Every Dr. Pepper Flavor Ranked Worst To Best

Dr Pepper is an American original, the oldest major soft drink brand in the U.S. The beloved proprietary blend of 23 flavors provides a singular taste experience that has helped define the soft drink industry, showing up in everything from jellybeans to ice cream toppings. But at some point, 23 flavors just didn't seem to be enough, so they started adding more. Is it silly to fiddle with a classic that soda lovers cherish just the way it is? Maybe. And yet, the flavor hits just keep coming.

Over the years, Dr Pepper has done its darndest to top itself by tinkering with its own magic formula with additions that aren't too far-fetched. Sure, it's removed caffeine and sugar along the way, and those certainly seem like vital elements. But rather than trying to reinvent itself, it has produced variations that turn up the volume on existing flavor notes. So if the original is on your favorites list, you're bound to love the sequels.

But can you love all Dr Pepper flavors equally? Not likely. There's bound to be one or two that don't demand a second swig. We've ranked the 12 Dr Pepper flavors currently in the product line from worst to best to help find the clear winners and the logical runners-up. While none are worthy of being tossed in the proverbial dustbin, there are some choices that make more sense than others. Read on to see how they stack up.

12. Diet Dr Pepper Caffeine Free

Take the period out of the "Dr" if you must, but when you take the caffeine and the corn syrup, you may have overstepped. The flavor remains, but the pep in "pepper" is drastically reduced, and that's hard to get past. The idea of creating a Pepper variant to be enjoyed guilt-free is a noble cause, and yes, the impeccable Pepper blend still hits your tongue like a technicolor dream in liquid form. However, when you read the label and you realize there are still 0.3 calories and a slew of minerals present in trace amounts, you have to wonder what exactly is in the can besides water and caramel coloring?

What keeps this version tasting so darn good while boasting almost no ingredients whatsoever? Is it ghosts? Is it wishes? Is it some sort of futuristic food technology sent to the past by time travelers to save humanity from tooth decay? As guarded as the secret flavor recipe is, the world may never know. What we do know is, of all the possible Peppers, this is the least exciting version currently available. And maybe available in the future, if that time travel theory has legs.

11. Caffeine Free Dr Pepper

Caffeine may not be a flavor, but it's part of the enjoyment that's hard to lose. While this version gives soft-drinkers a less-charged can of happiness to enjoy, a Pepper without the buzz just isn't the same. Still, the Pepper producers had their hearts in the right place by extracting only the caffeine while leaving all the sweet sugary goodness intact. They also had their legal smarts in the right place. According Austin's NPR affiliate, KUT 90.5, early versions of soft drinks included a boost in the form of actual cocaine, until the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906. Caffeine was still allowed, but the Pepper people knew a marketing opportunity when they saw one. They pushed their caffeine-free status as a selling point that made their "food drink" a healthier choice than the competition. It's a brilliant concept that carries forward to the current-day soda philosophy.

So while the alluring flavor remains, the extra zing that gives soda aficionados a real kick in the can goes missing, which gives this iteration a not-so-favorable ranking among the myriad Pepper possibilities.

10. Dr Pepper Zero Sugar

In the 1960s, Dr Pepper won a cola war court case declaring it was free of cola (specifically, the kola nut) and could be marketed next to Coke and Pepsi (via D Magazine). Decades later, it produced a version that was free of sugar, too. After removing caffeine, what's left to take out? As it happens, there were a whopping 40 grams of sugar per 12-oz. still in the can, in the form of goopy corn syrup. That translates to a half cup of sugar in a single serving. Yikes! No wonder the Pepper producers decided to formulate a version without it. Capturing the health-and-diet crowd who just can't abandon their Pepper predisposition is a genius strategy that shows these folks really know the audience.

So what makes Zero Sugar different from Diet Dr Pepper? This question circled the internet when the Pepper people announced the Zero collection on Twitter. The answer: Zero includes a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium, a duo of artificial sweeteners that give it a syrupy sweetness reminiscent of the original, while Diet includes only aspartame. Pretty sneaky, if you ask us.

