Every McDonald's Dipping Sauce, Ranked Worst To Best

McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries are tasty in their own right, but they're totally elevated when you pair them with dipping sauces. It's part of the fast-food experience — it's a ritual to frantically figure out the right types and amount of sauces for everyone in your car to order at the drive-thru window. Without a dipping sauce like ranch or honey mustard by its side, a chicken nugget is just sad and longing for a flavorful partner. 

Any McDonald's expert knows that it's all about the sauce. They know how to hack the menu to get as many sauce packets as possible and don't limit themselves to dunking just nuggets. Fries, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and more are elevated with a little swipe of tangy sauce. McNuggets may have a questionable past, but the colorful dipping sauces are their saving grace. 

We decided that it's only right to do a definitive ranking of all the dipping sauces that McDonald's has to offer. Ketchup and mustard are not included, considering those are pretty standard whether you're at McDonald's or not. We did include a few discontinued sauces, as McDonald's has a habit of sprucing up its menu with limited-time-only blasts from the past.

Tartar sauce

Let's be real — tartar sauce has no place on a menu without fried fish. If we're ordering a big plate of fish and chips, load us up with the condiment. But at McDonald's, it's just an unnecessary inclusion on the menu. The fast-food brand's rendition is your basic tartar sauce with a little zip and a lot of creaminess. Sure, it's the only appropriately topping for the notorious Filet-O-Fish sandwich, but there's no other use for it, especially as a dipping sauce of any kind. 

The McDonald's drive-thru workers might do a double-take if you order a side of tartar sauce with your chicken nuggets and fries. It's not bad, just a very odd choice to pair with the classics. Ranch is probably a safer option that won't raise eyebrows, but it still gives off a similar vibe. If you're someone who just loves tartar sauce on anything and everything, more power to you, but we'll take a pass on this.

Honey

Honey is another condiment that has absolutely no place on the McDonald's menu, except if you add it to your McCafe order. It makes sense at a restaurant like Kentucky Fried Chicken, as it's a fitting topping for fried chicken and biscuits. It's a little odd as a condiment to pair with chicken nuggets and fries, however, and is an overall weird option on McDonald's menu of dipping sauces.

The only reason honey is listed higher than tartar sauce is because honey on chicken just works a little better than tartar sauce on chicken. It's hard to make crispy chicken and sticky sugar taste bad when paired together. However, honey (especially the honey they sell at McDonald's) doesn't bring anything to the party besides sweetness. If you want something sugary, order Sweet 'N Sour because it has a better balance of flavors. Its sweetness is tempered with vinegar and spices.

Tangy Barbecue

Tangy BBQ is another weak offering from McDonald's. Barbecue sauce is a staple, but this take feels more like brown-colored ketchup than anything you would want to slather on ribs. It has a bit of smokiness and savory seasoning, but the sweetness overpowers everything. It would benefit from a heavier punch of vinegar to live up to the "tangy" claims and cut down on the sugar content. 

It's not a bad pick for BBQ die-hards who are just looking for something to dip their nuggets in. However, as a barbecue sauce in general, it's lacking. It's definitely not a sauce you would choose to buy in a grocery store. To be fair, McDonald's didn't design for it to compete with real-deal barbecue, but there's a lot of room for improvement. Even though McNuggets don't count as real barbecue, that doesn't mean they should get the shorted when it comes to good sauce. 

Creamy Ranch

Creamy Ranch from McDonald's will definitely disappoint you if you're expecting Hidden Valley Ranch quality. Ranch dressing is a staple that's ubiquitous far outside of the McDonald's universe. But the home of the Golden Arches just needs to step its game up with its recipe for this classic condiment.

The biggest issue with the Creamy Ranch is its consistency. It's extremely thin and unsatisfying to dunk nuggets into. Ranch is, at its core, a salad dressing, yet this is the last thing you would want to drizzle over some greens. The flaovr isn't bad, with a good punch of garlicky herbs, but it could be so much better. There are literally hundreds of examples of better ranch dressings on the market that McDonald's could study to improve its version. It would only make the chain's food taste even better if it could perfect its ranch formula. Ranch has a lot of die-hard fans, so McDonald's needs to make sure it's satisfying its ranch-loving customers.

