Every Popeyes Sauce, Ranked Worst To Best

It's safe to say that Americans are creatures of habit when it comes to fast food. They'll order the same meal from the same chain and make an array of requests that are, regardless of size, non-negotiable. Side sauces easily fall into this category, and it's clear that franchises like Popeyes have made them that way. In addition to bone-in white and dark meat, the Louisiana-based chicken chain slings tenders, nuggets, seafood, and a very famous fried chicken sandwich that's inspired brawls and countless competitors, plus biscuits and tasty sides to round out your meal. 

In other words, you're tasked with a lot of decision-making when the time comes to approach the Popeyes counter. One component that's easy to forget about, but packs no less of a punch: the dipping sauces. A look at the restaurant's current nutritional guide displays eight total sauces. However, you'll find that the restaurant has updated its selection over the years so the signature lineup doesn't always look the same. BoldBQ, Sweet Heat, Blackened Ranch, and Bayou Buffalo represent the range of flavor-fueled condiments available for firing up your two-piece meal or Cajun fries. 

Popeyes may have launched the Chicken Sandwich Wars as we know it, but do the condiments bring the same sort of heat? You're about to find out. Below, we'll dip into the Popeyes sauces bearing sweet, spicy goodness for all your chicken-dunking pleasure, and the ones that, taste-wise, are best left behind in the bag. Let the sauce showdown begin! 

10. Tartar Sauce

Tartar sauce is a classic garnish that is typically served at seafood restaurants. There's no questioning its cooling creaminess goes swimmingly with a basket of fish and chips. But in a sea of yummy dipping options to pair with Popeyes' chicken, the chain's Tartar Sauce, unfortunately, sinks to the bottom of our list. First of all, it's pretty generic. You'll taste it and say to yourself, "yep, that's tartar sauce" because there isn't anything distinctive about the experience. Popeyes is known for its heavy-handed flavor, being a Cajun restaurant and all, so to encounter a milky, although seasoned, mayo during your drive-thru run is underwhelming. 

Another mark against the Tartar Sauce is that it's not versatile enough. There aren't many menu items where you'd willingly choose the seafood condiment over the chain's zestier options, except possibly the Popcorn Shrimp. Even if you're in the mood for shellfish rather than chicken, there are other sauces here that would bring the zing much more than this. A bottle of McCormick spice mix from the grocery store would probably pack a much larger punch. 

Are we saying that the Tartar Sauce is terrible or inedible? Not necessarily. It'll do the job in a pinch should the tangy dip be what you're craving. However, Popeyes has set a high standard in the sauce arena for years. When there are so many scrumptious dressings begging for attention, its Tartar Sauce will flounder every time. Avoid being disappointed and simply skip this one. 

9. Creole Cocktail Sauce

Another fish-friendly option in the Popeyes arsenal is the Creole Cocktail Sauce. As a Cajun-infused twist on the traditional seafood dip, it's certainly a creative option that you won't find at many drive-thru joints. Regardless, that uniqueness shouldn't be confused with something that tastes good. Spying the word "Creole" in the name should signal that a fiery rush of heat will play out on your tongue. But, as a matter of fact, it's the opposite. The Creole Cocktail Sauce is actually pretty sweet, with not a lot of spice in sight (per Richard Reviews Everything). 

The chicken chain's version uses common ingredients found in cocktail sauce — think ketchup, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce, plus a blast of peppery seasonings. In theory, you should feel something when dipping pieces of breaded Popcorn Shrimp into this stuff. But the lack of oomph isn't the only issue with this drizzly dip. Its acidic flavor and greasy texture keep it from truly enhancing your meal and ultimately makes for a pretty unappetizing time, as quite a few Redditors argue. Moreover, the Creole Cocktail Sauce will probably only mesh with the chain's seafood items or wings, so it doesn't have much menu mileage, either.

We're all for a little risk-taking now and then, but is the Creole Cocktail Sauce worth smothering on a fresh batch of chicken? We don't think so. Look at it on the menu, acknowledge that it exists, and then slowly walk away. 

8. Bayou Buffalo

Digging into a basket of tenders or nuggets requires sauce that can cling to the crispy coating on the outside. If it's too runny, you'll be left with grubby fingers or a stain on your shirt begging to be blotted out with your Tide Pen (kept on hand for these exact situations, are we right?). Plus, an overly fluid sauce is just a hassle for any eating you hope to accomplish while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, that's where Bayou Buffalo, Popeyes' answer to the bar food staple of Buffalo chicken wings, currently stands. 

Let's start with the ingredients. Brand Eating confirms that three classic flavors of Buffalo sauce are there, namely: hot sauce, butter, and celery. Those are followed up by a plethora of Creole seasonings, presumably meant to lock the Popeyes flavor in. Seems pretty enticing on the surface. But when you peel off the lid, you'll find a runny sauce without any give. 

