The McDonald's Sandwich Lineup, Ranked

Every member of Ronald's Clown Posse has a favorite McDonald's sandwich they order without a second thought. If you're a fast-food soldier, you have one too. The global dining megacorp hardly needs to advertise its range of offerings to get its hungry public lined up at the drive-thru. It seems everyone has their own idea of McPerfection. Even if you love a Quarter Pounder with cheese so much your heart might burst (literally, if you eat too many), someone else will challenge you with a Big Mac that inspires utter devotion. And that's not to mention the chicken and fish sandwiches vying for love and money from eager eaters.

The untold truth about McDonald's sandwich selection is that not all of them are created equally. While every fan has their reasons for thinking their favorite is the most delicious of the bunch, there's a definite spectrum of quality among the various menu items. Not content to leave our curiosity on the counter, we slid into Ronald's DMs and ordered the whole shebang, skipping some of the double- and triple-ups to focus on the main menu power players to see who topped the table and who sank to the bottom of the bag.

13. Spicy McCrispy

Every barrel needs a bottom, and when it comes to the McDonald's sandwich crowd, the Spicy McCrispy is it. We had incredibly high hopes for this high-flyer, a fiery iteration of McDonald's answer to a Chick-Fil-A classic sandwich. There's not much that can be classified as spicy under the arches, so a bit of heat would be a welcome touch. But something has gone horribly awry between the bun and the patty in this creation, easily identified as the too-sweet mayonnaise-based spread the chain calls spicy pepper sauce. It's a generous dollop that's impossible to escape, catching in the surface of the sandwich even when scraped off with a stray fry in an attempt to remove it. By the time we realized what a mistake the sauce was, it was too late to correct course.

On the upside, the toasted potato roll is an improvement on the usual McDonald's bread game, and the breaded chicken breast is a delight. Still, the sauce is a spoiler that can't be forgiven, especially when the McMenu also features a non-spicy version of the McCrispy. If you're offering a spruced-up version of a dish, it's best to ensure the sprucing actually moves upward, not downward.

12. Filet-O-Fish

One of the blandest sandwiches in the bunch isn't even a burger; it's a substandard breaded fish filet that's been swimming on the scene for a very long time. Filet-O-Fish is one of the most recognizable items McDonald's serves, holding a spot on the menu for more than 50 years. It's an option for fish fans to dig into when burgers and chicken just won't cut it. It even provides an important element of cultural representation in the international fast-food realm, as explained by writer Jane Hu in The New York Times. This makes the lack of creativity in this square-edged seafood slice even more confusing. It's a filet by the barest definition, only slightly more than a frozen breaded patty topped with tartar sauce and a slice of cheese to add underwhelming flavor to the recipe.

Maybe familiarity prevents McDonald's from improving its basic formulation. If it sells strong, why mess with the mix? Nobody expects gourmet-level excitement from their fast-food favorites, but if this dining dynamo can be innovative with chicken, it could try a little razzle-dazzle with fish, too. As it stands, this catch of the day can be thrown back without an ounce of guilt.

11. Hamburger

As the prototype for McDonald's entire pedigree, the humble hamburger is the simplest order on the family tree. Adorned with nothing more than ketchup, mustard, pickles, and diced onions, purists looking for an austere dining experience may hold a soft spot for this sullen singleton. But standing shoulder to shoulder with an extensive array of fancier fare, this artless burger is revealed as a diminutive disappointment, with beef that barely makes it to the edge of the bun. This isn't the first time a plain hamburger from McDonaldland was served mashed and flattened, with the top bun bearing the worrisome wrinkles of deflation. Taken as a whole, it's simultaneously dependable and depressing, a sad ancestor of its modern fast-food burger siblings who shine with a smarter structure and snazzier flavor.

The company website calls out this small fry as a classic, which ordinarily speaks to the unimpeachable quality and timeless excellence of an item. In the case of McDonald's original hamburger, the word is a direct clue regarding the lack of vitality you'll find inside the wrapper. When it comes to this boring bit of dining history, Hamburglar can have it. There are better bites to be had.

10. Cheeseburger

Take an unimpressive McDonald's hamburger, add a slice of cheese, and you get the slightly-less-unimpressive McDonald's cheeseburger, a minor step up on the scale of How Much Am I Lovin' It. It makes sense that even adding a creamy slice of American cheese, the most mundane member of the cheese troupe, would be an improvement to the basic burger. While the texture and extra flavor add a touch of complexity, it isn't enough to herald this combination as a tasty triumph.

