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11 Fast Food Ranch Sauces, Ranked

Wendy's and KFC French fries
Wendy's and KFC French fries - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Whether you're a dipper, a dunker, or a squeezer, ranch is likely a go-to sauce for anything from burgers to salads. The creamy condiment is made of buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise, a mix of herbs like parsley, and a steady sprinkle of spices like onion and garlic powder. While ranch is a dominant staple in the Midwest region of the U.S., people across the country, and even the world, go to fast food restaurants asking for a side of ranch with their order.

Every packet of ranch is different, and there are endless fast food chains to visit for a good ranch sauce to enjoy with your meal. With so many choices, deciding which sauce tastes the best can be challenging. Luckily, I visited many different fast food chains to try each brand's ranch sauce with french fries. Then, I ranked them from worst to best based on factors like taste, accessibility, and value.

Prices are as of the date of publication and may vary based on region.

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

11. Chick-Fil-A

Chick-fil-A fries and ranch sauce
Chick-fil-A fries and ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Chick-fil-A is a popular fast food chain for folks looking for a quick bite at a relatively low cost. I wanted to love Chick-fil-A's garden herb ranch sauce because I love a lot of its products and because the brand puts a seemingly exciting twist on classic ranch. Its garden herb ranch sauce is more than just a ranch sauce; it's meant to elevate the traditional ranch dressing and present a more homey version. But in reality, it just falls flat.

Chick-fil-A's ranch is a very tangy sauce with a dry aftertaste. Tangy isn't always bad when it comes to ranch, but in this sauce, tangy borders sour -- and sour borders rotten a little too closely. The garden herb ranch tastes like it is not meant to be eaten, and any herb flavor fails to come through. There's the saying that a little goes a long way, and that's true here -- but not in a good way. If you're the kind of person who dips your fries in the sauce just to get a little extra flavor, we can assure you that the sourness will overshadow the ranch profile. If you're a dunker, though, and you like a little bit more sauce on your fry, that might be to your benefit, as the ranch flavor is heightened when you eat more of the sauce at once.

10. Sonic

Sonic fries with ranch sauce
Sonic fries with ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Sonic earned its hype from the fun ways the company used to present customers with their food. For example, because the restaurant is a drive-in, customers would place their orders while parked by a huge menu screen, and a worker wearing roller skates would roll their orders out. It was whimsical and a unique fast food experience. While they no longer roll out on skates to bring you your food, Sonic is still primarily a drive-in restaurant with some classic menu items to choose from — like its ranch.

This sauce is called a dressing rather than a sauce, which I expected to mean that it would taste like the same condiment some people pour on salads. When I opened the container, though, the ranch was much thicker than any dressing I've ever had. It had the consistency of sour cream. I even flipped the ranch cup upside down to see if it would pour out, but nothing did.

Like Chick-fil-A's sauce, Sonic's ranch is overwhelming with a tangy taste that takes a toll on your palate. So, if you're dipping fries back-to-back, that tart flavor sticks in the back of your throat and quickly turns sour. It is not the best ranch sauce to eat with a complete fast food meal if you're the kind of person who doesn't let a single fry go undipped.

9. Burger King

Burger King fries with two ranches
Burger King fries with two ranches - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Burger King is a fast food staple in the U.S. It's a tried-and-true, relied-upon company that you can always count on for a last-minute meal. Its ranch sauce is just as classic as its Chicken Fries or Whopper -- but it just slightly misses the mark.

When you open the ranch packaging, you can see the spices sprinkled into the cream-colored sauce. The specks almost look like peppercorns, but according to the ingredient list, it's more likely to be dried parsley. Seeing the spices raised my expectations for a flavorful sauce, but this ranch didn't deliver. The slightly tart flavor dies down quickly despite the consistency being thick enough that a dollop of ranch sticks to the fry when you dip into it. The scent of the ranch isn't pungent either, which contributes to the lackluster taste. I appreciate the consistency, though, as it sits in the perfect middle ground between runny and thick. Middle ground is also a way to describe how this ranch straddles the line of not being great -- but also not being the worst on our list.

