McDonald's Quarter Pounder Vs. Burger King's Whopper: The True Winner

Coke versus Pepsi. Mac versus PC. Edward versus Jacob. The world of pop culture is filled with allegiances that divide the consumer populace just as dramatically as sports rivalries. In the realm of fast food burgers, the biggest fight is between McDonald's and Burger King. The former is the undisputed champ in both total annual sales and the number of restaurants, while the latter has to be content in bragging about being the world's second-largest burger chain.

It's tempting to think that billions of McDonald's fans can't be wrong, but the most popular option isn't always the best. What if Burger King's most famous burger, the Whopper, is actually better than the McDonald's equivalent, the Quarter Pounder? We picked up both sandwiches to do an objective taste test and declare a winner once and for all. We evaluated each burger's toppings, bun, and meat while also factoring in attributes like price and nutrition. While we thought these sandwiches might be evenly matched, as it turns out, one was much better than the other. Keep on reading to find out which burger was the true winner.

What is a Burger King Whopper?

The Whopper was one of the original extra-large fast food burgers. It was first released in 1957, over a decade before the Quarter Pounder, was introduced. The Whopper was the brainchild of Burger King co-founder Jim McLamore, who stole the idea for a big burger from another restaurant.

A Whopper starts with a quarter-pound patty that's flame-grilled on Burger King's proprietary broiler. Although the toppings can be customized to your liking, the standard build includes lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mayonnaise, and ketchup on a sesame seed bun. Cheese is not included on a regular Whopper, though it is a popular add-on. We added cheese to our Whopper for this taste test to make for an even comparison to the Quarter Pounder With Cheese.

If a single Whopper just isn't big enough for you, you can order a double or a triple instead. Vegetarians can enjoy an Impossible Whopper made with a plant-based patty, while carnivores may prefer the Texas Double Whopper, which adds cheese, jalapeños, and bacon to the classic formula.

What is a McDonald's Quarter Pounder?

Fremont, California-based McDonald's franchisee Al Bernardin created the Quarter Pounder in 1971. It debuted in the two locations he owned and swiftly became a customer favorite and a staple at McDonald's restaurants around the globe. The premise of a Quarter Pounder was simple: You got a larger portion of beef than the relatively wimpy patties served on other McDonald's sandwiches. The sandwich was McDonald's answer to the Whopper — it was the chain's first burger that could rival Burger King's flagship offering in size. As suggested by the name, the patty weighs 4 ounces before it's cooked, just like the Whopper. 

Something else sets the Quarter Pounder apart from the other burgers at McDonald's — since 2018, it's been made with fresh, never-frozen ground beef. In theory, this gives customers a juicier, more premium burger experience than a pre-frozen patty.

The fixings on a Quarter Pounder are rather minimal. The beef is sprinkled with salt and pepper, griddled, then topped with pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. All of this is tucked into a sesame seed bun. If you want cheese, the default is two slices. For those who prefer more bells and whistles, there is a version with bacon and a Deluxe with lettuce and tomato.

A Quarter Pounder is cheaper, but not by much

We paid $9.22 for our Whopper With Cheese at our local Burger King. We were pretty shocked to shell out nearly $10 for just a fast food burger (not even with fries and a drink), but we bought the sandwich in an area where fast food prices are high. You may be able to find a cheaper Whopper where you live — on Burger King's national menu, the Whopper With Cheese is listed at $6.99. Without cheese, the sandwich is listed at $5.99. A whole extra dollar seems like a steep price to pay for one slice of cheese, but perhaps that's just the reality of post-inflation fast food menus.

The price of a Quarter Pounder wasn't much easier to swallow — $8.77 with tax for us, though again, prices will vary depending on location. Whether you choose to pick up a Quarter Pounder or a Whopper, you'll be paying a premium price, and as such, you should expect a premium taste experience.

