With the rise of brunch culture in the U.S., one fast-food trend might seem like it’s falling by the wayside: the humble breakfast sandwich. It may not be synonymous with bottomless mimosas, Sunday Fundays, and $30 avocado toast, but it’s still a staple of American cuisine. It’s the perfect beginning to any early-morning road trip, and even though it may not be polished enough to end up on your Instagram feed, you can’t deny the pleasure of waking up to one of these classics on a busy morning.
But let’s be clear: As much as we love fast food breakfast sandwiches, it’s true that not all are created equally. Some restaurant chains got in on the breakfast sandwich trend early, such as McDonald’s, which created its Egg McMuffin back in 1970. Others, like Subway, didn’t pick it up as quickly, with the sub chain only offering sporadic breakfast options at select locations since 2010.
In the meantime, certain breakfast menus, and breakfast sandwiches, specifically, have risen to the top of the pack and are now customer favorites across the country. Here’s your guide to the best — and worst — breakfast sandwich options at some of your favorite fast food spots.
14. Sonic Drive-In: Breakfast Toaster
Sonic Drive-In may not be the first spot that comes to mind when you’re looking for a fast food breakfast, but it does offer a surprising number of options. If you want a breakfast sandwich, though, you’ll have to opt for the Breakfast Toaster, as it’s the only sandwich on the breakfast menu. It’s made with eggs and cheese placed between two thick slabs of Texas toast. Customers have the choice of adding ham, bacon, or sausage to complete the order.
It doesn’t sound too bad, but the issue is more in the execution than in the concept. With the fattiness from the egg, cheese, and meat, the extra fat from the Texas toast can be overkill. Add to that the fact it can sometimes feel like you’re biting into more bread than protein, and it’s a breakfast that can often fall flat. The saving grace? You can order your Breakfast Toaster with a side of tater tots, which is essential if you’re still determined to eat at a Sonic for breakfast.
13. Subway: Bacon, egg, and cheese flatbread
It’s no secret that Subway doesn’t offer the best breakfast around. It did get a late start in the game and largely used its breakfast offerings to boost sales after the recession in the late 00s. While the restaurant saw some success at first, it didn’t last long. In 2018, Subway stopped requiring its franchisees to open at 7 a.m. to serve breakfast menu items, though some stores have continued their early-morning sales — though with fewer options. One of the ones that’s left? The bacon, egg, and cheese flatbread.
Sure, the bacon, egg, and cheese are all fine. But few fast food customers are going to wake up in the morning craving a flatbread over a biscuit or a even wrap, like many other restaurants offer. The floppy texture of this sandwich just doesn’t make the cut for many.
But one thing that Subway breakfast does offer that other spots don’t is the ability to customize your order (which is why we all love Subway in the first place). While most other fast food breakfast sandwiches are explicitly vegetable-free (no, hash browns as a side don’t count), you can easily add veggies to your morning-time Subway order.
12. Starbucks: Reduced-fat turkey bacon and cage-free egg white sandwich
When you’re trying to eat healthy, fast food for breakfast is clearly not the way to go. But everyone ends up in a rush sometimes, and it can be easier to just grab something on-the-go instead of trying to make a homemade smoothie at the last minute. But one option we just can’t get behind? The reduced-fat bacon and cage-free egg white sandwich from Starbucks. At 230 calories, it’s not going to ruin your diet — but it might just ruin your morning.
The dry, slightly chewy English muffin is a far cry from the crisp bread you’d expect. And while the egg, cheese, and bacon may not be that bad, they don’t lend heaps of flavor to the sandwich. Its low calorie count makes it a winning choice for nutrition experts, but let’s be honest: It seriously falls short when it comes to taste. Our advice? Check out one of the other breakfast items on the menu, or skip the Starbucks breakfast completely.
11. Jack in the Box: Breakfast Jack
Jack in the Box may not come in near the top of the list, but one thing is for sure: We love the fact that you can grab breakfast here. All. Day. Long. It was one of the first to offer a breakfast sandwich in 1969, and it’s served all-day breakfast ever since. Luckily, there are tons of breakfast options here, so there’s plenty to choose from. But one breakfast menu item that you may want to skip out on is the Breakfast Jack.
While you’ll find the other breakfast menu offerings on croissants and biscuits, customers are only going to get a basic sandwich bun on a Breakfast Jack. A bun might be fine for mid-day, but something more buttery and substantial would definitely be an improvement for this sandwich. The ham, egg, and slice of American cheese just aren’t that substantial compared to other items on the menu and overall offer a less-than-exciting breakfast experience.