8. McDonald's

McDonald's fries with ranch sauce
McDonald's fries with ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

When you think of McDonald's, you probably think of classic fast food. The company is consistent, affordable, and a quintessential member of the fast food chain clan. While I tend to lean toward McDonald's for its chicken nuggets and french fries, I found that its ranch sauce just doesn't have a powerful enough flavor to make it far in this ranking.

McDonald's ranch is quite runny in texture and behaves more like a dressing waiting to be poured than a sauce waiting to be dipped into. Like other chains, McDonald's sauce is tangy, but you can distinctly taste the ranch flavor in addition to the sourness, which sets it apart. There aren't specks of spices in this sauce, so if you're looking for a bit of heat or a well-balanced set of seasonings, you won't find that here. In fact, the flavor itself isn't very powerful. Rather, the taste is very subtle. It is good for those who are looking for a sauce to eliminate the dryness in their meals rather than for any additional flavor.

7. Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen fries and ranch sauce
Dairy Queen fries and ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Something that sets Dairy Queen (DQ) apart is that the company makes its Hidden Valley Ranch in-house. Hidden Valley Ranch is a popular ranch dressing brand that, when compiled with whatever makes this dressing "homemade," makes me hopeful that this ranch would be one of the best.

The homemade quality is obvious as soon as you open the container. It's a black sauce cup with a clear top, which gives no indication that the sauce was prepackaged and shipped from a warehouse. When you remove the plastic top, the pungent smell of DQ ranch fills the room -- which did not happen with other brands. It smells exactly like a dressing would: very strong with almost a hint of vinegar.

The smell matched the taste, which was flavorful -- likely aided by the specks of spices you can see in this thick, white sauce. It was also refreshing, as you expect dressing to be. Nothing about the taste of this sauce says ranch to me, though. Rather, it just tastes like a creamy dressing seasoned with spices and lemon and does not explicitly match the flavor profile of ranch.

6. Wendy's

Wendy's fries with ranch
Wendy's fries with ranch - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Since ranch is already made with buttermilk, you can usually expect a buttermilk ranch to be extra creamy and highlight the acidity of the dairy product. Wendy's buttermilk ranch is no different, as it has a distinct buttermilk taste that shines more than any other acidic notes. This is good and bad for the sauce because it takes away from the ranch flavor, but the yogurt-like consistency is enjoyable.

Wendy's ranch has a sweet taste, and paired with the consistency, it makes for a pretty thick and heavy dipping sauce. This means a little goes a long way. If you're a serial dunker, this one is probably not for you because too much of this sauce will be overly sweet and weigh down your palate. If you want to taste more french fry than ranch sauce, though, you can dip your fry lightly into this sauce and it'll be a decently satisfying condiment.

5. Shake Shack

Shake Shack fries and ranch
Shake Shack fries and ranch - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Shake Shack sets itself apart from many other fast food chains because of its crinkle-cut fries. When it comes to pairing with sauces, crinkle-cut fries make for good dipping -- but Shake Shack's ranch container does not. The container is a shallow, flat circle that differs from the deep, cup-like containers the other chains provide. The shallowness means you do less dipping and more dragging your fry across the base of the container to get some sauce on it.

The container was also served cold as if it had been kept in the fridge, which is different from how the other ranches thus far were stored. This chill is welcomed, and it helps to offset the slight spiciness that exists in this sauce — probably because of the red specks of spices you can see when you open this container. The spice isn't overpowering, though; it strikes a balance between a sour acidity (likely from the lemon juice) and a calming sweetness.

Since this sauce still has a lot going on, from sweetness to acidity to tartness, you'd expect that once you combine the sauce with the saltiness of the fries, it will be a little overwhelming on your palate. Instead, after eating the fries and dipping them many times, I found that the ranch sauce became monotonous and unexciting the further into the meal I got.

4. Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC fries and ranch sauce
KFC fries and ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

The Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) classic ranch comes with a surprising, colorful twist. The sauce is a bit more yellow than it is white, so it already veers away from the typical sauce you'd expect. It's thicker than a few of the sauces on this list, but not in an intrusive way. The consistency is good when paired with KFC's fries, which look crispy but are actually rather limp.

