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12 Popular Fast Food Bacon Varieties Ranked Worst To Best

fast food bacon options
fast food bacon options - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Most fast food restaurants list bacon somewhere on their menus, and some offer better quality than others. These delicious rosy pork strips have been a quick-service fixture since 1963 when Dale Mulder invented the bacon cheeseburger at his Lansing, Michigan A&W franchise. Today, many restaurant chains serve some variation of Mulder's creation. BLT sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and potatoes are other vehicles for delivering the crispy pork product to hungry customers, and patrons can usually pay extra to add a few slices to other sandwiches. If you ask especially nicely, though, many quick-service kitchens will sell you a few strips of plain bacon even though it doesn't appear as an official side at any of the restaurants reviewed here. A few chains even have mouthwatering candied or brown sugar versions.

There are several characteristics to consider when judging and ranking the quality of fast food bacon -- taste, texture, crispiness, and price. We've taken a look at each of these for the restaurants listed here and outlined our methodology at the end. Additionally, the prices mentioned in this article reflect a specific date and place -- Mid Michigan, 2024. They are accurate for this region and time but will vary for other parts of the country and in the future.

Read more: 22 Fast Food Breakfast Menus Ranked From Worst To Best

12. Taco Bell

Taco Bell bacon bits
Taco Bell bacon bits - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Skip Taco Bell if you're looking for strips of bacon since this chain offers it in crumbled bits and only at breakfast time -- after 11 a.m., you won't find any bacon on this menu. The kiosk doesn't list the ingredient as a side, but the customer service representative at the front may let you order a condiment cup of the topping for around 80 cents if you ask. That's also how much the restaurant charges for adding it to other items. Otherwise, you'll have to pick between a $2 cheesy bacon burrito, a $4 quesadilla, or one of Taco Bell's recently released "Crunchwraps" to satisfy your bacon craving.

Taco Bell's bacon bits do their job in quesadillas and breakfast burritos -- they add smokey, porky, salty goodness. They're more disappointing if you eat them out of a condiment cup with a spoon, though. The bits come straight from the fridge and if they aren't wrapped in a tortilla, there's no way to heat them. Then, the crumbled bacon is chewy rather than crisp. Finally, they are broken down into such small bits, they almost resemble grated parmesan instead of bacon.

11. KFC

KFC bacon bits
KFC bacon bits - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

KFC's business is mainly fried chicken, but bacon bits adorn select menu items there. For around $3.50, order a Smash'd Potato Bowl. This dish is mashed potatoes with french fries slathered in melted cheese and topped off with bacon bits. If you'd like to skip the potato and cheese though, ask the staff and they might sell you a condiment cup filled with chunks of bacon for $2 -- although the receipt will read 2-ounce sauce since there's no official option for buying just bacon.

The taste and texture of these bacon bits are pleasant. They are hearty and toothsome -- although not too crispy -- and the flavor is deliciously smokey and authentic. The range of sizes and shapes of the bits contributes to this authenticity. As if someone in the kitchen just quickly chopped them up, even though that isn't the case. As a topping, these bacon bits are hard to beat -- mouthwateringly so. On their own, though, they taste pretty good but don't shine. That's no surprise though, since KFC intends them for sprinkling over other foods and not as a standalone dish.

10. Jimmy John's

Jimmy Johns sandwich with bacon
Jimmy Johns sandwich with bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Jimmy John's should be your destination if you're looking for a fantastic sub, but skip it if you're looking for bacon. First, you'll have to order a whole sandwich -- the staff will not sell you just a side of the topping here. A Slim Bacon will set you back about $7 and it only has cheese and six slices of bacon on it. Other sandwiches featuring the ingredient are Club Lulu (turkey and bacon), Ultimate Porker (ham and bacon), and Little John BLT. The first two cost nearly $10 while the third goes for just under $5, but that's because the last is just 6.5 inches instead of 8 inches.

Next, this chain doesn't heat or toast its sandwiches, so there is no way to heat the bacon there either. The kitchen keeps the bacon chilled in an open refrigerator next to other sandwich meats and it's still cold when you bite into your sandwich. That's a great practice for preventing food poisoning, but leaving the bacon cold doesn't make it taste great and the texture is unfortunate. It's mostly chewy, but some of the ends tend more towards brittle and crumbly, but not crisp at all.