Cajun

McDonald's debuted its Cajun sauce in the U.S. last year as part of its meal promotion with K-pop group BTS. The meal wasn't anything too unique, but the sauces were the stand-out features of the combo, as pointed out by the Chicago Tribune. Out of the two sauces available, Cajun, was the second-best pick and definitely doesn't deserve to be at the top half of this list. The concept of creamy Cajun sauce was just a little unsettling. It was also just not what you might expect when you order Cajun sauce, as it didn't really taste like Cajun seasoning or Tabasco.

The Cajun dipping sauce was thick and tasted almost like a spicy mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and barbecue sauce with a few spices mixed in. It was not a bad option to pair with your nuggets, but it makes sense that McDonald's U.S. wasn't champing at the bit to make this sauce a permanent addition to the menu. 

Spicy Buffalo

Buffalo sauce is another must-have to accompany chicken nuggets, and McDonald's take is pretty solid, though certainly not mid-blowing. Despite being advertised as spicy, it doesn't pack much heat at all. It's definitely less spicy than Frank's Red Hot, which is a bit of a bummer. Additionally, it's much creamier than your typical buffalo sauce, which is a little off-putting. 

While the Spicy Buffalo isn't bad, it isn't anything special or worth going out of your way to order. The dipping sauce is basically a mix of hot sauce and butter flavoring that any restaurant that makes wings could whip up (via Mcdonald's). McDonald's could amp up the spice in this to make it stand out a little more, or just add some other flavors to make it feel more well-rounded. However, it definitely is Buffalo sauce as advertised, so it gets points for hitting the basic markers. 

Chipotle BBQ

McDonald's had a limited-time Chipotle BBQ sauce that should have become the standard for the chain instead of the lackluster Tangy BBQ. It was a smokier version of BBQ sauce that was better than the original thanks to the addition of chipotle chiles. Again, if memory serves, it still wasn't exactly barbecue sauce you would want to brush on some freshly grilled meats. However, when consumed with a McNugget, it was a flavorful addition to the mix. 

Unfortunately, McDonald's hasn't served Chipotle BBQ in several years. In a 2021 tweet to a fan, the fast-food chain also didn't give any indication that the sauce would be returning anytime soon. "Gone, but not forgotten. We're sure you can find a new favorite," the company wrote. It's obvious the sauce still has fans, and the taste was more interesting than McDonald's regular barbecue sauce. A limited-time-only return would likely be a successful future promotion.

Habanero Ranch

Unlike Chipotle BBQ, McDonald's has indicated that its fan-favorite Habanero Ranch may make a comeback in the future, so ranch fans can have some redemption. Habanero Ranch was the more interesting cousin to Creamy Ranch. It had a kick that almost gave it a Cajun flavor, as well as a nice hint of vinegar to cut through the buttermilk creaminess. It could have been spicer, but that's the case with most of the sauces on the McDonald's menu. In general, its taste and texture blew Creamy Ranch out of the water. 

A few years back, fans made a Change.org petition urging McDonald's to bring back Habanero Ranch, so there is serious interest in the sauce making a comeback. In a 2021 tweet, the brand teased that it may finally do just that. "Time will tell if we bring that back to the masses! Keep an eye out," it wrote. It's unknown if and when McDonald's will bring it back, but it is worth trying if you find it on a menu near you someday.

Mighty Hot Sauce

One fan-favorite sauce that did make a comeback in 2021 was the brand's Mighty Hot Sauce, but it's off the menu for now (via Mcdonald's Corporate). McDonald's deserves an extra shout-out for this one because this was the first sauce from the chain that really was spicy. It wasn't the spiciest thing ever, but it had the kick that you would expect from something that's named "Mighty Hot." 

The Mighty Hot Sauce was full of spices, mainly cayenne pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes, which were welcome additions. After debuting the sauce in 2020, the brand brought it back alongside its spicy nuggets, which was a truly fiery combination. It definitely wasn't for those customers with delicate tastebuds, and honestly, the sauce paired better with the plain nuggets anyway. Sometimes, too much spice can be a bad thing. In general, though, this sauce was a win, and it would be a good regular addition to the menu. 

