Life

The Best French Fries In The Fast Food Universe, Ranked

Fries are the very embodiment of fast food. Potatoes are dirt cheap and readily available and cutting them up and throwing them in a hot pool of oil is the fastest way to prepare them (also the most delicious). Fast food restaurants are defined by their meat options — In-N-Out gets by solely on burgers, Raising Cane’s is chicken tenders and nothing else, Taco Bell makes weird (kinda-sorta) Mexican food for the crossfaded masses — but having good fries is crucial.

It’s the standard side order anywhere with a drive-thru. “Would you like fries with that?” Yes, yes I would.

The fact that everybody loves fries makes ranking them an incredibly difficult task. You might still read my writing if we disagree about double cheeseburgers, but if I slight your favorite fries then you won’t care about my opinion anytime soon. So you’d better believe I took this process seriously, trying every fry yet again to make sure I could judge them without relying on memory.

Before we get into it, let’s lock in what makes a fry good or, better yet, great. It’s a combination of things, all working together in harmony. First, they need to be crispy, but not so crispy that they wear on the roof of the mouth. A good french fry needs to be hot, too — at least that’s when they’re at their best. The center should be soft and never mealy like freezer section fries. I like seasoning but I’m not looking for a fry that is over-seasoned with salt or any other variety of spices to the point of distraction. You can add seasoning on your own, but you can never remove the salt or paprika from over-seasoned fries.

Ultimately, the perfect fry is like that famous ruling on obscenity, “I know it when I taste it.” And trust me, I’ve tasted enough to have an excellent frame of reference.

That said, keep your expectations in check. We’re likely to disagree on a few picks. That’s fine. I trust my palate; you probably trust yours. Sure, I’m absolutely right and any contrary takes are 100% wrong, but I won’t call that out unless you come for me particularly viciously in the comments or on social media. Ready to rank the 23 best fries in the fast food universe (sorry for the omission Culver’s and White Castle — I’m coming soon!)? Okay, we have 4,000 words coming up — so let’s get to it!

23. Arby’s — Crinkle Cut Fries

Arby

One thing you’re going to discover about my fry preferences is that I don’t think too highly of crinkle-cut fries. I don’t dislike them enough to put them all at the bottom of this ranking (though I definitely thought about it) but even the best ones aren’t likely to crack the top ten, and here, luxuriating in last place, sit Arby’s Crinkle Cut fries.

It might be news to you that Arby’s has crinkle-cut fries. It’s easy to forget these exist, even if you’ve had them before, because who rolls up to Arby’s and doesn’t get curly fries? They have absolutely nothing going for them — they’re bland and often hard-as-a-rock because you’re the only one who has ever ordered them. Pray you don’t accidentally nab a single curly fry in your order, because knowing how big of a mistake you made is enough to straight-up ruin your meal.

The Bottom Line

Compared to the frozen pre-cut potatoes you can buy at the grocery store, these fries are… somehow worse.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

22. Dairy Queen — Fries

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen shouldn’t even make fries, but we get it, sometimes you want something salty to dip into your soft serve ice cream. That’s a pairing we’ll always get behind, but Dairy Queen fries are so bad, so mushy, undercooked, and consistently limp, that you won’t even be able to stab a fry into your soft serve in the first place.

Instead, the fry will just bend to the side, forcing you to wrap your fry around the ice cream — which is pitiful on a variety of levels. When a French fry can’t penetrate a soft-serve, you’ve got a serious problem.

The Bottom Line

Get these fries some BlueChew!

Find your nearest Dairy Queen here.

21. Shake Shack — Crinkle Cut Fries

Shake Shack

F*ck these fries.

Too harsh? We don’t care. Shake Shack makes easily one of the best cheeseburgers in the fast food and fast-casual food space. There is absolutely no excuse — let me repeat: No. Excuse. — for a restaurant that serves such delicious high-quality cheeseburgers to have fries that resemble and taste like Ora Ida frozen crinkle-cut fries and are sharp enough to cut the roof of your mouth if you bite into them too quickly. Who wants to bleed after eating a meal?

