It’s hard to imagine breakfast without potatoes. That’s probably why every fast food joint that offers breakfast has some version of the starchy, carb-filled spuds — and most take the form of the classic hash brown. Likely descended from the rösti, a Swiss potato pancake dish, according to the Idaho Potato Commission, hashed brown potatoes first made their appearance in food history in the late 19th century. This fast-food breakfast staple is the morning menu’s answer to french fries.

But not all hash browns are created equal, which is where this handy breakdown comes into play. While the items on this list all involve potatoes, the style can vary greatly from place to place. You’ll find them in shapes of coins, sticks, and patties; some are simply seasoned with salt and others with more complex spices; some focus on the soft, fluffy center and others on the outer crunch.

While no fast-food ranking is purely objective and scientifically sound, we tried to take into account as many varying opinions as we could to create the most accurate placing for each competitor. Keep in mind that these restaurants and items vary regionally and may not be available to you, and breakfast is not always available all day. And with that preamble, here is our hash brown hierarchy.

12. Wendy’s Seasoned Potatoes

Wendy’s is forging its own potato path when it comes to breakfast spud sides — they aren’t hash browns, nor are they french fries. They’re not quite home fries, either, and they don’t remotely resemble tater tots. So what are they exactly? Wendy’s calls them Seasoned Potatoes and they consist of potato wedges that are cooked until crispy and seasoned with garlic, onion, and black pepper.

Despite the fact that they’re not technically hash browns, My Recipes awarded them the top spot in their hash browns ranking. When Business Insider checked out Wendy’s breakfast menu, they found them as worthy competitors to the more common hash browns, pointing out how they achieve that elusive balance between crispy exterior and soft center. Brand Eating called them "the best part" of Wendy’s breakfast menu, finding them far superior to the chain’s fries. Most of the commenters agree, wishing that Wendy’s would offer these all day instead of sequestering them to breakfast only.

While we can’t — in good conscience — award these breakfast spuds a spot on the hash brown hierarchy, Wendy’s Seasoned Potatoes have generated enough love to at least merit a mention.

11. Del Taco’s Hashbrown Sticks

Southern California-based Mexican fast-food chain Del Taco began serving breakfast in the ’80s. Its morning menu has continued to evolve as the brand has expanded from the West into the Midwest U.S., focusing on breakfast burritos and tacos in keeping with its south-of-the-border theme. In addition to their Mexican- inspired breakfast fare, they offer hash browns in the form of crispy, golden-fried potato sticks.

Del Taco’s Hashbrown Sticks may not have the same fame or fanbase as the other competitors on this list, but they do have devotees. One commenter on Reddit stated that the tots are their "go-to for hashbrown cravings," while another comment raved about how "they’re always cooked to the right amount of crunch." Restaurant Clicks appreciates them for their convenience as a "perfect breakfast snack." And everyone seems to agree that they’re perfect for dipping in a combo of ketchup and one of Del Taco’s signature hot sauces.

One advantage these hash browns have is a long, narrow shape that allows them to be easily added to other items — like tacos, for example. You’ll find these crispy potato sticks stuffed inside many of Del Taco’s breakfast offerings, from tacos to wraps. So while they may be nothing to write home about on their own, as an ingredient in other breakfast items, these golden bars are a valuable addition.

10. Bojangle’s Bo-Tato Rounds

Southeastern chain Bojangle’s is famous for its fried chicken and biscuits, and the latter is particularly well-suited for breakfast. Throw on an egg and sausage, ham, or bacon, and you’ve got a southern-style breakfast sandwich. But what about that side of hash browns?

Bojangle’s version of breakfast potatoes is called Bo-Tato Rounds and consists of coin-shaped potatoes that are deep-fried and lightly seasoned with onion. Fans on Reddit agree that if you can find them when they’re freshly made, they’re among the best fast-food hash browns out there, but at any other time, they can disappoint. A former employee concurs, responding that "they’re terrible in minutes" as soon as they hit room temperature. If you’ve only had them fresh from the fryer, they may be much higher up on your personal ranking list, but it’s clear the star at Bojangle’s is its famed biscuit, not its hash browns.

9. Whataburger Hash Brown Sticks

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and that’s true for fast food, too. The state’s famed chain Whataburger put itself on the fast-food map in 1950 with its larger-than-life burger, per the brand’s website. Potatoes were a later addition, with french fries not showing up until 1962. Breakfast made its debut in 1979 and now includes an abundance of items, including hash browns in the form of crispy sticks.

