Ranking fast food hot sauces from worst to best

Some people were just born with tongues that crave a bit of torture from time to time. Sure, food without spice isn't necessarily unappealing, but when that roundhouse kick of heat hits your taste buds, you feel alive. Those trickles of sweat beading down your forehead are a welcomed addition to the meal, and on top of it, there's a certain pride you take in handling the spice when those around you cower in fear at the mere thought of a palatial conflagration. But not you, no. You welcome the intensity like an old friend.

Almost every fast-food establishment nowadays seems to have their own hot sauce meant to intimidate the weak and entice the brave. However, as you can imagine, not every one of them is worth dousing your meal in. Some sauces only create a fury of fire on your tongue as opposed to offering any actual flavor, while others don't lend enough of the burning sensation you long for. In the end, it's up to you to decide whether or not that taco or burger is deserving of a few packets. 

Let this list guide you as to which sauces are worthy of your attention and which should play a background role in the theater of heat. We're ranking fast food hot sauce, form worst to best.

11. Qdoba's Salsa Roja hot sauce

Recently, there's been a rise in popularity of quick-service Mexican restaurants where burrito and taco-craving patrons can get some delicious cuisine without breaking the bank. One of the places frequented by those struck with Mexican fever is Qdoba, which has a large menu of burritos, tacos, salads, and nachos to choose from. But, what are any of those without a hot sauce accompaniment? This is Mexican food, after all, and indulging without hot sauce is borderline blasphemous.

So, let's discuss their Salsa Roja, shall we? For starters, it really isn't much different than your run-of-the-mill red salsa, which, for some, is perfectly fine, but for others seeking a spicy punch in the mouth, disappointment looms around the corner. The jalapenos are what give the salsa a slight kick, so if you can look those peppers in the face with fearlessness, you'll be just fine taking down a bowl of this stuff.

10. Halal Guys' Hot Sauce

Anyone who's perused the streets of New York City is well aware of those iconic Halal Guys carts perched on nearly every street corner. With their towering cylinder of lamb and beef ready for a meticulous carving to plop onto a bed of rice and veggies, it's hard to resist walking by and not ordering a classic gyro or a lamb-over-rice dish. And, if you're wary about indulging in so-called "street meat," they have two restaurants you can dine in to ease that worried mind — with many more on the way. 

Halal Guys fanatics will enthusiastically agree the white sauce is addicting. After placing the meal onto the Styrofoam plate, the following two questions come next: "White sauce? Hot Sauce?" Get that bad boy properly smothered in white sauce, but unless you have the tongue of Lucifer himself, beware of the amount of hot sauce you ask for. 

The hot sauce really doesn't add any flavor; it just adds intense heat. If you're looking for a kick with the addition of taste, look elsewhere. The mixture of "ground red pepper, vinegar, salt, and concentrated lemon juice" is a concoction of brutality even the bravest should fear. The next time you hear "White sauce? Hot sauce?," think hard about the latter.

9. Del Taco's Del Inferno hot sauce

Our friends on the west coast (and some in the Midwest) don't just have one delicious fast-food Mexican-American joint to enjoy, they also have Del Taco. Not only can you get your fix of tacos and burritos, but you can also grab a burger, fries, and shake if your little heart desires. Just like with any place serving up Mexican cuisine, they have a selection of hot sauces worth dabbling in, and their Del Inferno sauce packs quite a punch.

The ancho chili pepper is what gives the sauce its potency. They also offer a sauce called Del Scorcho which is slightly less spicy, but you're brave, so best you let the inferno take over. According to Mimi Somerman, the chief marketing officer at Del Taco, the Del Inferno "will set your scalp ablaze." Yikes! 

Are you the type who wants a brush fire sweeping through your scalp? There's only one way to find out. However, you might want to keep the firefighters on speed-dial.

8. Taco Bell's Diablo hot sauce

If we're talking hot sauce, we have to visit Taco Bell, right? The place where we're all encouraged to "think outside the bun." Grab your order from the register and make a pit stop at the hot sauce station. If you like heat, you may be inclined to try out the Diablo hot sauce, but it may not be your best idea. 