And get this: Shake Shack actually tried to change its fry recipe to something more natural, you know something that could sit alongside their near-perfect Shack Burger, and then — due to customer outcry!!?? — they changed back to the frozen crinkled garbage. I’ve never eaten a cheeseburger and decided against ordering a side of fries in my life, except at Shake Shack.

The Bottom Line

The worst. An insult to everything else on Shake Shack’s menu.

Find your nearest Shake Shack here.

20. Sonic Drive-In — French Fries

Spmoc

Sonic’s fries are very similar to Wendy’s OG French fry recipe, which is to say not very good. But still better than Shake Shack. Hear that Shake Shack? Sonic. Better fries.

Sorry, I can’t get over how bad Shake Shack’s fries are. I need to move past it…

Anyway, Sonic’s are fine, but they’re so bland you can actually hear them begging for sauce. Luckily Sonic has so many other fried sides that pair well with their food — you can grab mozzarella cheese sticks, or jalapeño poppers, or even Sonic’s Chili Cheese Fries. These fries are perfectly serviceable after being doused in melted cheese and chili, but on their own, they are a blank and boring canvas.

The Bottom Line

You’ll have to trick out these fries if you want them to be edible. Luckily Sonic has a variety of ways for you to do so.

Find your nearest Sonic Drive-In here.

19. Burger King — French Fries

Burger King

Burger King, a Jack of all trades but a master of none. Burger King isn’t great at anything they make, and that sadly extends to their fries. In fact, we’re not sure we can even call these fries, they have these giant noticeable crystals of salt caked in random clusters throughout the whole body of the fry, and soak up grease and oil like a sponge, resulting in a flavor that is dominated by cheap oil and salt — the potato merely adds texture.

To make these fries palatable, you have to eat them while they’re piping hot, otherwise, the grease will take over and give the fry a rancid aftertaste. Wow, these fries really have nothing going for them do they? Yet… they’re not at the bottom of this list.

Fast food brands, listen close: If you’re making fries worse than Burger King, GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD.

The Bottom Line

A piping hot Burger King fry dipped in a vanilla milkshake is as good as this fry ever gets, but on most occasions, it’s an over-salted, oily mess.

Find your nearest Burger King here.

18. KFC — Secret Recipe Fries

KFC

Last year, KFC swapped out their delicious potato wedges for these so-called “Secret Recipe Fries.” Here’s the secret — they’re awful. These lightly battered fries are overly greasy and, like Shake Shack, inexplicably and incredibly sharp. If you’re ever in need of a makeshift weapon, bring these fries along with you, they’re downright lethal.

As far as flavor goes, the Secret Recipe fries are good, and while the batter seems excessive, the crispy bite of each fry is actually very addicting and holds its crunch once dipped in the sauce of your choice (or, you know, biscuit honey). But they’re such a downgrade from the wedges that it hurts.

The Bottom Line

Crispy battered French fries that are good, but not nearly as good as the potato wedges that had to die so they’d live.

Find your nearest KFC here.

17. Jack in the Box — French Fries

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box’s regular French fries are perfectly serviceable. There isn’t much that I love about these fries but I have a hard time finding something to dislike. They’re very thin and salty, but they get the job done. They’d probably be ranked higher if Jack in the Box didn’t have curly fries which are so much better that Jack in the Box employees will always assume you want curly fries over the original every visit unless you tell them otherwise.

The Bottom Line

A fine Frenchy fry, but far from Jack in the Box’s best-fried potato side (the Bacon Cheddar Wedges beat these, too).

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

16. Del Taco — Crinkle Cut Fries

Del Taco

You’d think all crinkle-cut fries would be made equal, but they’re not. Del Taco’s crinkle-cut fries absolutely dunk on Arby’s and Shake Shack’s. Let that sink in Shake Shack: Del Taco makes better fries than you. See how ridiculous you’re being with those crinkle-cut fries? Thanks to a superior and softer outer texture, a Del Taco fry is still crispy, but offers much more potato on the inside, with — and I can’t believe I’m writing this, it feels so ridiculous — a tamer crinkle that results in an overall smoother, more pleasing mouthfeel.

If I had one complaint, it would be that Del Taco goes a little nuts with the salt, so I’ve never enjoyed them plain as is. I’ve always relied on a squirt of Del Taco hot sauce on top (Del Scorcho is my sauce of choice), and a healthy dusting of pepper, then I stuff them in a ground beef soft taco.

The Bottom Line

A great addition to your taco or burrito and a significant step up from the hard-as-rocks Shake Shack fries.

Find your nearest Del-Taco here.

15. In-N-Out — French Fries

In N Out

As someone who routinely writes about fast food, I have to hear people constantly complain about how In-N-Out is “overrated” and has some of the worst fries in the game. In-N-Out is not overrated, I know as a West Coaster I have a considerable and favorable bias towards the popular regional chain, but if you think In-N-Out cheeseburgers aren’t delicious, you have bad taste. Straight up. Do the burgers live up to your expectations? Probably not, but that’s kind of your fault, not In-N-Out’s.

But I’ll give you the fries. They are, in fact, mediocre. At best.

While they’re terribly bland and almost never cooked right because In-N-Out is constantly busy and they often put too many fries in too small a quantity of oil, they do have a few things going for them. Unlike most fast food french fries, In-N-Out uses fresh potatoes, peeled and sliced right before your eyes prior to being dumped in sunflower oil. That level of “made to order” can never be a bad thing — though you could argue that peeling, boiling, slicing, and freezing your potatoes makes for a better fry. If you find them unpalatable, add salt and pepper, or order the secret menu Animal Style Fries which combines Thousand Island-style dressing, grilled onions, and melted cheese.

The Bottom Line

Salt, pepper, special sauce, cheese, ketchup, grilled onions, chopped chilis… In-N-Out fries can taste good, but the onus is really on you. The restaurant barely meets you halfway.

Find your nearest In-N-Out here.

14. Wahlburgers — Yukon French Fries

Wahlburger

I really wanted these to be better. As you make your way through this ranking you’re going to see that I have a soft spot in my heart for fries that come from fresh non-frozen potatoes, but there is something just so forgettable about these fries.

They don’t suffer from that cardboard texture that plagues In-N-Out’s fries, but these fries have nothing going for them aside from a crispy outer. I don’t understand how Wahlburger managed to make a Yukon Gold potato, which is hands down my favorite potato, taste this bland. You’re going to need to ask for an extra order of Wahl Sauce just to help you get through their boring flavor. Salt and pepper aren’t enough to lift these from unremarkable to solid, and that’s the sign of a middling fry.

The Bottom Line

If you came to Wahlburgers looking for good vibrations, don’t order the Yukon French Fries.

Find your nearest Wahlburgers here.

13. Jack in the Box — Curly Fries

Jack in the Box

I’ve noticed that almost everything at Jack in the Box that is fried kind of has the same flavor. Whether you’re getting regular fries, curly fries, chicken strips, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks (they keep discontinuing these for some reason), or cinnamon churros, they all have this distinct grease flavor lurking beneath the more prominent flavors.

I love the semi-spicy onion and garlic powder flavor of the curly fries, but I have a fear of ordering above a small size because they’re so damn greasy.

The Bottom Line

Don’t go to Jack in the Box when you’re of sane mind, instead go when you’re baked. This is stoner food.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

12. Raising Cane’s — Crinkle Cut Fries

Raising Canes

While Del Taco’s crinkle-cut fries were a considerable step up from Arby’s and Shake Shack’s, Raising Cane’s still snagged the top spot for crinkle-cut fries in our ranking. They’re crunchy on the outside, but not hazardously so, and the inside reveals delicious hot potato. It’s simple, but, as we alluded to in the opening of this article, that’s all you really need to make a french fry good. Also, the crinkle-cut fries and Cane’s sauce combination is so good that we strongly advise you to ask for extra Cane’s sauce, as you’re going to want to dip your chicken in it too.

I’ve inquired whether Raising Cane’s fries are frozen or fresh (whether that makes for a better product is a matter of some debate) — they’re frozen, but they are made so attentively that they’re always fried to perfection. If you dig the crinkle-cut, Raising Cane’s is the move. But if you really love fries, you probably recognize that crinkle-cut isn’t where it’s at.

The Bottom Line

The fast-food frozen crinkle-cut fry perfected.

Find your nearest Raising Cane’s here.

11. Carl’s Jr. — Criss-Cut Fries

Carl

At one point while conceiving this article, I thought it might be a fun take to give Carl’s Jr’s Criss-Cut fries the top spot. That’s never been done before. I used to love these things, but there is a reason they’ve never topped a list — they’re good but not that great. Maybe in a fast-food landscape that consists only of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box, these things are pretty interesting. But we don’t live in that world. 2021 has endless options.

The Criss-Cut fries have a great crispy exterior and are well seasoned but taste better shoved in a burger than they do on their own.

The Bottom Line

Carl’s Jr’s best french fry option, but the best waffle fry award goes to…

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr. here.

10. Chick-Fil-A — Waffle Fries

Chick fil A

Chick-fil-A fries can be hit or miss depending on how busy the restaurant is. During calmer hours of the day, they’re crispy on the outside, but buttery and soft on the inside, likely a result of the hot peanut oil they’re fried in. And they’re modestly dusted with sea salt in a way that doesn’t make them inedible, take note Burger King. But during the busy hours? These things are straight-up trash. They either come out hard as a rock and stale or soggy and mushy.

Aside from the roller coaster of quality, my only gripe, and I hate that this bothers me, is that Chick-fil-A gets real… relaxed with the way they load up the fries in the box. Seriously I’ve dumped out a small order and counted — again, I hate complaining about this — eight waffle fries.

That’s not enough fries, I’m sorry.

The Bottom Line

Oh, you don’t like Chick-fil-A’s sandwich huh? Have you tried the one where you take a nugget and fold a waffle fry around it? Taste that and circle back.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

9. Taco Bell — Nacho Fries

Taco Bell

For the past three years, Taco Bell has been torturing French fry lovers by adding these and then taking them off of the menu. It’s a shame too because Taco Bell’s fries are excellent. They have a crispy almost battered outer that is encrusted with spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. It’s the same blend that makes up your average curly fry, but instead of adopting the form of a thick greasy string of spaghetti, these have that classic fry cut.

Does that make them better? We’re not sure, but they definitely don’t taste anything like curly fries, despite having the same seasoning. My big issue with these fries is the name, calling them “Nacho Fries” leads me to assume I’m about to enjoy some carne asada fries, complete with salsa, cheese, cilantro, onion, and guacamole. Instead, these are just fries with seasoning that in no way evokes nachos and a cup of nacho cheese sauce — which is an interesting option for dipping.

All told, these get a pass for being so good, even if the name is a little misleading.

The Bottom Line

If you’re surprised Taco Bell has fries, you’ll be even more surprised how delicious they are. Get them now before Taco Bell takes them off the menu. Again.

Find your nearest Taco Bell here.

8. Farmer Boys — Always Crispy Fries

Farmer Boys

During our first French fry ranking, we kept Farmer Boys off the list. That was a mistake, these fries are amazing. They truly live up to their name, they’re always crispy, with a thin shape that really helps to focus the experience on the crunchy-ness and causes the occasional fry to curl, almost like a curly fry!

You don’t ever have to worry about these getting soggy but they also don’t slip into that hard-as-diamond territory that plagues so many fast food French fries that sit longer than 15-minutes.

The Always Crispy fries are very gently breaded, which create these crispy airy pockets across the surface which helps to soak up sauces like BBQ and ranch, while still providing a crunchy texture that is addictive to eat.

The Bottom Line

No order of Farmer Boys is complete without the Always Crispy Fries. Yes, the fried Zucchini is amazing too, but as delicious and novelty as they are, don’t ever sub them for the fries, because you don’t want to miss these.

Find your nearest Farmer Boys here.

7. Wienerschnitzel — French Fries

Wienerschnitzel

This is another entry that was left off of our original fry ranking and I just want to apologize for all the Wiener heads out there (Schnitzel heads?) because these are jaw-droppingly good. I didn’t bother with them the first time around because… well, this is Wienerschnitzel we’re talking about. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that these fries were perfectly crispy, piping hot, and good enough to eat with only the salt that Wienerschnitzel pours on them.

That’s a rare feat for a fast food French fry, as they almost all need a generous amount of seasoning to take them to the next level.

The Bottom Line

Way better than you’d expect for a French fry from a bottom-tier fast food joint like Wienerschnitzel. This is Wienerschnitzel’s best-kept secret and deserves placement on every fast food fry ranking out there.

Find your nearest Wienerschnitzel here.

6. Arby’s — Curly Fries

Arby

Arby’s gets a bad rap and for good reason. It’s that whole meathead “we’ve got the meats” anti-plant-based protein stance that deservedly makes them the butt of a lot of jokes. But if you can look past their weird decision to double down amidst a growing body of evidence that shows our habits, including the foods we eat, are directly resulting in a warming climate, we can at least appreciate that we have Arby’s to thank for making curly fries a thing. These were the original and they still taste delicious!

The battering isn’t too crazy here, giving you a better ratio of outer to inner, with a focus on a flavor that perfectly marries buttery potato, onion, and paprika.

The Bottom Line

Take the advice of Uproxx’s Chris Osburn, “Pair them with their cheese sauce and you don’t even need to waste your time on their sandwiches.”

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

5. Wendy’s — Hot & Crispy Fries

Wendy

Wendy’s unveiled a new French fry recipe this year and we’ve got to say, it has been quite the glow up. In our original ranking, Wendy’s came in 11th out of 15, now they’re top 5! They’re like the Drake of the fast food French fries, no one expected them to be this good. (“Started from the bottom!”)

Wendy’s OG fries were always a weak link in an otherwise stellar menu, like Shake Shack’s fries, but not as bad. The old fries used skin-on potatoes which gave them a dirty earthy taste and they’d try to hide this flavor by over-seasoning them with sea salt. The new fries still have that skin-on, but the earthy taste is gone. The fries are now much thicker and have a delicious crispy outer that keeps them crunchy no matter how long it takes you to eat them.

With this fry, Wendy’s was attempting to create a French fry that stayed hot and crispy, and they definitely stay crispy but if you let these fries sit around for a while the quality of the flavor takes a considerable dip. Fresh out of the fryer? These are the best-tasting new French fries to hit the scene.

The Bottom Line

Wendy’s went from having some of the worst French fries, to having some of the best thanks to this new recipe. Don’t sleep on these, if you haven’t tried them yet go get Wendy’s today!

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

4. Popeyes — Cajun Fries

Popeyes

I’ve seen these ranked waaaaay too low on other french fry rankings. How? Why? These fries are nearly perfect — with a light exterior seasoned with onion and garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper that is good crispy, and hot and somehow they magically taste even better after they chill in the box and get soggy. Which we can’t say about any other fry out there. They’re nearly perfect and only bested by the slightly better Rally’s fries. Popeyes cajun fries have an appetizing smell and, best of all, don’t include that weird greasy aftertaste that plagues most curly fries.

Pour ketchup on them, douse them in honey, dip them in sauce, or eat them on their own. These fries are close to perfect.

The Bottom Line

People go crazy for that Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, but the Cajun fries are really where it’s at. Shove them in your Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and thank us in the comments for making a good thing even better.

Find your nearest Popeyes here.

3. Rally’s/Checkers — Seasoned Fries

Rally

Rally’s (it’s known as Rally’s in my hood) seasoned fries are the reason you go to Rally’s. These use the same garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika seasoning as Jack in the Box’s curly fries, and Popeyes’ Cajun Fries, but the outer is a lot lighter and crispier than both of those, and they don’t suffer from that same trapped grease flavor that holds Jack in the Box back.