9. Dr Pepper Cream Soda Zero Sugar

If modern food science can combine Dr Pepper with cream soda flavor and do it without including sugar, anything is possible. It's one of the biggest shifts in Dr Pepper's direction since its merger with beverage colossus Keurig (yep ... the single-serving coffee people) in 2018. So when the idea of layering a second soda shop favorite into the mix is on the agenda, you know you're in for a good time. It was even good enough to be featured during the 2021 Oscars broadcast as a roll-out for the whole Zero Sugar collection.

If any soda flavor should have its sugar left intact, however, cream soda is at the top of the list. Still, the idea that there's no Dr Pepper Diet Cream Soda means fans of the fizzy stuff at least have their own tasty alternative that brings creamy vanilla goodness to the front of the flavor line-up. Even with the sugar ... er, high fructose corn syrup removed, this Pepper mix is a heroic attempt at satisfying the selective soda consumer. But there are better versions to be found.

8. Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar

Pepper lovers have discerned a note of cherry among the proprietary 23-flavor combo since the beverage was introduced. So what inspired additional cherry in a version where no sugar exists? Perhaps it's the layering of flavors to distract from what's missing. Or perhaps it's a devious mind game that introduces a look-alike for the word "cheery" into the name, subliminally signaling soft drink lovers that this product is programmed for happiness. Whatever the reason, the additional cherry does have its perks, not unlike the Pepper Perks program that scores you points the more you slurp down. What those points convert to may be known only to insiders ... unless you know how to game the internet and discover a wormhole to a super-secret "members only" re-release of an older Pepper variation with a fruit-flavored twist all its own.

All extractions considered, Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar is a surge in the right direction. Not only can the health-conscious enjoy their precious Pepper without calories, they can also savor the extra-cherry goodness as part of the Zero Sugar movement. The carbonated beverage life is sweet indeed, even with sugar subtracted from the secret formula.

7. Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla

When soda jerks ruled the drug store, you could ask for a hit of cherry and vanilla in your Dr Pepper and concoct your own craft soda. The magnificent minds behind Pepper production noodled up a version for the modern soft drink consumer. Once this flavor combo hit shelves, the custom soda flavor movement made a return, only this time it came in cans and bottles. Suddenly, you could enjoy the sweet, smooth blend of ice cream counter tastes in a cold can of Dr P anytime a craving hit! Its debut in 2004 coincided with the disappearance of the short-lived Dr Pepper Red Fusion, which seems less like a coincidence to us and more like a well-timed product roll-out.

Whatever the reasoning, this fusion of soda sizzle and ice cream sensibilities is a genius move that feels like a drinkable float you can take on the go. There may be stronger finishers on the list, but the sweet sensation of Pepper plus cherry plus vanilla provides a one-two-three punch of pleasing flavor that holds its own against the others. If only there were a sugar-free version that could improve upon the original ...

6. Diet Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla

The 21st century may not have given everyone jetpacks or hovercraft, but it did give us this guilt-free can of dessert-flavored soda, and that's something to celebrate. With cherry and vanilla flavor notes mingling with the original blend and the sugar removed, it's as close to a healthy ice cream sundae as soda has ever come. It even had some promotional help from none other than The Muppets in an ad that used their signature "Mah Na Mah Na" sing-along tune to illustrate how distractingly good the flavor is. That sort of promotional takes the right spirit of overwhelming joy a soda flavor can impart.

These cherry and vanilla notes hearken back to childhood days when chasing the ice cream truck was the height of daily activity. It's a gentle reminder that everyone deserves a sweet treat, even if they're all grown up and watching their calories — and even if chasing ice cream trucks is something adults probably shouldn't do. There's something enchanting about a soda flavor that can satisfy an inner child and an outer adult at the same time. It may not be a jetpack, but it's pretty darn good on its own merits.

5. Dr Pepper with Real Sugar

This retro variant hits high on our list for its thoughtful touches that recall Pepper's true heritage. Replacing the corn syrup with real sugar and giving the packaging a throw-back feel honors the spirit of the Dr's soda fountain origins when it was called a Waco. It also recalls the era when, as Southern Living points out, the original Pepper bottled in Dublin, Texas, was produced using the original "Texas-based recipe made with pure cane sugar." The evils of high-fructose corn syrup have been studied and debated for years, making the original refined sweetener something of a preference for beverage producers.

