16 fast food fries ranked, from worst to best – And no, McDonald’s isn’t #1

From Wendy's to Whataburger, here are which fries are best of the best.
Fried chips of McDonald's...
Fried chips of McDonald's... / Zhang Peng/GettyImages

When we are asked if we want fries with our order, I don’t know about you, but the answer from me is a loud YES. French fries are the ultimate fast food treat! Not only do french fries go amazingly well with any order, be it a cheeseburger or chicken tenders, but they are also great to have alone as a snack. 

If you are ever craving a treat that isn’t sweet, french fries are guaranteed to satisfy. Pair your favorite fries with a cold, refreshing drink and you are all set! Whether you enjoy fries crispy or soft, thin or chunky, regular or curly, with extra salt or semi-salty, there’s a fast food restaurant with the perfect batch of fries for you. The main ingredient in fries may be potatoes, but the flavors you can create with spices are endless! That said, with so many possibilities, fries are the undisputed champions of the fast food world and I am not entertaining any objections at this time. 

Please note that I haven’t even touched on the fact that you can add chili, cheese, and whatever your heart desires to fries! Their versatility knows no bounds.

We’re keeping things simple here, though. Below, we rank a regular order of fast food fries from 16 chains, according to yours truly!

#16: In-N-Out

Exploring California Southern Desert
Exploring California Southern Desert / George Rose/GettyImages

If you love In-N-Out, then you might also love their french fries. But, when it comes to In-N-Out, Their menu is so limited that I can get a little nitpicky. I am not in love with their french fries. I do not think they are anything special. And every single time I have ordered them, they have been less than stellar. Half the time they come out cold. And they are rarely salted. And I don’t know about you, but I think fresh, hot french fries out of the fryer should be salted immediately, or else, what is the point?

I don’t think it matters how much ketchup goes on these french fries, they are just skinny fried potato strips. And while we can say that about almost any of the french fries on this list, these just don’t live up to most of the others here. Perhaps it is the fact that McDonald’s has such a long legacy, but we have never ordered french fries from McDonald's and wished we were having In-N-Out fries, instead.

#15: Taco Bell 

Taco Bell Secret Aardvark Nacho Fries 1450x850
Taco Bell Partners with Hot Sauce Company Secret Aardvark to Mark the Return of Nacho Fries. Image Credit to Taco Bell. /

The thing about Taco Bell fries is that they need a little help. When accompanied by the chain’s iconic cheese sauce, the fries aren’t half bad. Not a favorite, but still good. However, I’m putting this list together based on a regular order of fries. And served alone, they are a pass in my book. Simply put, Taco Bell fries lack flavor and are often served soggy. Sorry, Taco Bell, but calling your fries Nacho Fries doesn’t change things. Prices vary based on location, but Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries start at $2.29 for a small order and can include cheese or another sauce of your choice. 

#14: Dairy Queen

DQ Chicken Strip basket, photo provided by Dairy Queen /

A side of fries from Dairy Queen starts at $3.89 but could be more or less depending on your location, so we are already starting badly here with such a high price.

Dairy Queen is best known for its desserts, specifically the famous Blizzard treats! They do serve burgers that are pretty popular, but that’s a ranking for another time. The point I’m trying to make is that french fries are not Dairy Queen’s specialty, and that’s okay! We love Dairy Queen for what it does for the foodie world, and that’s the Blizzard. I do have an issue with the pricing here, though. The price tag of $3.89 is on the higher end, which is asking a bit much for fries that are simply average. I’ve ordered a few (to accompany a burger) and they have always either been crispy or limp from too much grease.

#13: Five Guys

There has been a lot of talk lately about how expensive Five Guys is. And I’m not going to argue that. What I am going to say, is that when it comes to Five Guys and their fries, at least you know you’re going to get a large order. My problem is that they are rather forgettable. These are not fries that I’m going out of my way to order. I’m never going to say no to an order of french fries, I'll be honest. But, I might say no to an expensive order of french fries, especially if there's nothing special about them.