It's odd that a burger with this little to offer just barely squeaks in on the $1 $2 $3 Menu in some states, with a price as high as $2.79 as of July 2023. It makes more sense as a deep discount dish or a giveaway with other meals rather than offering it a coveted spot on the main marquee. A more keyed-up version of a cheeseburger that throws glitter — or cheddar, even — on the concept might give McDonald's something bolder and worth bragging about. Alas, the chain makes the rules of the roost, and the rest of us just follow along, hopefully making more informed choices than picking up this generic cheeseburger in dire need of a charisma boost. 

9. McDouble

The McDouble takes what little works with a McDonald's cheeseburger and tries to improve upon it, falling short in the strangest way. Instead of doubling everything, this oddball in-betweener only doubles the meat, sandwiching a sad slice of American cheese between two sub-par patties. Why not just go the whole nine yards and add two of everything to the blend? Well, because there's already a double cheeseburger on the menu that does exactly this. If that makes you scratch your head as you read it, know that we scratched our heads as we wrote it.

If you're intrigued by this fast-food format because you love beef so much you just can't get enough of it in a single cheeseburger, but you're a bit of a commitment-phobe when it comes to slapping another slice of cheese on the second patty, then a McDouble is sure to send you over the moon. More likely, you'll mostly be confused about why this weird, unnecessary sandwich even exists.

8. Double Cheeseburger

If you're going to clone a cheeseburger, it makes sense to stack up the same fixings twice, wrap them in a bun, and call it a day. That's what McDonald's gets utterly right with its double cheeseburger. It's a sweet and simple nod to the bygone days when buying two basic cheeseburgers and mashing them together into one mega-sandwich was cute and charming but quickly lost its magic, somewhere around the third bun layer. Instead, the double cheeseburger provides twice the patty and twice the cheese, but only once the bread to keep things much more contained. The end product gives customers a two-fer sandwich with a one-fer price, satisfying both the need to feed and the desire to minimize delivery.

The downside of this savory squared edible equation: It's a McDonald's double cheeseburger, filled with the same bland meat and cheerless cheese as a single cheeseburger, but more of it. If a single doesn't cut it, how can a double do any better? The key here is quantity, which at least gives you more to sink your teeth into. Whether you choose to or not is purely a matter of personal responsibility. Treat yourself better.

7. Hot 'n Spicy McChicken

While some locations continue to carry the classic McDonald's chicken sandwich, others stock the kitchen with the hot 'n spicy McChicken, a much more seasoned version of the original. This breaded patty may play humble, but it's a true contender for anyone who loves their chicken pressed instead of in its more natural state. In this instance, simplicity serves, keeping a straightforward sandwich pure with just a schmear of mayonnaise and a sprinkling of lettuce to make it a bit juicier. 

This little morsel also appears on the value menu, snagging the center spot at a cool $1.99 depending on the state, as of July 2023. Sure, you'll find larger and more expensive options taking up oxygen on your ordering app. But the hot 'n spicy McChicken is a total box-checker, fitting snugly into the overlapping space between affordable and delicious, a paradise few options can occupy.

Are there more authentic chicken sandwiches in the McDonald's flock waiting to take wing? You bet there are. But there's something comforting in a simplified chicken patty that's incredibly processed, yet wildly delicious. Pressed patties usually get smacked for being less than natural. But with such a tasty result, hot 'n spicy McChicken earns its place in the pecking order.

6. McCrispy

McDonald's introduced its McCrispy sandwich as a counterpoint to the Chick-Fil-A sandwich, which has become something of a standard for fast-food chicken. McD's joined the flock with this convincing replica, described as Southern-style fried chicken wearing a layer of pickles and served on a buttered potato bun. The whole package represents a new line of elements in the McDonald's kitchen, and the results are a fast-food phenomenon. The crispness of the chicken, the tart tang of the pickles, and the buttery-soft goodness of the roll are a marked departure from the reassembly of the regular McPieces, bringing the Kingdom of the Red-Haired Clown into the 21st century in delicious style.

There's little chance that McDonald's will knock the feathers off of the competition when it comes to chicken sandwiches, considering that chicken in various forms is Chick-Fil-A's specialty. It's tough to wrangle that. But its valiant effort to assert itself by stepping outside the box and moving closer to the coop wins the McCrispy a place in our top 10. Take it further and follow the lead of clever home chefs who have figured out how to recreate a copycat McCrispy sandwich recipe, bypassing the drive-thru in favor of stay-at-home dining.

5. Quarter Pounder with Cheese

If quantity and quality are your two favorite Q words in the fast-food game, then Quarter Pounder with cheese should be your third favorite. In this creation, McDonald's thickens up the beef patty to a full 4 ounces, slides it between two slices of American cheese, and throws pickles and onions on top like confetti. Sesame seeds crown the bun as a visual cue that you're getting something special here. 