10. Wendy’s: Breakfast Baconator
As one of the country’s fast food behemoths, it’s no surprise that Wendy’s started offering breakfast in 1985. But after just nine months, the company decided to pull the menu (a couple of times) as it wasn’t finding widespread success. Fast-forward to 2020, and the popular chain has just released a brand-new breakfast menu. Perhaps the most anticipated item on the new menu is the Breakfast Baconator.
Let’s get real. Is there a part of us that wants to dig into one of these bad boys every morning? Yes. And that’s understandable once you see this monster of a sandwich before your eyes. Sausage, cheese, bacon, egg, more cheese, more bacon, and cheese sauce to top it all off. It’s indulgent, and dare we say appealing. But this is hardly the first thing you’d want to eat in the morning unless you’re recovering from an especially brutal hangover. A normal Baconator may be just as unremorsefully unhealthy as the breakfast version, but it just feels a little less sinful than deciding that this is how you’re going to start off your day.
9. Carl’s Jr.: Monster Biscuit
The Carl’s Jr. Monster Biscuit likely gets mixed reviews from those who decide to order it. If you wake up feeling absolutely famished and are suffering from severely low blood sugar, the Monster Biscuit might be just the breakfast sandwich for you. Get this: It’s a buttery biscuit packed with both bacon and a sausage patty. Then, add in not one but two eggs. Finally, finish it off with two types of cheese (American and Swiss). It’s over the top, and it’s likely to turn many people’s stomachs. But those who are willing to sacrifice their health often give it good reviews.
Carl’s Jr. isn’t exactly famous for its delicious breakfast items, though. Behold the Breakfast Burger, which is indisputably more disturbing than even the Monster Biscuit. As LA Weekly so eloquently wrote about the Breakfast Burger in 2014, "Before you even unwrap the package, you can almost see all of the plans you had for the day leaving you, your ambitions swirling the drain with the self-respect that you already lost last week." We’ll refrain from such harsh criticism of the Monster Biscuit, but consider that they are, technically, cousins.
8. Starbucks: Bacon, Gouda, and egg sandwich
Most people don’t go to Starbucks for the food. Sure, they serve food, but the coffee is the real star of the show. And considering many of the drinks have as many calories as a full meal, it’s probably for the best that you don’t always order an accompanying sandwich or wrap. But sometimes, you just need to fill the void in your stomach before you get to work, and you can’t be bothered to make another stop on your way to the office. Enter the Starbucks breakfast sandwich.
The bacon, Gouda, and egg sandwich should, by all counts, be delicious. What other fast food restaurant is going to serve something as sophisticated as Gouda? Where else are you going to leave the drive-thru with a sandwich on a ciabatta? But for all its potential, the bacon, Gouda, and egg sandwich from Starbucks falls short. The bacon is decidedly not crunchy but rather thin and chewy. The ciabatta is dry. And you’d think Starbucks would at least have fresh eggs on its sandwiches. This breakfast sandwich isn’t particularly good, but if you’re going to go there for the coffee anyway and your stomach is already grumbling, it can’t hurt to try.
7. Burger King: sausage, egg & cheese Croissan’wich
The story of Burger King’s breakfast menu is different than that of spots like McDonald’s. While Micky D’s could easily use grills for its breakfast offerings, Burger King prided itself on its flame-grilled burgers. That method wasn’t exactly conducive to easily offering breakfast items, so the fast food chain didn’t start rolling out its breakfast menu until the 80s.
Now, there’s no denying that Burger King is an ideal place to stop if you’re ultra-hungry, and the breakfast there isn’t any exception. Perhaps the best-known breakfast sandwich option at the chain is the sausage, egg & cheese Croissan’wich. Lots of places use croissants in lieu of biscuits or bagels, but Burger King does an especially good job of it. While we admit the folded egg is a bit sketchy, the sandwich as a whole comes together perfectly. The sausage is usually crispy, and the cheese holds the other ingredients together while adding just a touch of creamy texture. It’s perfect for on-the-go eating because it’s easy to hold in one hand while you’re driving, at your desk, or waiting for the train.
6. Dunkin’: Beyond Sausage sandwich
If anyone has a leg up in the breakfast game, it’s Dunkin’. Its signature product is a breakfast food, which means that this company has to work even harder to ensure that its other breakfast items are just as good as its donuts. Luckily, Dunkin’ has adopted a new trend. A wealth of fast food chains have started offering vegan and vegetarian options in recent years. Just ten years ago, this trend would have been unimaginable, and Dunkin’ definitely wasn’t leading the charge in the meat-free game. But the restaurant chain has finally come through for its loyal veggie customers, and it now offers a vegetarian option for breakfast.
