We Blind Tasted Spicy Cheeseburgers From Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s, And Five Guys — Here’s The Clear Winner

There aren’t enough spicy cheeseburgers out there in the fast food universe. We’ve got spicy chicken sandwiches, Nashville-style hot chicken, hot wings, spicy tenders and nuggets… Food brands sure do love making chicken spicy, so where’s the beef?

Last year we named Shake Shack’s Spicy Burgermeister cheeseburger the best burger of the year. It featured meat patties dusted in a hot pepper blend, fried onions, cheese, and cherry peppers. It was drool-inducing and left the palate burning with a nice burst of heat. Sadly, it was only on the menu for a limited time and since it left, I’ve been searching for a spicy burger replacement.

To fulfill this quest, I put the spicy burgers from Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., and Five Guys to a blind taste test. Check my results below!

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For this blind taste test, I knew I was likely going to be dealing with radically different burger builds — which might make them easy to pick out from one another. To go in as blind as possible, I tasked my girlfriend with doing all the research for this article, including building her own spicy burger at Five Guys since that restaurant has a completely customizable menu.

I had her collect all three burgers and bring them back home, then I proceeded to take quick pictures of all three, had her shuffle them up, and bit into all three under the cover of a blindfold.

Here is our tasting class today:

  • Carl’s Jr.’s Spicy Bacon Western Cheeseburger
  • Five Guys Custom Build (Jalapeno peppers, bacon, mayo, cheese, grilled onions)
  • Wendy’s Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger

Although the burger builds were all pretty different, all three provided the heat I was looking for — a success right off the top! Here are the results:

Part I — The Spicy Burger Blind Taste Test:

Taste 1:

Dane Rivera

A real crispy bite with this one. Beefy, savory, and smokey, with a nice vegetal heat. The spice started to build on the backend, and after a few bites the heat really started to hit me. I took a few sips of lemon water after this one to cleanse the palate, as the heat was sticking around.

Taste 2:

Dane Rivera

This thing is a mess. It’s pungent and cheesy with a crunchy bite. I’m getting some heat, but mostly a smokey and tangy flavor with a whole lot of salt. The spicy element tastes buried in this burger. It’s there, but it’s an afterthought.

Cheesiness is the real star of this burger.

Taste 3:

Dane Rivera

This one is very interesting. There is a deep smokey, sweet, and savory quality here with a great crunch. I’m tasting barbecue sauce, fried onions, and jalapenos but they’re pickled, which makes them a lot milder. The heat is most prominent on the aftertaste, slowly building with each bite.

Part II — The Spicy Burger Ranking:

3. Wendy’s — Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger (Taste 2)


This burger was… interesting. The build included two beef patties, two slices of American cheese, tortilla strips, spicy chipotle sauce, poblano queso, lettuce, and tomato on a jalapeño cheddar bun. As a spicy burger, it sort of fails.

There is a very mild sense of heat, but as I said in the tasting section, the real star here is cheese — it goes heavy on the cheesiness in an almost off-putting way.

The Bottom Line:

It’s good for a bite or two but this burger has a pungent and salty quality that I found pretty off-putting overall. The heat is also an afterthought, so if you’re looking for spice, look elsewhere.

2. Carl’s Jr — Spicy Bacon Western Cheeseburger (Taste 3)

Carls Jr

A new spin on a classic, the Spicy Bacon Western Cheeseburger takes Carl’s Bacon Western Cheeseburger build (beef, fried onion rings, barbecue sauce) and adds pickled jalapeños and pepper jack cheese to the mix. I think it’s a huge improvement over the original, but I wouldn’t call this a spicy burger.

This burger is beefy, smokey, and sweet with a very mild and slightly tangy heat. It’s a great burger, but not exactly what I’m looking for.

The Bottom Line:

It’s not the spiciest burger out there but it’s a nice spin on a Carl’s Jr. classic.

1. Five Guys Custom Build (Taste 1)

Dane Rivera

The build here included beef, bacon, cheese, jalapeños, grilled onions, lettuce and mayo. All love to my girlfriend but I would’ve built this one a little bit differently. I would’ve swapped out the lettuce for tomato, opted for grilled onions over non-grilled, and replaced the mayo with Frank’s Red Hot.

Build aside, this was still easily the hottest burger in the line-up and that’s due to the fresh jalapeños. Jalapeños can vary wildly in heat, and this batch was ripping hot in exactly the way I was looking for.

The Bottom Line:

You’ll need to tweak the burgers to your taste, but if you’re looking for the hottest-yet-tastiest fast food burger right now, Five Guys is the answer.