Walmart Fast Food Dupes, Ranked Worst To Best

What if you could re-create your favorite fast food meals at home for a fraction of the cost? And what if you could pick up everything you need for such a project at your friendly neighborhood Walmart? The largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the U.S. is home to a host of entrées, sides, and dressings, all part of the company's low-priced Great Value line, that let you re-create some of the most recognizable drive-thru dishes while keeping your checkbook entries all checked and balanced. All it takes is a sharp eye and a shopping cart, and you can gather up the goods you need to make fast food copycats whenever hunger hits, without the gross fast food lore that makes quick-and-easy dining a dicey endeavor sometimes (thanks, Internet).

To prove that grocery shopping at Walmart for fast food faves is a piece of cake, we swept through our local Walmart and scooped up all the fun stand-ins for beloved restaurant picks that caught our attention. Not everything on the list made the grade, but all options provided far more affordable fare than if we had bought the same amount of food at our usual restaurants. We put all of our groceries to the test to see how they shake out against one another, both in enjoyability on their own and as clones of familiar favorites. The result is our ranking of Walmart's finest attempts at serving up your second-best bets for happy dining at home or on the go.

11. Orange Chicken

Despite the wildly misleading name, Panda Express does not actually serve panda at any of its restaurants ... whew! What it does serve is a mean and tasty orange chicken that's crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and covered in one of the most delicious orange glazes imaginable. Guess what else fits that description? Walmart's Great Value Orange Chicken, a frozen take on the gooey Asian favorite that goes nicely over rice, with steamed broccoli on the side, none of which are part of the Great Value bag.

What does the bag contain, then? Battered, pre-cooked chicken ready to be heated and two bags of orange sauce that just need a little thawing. With such a simple set-up, the hope was that we could replicate our favorite Panda dining experience in a home setting, but that was far from what happened. All we really had on our plate after the cooking was finished was fried chicken with a sweet sauce that didn't taste quite as orangey as we were expecting.

This bag rang up at about $8 for five servings, a bargain when compared to the Panda Express version. Once we tasted it, though, the notion of feeding the family a familiar fast food knock-off went right down the drain.

10. Southern Style Chicken Bites

If waiting in the infinitely long lines at Chick-fil-A sounds like your idea of a terrible time but you just have to get your homestyle chicken fix, Walmart has you covered with Great Value Southern Style Chicken Bites, a flavor match for Chick-fil-A nuggets that doesn't hit the target. You do get a whopping 48 ounces in a bag for just under $13, which is a huge upgrade from the $5-plus you'll pay for a single order at the restaurant. Just don't expect an identical experience when it comes time to eat.

We were all in for a peanut oil-fried phenomenon like what we find behind the counter at the restaurant. What we ended up with was a tray pan filled with oven-baked battered chicken nuggets with a slight Southern kick. We suspect the difference has something to do with the baking versus frying and the magic that lies in the preparation method that Chick-fil-A uses to achieve its famous finish. We suspect that not even an air fryer could pull off that sort of magic, though there's bound to be a hack online that gets you pretty close.

These breaded nugs may not be a dead ringer for the Chick-fil-A originals, but they're a decent enough option to keep a bag in the freezer for moments when the real deal is a no-go.

9. Secret Sauce

McDonald's has made such a big deal about its Big Mac through the decades that you'd think it had invented the hamburger entirely from scratch. What it actually contributed to fast food McMythology is Big Mac's secret sauce that adds tingle to the patties. You might be grilling your own burgers and wondering how you can step up your game to get your flavors closer to a classic Big Mac. While the beef is bound to be better than McD's, the solution is the copycat Great Value Burger Sauce that Walmart makes handily available in its condiment section ($2.28 for 12 ounces). It's literally the secret sauce in the secret sauce.

What shakes out of the bottle is a valiant attempt to ride the coattails of what McDonald's lovers have become enamored of. But it's more of a near-miss than a direct hit. If we were to enjoy this all by itself as a burger topping, a fry dipper, or even a salad dressing, we would give it high marks for replicating a version of Thousand Island dressing with a bit more tang than the ordinary formula. But when tasting it in comparison to the fast food phenomenon that helped popularize the term "secret sauce," it's easy to see that the real secret stays with McDonald's, no matter how much Walmart tries to recreate it. You might be happier mixing up your own blend of ketchup, mayonnaise, and relish to come up with something closer to the source material.

8. Buttermilk Pancakes

If you have to head out the door too early to make your own pancakes, you can always count on McDonald's to have these hearty breakfast treats hot and ready to eat in the car. But if you have a few extra minutes in the morning and need a hit of its sweet, pancake happiness, you'll find Walmart's bagged or boxed Great Value Buttermilk Pancakes a pretty accurate replica of the original. They're the blond, doughy disks that stand up fine on their own and make grand holders for eggs and bacon in a makeshift breakfast taco. In other words, they're okay.