Not every dressing needs to resemble a viscous roux, obviously, but Popeyes customers know that dunking copious amounts of sauce on your tenders is just part of the bargain. This makes dipping into a diluted sauce like this a difficult task. Plus, the vinegar leaves a strong aftertaste that some diners might find unpleasant. Indeed, chicken and Buffalo sauce go hand-in-hand, but Popeyes just doesn't pull it off. Unless you enjoy the taste of Frank's Red Hot drowned in too much cayenne, dodge this one during your next dine-in. 

7. Hottie Sauce

Popeyes likes to roll out limited-run products now and then, with one of the spiciest in recent memory belonging to rapper Megan Thee Stallion. Her Hottie Sauce arrived in 2021 as both a dipping sauce and add-on to the chain's chicken sandwich — with a side helping of themed merch, of course (via Thrillist). Much like the musician herself, the condiment contains multitudes. It's sweet from honey, fiery from Aleppo peppers, and rounds itself out with a dash of cider vinegar injecting some zip and zing. 

For a condiment that goes by the moniker of "Hottie Sauce," the heat fizzles out fairly quickly. From the moment you dunk your first drumstick, there's barely a blip of warmth. That's disappointing when you're probably expecting a tongue-blasting burst of spice that'll reverberate in your mouth until the very end of the meal. What's more, The Impulsive Buy reveals that Hottie Sauce is pretty similar to one of the franchise's permanent sauce offerings: Sweet Heat, which also carries the flavors of honey and red peppers. We know that it's all but impossible to achieve total originality in fast food sauces, but the similarities between Hottie Sauce and Sweet Heat are just too obvious to ignore. 

For Popeyes to market Hottie Sauce as a brand-new idea when it already has a sweetly spicy option feels a little lazy. Also, it's no longer on the menu. It might have been fun while it lasted, but is it absolutely necessary? Eh, maybe not. 

6. Buttermilk Ranch

It's no wonder that ranch dressing has now usurped plain ol' ketchup as the condiment people happily squirt onto their food (per Money). Besides carrot sticks and salads, ranch dressing is a winning choice for all of our favorite junk foods including fries, pizza, and yes, fried chicken. Popeyes' dip domain features a Buttermilk Ranch that's plenty rich for submerging breaded poultry in whatever shape you order it. The chain's Buttermilk Ranch does have a few things going for it. The aromatic seasonings are balanced and give off enough flavor to enhance plain battered tenders without clashing with the chain's spicy variety. As far as we're concerned, it's pretty much foolproof if you want some dipping action with your meal. 

That said, we wouldn't call it Popeyes' all-time best. It suffers from the most notable pitfall of many ranch dressings: a lingering aftertaste. Buttermilk Ranch brims with potency, which explains why so many people reach for it. But the chicken franchise's sauce is bitter, bordering on sour if it marinates in your mouth for long enough. 

And have we mentioned the calorie bomb it drops? Just one of these little single-ounce containers tacks on an extra 140 calories, as per the chain's nutritional information. That's an honor that's only shared by Tartar Sauce in terms of fat content. Buttermilk Ranch is fine as a dipping sauce, unhealthiness aside. Just don't expect to be wowed. 

5. Wild Honey Mustard

Honey mustard is something of a wild card condiment that straddles the line between sweet and savory. And you know what? It's often a winner. Unlike the typical garnish of mustard that you may find zig-zagging your hot dog, honey mustard is a lot less harsh on the palate and tastes fantastic with a variety of meats. In some versions, the flavor can resemble a beefed-up barbecue sauce with its candied undertones that mingle with the more headstrong mustard seeds. 

For all its apparent simplicity, honey mustard can be incredibly nuanced. That's both good and bad. When it's been handled the wrong way, honey mustard can fly over the sweetness threshold Thelma and Louise-style into pure sugar overload, leading it to its inevitable ruin. It sounds dramatic, but thankfully Popeyes appears to strike this delicate balance with its Wild Honey Mustard. This sauce was originally released alongside the Boneless Wings in 2019 (via Brand Eating) and eventually joined the franchise's signature sauce lineup, although a few Facebook users hint that the dip has apparently been discontinued without much of an explanation. 

Maybe it's pointless to rate a possibly-retired dipping sauce, but we had to include it because it's very much alive to the swaths of people who crave its comeback every time they drive to the pick-up window. You won't experience a smoother honey mustard than this, one that glides on the tongue as easily as the crunchy morsels of chicken in your hand. 

4. Sweet Heat

If you enjoy thinner, glaze-like sauces for your fried chicken feast, then know that you're not alone. If you don't mind a bit of mess, there's something so satisfying about drizzling sticky sweetness all over your food. Plenty of fast-casual joints carry at least one option that fits the bill, like the Sweet 'N Sour sauce from McDonald's or Chick-fil-A's Polynesian Sauce.