Reintroducing sugar in a formula that's lasted more than a century wasn't just food science; it was a nostalgic return to a time when what was in your soda came from nature instead of a lab. The fact that it can be purchased in glass bottles only adds to the soft-focus remembrance of corner drug stores and soda machines that made you pull the bottles out instead of dropping cans down a chute. Ah, sweet memories.

4. Dr Pepper & Cream Soda

This soda shoppe blend of two classic tastes takes the oldest soft drink in America to a whole new level. The addition of authentic cream soda flavoring to the 23-note flavor blend is a nostalgic vibe unto itself. It might be interesting to note that the name implies a combination of two different sodas rather than the Dr Pepper Cherry and Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla names. Is this an indication that there's a second soda sharing the can rather than just a tweak to the usual formula? Perhaps. The idea that pouring a can of Pepper into a glass with a can of cream soda sounds like it might miss the mark, though.

As careful as the Pepper people are with their formulation, the brand has made sure to incorporate just the right amount of cream soda magic to the Dr Pepper everyone knows and loves to create a balanced taste sensation that reviewers have called "a pleasant and harmonious" combination. That's what a proper soda experience is all about.

3. Dr Pepper Cherry

With modern black and red packaging to add extra visual pep to the various takes on why the name "Pepper" was chosen, high-ranking Dr Pepper Cherry brings a bodacious blast of extra cherry goodness to the 23-flavor blend and turns regular Pepper into a supercharged classic. There's plenty of room for more cherry essence now that the myth of Dr Pepper being made with prune juice has been debunked. It may seem a bit odd that the cherry-only addition was introduced a full five years after the cherry-vanilla addition, but that may have been due to the competition set by Cherry Coke decades earlier.

When Dr Pepper Cherry finally made its entry into the race for soda domination, rock band KISS was recruited to help with marketing using their song "Calling Dr. Love". Talk about an auspicious debut! It's notable that cherry is the only fruit to be called out in a permanent Dr Pepper flavor after more than a century of speculation about how much cherry is in the base flavors. For many soda lovers, though, the additional pump of cherry is just what the doctor ordered.

2. Dr Pepper Original

Original flavor Pepper is nearly perfect as-is, with no enhancements necessary to the taste that started it all. Mass production has surely required tweaks to the formula created by Dr. Charles Alderton when he first concocted a drink mix that reminded him of the taste from a real soda fountain, according to Culinary Lore. But that magnificent blend started the "I'm a Pepper" jingle earworm and launched a merch movement of a thousand vintage branded tees. It's a true American original. It even holds up as a hot beverage for people who've been brave enough to try it, which may be unique among your other options in the soda world.

You can find Pepper lovers on the internet offering their best dissection of the 23-flavor blend that makes this American standard so special, even if the Pepper people keep the real breakdown a closely-guarded secret. Regardless of what the combo actually may be, the impact this soda has had on pop culture and "pop" culture around the world is nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, it ranks as the fourth-best-selling soda brand in America, according to a Newsweek listing. But even if the song is going through your head now and your taste buds are tingling for a can of the sweet stuff right this very minute, there's still one other Pepper that stands head and shoulders above the six-pack.

1. Diet Dr Pepper

This well-considered, diet-friendly twist just barely nudges its way past the OG Pepper to make the number one spot. It captures the sparkling spirit that Dr Pepper has maintained throughout its almost 140-year existence. It's sweet but not cloying, with all 23 flavors sharing the spotlight and singing in soft drink harmony. What puts this one over the top is that age-old Pepper taste that never gets old. All the flavor, zero calories, plus an ad campaign that features a kooky miniature rock star named Li'l Sweet ... remember him? This groovy little mascot first showed up in 2015, played by none other than "American Idol" Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini ... remember him? These weird, hilarious ads give the whole Pepper collection a kick of wackiness, setting them apart from other soda brands that can take themselves too seriously sometimes.

While the competition is testing far-fetched flavor mash-ups that seem pretty hard to swallow — space-flavored Coke, anyone? — Li'l Sweet reminds us all that soda should be fun, frisky and, yes, a little sweet. His spirited falsetto, along with the guilt-free pleasure of a beloved flavor that helped make soft drinks a cultural sensation, helps Diet Dr Pepper land at the top of the pops.