’s still there — just enough, we say — and with a slightly less thick consistency than most other honey mustards, it feels a lot less gross to knock back an entire container. Outstanding work, Bojangles.

Zaxby’s Honey Mustard Sauce
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Worst Honey Mustard: Zaxby’s Honey Mustard

This sauce feels very much like a prank. Nothing like dipping your fingers, chicken, and fries into the same sauce over and over again without tasting anything at all to make you feel like you’ve lost your mind. It was all we had to not grab a COVID test based on how little we could taste of this sauce. Apparently it’s honey mustard. It tastes like nothing at all.

Zaxby's Hot Honey Mustard Sauce
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Swing and a Miss: Zaxby’s Hot Honey Mustard

In theory, this isn’t the worst idea. Honey mustard is a formidable dipping sauce, and one that’s not going out of style any time soon. It doesn’t need much improvement, but the idea of using Nashville-style hot honey is intriguing. Unfortunately, something has gone wrong here, because the combination of hot honey and mustard creates a weird, oddly tart flavor. The unfortunate first thought we had was: “Has this gone bad?” That’s not what you want from a sauce.

Zaxby’s Zax Sauce
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Biggest Let-Down: Zaxby’s Zax Sauce

Here’s the thing, Zaxby. You are slinging 12 different sauces. You’ve got some very high highs and some very low lows — and yet through it all, you’ve got one sauce amongst all of them that you’ve dared to put your name on. You’re out here telling the world to pay attention to this one above all others. But when it comes down to it, Zax Sauce is incredibly unremarkable. It’s hard to peg down the flavor — it’s kind of like an eggy, ranch dressing/Thousand Island hybrid with thick black pepper chunks. If that sounds gross to you, ding ding ding, you’re right. Zaxby’s, is this really the sauce you want to be known for?

Bojangles Ranch Sauce
Cheapism

Might as Well Be Hidden Valley: Bojangles Ranch Dressing

Is it plagiarism? Is it white labeling? Is it a wry nod to the heavyweight champ? We’re not sure what’s going on, but the Bojangles Ranch tastes exactly like Hidden Valley Ranch. The trick is, that’s a good thing: Hidden Valley Ranch is the absolute best in the game. We’ve never had a ranch dressing that even comes close. So, whatever Bojangles is up to in the ranch department, it should keep doing what it’s doing.


Zaxby's Ranch Sauce
Cheapism

Worst Ranch: Zaxby’s Ranch Dressing

It’s too bad Zaxby’s Ranch has to be so absolutely lame. Wings drenched in the Buffalo Garlic sauce are begging to be double dipped into some ranch dressing, but the Z-man’s ranch is so very, very mild and watery. It’s hard to get it to stick to your wings at all. If you’re in the South, you might as well swing by a Bojangles and grab some of those Hidden Valley vibes.


Zaxby’s BBQ Sauce
Cheapism

Most Forgettable: Zaxby’s BBQ

This is a perfectly acceptable barbecue sauce. It’s thick, it’s smoky, it’s only slightly sweet — it checks all the boxes. However, the sheer amount of sauce options that Zaxby’s has going on really leaves you with no excuse to go for something so boring and basic. Zaxby, that rat, is charging 33 cents per sauce, so make your selections count.

Zaxby's Teriyaki Sauce
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Best Teriyaki Sauce: Zaxby’s Teriyaki

Now this right here is a mighty fine teriyaki sauce. It’s light, tangy, smoky, and just the right amount of sticky. Oftentimes fast-food teriyaki gets lost in the sweetness and it just turns into a sugary barbecue glaze, but Zaxby’s has nailed the recipe. It’s too bad that teriyaki sauce is so moderately suited to fried chicken, because a grilled chicken & rice bowl is actually where this would shine.


Zaxby's Sweet & Spicy Sauce
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Biggest Dark Horse: Zaxby’s Sweet & Spicy

Ole’ Zaxby is all over the map when it comes to sauces, but it cannot be denied that when it hits, it hits hard. Sweet & Spicy sauce is exactly that, a beautiful take on a sweet chili glaze, with a perfect amount of heat to counterbalance the sweetness. There’s a healthy dose of sesame oil too, to complete that full umami experience. We’d put this on literally anything.

Zaxby's Nuclear Sauce
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The Eye-Roll Award: Zaxby’s Nuclear Sauce

If you are going to call a hot sauce “nuclear,” you better be packing some real heat. This is a nice, spicy, surprisingly tasty sauce, but nuclear? C’mon now. We expect a lot more with a word like that, and with a sauce that’s only moderately spicy, it loses a lot of the heat when you dip chicken or fries into it. This honestly just tastes like Tabasco sauce with some ground pepper. Crank up the heat Zaxby’s — we can take it.


Zaxby's Wimpy Sauce
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Best Sauce for People Who Hate Sauce: Zaxby’s Wimpy Sauce

Is Zaxby’s Wimpy Sauce named simply for the fact that it’s one of the least spicy of its sauces? Yes. Wimpy as far as spiciness goes, absolutely. It’s also quite wimpy as far as, well, flavor goes. This tangy, ketchupy liquid will do fine if you’re desperate to strip your food of as much flavor as possible. Other than that, it should probably be avoided. 

Carl's Jr.
Carl's Jr. by Allen (CC BY-NC)

Overall Dip Dork: Carl's Jr.

You may have noticed Carl's Jr. did not appear anywhere on this list. This is because Carl's Jr. does not make even one single specialty sauce. Their sauce lineup consists of ranch, barbecue, and honey mustard. Boooooring. Because of this, we present to you the opposite of a Sauce Boss: The Dip Dork. Who is the Sauce Boss, then, you ask? Great question…

Louisiana Kitchen Popeyes
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Overall Sauce Boss: Popeyes

This was a tough title to hand off, especially with Arby's clocking in at a whopping nine sauce options. However, Arby's has a little too much nonsense going on, and even though no single Popeyes sauce is as powerful as Chick-Fil-A's namesake condiment, their consistent lineup across the board makes them the winner. They offer strong takes on the classics, while also offering innovations to offset them. Every sauce goes well with their tenders and fries — Popeyes knows what they're doing. They are the Sauce Boss.


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