Akin to the above-mentioned sauces is Popeyes' Sweet Heat, which has been a staple on the menu for over a decade at this point (via Brand Eating). While it's true that Sweet Heat has some spice (it should, considering hot sauce is one of the main ingredients), you quickly discover that its bark is far worse than its bite. That's because what starts as a peppery kick of flavor slides straight into caramelized, lip-smacking goodness that you'll almost certainly want to pair with everything. Dark or white meat, plain or spicy, poultry or fish — no matter what, it'll light a spark on your tongue with each and every bite.  

Although a reviewer at Brand Eating found this sauce to be a tad oily for their liking, there's no questioning that Sweet Heat is a firecracker of a sauce. And as any look at the Popeyes subreddit shows, it's without a doubt one of the most popular sauces currently available. Assuming you can handle a little bit of heat, throw this one in your bag for your next Popeyes supper. 

3. Mardi Gras Mustard

Mardi Gras Mustard is the confetti thrown at the end of a party. Or for a better comparison, it might be more like the bead toss during the New Orleans carnival that's in its name. Try it out, and you'll find that pure, unadulterated spice rains down on your tastebuds, from the zesty tones of horseradish and lemon to the vinegary edge of the mustard, seeds and all. Think of it less like a fast food condiment and more as a take on a Dijon like Grey Poupon (or its heftier brown mustard cousin) that the chain restaurant smuggled in from a gourmet deli and plopped into Popeyes packaging. 

Debating the merits of Mardi Gras Mustard (and its sweeter counterpart, Wild Honey Mustard) is a worthwhile undertaking. After all, both of them are mustard sauces that offer a little more than a standard French's-level kick. Yet there's something about the former here that gets our tastebuds in a tizzy in the best way possible. It's got a zingy kick that'll knock a giant chicken nugget right out of your hands, with a dense texture that, despite possibly being polarizing to some, gives it character. 

Pairing it with some of the tastiest fried chicken on the block is just a bonus to indulging in this one-of-a-kind sauce. There's nothing that won't go with it, and to get the most out of this slam-dunk dip takes a meatier offering like the chicken tenders to fully unleash the flavor. 

2. BoldBQ

Considering how many chicken dippers have tested the limits of the sauces at Popeyes and beyond, barbecue sauce seems almost too basic for considering. The nice thing about barbecue sauce, though, is its dependability. Even when it's nothing special, it still manages to get the job done as a sauce that's dunk-able and easy to drench over massive hunks of chicken. We're happy to say Popeyes' BoldBQ is not a dip you'll reach for in times of hunger-induced desperation, but something that you'll want to savor on its own. 

How BoldBQ got to become the runner-up in the battle of Popeyes sauces is not a mystery to anyone who's patronized the Louisiana chain from the beginning. While staples such as garlic powder, soy sauce, distilled vinegar, tomato paste, and molasses make up the key ingredients, there's something more going on here. We think that it's the hearty taste that makes this dip so enticing. It's seasoned to perfection, with a smokey essence many other barbecue sauces lack

As we've shown, Popeyes boasts a lavish spread of sauces to pair with its crispy-fried goodness. While BoldBQ might not have the charisma of the other Cajun-inspired choices, there won't any regret when you spy these sauce packets floating around in your bag. It's in-your-face good that puts the capital B in BoldBQ. Forget the drumsticks and biscuits. One Tripadvisor reviewer claims this sauce is the be-all, end-all, claiming: "I would drink it if that were a socially acceptable thing to do."

1. Blackened Ranch

Ever experience that anxious pause when a Popeyes employee asks you to choose a sauce? For many, it's a very real conundrum. Your mind chaotically shuffles through all the varieties you like (and don't like) and before you know it, you've committed to the first option that popped out of your mouth. In unlucky moments, that may not be the one you necessarily wanted. Thankfully, this predicament can be avoided, because there's a Popeyes sauce that ranks above all else to the point of obliterating any such hesitation. All you have to do is the following: order a chicken tenders meal and ask for a side of — drumroll, please — Blackened Ranch. 

For the fans who already saw this verdict coming, allow yourself to savor some vindication because it's much deserved. We've all seen how ubiquitous ranch dressing has become, how dime-a-dozen the condiment can be when it's sold by the jug in every supermarket and restaurant chain. It takes something special to stand out from the slurry of creamy goop synonymous with school cafeterias, but Blackened Ranch is up to the task. 

There's a smoky feel you won't get from the chain's Buttermilk Ranch, or any other fast food ranch for that matter because the Louisiana Kitchen's spice game snuffs out any competition. The showering of spices, among them paprika, garlic, and onion, forms the ranch dressing of your dreams. And frankly, you won't want to drench your fried chicken (or Cajun fries for that matter) in anything else.