It's the hottest sauce Taco Bell has to offer, and when they created it, they increased the heat and decreased the flavor. The sauce debuted on Cinco de Mayo in 2015, and considering the word "Diablo" means "Devil" in Spanish, Taco Bell didn't come to the playground to engage in an innocent game of patty cake. No, they wanted to offer a much-needed kick in the teeth. 

Taco Bell spokeswoman Ashley Sioson broke down the ingredients that give the sauce its heat. "Diablo is made from aji panca, chipotle and chili peppers," she said (or, better yet, warned). Each packet also has some words of wisdom, like "You asked for it" and "Turn up the heat." According to the restaurant, the words give off a "we don't give a shishito attitude." It's safe to say they don't.

7. Moe's Southwest Grill's Light My Fire hot sauce

Moe's Southwest Grill couldn't just sit by idly while every other fast-food and quick service Mexican restaurant developed their own spicy delights, and why would they? People want heat (well, some people), and they'd be damned if they couldn't deliver the goods.

People might think "Moe" was the name of the guy who started the restaurant, but research tells you otherwise. It's actually an acronym for "musicians, outlaws, and entertainers," but of course, they welcome run-of-the-mill folk like you, as well. Instead of creating a whole new hot sauce to tap dance on the palates of patrons, they actually just made some adjustments to their Kaiser Salsa, named after the fictional movie character Kaiser Soze (The Usual Suspects, anyone?). 

Moe's took its Kaiser Salsa and added the kick of jalapenos and a dash of Hard Rock seasoning to create Light My Fire, which will warm you from the inside out. The Hard Rock seasoning focuses on chili, which is awesome. Light Your Fire the right way and order up a side of this the next time you play the part of a musician, outlaw, or entertainer at Moe's.

6. Chipotle's Green and Red Chili Salsa

Of all the places you can get Mexican food without having to actually visit our neighbors to the south, Chipotle is arguably the most popular. Just speak the name and people will jump at the chance to tell you their favorite order. "Oh my god, the barbacoa bowl is the bomb!" or "If I had one last meal, it'd be the carnitas tacos." And yea, that little extra you pay for the guac is worth it (go ahead and treat yourself, will ya?). But, the red and green salsas complete your order to its fullest, and we owe them both to one word: "tomatillo." 

The gracious people at Chipotle flame-roast the tomatillos so the tart, fruity, and herbal flavors come through with a bit of smokiness, as well. Both the green and red salsas are chock-full of it, with the red having the addition of chili to help balance out the tart sensation. Oh Montezuma, what else do you have up your sleeve?

5. McDonald's Hot Picante sauce

When McDonald's revealed the greatest news it's ever given to consumers, the all-day breakfast menu, Golden Arch lovers rejoiced at the fact they could order a McGriddle or a few sausage burritos after 11 a.m. Now, a McGriddle might not warrant a dousing of McDonald's Hot Picante sauce, but you better believe it kicks the breakfast burritos up to the elusive number 11 — and it's not bad on a McMuffin, either. 

Now, keep in mind, "picante" means spicy, so the words "hot picante" implies you should buckle in and prepare for a sweat show of epic proportions. However, that's not the case. Even though jalapenos are mixed in with pieces of tomatoes, onions, and green bell peppers, the heat is rather mild and won't send you running to the faucet dousing your mouth in cold water. Instead, it's a great addition to the McDonald's breakfast meats you know and love. 

If you never felt the urge to try it, go ahead and take the plunge. Chances are you'll say "I'm lovin' it" to yourself immediately after. Don't forget to ask for an extra packet or two (or several) to bring home and enjoy.

4. Wendy's Creamy Sriracha hot sauce

In an act of pure ninja stealth, Sriracha has found its way into plenty of food recently. With a little searching, you can find potato chips, almonds, and even baked tofu with a kick of the red stuff. So, when Wendy's added Creamy Sriracha dipping sauce to their squadron of nugget-drenchers, anyone with a taste for Huy Fong Foods, Inc products bowed in agreement. 