The quality of the patty is notably superior to the lesser burgers in the bunch, giving the sensation of eating a more thoughtful sandwich than the usual beef pucks that roll off the assembly line and land in the wrapper. And while there's no sign of a higher quality cheese, the creamy melted American does its duty here. It's a definite leap forward from McDonald's ground-level cheeseburger design and a satisfying step in the right direction for quashing your hunger pangs — another Q word for your list.

As a stand-alone sandwich, the Quarter Pounder with cheese has a price point hovering under $7 in most regions as of July 2023, making it considerably more expensive than the double cheeseburger it improves upon. The added satisfaction is worth the extra expense.

4. Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese

Great things come in twos in the world of quick eating. Case in point: the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese. This is the deluxe dining the double cheeseburger aspires to be. Sure, it's the same formula: two slabs of beef, each topped with its own slice of cheese. But the patties are quarter-pound bruisers, bringing the weight of meat in this colossal creation to a whopping half-pound. 

The McDonald's mathematicians could have easily split the patties in half and offered a double that still weighed in at a quarter-pound, but the chain went out of its way to make sure this super-stack was super-stacked. The difference is notable, both in the height of the sandwich and its weight in your hands. You're not holding some rinky-dink ringer here. You're gripping one of the mightiest burgers you can get your mitts around.

This may sound like a lot of prestige for a fast-food order. But when you're counting pennies and looking for food that offers the most bang for your buck, a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese delivers a lot of eating for its price point. Pound for pound, it's one of Mickey D's top offerings.

3. Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe

If you're looking for a fresh remix of your favorite McDonald's Quarter Pounder elements, a Quarter Pounder with cheese deluxe should be the one. It's all the best parts of a Quarter Pounder but with creamy mayonnaise riding shotgun to shredded lettuce and a trio of tomato slices. All this added freshness does some heavy lifting to bring the already-delicious QP to new heights of flavor. The difference an array of familiar toppings makes in bringing cool style to a classic combination is striking. And if you're quick to pick up your order and dig in before too much time passes, you might find as we did that the heat of the patties hasn't yet dimmed the coolness of the veggie toppings. This ideal blend of temperatures, tastes, and textures is as close to home-cooked as possible.

A regular Quarter Pounder may be a sweet celebration, but the cheese deluxe is the afterparty when the hosts break out the really great stuff and take the good times to the next level. It's such a simple addition, yet the difference it makes gives this magnificent mash-up enough lift to settle in the top three.

2. Big Mac

More than maybe any other burger, the Big Mac is the icon of the Golden Arches. This famous stack-up brings in more than just the burger and the bun from the backyard BBQ grill go-to list. It also slides a second bottom bun between the patties, turning the double-burger into a tasty, towering column. Instead of laying the lettuce and pickles on top of the patties, McDonald's turns the tables and adds these refreshing toppings to the bottom. 

The most magical element of all is, of course, the special sauce, which is recognizably similar to Thousand Island dressing. Still, everyone plays along with the "secret recipe" idea to avoid hurting Ronald's feelings. There's a double dollop of the stuff beneath a slice of American cheese on layer one and above the bread on layer two. The combined effect is a topsy-turvy, somewhat upside-down double stack that's a treat to eat, no matter how messy it may be to pick up.

Whether you recall the lyrics to the Big Mac jingle from back in the day or you just know what you're looking for in a burger, remember this: Big Mac nears the top of the stack.

1. Quarter Pounder with Cheese Bacon

The Quarter Pounder with cheese bacon lets McDonald's get in on the long-held affinity burger lovers have for bacon as a ride-along for their favorite sandwich. The name may be a bit confusing since the burger includes both cheese and bacon, but not cheese-wrapped bacon or bacon-wrapped cheese. A double shot of American cheese above and below the patty with bacon, pickles, and onions under the top bun helps tip the scales in favor of this hearty heavyweight as the best blend on the menu. 

It's equal parts steakhouse sensibility, fast-food flavor friendliness, and McDonald's name-checking familiarity, all wrapped up in a cardboard clamshell. There's no bad bite to be taken with this flavorful filler. Other options in the spread may offer more food, but none provide a more balanced combination of elements to give consumers an all-around enjoyable experience.

The Golden Arches set a new gold standard for what its kitchen is capable of creating. This groovy take on the Quarter Pounder adds smoke to the fire to create a burger with cheesy, bacon goodness even the flame-broiled King of Burgers would be proud to serve. Consider this well-made burger the leader of the pack.