#12: Sonic 

A small order of fries from Sonic costs you $1.19, but the chain also offers a mini-size option for $0.79 (prices and availability may vary based on location). If you are looking for a cheap snack, this is it! Not the best by a long shot, but hey, you can't beat that price.

Like other fast food chains on this list, fries are not Sonic’s specialty. To be fair, I don’t think Sonic has one specific menu item they are popular for. You think of Sonic and their large variety of beverages comes to mind, but which one? They have delicious creamy shakes, iced coffee flavors, and sodas. The drink options (lemonades and the like) are seemingly endless! But we also know and love Sonic for its cheese coneys, burgers, hot dogs, you name it! The french fries, though? Not something one drives to Sonic for, but if you do order some, they’ll do the job. Now, Sonic’s tater tots? That’s a different story! 

#11: Jack in the Box 

Listen, Jack in the Box gets a lot of undeserved hate in the fast food world. Snacks and meals from the chain are a guilty pleasure for sure, but we are Guilty Eats. One thing you’re not going to do is catch me speaking ill of Jack! The only reason Jack in the Box is rated poorly on this list is that I care more about the fries ranked below it. Sorry, Jack, this isn’t personal. Paired with Jack in the Box’s hot sauce, however, the fries are pretty good! I also prefer Jack’s curly fries over the regular ones. Priced at $2.19 (prices may vary), Jack in the Box french fries are one of the most affordable fries on the list. 

#10: Arby’s

For many years, Arby’s was the leader in french fries. Their curly fries were head and shoulders over the competition. But as other companies have added things like seasoned fries to their menu, it has become a challenge to consider Arby’s fries the best of the best. Considering Arby’s is the home of the meats, we already know that they are not giving the same level of love and attention to their curly fries. And if you’ve ever gotten an order of cold, soggy curly fries, you already know how disappointing these can be.

Maybe Arby’s needs to reconsider their french fries or even give them a little bit of an upgrade. Then again, I guess if you have been making beloved fries for a long time, it is hard to shake things up. That being said, we will never get over the fact that they got rid of their potato cakes. Because those things were the best potatoes on their menu.

#9: Burger King 

Coke-Burger King Homegating Bundle
Coca-Cola + Burger King Team Up to Deliver Big Wins with Homegating Bundle Meal Offers. Image courtesy Burger King, Coke /

When it comes to french fries, Burger King has had its ups and downs. Sometimes their french fries are good and sometimes they are a disappointment. I have long thought that their old style of french fries was a lot better than their new style of french fries, but I admit that this french fry cut has grown on me over the years. There's something about a thicker-cut french fry that can be very satisfying when you’re in the mood for carbs. And when you pair it with a whopper with cheese, it is the perfect combination.

Perhaps what makes the Burger King french fries a mid-level fast food french fry is the fact that it pairs well with the burger we’re heading to the restaurant to order. So while we may not be heading to Burger King for the fries, we won’t skip them when given half a chance. (And if you throw in an order of onion rings, count me in).

#8: Carl’s Jr

Listen, Carl’s Jr. fries are actually really, really good. The reason I am ranking them in the middle is because they are only good most of the time. As much as I love Carl’s Jr., they are not very consistent with their quality. If they are busy, chances are that you won’t be getting their golden crispy fries. And most of the time, we stop by a fast food restaurant because we are in a hurry, so why even take any chances?

#7: KFC

When you think of KFC, what comes to mind? Do you think of chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy? I know that we do. But after a recent trip to KFC, we are now also thinking about their french fries. They are seasoned fries that are impossible to ignore as a side.

These seasoned fries could give Popeyes a run for their money when it comes to a delicious french fry with seasoning. Perhaps the only downside to the secret recipe fries is the fact that they completely replaced the potato wedges. I think that KFC made a mistake when they took the wedges off the menu. And if they had allowed us to have both the secret recipe fries and the wedges, they might have come out on top when it came to perfect fries. Because how can you go wrong with wedges and seasoned fries? I don’t think you can! And I have to say that pairing seasoned fries with fried chicken is an unexpected delight that we were not expecting.