9. McDonald's

Bacon from McDonalds
Bacon from McDonalds - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

McDonald's bacon offerings are solid, but not the chain's specialty. If you ask the cashier in person, the kitchen will prepare a side of bacon, but it's not on the overhead menu and you can't order it via the kiosk. Two slices of bacon divided into halves cost about $2.20 -- more expensive than some other fast food chains. If you'd prefer your bacon on a sandwich, order a bacon cheese quarter pounder for around $6. The fixings for this burger include two full slices of bacon. The Bacon McDouble, on the other hand, costs $4. Adding bacon to any other burger or chicken sandwich costs about $1.50.

McDonald's bacon performs well as a sandwich topping but leaves something to desire when eaten alone. It's crispy, salty, visibly covered in grease, and unfortunately cold. It adds flavor and crunch to a quarter pounder but doesn't appeal the way your grandma's Sunday morning bacon used to. In other words, if you're on a keto diet and trying to find a place to order just bacon and no carbs, consider heading somewhere else.

8. Arby's

Arby's bacon in tray
Arby's bacon in tray - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Arby's seems to take bacon seriously, and this chain offers two varieties. Some sandwiches feature typical, smokey strips while others include a brown sugar variety. For example, the chicken bacon Swiss (about $7.30) has regular bacon on it. The limited-time King's Hawaiian line of sandwiches all include brown sugar bacon. They are the BLT ($6.50), roast beef ($6.70), and turkey ($6.70). Ordering bacon sans sandwich costs $1 for a slice and a half.

Visually, it's hard to tell the difference between Arby's two types of bacon, but there's no mistaking them once they touch your tongue. The typical bacon tastes par for the course -- salty and smokey. It's crisp, even though the kitchen doesn't serve it warm. The brown sugar bacon, on the other hand, tastes mostly sweet, almost like candy. The sugar on it nearly completely masks any porky flavor. Eventually, you'll taste the bacon, but it takes a while. Worse, it isn't crunchy at all, just chewy. Finally, you can see a thin layer of cool, white grease on both styles of bacon. This would disappear by quick reheating and patting the bacon off, but Arby's serves it at room temperature.

7. Popeye's

Popeye's bacon
Popeye's bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Popeye's has just one menu item with bacon on it — the bacon cheese chicken sandwich (about $6.50). The salty breading on the chicken and pickles are the most noticeable flavors here while the single strip of bacon is completely overpowered. It could be there or not and the person eating wouldn't notice. Worse, this chain will not allow you to purchase bacon on the side, although you can have it as an add-on for $1.20 and ask that they leave it on the side. When you do eat it on its own, you will notice that it has a pleasant smokey flavor and good texture. The kitchen serves it toasty-warm, however, they do not pat off the grease.

The bacon at Popeye's is good, but not good enough to justify buying a sandwich that completely overpowers the taste of this delicious topping. Anyone looking to eat fast food bacon would likely be more satisfied elsewhere.

6. Subway

strips of bacon from subway
strips of bacon from subway - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Subway may not immediately come to mind when you're wondering where to get bacon, but the meat's presence is strong on the menu there. You can choose between sandwiches like the All American ($8 for the 6-inch), the Monster ($9.50), and their house BLT ($7). The breakfast menu also offers a flatbread bacon and egg sandwich for about $5 as well as a wrap for $9.50. If you want to add bacon to a different sandwich, it will cost you about $2.70 which is the same as your sandwich artist will charge for simply toasting a side of four slices. This is one of the highest prices for ordering or adding bacon at a fast food restaurant.

The best thing about Subway's bacon is the same as what attracts people to this restaurant -- your amazing level of control over how the workers prepare your food. So, if you order a side of bacon, but no sandwich, the person helping you will ask if you want it toasted. Then, that person will carefully load your strips into the oven and pat the grease off them when they come out. The bacon tastes like you expect -- heated (on the right in the picture) it's wonderfully crispy, and cold (on the left) it's chewy.

5. Burger King

Burger King Bacon
Burger King Bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Bacon plays a major role on Burger King's menu. There are two types of bacon -- traditional and candied -- and at least three sandwiches feature at least one of the two. It's hard to choose between the $8 Bacon King, a $3 bacon cheeseburger, and the $4.30 Jr. BBQ Bacon Wopper. The first has an incredible six slices of bacon on it, three traditional and three candied. The other two only contain regular bacon, but you can ask for extra and order larger sandwich sizes. Ask at the counter for three strips of bacon on their own and it'll set you back about $2. Officially, only the traditional is available this way, but you may convince the worker to sell candied bacon as a side as well.

Both kinds of bacon at Burger King are worth trying. There is little grease on them, and the regular bacon tastes like bacon should and the texture is wonderfully crisp. The candied bacon is far chewier but has a tastebud-pleasing profile. First, sweetness floods your mouth, followed by peppery spice, and finally, you get to the smokey bacon flavor.