While these hash brown sticks may not grace many best-of lists, they do have several fans on Reddit, including one user who ranks them "a close second" after perennial favorite McDonald’s. The biggest gripe people have seems to be with the stingy size; there are at least two threads dedicated to complaints that the number of sticks in an order is simply not enough, or as one fan colorfully put it, "they dank but 4 of ’em ain’t cutting it."

The long shape of these hash brown sticks allows them to be easily layered onto other items, and Whataburger takes advantage of that with limited-time breakfast offerings. If you’re lucky enough to catch them, the Breakfast Bowls feature hash browns along with cheese, eggs, meat, a biscuit, and gravy, and the Breakfast Burger features the crunchy sticks nestled among a beef patty, bacon, egg, cheese, and pepper sauce on a bun, per Thrillist.

8. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Hash Rounds

While Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s (as they are known in the western and eastern US respectively) have somewhat different menus that highlight their regional cuisines, both chains offer Hash Rounds as part of the breakfast fare. Fried potatoes transcend all borders, it seems. These little, round, golden nuggets are both praised and criticized for their crispiness, so your enjoyment of them may depend on how much crunch you like.

Their bite-sized petiteness and solid texture make them great dipping vessels, according to Restaurant Clicks, so for fans of ketchup and other sauces, these will certainly be a useful option. Those who like a little more fluff and flavor may want to go elsewhere for their fried potato breakfast fix, says Insider. These morsels have a few devotees on Reddit from both Carl’s and Hardee’s country, including JesseKilgannon who called these "dark horse" favorite hash browns "greasy, but delicious." You might want to ask for extra napkins.

7. Taco Bell Hash Brown Patty

Hash brown patty halved

In the past, Taco Bell was known for its wild breakfast concoctions — anyone remember the short-lived Waffle Taco? Now, it’s turning over a new leaf and going back to basics. "We honestly over-innovated in breakfast," chief brand officer Sean Tresvant told CNN Business. Comedian Pete Davidson has been tapped as the celebrity apologist for the fast food giant’s fanciful menu missteps. But one thing he won’t need to publicly atone for is the chain’s hash brown patty, which could hardly be simpler. Taco Bell describes it as a "straight shooter," and its only ingredients are potatoes, oil, salt, and dextrose.

A classic deep-fried potato cake, Taco Bell’s hash brown offering is similar in shape and style to McDonald’s; but most find it pales in comparison. Insider found it greasy and flavorless, and The Sheaf found it to be too thin, lacking any texture besides crunch. If crunchiness is your thing, though, you might see that as an asset rather than a drawback.

Taco Bell’s hash brown patties may not reach the top of any rankings, but they play a pivotal role in the brand’s revamped morning menu, serving as one of the main ingredients in the Breakfast Crunchwrap. Its crispiness may be a drawback on its own but serves it well as a crunchy filling.

6. Dunkin’ Donuts Hash Browns

You may know Dunkin’ Donuts as a place for coffee and, of course, donuts, but they offer plenty of other breakfast items on their menu, including hash browns. What sets Dunkin’s hash browns apart from the competition is their bold seasoning. Although the exact recipe is a company secret, they’ve let it slip that sage, parsley, and garlic are three of the main flavors.

While the seasoning is certainly the main selling point for these hash browns, the overall quality and texture of the potato nuggets can be questionable, with one Reddit reviewer claiming "they taste like week-old hashbrowns that have been reheated in the microwave." According to another poster, you can request to have them served crispy when you order, which is something that doesn’t seem like it should have to be specified when it comes to hash browns (if anyone out there prefers their hash browns limp and soggy, we stand corrected). Restaurant Clicks had no issues with the texture, finding them crispier than other restaurants’ offerings. And while Spoon University reported excess greasiness, the flavorful seasoning made up for it. Bottom line, despite inconsistencies in quality, the punchy flavor gives Dunkin’s hash browns an advantage over some of the other milder-tasting offerings.

5. Jack in the Box Hash Browns

Another entry in the rectangular-shaped division, Jack in the Box’s hash brown patty is similar to those from its competitors Taco Bell and McDonald’s in its simplicity and style. Like the rest of the company’s breakfast menu, it’s perhaps a bit on the plain side, although you could argue that makes it a blank slate for complementing other flavors. Insider was less than impressed, while they claimed it "got the flavor right," the problem was with the thin size and mushy texture. But Restaurant Clicks had a different experience, praising the flavor and crispiness.