#6: Wendy’s 

Wendy's To Cut Trans Fats With New Cooking Oil
Wendy's To Cut Trans Fats With New Cooking Oil / Joe Raedle/GettyImages

Wendy’s is another place that knows how to make french fries. Much like McDonald’s, they have been relatively consistent when it comes to making good french fries. But the thing that makes Wendy’s french fries stand out is the fact that, for a lot of us, the perfect french fry is dipped in one of their Frosty’s. Hey, I don’t make the rules!

I do have to say that the best french fries from Wendy’s are always going to be the ones that are hot and fresh. They need to be perfectly salted and fresh out of the fryer. Otherwise, they definitely fall in the rankings (and hard). However, if you get a perfect batch of french fries you are in for a real treat.

And if there is one thing that we can say about Wendy’s french fries, it's that they perfectly pair with just about everything on the menu. For a lot of the french fries on this menu, that is not the case. And that is a big reason why these are so high on the list.

#5:  Popeyes

The first time I had french fries from Popeyes, I fell in love. These are the perfect fries to eat hot and fresh, or even cold. There is something about these french fries that requires you to just eat them no matter how fresh they are. And I know the big reason for that is because they are seasoned fries.

When you get hot and fresh seasoned fries, it’s impossible to stop eating them. And they do not need any type of dipping sauce. You don’t even want to dip them in ketchup. Perhaps the only reason these are not in the number one spot is the fact that it almost feels like cheating because most french fries cannot compare to the perfect seasoning on a crispy seasoned fry. 

#4: Shake Shack

Shake Shack offering “free fries” for travelers if your flight is delayed or canceled /

Crispy perfection on the outside, tender potato bliss on the inside, this is the best way I can describe Shake Shack fries. The fast food chain is mainly known for its burgers, and they truly are delicious. However, their fries are criminally underrated! A lot of foodies may disagree with me here, but Shake Shack’s fries are some of the best fries the fast food world has to offer. Haven't had a fresh batch of Shake Shack fries? Oh, you are missing out, my friend!

#3: McDonald’s

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McDonald's Large French Fries - credit: Grubhub /

If you’re anything like me, you grew up on McDonald’s french fries. They are perhaps one of the most consistent sides on any fast food menu. And when they are done right, they are perhaps one of the best fries out there.

There is something so satisfying about an order of fresh, salty french fries from McDonald’s. You don’t even need to dip them in ketchup to make them taste amazing. In fact, they are somehow better when they have not been dipped in anything.

Perhaps the biggest downside of McDonald’s french fries is that if you don’t eat it hot and fresh it’s a disappointing experience. This is one of those french fries that need to be eaten before the burger because otherwise, you’re not going to be happy. These are some of the best french fries, as long as they’re fresh. And that’s the big reason why they could not come in at number one, because if they aren’t hot and fresh, then they’re just not the perfect win in my book.

#2: Chick-fil-A

It was difficult to decide where Chick-fil-A should end up on this list. The problem is that waffle fries are in a league of their own. And it is sometimes hard to compare them to a normal french fry. That being said, waffle fries are so much fun and such a great vehicle for dipping that it is impossible to deny that a waffle fry is going to make it into the top five of any french fry list.

There is just something so satisfying about indulging in a waffle fry. It’s like every bite is your chance to eat multiple fries at once. And that’s a win-win.

#1: Whataburger

If you have ever lived in Texas or even near a Whataburger location, then you already know that there’s something about getting a Whataburger meal with fries that satisfies you. While some might argue that there are better fast food fries on the market, Whataburger fries dipped in their fancy ketchup are absolute perfection.

Maybe it is the fancy ketchup that brings everything together, but without those fries, there is no real vehicle to enjoy the ketchup. It’s a symbiotic relationship that only someone who has enjoyed these fries with this ketchup will ever understand. And honestly, it’s this perfect union that makes these the best fries I have ever had. Oh, and if you like it spicy, they have a ketchup for that too. And yes, these french fries work perfectly with the spicy ketchup.

What do you think of my fast food fries ranking? Which fries would you move around?

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