Taste-wise, it turns out that pre-formed buttermilk pancakes are preformed buttermilk pancakes, whether you find them in the drive-through or the freezer section. It's nice having pancakes that don't require a griddle or a frying pan to prepare. A few minutes in the toaster oven was enough to get these cakes ready for action, giving them a bit of a crispy edge, something we've never experienced with McDonald's buttermilk pancakes. But ultimately, this fast food carbon copy ended up being a bit on the disappointing side, probably because the original hot cake isn't so hot itself, even with a dousing of pancake syrup.

If you happen to have room in the freezer to store a box (12 pancakes cost $2.46), they're no worse than toaster waffles. That isn't much of an endorsement, though, is it?

7. Croissant Sandwich

Remember when Burger King one-upped the McDonald's famous egg McMuffin by putting the same feelings on a croissant and cleverly calling it a Croissan'wich? It was one of the most inspired moves ever by a fast food competitor, and it helped put croissant-based morning meals on the map. Well, Walmart tapped into the gourmet vibe and created its own Great Value Croissant Sandwich to fill the gap when your budget doesn't have dining out worked into the bottom line. These sandwiches come individually wrapped (a box of four sells for about $5.80), which makes them easy to cook at home and eat on the road or to pack away and zap in the microwave when you get where you're going.

It sounded great at the time, but maybe a croissant is not the best fast food fake for Walmart to offer as a microwavable morning meal. We removed the sandwiches from their cellophane wrappers before microwaving them to minimize our exposure to weird chemicals. We also covered them with a microwave-safe dish to prevent the croissant itself from becoming too chewy. While the finished product tasted okay, it was strange seeing traditional bacon cut in a circle as well as the weird scrambled egg patty that had no fluff. We would have much preferred the elements to be separate in the box so we could prepare them individually and assemble the sandwich ourselves. Maybe that's the subject of a "Dear Walmart" letter that customers with similar complaints will be writing.

6. Cheeseburger Sliders

If White Castle is the home of the most familiar sliders on the fast food scene, then the Walmart frozen section must be the home of the best copycat White Castle sliders on the grocery landscape. Great Value Cheeseburger Sliders are a convincing double of the mini burgers served at White Castle, right down to the square shape and the sprinkling of chopped onions on top. They're a petite treat that kids and adults alike can get their hands around, though the bigger eaters at the table will certainly need a few of these bite-sized burgers to be truly satisfied.

To approximate the White Castle menu, we tried them with and without the miniature cheese slice and found them to be completely passable as a frozen facsimile ... which also means they were relatively flavorless and in need of seasoning, condiments, and toppings. None of this is the fault of Walmart; those accoutrements are home-based add-ons that would never survive the freezer. But a box of six of these mini burgers that sells for $4.24 provides the base for what could turn out to be single-serve burgers with their own special personality. And did we mention how totally heart-eye-emoji adorable they are?

5. Restaurant Style Italian Dressing

Dress your salads at the dinner table with the same zesty concoction you'd find at Olive Garden with Great Value Restaurant Style Italian Dressing. Yes, Olive Garden also bottles its dressing and sells it on Walmart shelves right next to the other options. But the price difference between 16-ounce bottles from the Garden at around $3.98 and Walmart at around $1.97 is considerable for budget-conscious consumers. If nothing else, Great Value goods are always helping us keep our pennies in line. And since we all know the reason Olive Garden's salad is so successful is because the salad dressing is a knockout, it would be nice to have a duplicate that lives up at a lesser price.

Happily, we can report that the Great Value version really captures the zest and zing that makes all-you-can-eat salad sound like a gourmet buffet. You could put this drizzle on just about anything in your fridge and improve the flavor. Having an affordable alternative that replicates the restaurant formula gives you the option of serving it as a dipping sauce for veggie sticks, using it as a marinade for chicken, or trying it on your favorite variety of greens instead of sticking with the iceberg mix Olive Garden gets away with using.

4. Breaded Minced Onion Rings

Onion rings have been a fixture of the Burger King menu for decades, offering what usually turns out to be a far more flavorful alternative to plain potato-fied french fries. Walmart packages Great Value Breaded Minced Onion Rings that do their darndest to replicate the Burger King experience. For anyone who favors a more flavorful fast food side dish, this important option can be a complicated flop when made at home and an expensive prospect when gliding through the BK ordering window with too few coins in the change purse. Once again, Walmart comes to the rescue of last-minute eaters too unmotivated to cook something from scratch.

We didn't expect much here, but what a sensational surprise these onion rings turned out to be! There's a huge difference to be made by not trying to batter a single circle of onion and keep the experience from getting messy. The Great Value version for less than $4 per package opts for rings of diced and battered onion instead, a clever twist that prevents the stereotypical onion-slips-out-of-the-batter Houdini-style escape that makes enjoying standard onion rings a lost cause. These were a delight from the first bite to the last, more like a ring-shaped fritter that we didn't have to worry about coming apart in our hands.

