I tried every dipping sauce from McDonald’s and Wendy’s and found that Wendy’s was better in every way

Sauce is the deputy of any upstanding nugget.

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Sauce is the deputy of any upstanding nugget.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

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.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

From Wendy’s, BBQ, sweet & tangy, honey mustard, s’awesome sauce, ranch, and creamy sriracha sauces.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

One of the most ubiquitous sauces on the American table was first on my sauce roster: BBQ sauce.

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McDonald’s BBQ sauce was true to its name in that it was quite tangy.

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But it was also cloyingly sweet and not that smoky — a low bar for barbecue.

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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.

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Wendy’s BBQ sauce was much thicker than McDonald’s and actually had a decent kick to it.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It was also very sweet, but very flavorful, and I could taste it on a restaurant rack of ribs.

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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.

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McDonald’s ranch, however, is a disappointing rendition of the California classic.

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It’s yogurty and sweet and tastes more like yogurt than actual ranch dressing.

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It’s the spice mixture that makes ranch special, not the creaminess.

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And Wendy’s gets that. It’s sour, tangy, creamy, and thick, but most importantly, it’s got that spice.

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This is no watered-down excuse for a dressing. This is good ol’ herby ranch.

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Buffalo sauce goes with one thing: chicken wings. But if you don’t have wings, nuggets are the next best thing.

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McDonald’s Buffalo sauce tastes remarkably like the real thing. It brings substantial heat to the table.

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Unlike the chain’s other sauces, it’s not sweet. It’s pure salty, acid, and spice — delicious.

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Wendy’s doesn’t have Buffalo sauce, for some reason. Instead, it has creamy sriracha.

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This sauce is basically sriracha and mayo, and it’s actually pretty spicy.

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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.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Honey mustard is a fickle sauce: it’s not just for nuggets, it’s also great on salads, fries, and — trust me — pizza.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

McDonald’s honey mustard has an iconic taste. It’s sweet with a hint of mustard seed.

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It’s a little more watery than the other sauces, but it’s definitely one of the better balanced.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I’m a lifelong lover of McDonald’s honey mustard, and my heart is hard-won.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But Wendy’s spectacular honey mustard wooed me instantly.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

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.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Sweet & sour sauce is kind of a cliché, and also not very descriptive. Most of McDonald’s sauces already are sweet and sour.

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Except for this sauce. Yeah, it’s sweet. It’s not sour.

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It also has a strange, off-putting flavor that tastes like stale ginger. I’m not a fan.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Wendy’s sweet and sour sauce had a pretty low score to beat.

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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.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It has a lovely honey-like texture, and the flavors of sweet, sour, and pepper are perfectly balanced.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It pairs especially well with spicy nuggets. The combo hits every flavor note.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Hot mustard isn’t available at all McDonald’s locations. It’s a regional sauce, and I happen to live in the right region.

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Stronger and more mustardy than honey mustard, this is by far McDonald’s most satisfying and interesting sauce.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

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.

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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.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It’s absolutely incredible. Smoky paprika, creamy mayo, black pepper and a hint of tang, S’awesome sauce is perfect.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It’s by and far the best sauce of every sauce I’ve tested.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And of course, it’s even better on a spicy nugget.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

McDonald’s does have one sauce that Wendy’s doesn’t: plain honey.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But ever since the chain halved the size of its honey cups, it’s been hard to get enough honey for a satisfying dip.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

McDonald’s has a pretty basic set of sauces. I think the chain errs on the side of caution when it comes to flavor.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

As a kid, I loved McDonald’s honey mustard. But as an adult, I find it much less exciting.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The only sauce at McDonald’s that I loved was the hot mustard, but it’s sadly not on the chain’s national menu.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

On the other hand, Wendy’s sauces consistently blew me away. There wasn’t a single bad sauce in the bunch.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And even more impressive is Wendy’s special house sauce, which is every bit as awesome as it promises to be.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider