McDonald's Vs Taco Bell: Which Fast Food Restaurant Does Breakfast Better?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But we won't settle for just any breakfast food. And neither should you. When you are on the run and in a hurry, you need something that is not only fast and tasty but also fits within your budget.

Fast food restaurants know that people don't always have a lot of time to make breakfast from scratch, but often want something a bit more filling than a bowl of cold cereal. To capitalize on this, more fast food chains are expanding their breakfast menus. McDonald's and Taco Bell, in particular, have made major efforts to win the fast food breakfast wars and create loyal followings of morning rush hour customers.

The last thing anyone wants to deal with in the morning is a subpar breakfast, so we went out bright and early to put these two chains to the test. We placed our orders online and picked up a variety of food — breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, hash browns, and more — all in an effort to determine which chain offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to a quick breakfast. We'll touch on the key points we looked for at the end of this article, but in the meantime, let's dig into these two fast food giants.

McDonald's breakfast

McDonald's has long reigned supreme in the fast food breakfast category. It all started back in 1972 with the release of the Egg McMuffin, an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich made on an English muffin. The Golden Arches breakfast is so popular, in fact, that when doing a breakfast ranking of fast food restaurants based on Foursquare Swarm data of locations back in 2017, Business Insider had to exclude McDonald's because it swept the field, coming in first in 49 of the 50 U.S. states. Then in a 2023 survey of 10,000 people across the nation by, McDonald's was voted the most popular fast food breakfast in 30 states, once again blowing the competition out of the water. That's not too shabby for the burger giant. 

Of course, not every breakfast option offered by McDonald's has gone on to be a hit. In 2023, McDonald's scaled back on the McCafe line of pastries meant to accompany the chain's coffee. While coffee and pastries are not exclusively served at breakfast, no one can deny that the pairing is a popular option for morning customers.

Still, the company has a remarkably robust breakfast menu, serving up fast, hot meals to all who want them. Not only does the company outserve the competition, but breakfast offerings at McDonald's account for an estimated 25% of its U.S. revenue (based on 2021 figures), which is higher than average.

Taco Bell breakfast

Taco Bell is clearly chasing after McDonald's in the breakfast department. Taco Bell was the second most-popular breakfast spot — after McDonald's, of course — in just four states, based on the 2017 Foursquare Swarm data. As of 2023, Taco Bell was voted the top fast food breakfast in just one state, Montana, according to the national survey by The chain came in at No. 5 overall among fast food restaurants in that breakfast survey. In a bid to take on a larger share of the breakfast market in 2023, the company ran a series of ads featuring comedian Pete Davidson promoting Taco Bell breakfast options, which have increased in recent years.

The chain's efforts with morning meals aren't just speculation. In 2022, Taco Bell CEO Mark King made it clear that the brand would be doubling down on its breakfast strategy in order to go after McDonald's domination of the fast food breakfast market. A prime example of this has been Taco Bell upping its coffee game with Cinnabon-branded coffee and the testing of new iced churro-inspired coffees.

Taco Bell's breakfast has come up remarkably fast, considering it just arrived on the fast food scene nationwide in 2014, decades after McDonald's. Has Taco Bell had enough time and experience to take down McDonald's? We will be the judge.

Who has more options?

Despite dropping most of the McCafe bakery treats in the past year, McDonald's still has a shockingly large number of breakfast options. However, most of its menu items in the morning are a play on the same thing. McDonald's loves a breakfast sandwich. The fast food giant offers combinations of egg and cheese with bacon, sausage, or Canadian bacon on an English muffin, bagel, biscuit, or a maple-flavored pancake. At its core, though, these are all the same sandwich. However, the company also has a few other items, such as pancakes, a breakfast burrito, hash browns, and oatmeal. With these items already available, McDonald's has created extra breakfast options without sourcing any additional ingredients. For example, its Big Breakfast offers scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, a biscuit, and hash browns. A second combo meal adds pancakes to that plate. All of these options are also quintessential American breakfast items.

Taco Bell, on the other hand, takes a Tex-Mex approach. The company has breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and Crunchwraps, all playing on the tortilla-filled-with-stuff theme. It also serves the standard hash browns and one sweet item. The Cinnabon Delights are cinnamon sugar-covered dough balls filled with frosting.

On its surface, it looks like Taco Bell offers fewer options, but each item is customizable with fillings, which include bacon, sausage, steak, and potatoes. And some, such as the California Crunchwrap, include guacamole and salsa.