The Whopper is the larger sandwich

While both burgers feature 4-ounce patties, the Whopper definitely appears much larger than the Quarter Pounder. Part of the reason for this is the number of toppings — the lettuce and tomato add some height to the Whopper. The bun of Burger King's offering is also noticeably larger than the Quarter Pounder's. The Whopper's patty is stretched out to fit the wider diameter of its bun. This means it's thinner than the piece of beef in the Quarter Pounder, but at a glance, the added diameter makes it look larger.

The Quarter Pounder's relatively compact form factor does make it tidier to eat than the Whopper. It's relatively easy to hold in one hand without making a mess. In contrast, the Whopper is definitely a two-handed sandwich, and even if you're careful, you're likely to get toppings everywhere. If you have to eat a burger in the car, the Quarter Pounder is definitely the way to go.

The Quarter Pounder has a tastier bun

It's easy to overlook a burger bun and view it as a mere vessel for the meat within, but it has an important role to play. It's the first thing you taste every time you take a bite, and a subpar bun can ruin an otherwise tasty burger.

The Quarter Pounder has a better bun than the Whopper, and it's not particularly close. It tastes like every other bun from McDonald's: intensely sweet. It's so sweet that you could easily frost it and serve it as a dessert. That might seem less than ideal for a burger bun, but it actually works great. The sweet-salty combo of the bun and beef hits all of your brain's pleasure centers. The one we tried was also quite fresh, fluffy, and well-toasted on the cut sides. We couldn't ask for a better fast food bun.

Meanwhile, the Whopper's bun was underwhelming at best. It didn't taste bad, exactly — in fact, it hardly tasted like anything. It lacked the sweetness or the toasty flavor of the McDonald's bun, and the particular one we sampled was a bit dry and stale as well.

The Whopper has more toppings, but more isn't always better

The lettuce and tomato on the Whopper sets it apart from the Quarter Pounder, but they don't do much for the sandwich's flavor or texture. In fact, all of the vegetable toppings on our Whopper were disappointingly bland. The tomatoes added a hint of sweetness, but that was swamped by the enormous puddle of sugary ketchup that dominated the sandwich. The Whopper was positively swimming in mayo and ketchup, to the point that it was hard to taste anything else. The single slice of unmelted American cheese couldn't stand up to the condiment onslaught and got lost in the shuffle.

The toppings on the Quarter Pounder were more restrained, but each one did its job admirably. The two slices of American cheese — one on each side of the patty — were both melted. The creamy, salty cheese flavor came through in each bite because the cheese slices completely enrobed the beef. The pickles were crunchy and perfectly sweet-tart. The onions added even more texture, though they didn't have a strong flavor. This burger had a more reasonable amount of ketchup than the Whopper. It also came with mustard, which, unlike the mayo at Burger King, contributed a sharp flavor that cut through the richness of the burger's other ingredients.

Fresh beef makes a huge difference

Burger King has not followed McDonald's lead and switched to fresh beef for the Whopper — it still uses frozen patties for all of its burgers. Based on what we tasted, that's a huge disadvantage. Like the rest of the Whopper, the beef patty was strangely tasteless. We wanted some of the flame-grilled flavor that the chain brags about in its marketing, but there was none to be found. If we were blindfolded, we're not sure we'd even be able to tell that there was a piece of beef inside the Whopper at all, because, in addition to lacking flavor, the beef also had a soft texture that made it disappear inside the sandwich.

The Quarter Pounder's patty actually tasted like beef. It had a savory, umami flavor that was enhanced by the deep caramelization it received from its time on the griddle. The griddle also gave it a nice crispy sear on the outside. The interior was just barely pink, which might scare some people, but we didn't mind. Since it wasn't overcooked, it was much juicier than Burger King's offering.

Neither sandwich is a nutritional powerhouse, but the Whopper is less healthy

We're dealing with two big fast food burgers here, so it's obvious that neither of these sandwiches is going to be particularly diet-friendly. That said, the Quarter Pounder is less caloric and fatty than the Whopper. Burger King's signature sandwich clocks in at 770 calories when ordered with cheese, nearly 1.5 times as much as the Quarter Pounder, which has 520 calories. The calories in the Whopper come with nearly twice as much fat as the McDonald's burger: 51 grams versus 26 grams. The Whopper is also higher in sugar, sodium, carbs, and saturated fat than the Quarter Pounder. On the plus side, it's also higher in protein. If you're looking to get the most food for your buck, the Whopper is a slightly better deal, even though it is marginally more expensive.