So, does the creamy blend of mayonnaise, spices, and Sriracha (duh) make for a necessary trip to Wendy's in your near future? It definitely does. One positive aspect of creamy sauces is they don't run off you meal and onto your shirt with each bite you take (or attempt to take), but they still carry enough spice to liven up your meal. Dunk in a nugget, lather some on your burger, or give your fries a bath, and watch the texture stay put. But, don't sit and admire for too long. Get those suckers in your gullet quick so you can enjoy the taste. 

The sauce is so good an Imgur user actually bottled up a 31-ounce empty ketchup bottle complete with a custom label. Here's to hoping Wendy's gets word of the genius idea and makes this fantasy a zesty reality.

3. Church's Creamy Jalapeno hot sauce

If you're looking to stuff your face with some fried chicken from a place where the "down home" mentality's been standing strong for over six decades, look no further than Church's Chicken. It's the place where you can get "big portions, bold flavors, warm welcomes" while still "saving plenty of room for seconds." And, along with those over-sized portions and I'm-here-to-stay flavors lies an awesome hot sauce: their Creamy Jalapeno concoction.

You might think, "Fried chicken is delicious on its own. What could I possibly add to the crispy goodness to make it even more mouth-watering?" Well, partner, saddle up for the rich texture of an aioli and the quick bite of jalapenos all rolled into one. Whatever you do, don't consult a doctor before your Church's visit. They'd strongly advise you to stay away from the stick-to-your-ribs food, but heck, what do doctors know about good eats? If it was up to them, you'd eat kale chips and drink water all three meals a day, and what kind of quality of life is that?

The sauce is awesome to douse pretty much anything in. Not too hot that it'll burn but strong enough to know it's arrived. If you ever find yourself in an actual church, pray for this sauce to make its way into your next meal.

2. Popeyes' Sweet Heat hot sauce

The first image most people conjure up in their minds when they hear "Popeye" is the spinach-eating ragtag sailor who puffs that corn cob pipe like it's going out of style (it has, right?). But, those who bear a palate favoring Louisiana cooking think entirely differently about the name. To them, Popeyes makes visions of mashed potatoes, biscuits, gravy, and fried chicken dance through their heads. And what a Broadway show of flavors it is. The unsung heroes of the whole performance are the sauces, and Popeye's Sweet Heat sauce steals the spotlight from the rest.

It's upsetting to think there was once a time when the words "sweet" and "heat" never made their way into the same recipe. However, people realized when the two mixed, they performed a lovely duet where both relied on each other to shine. Popeye's Sweet Heat sauce forces sweet honey to take Louisiana hot sauce by the hand and spin her round and round until they become one. Vinegar and a "special blend of peppers" jump in to complete the tango. Tell that spinach-eating sailor to put that in his corn cob pipe and smoke it.

1. Chick-fil-A's Sweet and Spicy Sriracha hot sauce

So, you're not a red meat kinda person. That's okay, because according to those cows who vandalized a Texas billboard in 1995, you should "EAT MOR CHIKIN" anyway. Well, those cows were in luck — Chick-fil-A took off and now holds strong in "46 states and counting." The more that pop up, the less burgers hit the steam box, and that's a fact any bovine happily gives two hooves up to.

The chicken sandwiches are really good. Like, better than most other fast-food restaurants slinging crispy and grilled filets between a bun. While the chicken is often praised for it's deliciousness, the sauces are the real star of the show. The selection is pretty killer, and although the Polynesian sauce definitely stands out as the most unique, the Sweet and Spicy Sriracha (there's that sneaky Sriracha again!) is absolutely awesome. 

There's a whole laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients if you actually read the container, but all you really need to know is red jalapeno peppers, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, cayenne, and ginger are peppered in among them, and it's a first-place winning combination.