The Truth About Burger King Onion Rings

If you're looking for onion rings, Burger King is a reliable go-to. While many of the most popular burger joints skip the onion rings — Wendy's, In-N-Out, McDonald's, Five Guys, and Shake Shack, among others — Burger King has been offering this savory side since the beginning. Paired with Burger King's zesty sauce, these onion rings have become one of fast food's essential side dishes.

But with fame comes controversy, and the merits of the King's onion rings have long been debated by dedicated onion ringers, though a consensus has proven difficult to reach. Maybe the zesty sauce is the main attraction, or maybe Burger King really has discovered the secret to an exemplary fried onion.

Either way, Burger King has established itself as the main onion ring-supplier among most large fast food stops, and their rings are well-known in every corner of the world, regardless of what, exactly, they are known for.

Frings are the best of both worlds

Burger King understands the moment of panic at the drive-thru window when you're frantically trying to decide between fries and onion rings, wishing desperately that you could have both without paying double the price or consuming double the oil. As it turns out, you can. Burger King's secret hackable menu includes Frings — an order made up of both fries and onion rings so you don't have to choose. 

An order of Frings gets you a container half full fries and the other half full of Burger King's infamous onion rings. Though Frings aren't on Burger King's regular menu, they are popular among those in the know — and for good reason. While Burger King's onion rings are among the best in the fast food world, their fries can hold their own against many of their deep fried competitors, and it would be something akin to heresy to order fast food without fries on the side. The king is a benevolent one.

The onion rings are heavy on the sodium

Like many items on Burger King's menu, onion rings are not the healthiest food you could put in your body. While the onion rings lack the excess fat and calories that larger Burger King meals contain, their vegetarian status does not exempt them from other health hazards, particularly superfluous sodium.

While some sodium is necessary for the body to perform certain important functions (such as pumping blood at a regular rate, supporting muscles, and balancing fluids), most Americans consistently take in far more sodium than is healthy. The average recommended amount of sodium is less than 2,300mg per day — and most Americans consume more than 3,400mg daily. 

Each small serving of Burger King onion rings contains 840mg of salt, which accounts for 37 percent of the daily recommended sodium intake — in a side dish. Add a burger to the order, and one meal quickly covers above and beyond the recommended sodium intake for the day. 

Onion rings are a classic menu item across the world

While many fast food joints have different menu items depending on where you are in the world, Burger King onion rings remain a constant no matter what corner of the planet you're in. Burger King serves Spicy Shrimp Whoppers in its Japan locations and Taro Pie (a turnover-style dessert stuffed with taro, a fibrous root vegetable similar to a potato) in Malaysia. Burger King classics, however, are consistent among the franchise's nearly 19,000 restaurants scattered across the world from Kazakhstan to Jamaica. 

So whether you order the Belgian Waffles in Switzerland or the SufganiKing (an astonishing feat of a Hanukkah-inspired burger, with two ketchup-filled jelly doughnuts instead of the Whopper's regular buns) in Israel, you can still order onion rings on the side. No matter where you are in the world, Burger King onion rings won't be far — whether that's a curse or a blessing is up to you to decide.

They don't actually contain much onion

Although Burger King onion rings may taste like onion (as the name suggests), these deep-fried treats do not actually contain full slices of onion inside. It seems antithetical to everything the onion ring stands for, but Burger King has managed to get away with using a kind of powdered onion flavor in lieu of the real thing. While this certainly nullifies the risk of pulling the entire onion from its shell in the first bite, such a calamity seems a rite of passage for real onion ring devotees. 

The result of BK's dehydrated onions is, according to some, a paste-like texture whose flavor is onion-adjacent but not nearly intense enough to be mistaken for the actual allium. Others claim the onion flavor makes for an "unnatural" taste, as though some onion powder sprinkled into the batter was the extent of the effort made to legitimize the "onion" of the onion rings.

Onion rings were one of seven items featured on Burger King's first dollar menu

Though Burger King was not the first fast food joint to create a dollar menu (that innovation was spearheaded by Wendy's in 1989), it jumped on the bandwagon in 1998 with a menu that featured seven items for $0.99 each. On that original menu were onion rings, which Burger King has sold ever since.

Deemed the "Great Tastes" menu, Burger King gave these value items a tagline to emphasize their dedication to maintaining robust flavors in their food despite the low price tag: "It just tastes better." While the Burger King value menu has changed over the years, providing diners with new and improved options that have remained at or around $1 per item, onion rings have remained a permanent fixture among a rotating cast of ingredients and combos.

Though Burger King was in competition with several other fast food locations that boasted value menus with a variety of dishes, very few of those chains included onion rings. To this day, Burger King still stands out from the crowd by simply giving the people what they want: deep-fried onions that don't break the bank.

The onion rings wouldn't be the same without their sauces

Burger King offers six sauces with their meals, all of which can be put to good use with an order of onion rings: buffalo, BBQ, ranch, sweet and sour, honey mustard, or BK's famous zesty sauce, a creamy, horseradish-based dip. 

While everyone has their personal sauce allegiances, Burger King's zesty sauce is a company specialty whose tangy, oniony taste that pairs perfectly with the onion rings it was made for.