Eggs make the breakfast

To be perfectly frank, neither chain had particularly exceptional eggs. The scrambled eggs we tried from McDonald's were overcooked and a little dry. However, the round eggs cooked for the chain's breakfast sandwiches were pretty good. They were cooked all the way through and did not dry out and become rubbery like the scrambled eggs did.

Taco Bell's scrambled eggs were slightly better. They were fluffy, though still a bit on the dry side. However, the nacho cheese added into our burrito helped to make up for that dryness. Sadly, we did not get the sauces we ordered. If we had, we may not have even noticed the dryness at all. That is because, unlike McDonald's, you cannot get just a side of eggs at Taco Bell. All the eggs come wrapped — in a burrito, in a quesadilla, or in a Crunchwrap. McDonald's scrambled eggs weren't as good, but you could get them as a side all by themselves.

McDonald's uses freshly cracked eggs in its Egg McMuffin. Both chains use a liquid egg mixture for their scrambled eggs. If only we could get the fresh eggs as part of the other breakfast meals — that would be an improvement.

The battle of the potato

Taco Bell and McDonald's may have vastly different breakfast options, but there is one item neither of the chains can have breakfast without — potatoes. McDonald's is known for its famous french fries, so of course, it has to offer breakfast potatoes. Taco Bell knows it can't compete without them.

We tried an oval-shaped patty of hash browns from both places. Both versions were good but remarkably different. Where Taco Bell's hash browns were crisper with a noticeable crunch, the McDonald's version did get a little soggy but also stayed softer on the inside. Additionally, it offered a deeper potato flavor, rather than just the flavor that came with frying.

That being said, Taco Bell has another trick up its sleeve: diced potatoes. Many of the company's breakfast-wrapped goods come with diced potatoes or the option of adding diced potatoes. Oddly, this seems to be the go-to place to create vegetarian breakfast options. We're not sure potatoes work as a reasonable substitution for breakfast meats, but it is delicious and makes for a filling component.

Burrito size matters

It's not surprising that one chain does the breakfast burrito much better than the other. In our comparison between Taco Bell and McDonald's, it is Taco Bell that comes out on top. Taco Bell breakfast burritos are not the biggest around, but they are plump and delicious. Even the smaller of the two breakfast burritos offered by Taco Bell dwarfs the skinny, sad McDonald's breakfast burrito.

The McDonald's breakfast burrito has scrambled eggs, melted cheese, green chilies, onions, and sausage, but the burrito is so small you don't feel like you're getting much food. Plus, this is the only burrito it offers — no other variations are on the menu.

Concerning Taco Bell's regular-sized burritos, it forgoes vegetables altogether but packs in more eggs, the company's nacho cheese, and either sausage, bacon, or potato. Plus, if you get the potato, you also get some tomatoes, which is a delicious touch. Taco Bell burritos also come in two sizes. If you upgrade to a grande, not only do you get a larger burrito, but you also get potatoes and tomatoes in addition to all the other fillings, and there is an extra option to order a steak-filled grande breakfast burrito.

When and how is breakfast available?

Breakfast doesn't do anyone any good if it isn't accessible. Especially early in the morning, nobody wants to run around searching for food; hungry people just want it to be there. This comes down to two factors: location and timing.

As time passes, Taco Bell and McDonald's have similarly scaled back their breakfast hours. Taco Bell breakfast is usually served from 7 to 11 a.m. For a 24-hour McDonald's, breakfast hours are usually 6 to 11 a.m., which helps get your day started a little earlier. Of course, both chains will fluctuate based on location. Speaking of location, there is no denying that McDonald's takes the win here. There are about 13,500 McDonald's locations in the United States compared with roughly 7,800 Taco Bells. Neither of these is a small number, but the Golden Arches of McDonald's are spread far and wide.

We also think it's worth mentioning that while the first Taco Bell we stopped at looked closed even though it was open (the lights were out, and there were no cars in the parking lot), the first McDonald's we attempted to try was actually closed. We were able to go to another location, but it was slammed with people, which meant getting our food took a little longer.

Who got more creative?

Creativity is subjective. If we look at only the range of foods, McDonald's wins. The burger chain offers a breakfast burrito alongside pancakes and breakfast sandwiches, some of which are made with pancakes. It is an interesting mix. While each of these on its own is fairly standard, offering them all together on one menu gives them a bit of a boost. That being said, none of the individual items is all that unique.