Honey Mustard

Honey mustard and chicken nuggets are an iconic pairing. Sure, everyone has their favorite sauces, but this pair just always works. Honey mustard has the sweetness, the tartness, and the hint of spice that just pairs so well with fried chicken. This is one staple that McDonald's really nails. It's nothing compared to homemade honey mustard, but it's pretty good for a fast-food recipe. Additionally, unlike the ranch sauce, the honey mustard has a pleasantly thick consistency meant for dunking. It's not so thick that you can't drizzle it over fries, but it doesn't feel watery either.  

In fact, McDonald's honey mustard is one of those sauces you can put on anything. Need to spice up a McChicken sandwich? Put some under the bun. Need to add some flavor to your fries? Dunk them in. The possibilities are as endless as the McDonald's menu, so you should use this sauce to amp up whatever you're ordering at Micky D's. 

Sweet 'N Sour

McDonald's Sweet 'N Sour is another winner. It's the best pick out of the dipping sauces that are always available at any location, and a must-try if you haven't already. The fast-food company's recipe is unique as it includes peach and apricot puree, which add a pleasant sweetness with a hint of fruit to the sauce (via Mcdonald's).

The Sweet 'N Sour sauce is sticky in the best way, meaning that it can perfectly coat every inch of your chicken nuggets. It's probably one of the few sauces on the list that you can dump in your box of nuggets, shake it up, and be pleased with the messy results. It's also an underrated pick for fries — it almost works better than a classic like ketchup because the different flavors are better balanced. It's one of the sauces McDonald's should leave as-is, as it's one of the best fast-food dipping sauces on the market. 

Sweet Chili

The other sauce included in the limited-edition BTS fan meal was also one of the best sauces McDonald's has ever put out. The Sweet Chili Sauce came to the U.S. for the first time in 2021 and it was a welcome addition to the menu (via New York Times). It was similar to the Sweet 'N Sour sauce, but with more of a funky tang that rounded out the taste. It contained strong notes of tomato, chilis, and garlic, which made it taste a lot more like real food than most McDonald's condiments (via McDonald's). 

This sauce would pair well with whatever chicken you put it on, whether or not you were ordering it at McDonald's. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on it while it was available, smothering a crispy chicken sandwich with some of this sauce was a must-try menu hack. It's almost upsetting that McDonald's only let its U.S. customers try this for a limited time only — now we know exactly what we're missing out on. 

Hot Mustard

McDonald's honey mustard might be good, but its hot mustard was truly top-tier when it comes to sauces. Unfortunately, it was widely discontinued in 2014, even though an investigation from The Takeout revealed that you may still be able to find it at some locations to this day. It was the type of mustard that makes you feel like it's clearing your sinuses. It wasn't quite as strong as some of the stuff you can buy at the store, but McDonald's take on hot mustard was still a home run.

McDonald's Hot Mustard is like its honey mustard with a major kick. It's darker than its counterpart, likely due to the addition of spices. As we've said before, it could be spicer, but it likely has a wider appeal right at the heat level it's at. This was also an underrated sauce to put on burgers or, back in the day, to dip an entire McDonald's Snack Wrap into. 

Szechuan Sauce

This sauce was originally introduced in the late '90s to promote Disney's "Mulan" premiere. "Rick and Morty" brought McDonald's Szechuan Sauce back into the mainstream in 2017, infamously leading to riots when the chain ran out of the limited amount of the re-released version of the sauce it had made. While it might not be worthy of violence, there's a reason that this sauce is so hyped up.

The sauce is a bit like Sweet 'N Sour, but it is darker in color and packs a much more vinegary punch. Additionally, there is a pleasant nuttiness from the sesame seed oil and a strong aromatic quality from the ginger. It's a well-balanced sauce that would taste delicious on a variety of dishes, not just McDonald's menu items. McDonald's is bringing it back in 2022 for a limited time only (via Instagram). Hopefully, the chain learned from the botched promotion in 2017. This sauce is so good that it really could hold its own on the menu permanently without the mainstream TV promo.