Your opinion on Jack in the Box’s hash browns may depend on whether you think their skinny size is a plus, adding extra crunch, or a minus, necessitating a double order for true satiation. One bonus feature of this narrow frame is that it makes them easy to layer onto a breakfast sandwich, which adds an extra stratum of starchy, crunchy goodness.

4. Chick-fil-A Hash Browns

Atlanta-based chain Chick-fil-A has been making chicken sandwiches using the same method and ingredients since 1967, and that simple recipe — breaded chicken breast on a bun with pickles — has catapulted them to the top of the fast food chicken world, per Statista. Breakfast service didn’t begin until two decades later, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, starting with a chicken biscuit sandwich and now including items like the Egg White Grill and, of course, hash browns.

Chick-fil-A’s hash browns are not nearly as popular as the chain’s other potato side, the beloved waffle fries, but they are the most popular breakfast item, per Chick-Fil-A’s 2021 sales numbers. My Recipes wasn’t a fan of their shape or greasiness, but many other reviewers were impressed by the chicken chain’s hash browns. One Reddit reviewer stated that the inclusion of them in the breakfast burrito is what really makes it stand out. Insider reports that the texture and flavor of the potato coins are on point, with the right ratio of crunchy exterior and fluffy center. Be cautious with the box, though — leaving the lid closed for too long will steam the hash browns and they’ll lose their signature crunchiness.

3. Taco John’s Potato Olés

Once a humble taco stand, Taco John’s now sells its Mexican fast-food favorites from almost 400 locations, located mainly throughout the midwestern U.S. One of the signature items is a cup of fried potato nuggets known as Potato Olés. The Takeout praises these fried spuds for their balance of texture and subtle spice seasoning, as well as their dippability, grading them an A in their taste test. Potato Olés, while perhaps best categorized as hash browns, are not just a morning treat — they’re available on both the breakfast and regular menu, to the delight of at least one Redditor who says they’re "so good any time of day."

It’s hard to find a negative word about these crispy hunks of gold and people from all walks of life love them, according to the Argus Leader. Perhaps the worst thing one can say about them is that if you’re unlucky enough to live in the half of the country that’s outside of Taco John’s territory, Potato Olés remain out of your grasp until your next interstate road trip.

2. Burger King Hash Browns

Despite its regal title, Burger King falls just shy of the crown in our hash brown battle royale. While the restaurant’s fried potato nuggets score points for staying true to their nature, two reviewers (from The Sheaf and Spoon University) complained that they had too much potato flavor, which seems like an odd thing to be disappointed by in a food item that’s pretty much all potato. Insider was not a fan of the extreme amounts of oil and salt but agreed with Restaurant Clicks’ appreciation of their crunchiness. Unlike some of the other crunch-heavy options on this list, BK is able to achieve a crisp exterior while maintaining a soft center. While Spoon University wished they had a bit more flavor, they praised them for being "a not-too-greasy-but-still-crispy hash brown."

A few of our food connoisseurs over at Reddit ranked the King’s hash browns as their second favorite, just behind our soon-to-be-crowned winner. User TheFatZyzz says that while they rank behind the number one pick in quality, BK’s hash browns give you "more value" for your buck. ChazzleMcRazzle awards them the gold, citing a preference for "small bites more than 1 large one," and JammingScientist agrees. So if you’re partial to small, coin-shaped hash browns over larger cakes, these might take the top prize.

1. McDonald’s Hash Browns

This is it, the undisputed champion of fast food hash browns: McDonald’s. The McDonald’s potato patty takes the top spot in just about every ranking you can find and even made it onto The Ringer’s list of "The Top 50 Fast Food Items in America" (the only hash brown to do so). This iconic hash brown’s superiority may be due in part to its somewhat secret ingredient, natural beef flavoring, which is added to the oil before they’re fried, per Better Homes & Gardens. But it’s not just that unique component that sets them apart.

Reviewers far and wide praise every element of these golden patties, from the "salty, buttery potato flavor" (via Insider) to the "toothsome and crisp" exterior (via My Recipes). Restaurant Clicks calls it "the perfect fast food breakfast item." Redditors agree, with one user claiming they "could eat like 50 of them at one time" and another saying "can’t go wrong with the OG."

It’s hard to disagree with such widespread consensus, and why bother? Classics are classics for a reason, and the McDonald’s hash brown is the gold standard.