Still, if you're looking for a more traditional dip, Burger King's ranch is a top-rate option, according to Thrillist, who ranked condiments from across a variety of different fast food stops and found BK's ranch earned a spot in the top 20. 

Another notable mention is the buffalo dip. Though perhaps not your first instinct when it comes to pairing onion rings, Sweety High ranked it in first place among all of Burger King's sauce options. With its balanced mix of fat, acid, and a hint of spice, the buffalo dip is a welcome addition to the onion ring experience.

There was recently a shortage of zesty sauce, onion rings' most loyal companion

In November 2019, many people were forced to eat their onion rings naked (or, alternatively, dipped in one of Burger King's five other condiment options) due to a shortage of zesty sauce across stores. Due to an early snowfall, it became impossible to harvest much of the horseradish crop.

"We think these are new weather patterns that will not go away," Eric Rygg, president of Silver Springs Food, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Climate change has made it necessary for many farmers — from huge factory farms to smaller, locally owned and operated ones — to adjust how and when they plant, harvest, and distribute the food they produce.

But just because climate change demands these adaptations does not mean consumers will be happy about it. Zesty sauce fans complained on Twitter (and, presumably, off Twitter as well), decrying Burger King's neglect. Albeit bereft without their zesty companion, onion rings continued to be consumed.

The Rodeo Burger has onion rings on top

Burger King's Rodeo products have gone through various transformations over the years — what started as a limited-time Rodeo Cheeseburger became, after a few years, the Rodeo Crispy Chicken and the Rodeo Burger, the latter of which made a comeback in June of 2019 — but through it all, these specialty options have stayed true to the ingredient that makes them unique: onion rings.

We're assuming the smoky BBQ sauce is what gives this special its name, and when paired with the onion rings, the burger certainly has a Western flair. The crispiness of the rings give this burger textural intrigue, and the BBQ sauce's sweetness adds a new dimension to Burger King's classic patty. 

Though we wouldn't necessarily recommend ordering onion rings alongside the Rodeo Burger (see: dangers of excess sodium), we certainly wouldn't dissuade you from it — in fact, we'd support it! In these troubling times, it's important to follow your onion-happy heart.

Burger King believes everyone deserves onion rings

June 22 is National Onion Ring Day, and in solidarity with all onion ring eaters dismayed to discover their local fast food joint does not serve their favorite deep fried side, in 2018, Burger King offered free onion rings to their customers — in exchange for a carton of french fries from their fast food competitors.

Whether Burger King employees kept the fries for themselves or threw them out in support of the superior side was not determined. We can't help but wonder if, while the world feasted on Burger King onion rings, BK employees were left picking through cold, soggy fries, likely half-eaten already.

Burger King's promotional move made clear the company's dedication to their onion rings, and to the people who love them. Though this offer was valid in only select locations in Chicago; Los Angeles; New York, and Lynn, Massachusetts, the message was clear: onion rings for the people!

You can make them at home

Though there's no guarantee they'll turn out edible, onion rings are fairly easy to make at home, so long as you have a deep pot and a hearty amount of oil. Burger King usually substitutes the actual onion for an onion-flavored paste, but home cooks will likely find it easier to just use a real onion (it will probably taste better, too). 

The onion ring breading is made with simple ingredients, many of which might already be in your kitchen. To prepare the sliced onions for frying requires dunking each one into milk, flour, and breadcrumbs a few times each until they are thickly coated. Then all it takes is a few minutes in a neutral oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, a final dusting of salt, and voila! Though making onion rings at home lessens the probability of finding a stray fry in the bottom of your onion ring carton, the pride of making something edible with your own two hands just might make up for it.

Ringers are one of life's greatest joys

Few joys as simple and pure exist in this cruel world as the phenomenon of the ringer. Urban Dictionary defines a ringer in the following manner: "At Burger King when you order a side of fries sometimes you accidentally get an onion ring in there. This is called a ringer." 

Imagine driving away from Burger King, a burger and fries in the bag beside you. You wonder briefly if you should have ordered onion rings instead, but it's too late now. As you snack on fries and drive with one hand, you come across something unexpected in the bag of fries: a small onion ring, separated from the others to find its way into your bag, your car, your hands. A tiny miracle, a necessary reprieve from the monotony of one fry after another.

It is truly an experience not to be taken for granted, so the next time you come across a stray onion ring in your fries, say a prayer, do a dance, thank that big-headed King of burgers to savor this moment of ecstasy.

Lorde is not a fan of Burger King's onion rings

In 2017, Lorde admitted to being the mastermind behind the now-defunct Instagram account, OnionRingsWorldwide, which rated onion rings from different locations on a scale of one to five. Burger King scored on the low side — very low. 

"They are not good," she wrote, claiming she was glad she hadn't known Burger King served onion rings because of how disappointing they ended up. Lorde gave them a whopping (sorry) one point. The pop star will not be fooled by Burger King's fake onion filling, and she's not afraid to say it. "Characteristics were a mulched onion filling," she wrote on an Instagram caption of the King's rings. 

Apparently a big fan of onion rings, Lorde was not impressed by Burger King. While other restaurants, like Bareburger in New York City, received high praise, the overall flavor of BK's onion rings was described as having "a distinct bitterness." Harsh criticism, but if Lorde says it, it must be true.