The Beyond Sausage sandwich uses the popular Beyond Sausage, a patty that’s known for its similarity to real meat in taste, texture, and appearance. In addition to the plant-based patty, you’ll also find an egg and cheese squished between two buns. You shouldn’t expect the "meat" to taste exactly like sausage, but it’s certainly an appetizing option for those who want to reduce their meat intake for whatever reason. Even avowed meat-eaters won’t likely miss the "normal" meat flavor of Dunkin’s other offerings.
5. White Castle: Belgian Waffle Slider
White Castle gets a lot of hate, but like it or not, this restaurant was actually America’s first fast food chain. White Castle started all the back back in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, and it took off from there. Today, you probably know it for its famous sliders or the fact that it’s become increasingly vegetarian and vegan-friendly since 2014 when it offered its first vegan veggie burger. But what you may not know about White Castle is the fact that its breakfast is actually pretty good.
It definitely takes the cake when it comes to creativity: After all, where else can you find a Belgian Waffle Slider? If you love tiny, adorable food like we do, then the size of these sliders is enough to get you interested. But the salty-sweet combination is what really knocks it out of the park. Pair the sweet waffle bun with sausage or bacon, a fresh egg, and your choice of cheese (did we mention jalapeno cheese is one of your options?). Since they’re so small, you can order several of these at once for a unique fast food breakfast experience.
4. McDonald’s: Egg McMuffin
Perhaps the most iconic fast food breakfast sandwich ever, the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is steeped in legend. It’s largely responsible for changing how people ate breakfast: Before McDonald’s started offering the popular breakfast sandwich, people usually sat down at the breakfast table before heading off to work. But the Egg McMuffin changed that forever. Suddenly, convenience took precedent as people’s lives got busier and their jobs got more important. Eating on-the-go, even for breakfast, was the new big thing.
But even divorced from its storied past, the Egg McMuffin is still a delicious breakfast favorite that consumers flock to. As the most recognizable item on the breakfast menu (select items from which are now available all day), it’s still hard to pass up on that nostalgic thin slice of ham, bouncy egg, and American cheese slice. Are there better items on the McDonald’s breakfast menu? Technically, yes. But will any of those options trigger the nostalgia you’d get from an old-fashioned McMuffin? Of course not.
3. Whataburger: Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit
Most fast food restaurant chains go for the tried and true classics: You’ll find lots of sausage, bacon, and ham on their menus. But the spots that have breakfast menu items full of chicken should be celebrated. One of those spots that often gets overlooked is Whataburger. One part of Whataburger’s breakfast we absolutely adore is the fact that restaurants sell these items from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m., so whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, this chain’s got you covered.
There are plenty of breakfast sandwiches to try, but the unexpected star of the show is the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. This isn’t your average chicken biscuit. The tender chicken strip lovingly rests on its bed of buttermilk biscuit as it’s smothered in sweet, fatty honey butter. It can be on the messy side, but this perfect marriage of flavors is worth the sticky hands you’ll have until you can make it to a sink.
2. Chick-fil-A: Chicken biscuit
Chick-fil-A is now the third-largest fast food chain in the country, and it doesn’t look like it has any plans for stopping soon. Luckily for all those who can’t get enough of the delicious chicken here (it tastes amazing largely because of the cooking method — the restaurant makes it in a pressure cooker), a specific breakfast item is one of the most recognizable fast food breakfast sandwiches around: the Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit. There’s the classic, the spicy, and the chicken minis, all of which are popular options.
Every biscuit you order at Chick-fil-A is actually handmade, which gives them that rustic quality that makes it feel like grandma baked them. And if you ever meet someone who works at Chick-fil-A making biscuits, you should thank them for all their hard work: The biscuits take longer to make than any other item on the breakfast menu. After the staff gets done hand-rolling the biscuits, they then butter the biscuits right before they go into the oven, giving them that rich flavor you’ve grown to love. Add some of the delicious, never-frozen chicken on top of the already top-notch biscuit, and it’s no wonder customers crave this sandwich every morning (but especially Sunday morning).
1. McDonald’s: Sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle
Coming in at the top spot is the McDonald’s sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle. The famous McGriddle came out back in 2003, before the sweet-and-salty craze kicked in. McGriddles come with different fillings, but the sausage, egg, and cheese is definitely the best. It combines a moist sausage patty, yellow cheese, and perfectly cooked egg, and then smashes it all together between two pancakes.
But the best part of this sandwich? The syrup is actually inside the pancakes in the form of little crystals that melt at the perfect temperature. The sandwich was made like this so people could eat with one hand without worrying about dipping the sandwich into syrup when they were on the go. This brilliant innovation was a highlight in fast food vet Tom Ryan‘s illustrious career making some of the most well-known fast food products we know and love today. If you’re looking for an entire breakfast you can eat in one hand, this breakfast sandwich is clearly the way to go.