I tried every dipping sauce from McDonald's and Wendy's and found that Wendy's was better in every way
Sauce is love, sauce is life.
Sauce is what bestows flavor upon a chicken nugget. It's what makes an onion ring blossom. It adds an extra layer of personality to a burger, sandwich, or french fry.
Its importance is why I visited McDonald's and Wendy's to retrieve every single kind of dipping sauce the chains carry, as well as some nuggets to go with.
Here's how they compared:
From McDonald's: tangy BBQ, hot mustard, ranch, spicy Buffalo, honey, honey mustard, and sweet & sour sauces.
From Wendy's, BBQ, sweet & tangy, honey mustard, s'awesome sauce, ranch, and creamy sriracha sauces.
One of the most ubiquitous sauces on the American table was first on my sauce roster: BBQ sauce.
McDonald's BBQ sauce was true to its name in that it was quite tangy.
But it was also cloyingly sweet and not that smoky — a low bar for barbecue.
It's important to acknowledge that just as there isn't only one kind of BBQ, there also isn't only one kind of BBQ sauce.
Wendy's BBQ sauce was much thicker than McDonald's and actually had a decent kick to it.
It was also very sweet, but very flavorful, and I could taste it on a restaurant rack of ribs.
Ranch is the popular cousin of BBQ who wears cowboy boots. It was a lot cooler back in the '90s but people still love it.
McDonald's ranch, however, is a disappointing rendition of the California classic.
It's yogurty and sweet and tastes more like yogurt than actual ranch dressing.
It's the spice mixture that makes ranch special, not the creaminess.
And Wendy's gets that. It's sour, tangy, creamy, and thick, but most importantly, it's got that spice.
This is no watered-down excuse for a dressing. This is good ol' herby ranch.
Buffalo sauce goes with one thing: chicken wings. But if you don't have wings, nuggets are the next best thing.
McDonald's Buffalo sauce tastes remarkably like the real thing. It brings substantial heat to the table.
Unlike the chain's other sauces, it's not sweet. It's pure salty, acid, and spice — delicious.
Wendy's doesn't have Buffalo sauce, for some reason. Instead, it has creamy sriracha.
This sauce is basically sriracha and mayo, and it's actually pretty spicy.
It's just a little less spicy than McDonald's Buffalo sauce, but spice lovers won't be disappointed, especially when it's paired with Wendy's spicy nugs.
Honey mustard is a fickle sauce: it's not just for nuggets, it's also great on salads, fries, and — trust me — pizza.
McDonald's honey mustard has an iconic taste. It's sweet with a hint of mustard seed.
It's a little more watery than the other sauces, but it's definitely one of the better balanced.
I'm a lifelong lover of McDonald's honey mustard, and my heart is hard-won.
But Wendy's spectacular honey mustard wooed me instantly.
It's thicker and creamier than McDonald's and has a much stronger mustard flavor with a kick. It's also slightly less sweet, which is a boon.
Sweet & sour sauce is kind of a cliché, and also not very descriptive. Most of McDonald's sauces already are sweet and sour.
Except for this sauce. Yeah, it's sweet. It's not sour.
It also has a strange, off-putting flavor that tastes like stale ginger. I'm not a fan.
Wendy's sweet and sour sauce had a pretty low score to beat.
But it transcends that score by leaps and bounds. It tastes exactly like the sweet and sour sauce that comes with crab rangoons and egg rolls.
It has a lovely honey-like texture, and the flavors of sweet, sour, and pepper are perfectly balanced.
It pairs especially well with spicy nuggets. The combo hits every flavor note.
Hot mustard isn't available at all McDonald's locations. It's a regional sauce, and I happen to live in the right region.
Stronger and more mustardy than honey mustard, this is by far McDonald's most satisfying and interesting sauce.
Even though it isn't spicy at all, it's basically an improved version of honey mustard, which is already one of McDonald's best sauces.
Unlike McDonald's, Wendy's puts its signature sauce in a dipping cup. S'awesome sauce can be found on burgers or on the side.
It's absolutely incredible. Smoky paprika, creamy mayo, black pepper and a hint of tang, S'awesome sauce is perfect.
It's by and far the best sauce of every sauce I've tested.
And of course, it's even better on a spicy nugget.
McDonald's does have one sauce that Wendy's doesn't: plain honey.
But ever since the chain halved the size of its honey cups, it's been hard to get enough honey for a satisfying dip.
McDonald's has a pretty basic set of sauces. I think the chain errs on the side of caution when it comes to flavor.
As a kid, I loved McDonald's honey mustard. But as an adult, I find it much less exciting.
The only sauce at McDonald's that I loved was the hot mustard, but it's sadly not on the chain's national menu.
On the other hand, Wendy's sauces consistently blew me away. There wasn't a single bad sauce in the bunch.
And even more impressive is Wendy's special house sauce, which is every bit as awesome as it promises to be.