The ranch sauce carries on the tradition of tangy acidity, but I noticed a dryness in the back of my throat after a dip. It was almost like the ranch was borderline spicy. The sauce tasted less like ranch on its own and more like a chipotle sauce mixed with ranch. I found it has a slight kick to it, but the fat-free buttermilk KFC uses in its recipe mellows the spices a bit, making for a well-balanced ranch sauce with just enough spice to add a nice, seasoned flavoring to your french fries for an extra $0.30 charge.

3. Popeyes

Popeyes' fries and ranch sauce
Popeyes' fries and ranch sauce - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Here is another sauce with a little extra buttermilk flavor that creates a creamy, yogurt-like taste. If these fast food chains could lose points for presentation, Popeyes would, as it presented its fries and ranch sauce in a greasy bag that didn't add any excitement to this taste test. The ranch, for which the company charges $0.29, leans toward the consistency and acidity of sour cream, but it is well-seasoned and, most importantly, well-balanced.

There's a clear mix of spicy and sweet, which I think comes from the garlic and onion powder in the recipe. Other ranches include garlic and onion powder too, but this is the first sauce that gets the ratio just right. Plus, the dried parsley adds to the balance of this recipe. I also thought the buttermilk works as an asset in this ranch sauce, which makes it clear why Popeyes keeps it in the sauce's name. Popeyes's ranch simply tastes good, which earned it a high spot in our ranking.

2. Wing Stop

Wing Stop fries and ranch
Wing Stop fries and ranch - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

The next time you walk into a Wing Stop, take a look at the walls around you. If your local franchise is anything like mine, on one of the walls, you'll see a frame with a simple picture: Wing Stop's ranch cup, with the caption, "Can you love something too much?" Wing Stop is nothing if not confident in its ranch -- which is shown in the $1.49 upcharge for a cup.

Wing Stop's housemade ranch comes in an ambiguous black cup with a plastic lid, just like Dairy Queen. Like Shake Shack, the ranch comes out cold, which makes it so refreshing that I almost wish more chains served ranch this way. This sauce is very runny in consistency, and it has a lot of specks of seasonings in it that add a welcomed spiciness to the flavor profile. The spice level, combined with the chill, wakes you up a bit and works to enhance the slightly-sweet french fries. The sauce tastes hearty and you can tell it is homemade -- and it keeps you wanting to dip more.

1. Taco Bell

Taco Bell potatoes with sauces
Taco Bell potatoes with sauces - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

Taco Bell was the underdog of this list, as it isn't nearly as popular as other chains. But the underdog always makes a comeback, as did Taco Bell in this ranch-off. Taco Bell offers spicy ranch sauce for $0.70. It's not the same as a regular ranch, but once you try Taco Bell's spicy version, you won't need any other ranch sauce.

The sauce is cream-colored and has specks of red and orange in it, which foreshadows a spicy kick. When you taste the sauce on its own, you can definitely feel a prickle in the back of your throat. It should be noted that Taco Bell doesn't sell french fries, so I tried its ranch alongside the cheesy fiesta potatoes, which also have cheese and sour cream on top. The actual ranch flavor in this sauce isn't as palpable as the spice is, but that isn't a bad thing; it actually makes for a flavorful sauce that is balanced out by the sour cream on the potatoes.

The sour cream doesn't drown out the spice, though, so it's clear that this sauce lives up to its name. That is not to say that the spice level is unmanageable, either -- this sauce just makes sure that you won't forget about it when you're done with your meal.

Methodology

Sonic and Wing Stop fries
Sonic and Wing Stop fries - Brianna Lopez/Tasting Table

The sauces on this list were chosen based on chain popularity and accessibility. Most of these fast food chains exist in multiple regions and are not specific to a certain part of the country or world. The order of the ranking was determined primarily based on a taste test that utilized french fries as the vehicle for trying the sauce. I used french fries instead of chicken nuggets to ensure that even customers who don't eat meat could get an idea of what this ranch sauce has to offer. Pricing of sauce was also a contributing factor, as you will pay for a cup of ranch at some chains and not others. A successful sauce had a ranch flavor that wasn't too acidic or too sweet and added just enough of a flavorful twist to be a standout addition to the meal.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.