4. Rally's

Rally's BLT
Rally's BLT - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

The bacon at Rally's is nothing to sneer at -- it's crispy, it tastes homemade, and it comes out of the kitchen toasty warm. The BLT with three full strips from this chain costs just under $2 -- the same amount as a two-or-three-strip side of bacon at many other fast food restaurants. The way the mayo mixes with the tomato and bacon in the sandwich is exceptional. On the other hand, if you just want the bacon and not the sandwich, ordering the BLT and asking for the bacon on the side won't hurt your pocket or seem like a waste since the price is already pretty low.

Rally's bacon offerings don't stop there. You can also order the Baconzilla or the BBQ Bacon Buford for about $8. The first sandwich is just cheese, hamburger patties, and four slices of bacon. The second features just two strips, but plenty of veggies if you're feeling guilty about the bacon.

3. Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen bacon
Dairy Queen bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Diary Queen, although more famous for ice cream, has a couple of bacon-loaded sandwiches to offer customers. Choose between the bacon cheese deluxe ($5.70) and the backyard bacon ranch ($5.40). Each contains two strips of bacon. If you'd rather ask for bacon on the side, the cashier can ring it up as an add-on for about $1. That will give you two strips divided in half and is a pretty fair price as far as the competition goes.

The aroma of Dairy Queen's bacon as they heat it permeates through the entire restaurant while you wait for your meal. You know they're getting it ready right there on the spot after you've ordered. When it arrives at your table, the bacon is delightfully smokey and just the right amount of crispy. Although, once it cools down a bit it gets chewy. The strips are on the narrow side and the kitchen doesn't pat off the grease, but customers could easily do that themselves with a paper napkin.

2. Culver's

tray of bacon
tray of bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

Culver's has a great deal on bacon sandwiches as well as a side. The appetizing Bacon Deluxe sandwich -- double hamburger, cheese, veggies, and bacon -- sells for about $5.80. That's less than the nearly $8 many chains advertise for similar sandwiches. The side of bacon costs even less, although you won't find it on the menu. If you ask for bacon on its own, the workers behind the counter will hook you up with a tray of about 5 slices for around $1. That is the same amount this restaurant charges to add bacon to any of the other sandwiches as well.

The Culver's bacon is good quality. It has a homemade look to it and comes out of the kitchen hot. Even though the tray comes with more strips, they are thinner and narrower than at other fast food places. If you like thicker slices, Culver's may not be for you, but otherwise, this quick-service chain has a smokey, crispy topping to offer.

1. Wendy's

Wendy's bacon
Wendy's bacon - Dora Nuss-Warren/Mashed

With a sandwich named the Baconator, it stands to reason that Wendy's had better know its bacon. Amazingly, the ingredient meets expectations. Eat enough bacon and it stops looking or tasting appealing, but this chain overcame that for me. When I popped the first strip in my mouth it tasted so good that I quickly gobbled down a second slice -- even though I'd spent most of the morning eating bacon! At this restaurant, the bacon was just the right level of salty, smokey, and crispy. It wasn't too greasy feeling either. It's official: Wendy's has good bacon.

Some of Wendy's prices for bacon tend towards the high/middle end of the scale. Add bacon to any sandwich you want for $1.50 and that's how much it costs as a side too. That doesn't sound expensive, but it will only get you a full slice and a half. If you'd rather eat it on a sandwich, you could order a bacon double stack for $4, Big Bacon Classic for $6.70, or the Baconator for around $9.

Methodology

Crispy bacon strips on wooden board
Crispy bacon strips on wooden board - New Africa/Shutterstock

Researching fast food bacon means trying a lot of the stuff, but also paying attention to menus and talking to restaurant workers. My first step was to call restaurants around my area and ask if they had bacon on their menus. Every establishment I spoke to answered affirmatively except Long John Silver's -- no surprise there. I inspected each chain's app or website to get a better idea of what to expect in the bacon department and how much each menu item cost.

Then, it was time to get my fingers greasy. I divided my restaurant visits into two days -- there's only so much bacon a person can eat in a single morning after all. I made a list of the characteristics I would pay attention to -- including price, variety, portion size, taste, texture, crispiness, and saltiness -- then, taste-tested it while it was fresh. I also took into consideration whether each restaurant served bacon as a side on its own, or required patrons to buy a whole sandwich or entrée. Finally, I asked workers about the menu items that included bacon and how much of it (roughly) went on each sandwich, burrito, or potato dish they offered.

Read the original article on Mashed.