The sodium and saturated fat levels of both of these sandwiches are slightly worrisome. The Quarter Pounder has half a day's worth of salt in it, while the Whopper has around two-thirds of the daily value for sodium. It would be hard to keep under the recommended daily sodium limit if you're consuming that much salt in just one sandwich (and that's not including the fries you're likely to get on the side). Sugar is another area of concern, especially with the Whopper — this sandwich contains 15 grams of sugar, more than a glazed donut from Dunkin'.

The Quarter Pounder contains some questionable ingredients — but the ingredients in the Whopper are mysterious

McDonald's publishes the full ingredient list for the Quarter Pounder so you know exactly what's in it. Overall, the ingredients aren't too scary — the patty is 100% beef, and the mustard, ketchup, pickles, and cheese are all made with fewer than 10 ingredients each, which feels like a win for a fast food place. The pickles contain a preservative, and the ketchup has high fructose corn syrup in it, which may be a cause for concern for some people. The bun is the most suspect part of the burger — the third ingredient is sugar, and the bun's ingredient list is a paragraph long. Still, overall, the Quarter Pounder's recipe contains a surprisingly high percentage of ingredients you would recognize and use in your home kitchen.

It's hard to evaluate how the Whopper stands up to the Quarter Pounder in terms of its ingredient quality because Burger King doesn't include a full list of ingredients on its website. We know what's not in the burger, because Burger King announced it was eliminating 120 artificial components from its food in 2021. The blacklist includes things that are still in the Quarter Pounder like high fructose corn syrup and potassium sorbate. Still, the fact that the King isn't fully transparent with its recipes gives us pause — what is the chain hiding? We'll call this category a draw.

Both sandwiches are uglier in person than in commercials

It's no secret that fast food typically doesn't resemble the perfectly primped and styled dishes in the pictures on menu boards and ads. Neither the real-life Whopper nor the Quarter Pounder was exactly the spitting image of its promotional photo.

In both cases, the biggest difference between the photo and the actual burger was size. This problem was particularly pronounced in the Whopper, as its official photo makes the sandwich appear sky-high. In the one we ate, all you could really see sticking out of the burger was tomato and onion; everything else was hidden. The patty that was spilling over the edges of the bun in ads was actually smaller in diameter than the bread in real life. In addition, the Whopper in Burger King's official image appears to be crowned with large pieces of green leaf lettuce, but the one we received seemed to have either iceberg or romaine on it, and the lettuce was cut into smaller pieces.

The real Quarter Pounder barely looked like it had any toppings at all besides cheese. Different angles could make it appear slightly bigger or smaller, but overall, there was no visual indication it was anything other than a plain cheeseburger. We must, however, shout out the bun, which was just as shiny and fluffy in real life as it was in ads. Overall, the Quarter Pounder looked slightly more appetizing than the Whopper.

The verdict: The Quarter Pounder reigns supreme

If it wasn't obvious from everything we've written up to this point, we enjoyed the McDonald's Quarter Pounder With Cheese much more than the Whopper. We knew after just one bite that McDonald's made a superior burger. A burger is nothing if it doesn't start with a high-quality patty, and the fresh meat from McDonald's tasted much beefier than the bland puck on the Whopper.

The Golden Arches could have won on the strength of the meat alone, but on top of that, it bested Burger King in almost every other category, from the price to the quality of the toppings to the freshness of the bun. It was even less ruinous to our diets. The Quarter Pounder may have started life as a shameless copy of the Whopper, but it has surpassed its inspiration. If you love dousing your burgers in a ton of ketchup or feel like the Quarter Pounder isn't large enough to fill you up, we could see you preferring the Whopper, but for most people, a trip through the McDonald's drive-thru will be much more satisfying.