Unlike the Popeyes fries, Rally’s uses considerably more batter, but rather than weighing the fries down or acting as a grease and oil trap, they manage to come out crispy and airy every time and house molten hot buttery potato beneath that crunchy exterior and doesn’t get soggy. I know I just said in the Popeyes entry that I like the sog, but I’m not going to pretend a soggy fry is ever better than a crispy one. I’m not that crazy (prepare yourself, we’re approaching number one)!

The Bottom Line

A must order at Rally’s, an exact middle ground between Jack in the Box’s curly fries and Popeye’s Cajun Fries.

Find your nearest Rally’s here.

2. McDonald’s — French Fries

McDonalds

It’s hard to beat the best. Just ask our own Zach Johnston.

McDonald’s used to fry their French fries in beef tallow, and a lot of people seem to think that made them better. We have no doubt that that made them better, but even without the beef tallow, they’re still almost perfect. This is going to be a lot of people’s number one choice and I get it. Catch them on a good day and McDonald’s fries are still the GOAT. Few things beat an order of fresh fries from McDonald’s, they’re crispy, salty, and — I swear — they must have a sprinkling of sugar on them to make them all the more addictive.

McDonald’s is probably the first major fast food place that ever sold an order of fries in one of their large cups of soda for the especially french fry obsessed (they don’t do this anymore) and even if you’re someone who avoids McDonald’s at all cost, you’ve probably found yourself either craving an order, or saying to someone picking of McDonald’s, “just get me a larger order of fries.”

I asked my Uproxx colleagues what their favorite fast-food fries were, and they all unanimously agreed that nothing beats McDonald’s. I didn’t listen to them of course, but it’s hard to argue that anything could beat french fries this good, as cliche as it is to admit. All of that said, even the McDonald’s-obsessives have to agree with this point: when the fries aren’t fresh, they’re not so much food as they are dangerous weapons. A stale McDonald’s fry, which let’s be honest, happens too often, is a travesty.

The Bottom Line

On some days, easily the best french fries in the fast-food universe, forever and always. And some days…

Find your nearest McDonald’s here.

1. Five Guys — Fries

Getty

This isn’t my first time ranking french fries, and the first time I did it I gave the top spot to Five Guys, which gave my editor a conniption fit that extended to a whole handful of readers who were more than excited to tell me I was either ‘stupid,’ ‘wrong,’ or both. So I debated swapping McDonald’s over Five Guys, just to be a people pleaser. F*ck that. I stand my ground, if you have a problem with non-frozen freshly peeled hand-cut potatoes from a host of ever-shifting Idaho-based farms double fried (the way French Fries are supposed to be) in high-quality peanut oil, I question your ability to taste.

I’ll admit that Five Guys fries aren’t always perfect. Sometimes when you open your bag they’re a soggy mess of grease, and if you get your order to-go which, these days, is the custom, more often than not your fries will turn out this way. Eat them as soon as you get them and tell me they aren’t the best fast food french fries you’ve ever had. Prepared the proper way, they have the perfect crispy exterior with molten hot buttery Idaho potato inside that turns each bite into absolute ecstasy.

But a word of advice — don’t order the Cajun fries. It sounds counterintuitive, why would you want salt and pepper over Cajun seasoning — more flavor is better right? Absolutely, but Five Guys doesn’t know how to season fries, their whole ethos is to go nuts so they haphazardly sprinkle way too much season on the fries, which can make some of your fries downright inedible. So make your life better by ordering the regular fries, they come seasoned with salt. Ask for a side of cajun seasoning, grab five packets of pepper, and season to taste. Yes, you’ll have to put some work into it, but when you control the seasoning, Five Guys fries become a delicious blank canvas for you to do whatever you like.

I know it burns, McDonald’s fans, but I have to be true to myself here. Hate on.

The Bottom Line

I know they’re not McDonald’s but when seasoned right and eaten fresh they’re the best french fries you can ever hope to get in a brown paper bag.

Find your nearest Five Guys here.

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