If you're so hungry you have to put a ring on it, head to Walmart for these crunchy munchies, even if you eat them on their own. They're a treat.

3. Batter Mix Seasoned Fries

Rally's and Checkers are the home of battered seasoned fries, a double dip of crispy texture and tender interior that gives the usual french fry a premium potato upgrade. The dual-named company even markets its fries in 28-ounce checkered-flag bags sold in Walmart's frozen potato section for just under $5. But Walmart carries a bag of these crunchy charmers in the form of Great Value Batter Mix Seasoned Fries, which offers similar style fries in a 32-ounce bag for about $3.50 — great value, indeed! The uniqueness of these double-textured fries with a dash of paprika are what we consider a true find on the fast food copycat scene.

Though these crispy strips weren't exactly what you would get at the race-themed drive-through restaurant, they were close enough for our liking. A notable difference: We baked our fries rather than frying them, which reduced the crispness. Nonetheless, this is a fun and affordable at-home alternative to dressed-up french fries with more personality than most of the other taters on the block. The seasoning added flavor without being overbearing, while the batter texture was a welcome additional layer to otherwise crisp and tender potato slivers.

We wouldn't hesitate to serve these up at a cookout or a backyard dinner with burgers fresh from the grill or include them with nuggets or strips to complete a fast food combo meal fake-out for friends and family.

2. French Toast Sticks

One of the most enthralling fast food breakfast creations ever to come along are Burger King's French Toast Sticks, a helpful solution that makes it easy to enjoy French toast without utensils or a plate. Other restaurants like Wendy's and Sonic jumped in with their own dippable strips served with maple syrup. Walmart now offers a duplicate you can pop in the toaster and dip till you drop. These Great Value French Toast Sticks for about $3 per box may have been our most exciting find, mostly because we haven't had French toast in a long time, and the prospect of digging in without having to mess up the kitchen was thrilling.

The taste test proved out what we'd hoped with our whole heart: These sweet, chewy slices are a delicious double of the Burger King bites, so tasty they didn't even need maple syrup. We heated them until they were just hot but not entirely toasted, which left them soft and eggy in the center with a slightly crispy edge. Had we wanted them a little toastier, we could have left them in the oven for a few more minutes. But that might have compromised the tender centers that hold so much of the fantastic French toast flavor.

These are a no-brainer for having on hand to serve up at sleepovers or for busy mornings when a fully home-cooked breakfast just isn't on the menu. And having them for dessert instead works just as well.

1. Chicken Dipping Sauce

How about dipping your copycat Chick-fil-A nuggets in a sauce that reformulates the chain's special recipe and easily fits in your fridge? Walmart's chicken dipping sauce ($2.28 for 12 ounces) makes it possible without having to collect up a million little packets from your trips to the actual restaurant — and without spending the funds on the chicken you'd need to buy just to gather them all. To be candid, the sensational sauce is fully half of the party here, and the Great Value Chicken Dipping Sauce gives you your best bet for a fast food dupe that makes your home dining options a whole lot brighter. Who would've thought a bottle of sauce had so much power!

We tried it on our Southern Style Chicken Bites and had a real wing-ding of a time when we realized how accurate the formula is. It's the right blend of sweet, creamy, and tangy to capture the spirit of the real thing. Maybe the best news of this whole experiment is that this one-off sauce is convincing enough to make just about any chicken strips, nuggets, or sandwiches taste like they came straight out of a Chick-Fil-A bag. With such a supreme fast food copycat topping our list, we may never see the inside of a Chick-fil-A again. Nice going, Great Value!

How we ranked these Walmart fast food dupes

To choose the Great Value goodies that best represented fast food originals, we searched for selections available at our nearby Walmart that were closest to a one-to-one match. Items like buttermilk pancakes and sliders made it easy to identify foodstuffs that had a clear tie-back to a fast food concept. Our search led us to the sauces and dressings that would help sell a restaurant recreation, even if applied to homemade recipes. Luckily, Walmart knows its audience and provides a wide variety of possibilities.

Once we had our list, we prepared servings of each dish and taste-tested using our best memory of what each duplicate was representing. It wasn't too difficult, considering the amount of fast food sampling we've been privy to in our dining lives. Once we'd given each item a try, we took note of how faithfully it recreated the brand-name experience. Then we arranged our items in a hierarchy of least convincing to most convincing foods before returning to the table to finish our delicious dupes.

Are we a little full after this experiment? Certainly. Was it worth the sublime discomfort to learn how much cheaper it is to enjoy a fast food style dinner with store-bought elements? Absolutely.