But if we look at individual menu items, we have to give it to Taco Bell. The company sure does love to throw things together in interesting ways. Sure, it has variations of the breakfast burrito and the quesadilla. Those are fairly run-of-the-mill. The breakfast Crunchwrap, though, brings another level of hexagonal breakfast crunchiness that you won't find anywhere else. It's part quesadilla and part burrito with hash browns thrown in for good measure. It is delicious, and particularly enjoyed the California one.

Taco Bell's Cinnabon Delights also proved to be gooey, pillowy balls of heaven that make for a quick fix to satisfy a donut craving.

Who has the best price?

The only fair way to compare prices was to look at menu items that both chains carried (reminder that prices may vary depending on where you live). First on the list was coffee. Sadly, our particular Taco Bell couldn't provide any coffee during our trek. That being said, the iced coffee at Taco Bell was listed at $2.29, whereas at McDonald's it was listed at $2.99. We were also surprised to see that the McDonald's breakfast burrito, at $2.49, was more expensive than Taco Bell's, which was $1.89. Even the McDonald's hash browns were more expensive, coming in at $2.39 vs Taco Bell's $1.89. Did we find it odd that Taco Bell charged the same amount for a burrito as its hash browns? Yes. But we were willing to accept it for a cheap breakfast.

While the price difference was noticeable, we got a large amount of food at each restaurant, and Taco Bell's total bill came in cheaper. McDonald's, once a haven known for its Dollar Menu and cheap meals, now seems to be charging a premium to put an "M" on your breakfast sandwich.

Which tasted better overall?

Figuring out which meal tasted better was difficult, partially because each offered such different items and because both places had hit-or-miss items. It is hard to beat a classic McDonald's breakfast sandwich. Yet when we think of breakfast sandwiches, we think savory. Everything from McDonald's was surprisingly sweet — especially the iced coffee. A small had 22 grams of sugar, which was higher than the equivalent size at Starbucks. The fruit and maple oatmeal, too, was surprisingly sugary, considering it was not advertised as being sweetened. It had 31 grams of sugar.

The McGriddle was sweeter than we remembered. After all, the bun isn't just a pancake but a maple-flavored pancake. The combination of sweet and savory did not quite ring true for us. That being said, something is alluring about the overly sweet and infinitely fluffy pancakes at McDonald's, and it would kind of be nice to see those available all day.

McDonald's breakfast burrito, though, was just not great. It was sad, limp, and small. Taco Bell's breakfast burrito was packed with filling, though it did suffer from a lack of sauce to bring more of a depth of flavor. The Cinnabon Delights were addicting, and the Crunchwrap was fun and filling. But the quesadilla from Taco Bell was uninspired and floppy, and the hash browns, while crunchy, didn't have the flavor we would have liked.

Final verdict

This has been a genuinely difficult deliberation. On one hand, we like Taco Bell's creativity and pricing. You can tell the company is working hard to compete in the fast food breakfast market, and it is making excellent strides. On the other hand, McDonald's offers better eggs in its breakfast sandwiches, and the coffee is better than we expected, though some of the other food is hit-or-miss.

For us, the decision comes down to experience more than taste. We could argue till the cows come home about which is better: pancakes and breakfast sandwiches or burritos and donut holes. That is up to individual preference. But we will say that McDonald's has had a lot of time to perfect fast food, and the restaurant's execution is impressive.

Our McDonald's order was correct, the building was clean, and most importantly, all of our food came out as expected. It was obvious that McDonald's knows breakfast to be a big market, and the workers know how to get people in and out. In comparison, our Taco Bell didn't seem to be trying. Of course, your local Taco Bell might be on the ball and truly embrace its "live más" motto with enthusiasm.

At the end of the day, it was quite obvious to us why McDonald's is the reigning king of the fast food breakfast. After all, good eggs, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches will never be a breakfast letdown.


To appropriately judge each of these two restaurants' breakfasts, we looked at several criteria. The first was the quality of the food. Each menu item pictured and discussed was tasted by the writer. In addition, things such as the temperature and the size of the portions were accounted for. To avoid giving one restaurant the edge, the food was received at the same time so that one would not get cold while the other was being tried. 

For any items that are offered at both restaurants, we did a side-by-side comparison. We also looked at the variety of offerings at each establishment. 

We then noted the experience. Each company offers app services for pick-up as well as in-store ordering.  We looked at which company makes it easier to get your order and get it out as quickly as possible.