13 Popular Fast Food Cheeseburgers, Ranked Worst To Best
Few things are as quintessentially American as the cheeseburger. Between cookouts, road trips, lunch breaks, or those middle-of-the-night greasy goodness cravings, cheeseburgers are a comforting, delicious go-to option. From humble offerings with a beef patty, cheese, ketchup, mustard, and pickle, the cheeseburger has become something of a statement piece for many fast food establishments. After all, if you strip away the condiments, cheeseburgers offer a relatively simple canvas.
Many fast food stops have really dressed up the humble cheeseburger with unique and delicious spins on the classic sandwich. With so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which fast food chain serves up the best. There are plenty of top contenders with lots of factors that help set the individual burgers apart. From burgers named for favorite football players to ones so small they are sold by the sack, we’re convinced that there’s a cheeseburger for everyone, no matter how simple or gourmet your preference.
13. Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen is mainly known for its delicious frozen treats, particularly the famous Blizzard. However, the chain also offers a variety of tasty burgers, including its classic cheeseburger and several Stackburger offerings.
The original Dairy Queen cheeseburger features the typical fare but is curiously missing onions. This classic burger is simple yet satisfying, and it has been a fan favorite for generations. Dairy Queen calls its larger burgers Stackburgers because they have multiple patties. The Two Cheese Deluxe option comes with both American and white cheddar cheese. This burger also includes onions, which even the original Stackburger does not have. If you’re a fan of bacon, you can also add it to any of the burgers for a nice touch.
For those who like their burgers with a bit of heat, Dairy Queen also offers the Flamethrower Stackburger. This burger includes a zingy DQ FlameThrower sauce, melted Pepper Jack cheese, jalapeño bacon, tomato, and even lettuce. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more indulgent option, the Loaded A.1. Steakhouse Signature Stackburger is perfect. This one features beef patties, A.1. Thick & Hearty Steak Sauce, creamy peppercorn sauce, Applewood smoked bacon, American cheese, and onion rings. Though interesting options, while these burgers are just ok, Dairy Queen is simply a better ice cream stop than a burger joint.
When you think of classic fast-food cheeseburgers, it’s almost impossible to ignore McDonald’s. After all, small towns and large cities across the United States tend to have at least one, and McDonald’s has even stretched to become a global franchise. In fact, in 1948, when McDonald’s became more of a walk-up burger stand than the barbecue restaurant it originated as, a cheeseburger was one of the only four food items on the menu, alongside hamburgers, potato chips, and pie.
Today, the only burger McDonald’s offers without cheese is its classic hamburger. Everything else, from the Big Mac to the quarter pounder and even the McDouble, offers at least one slice of American cheese. Most McDonald’s burgers also come with onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. The additional toppings set the different cheeseburger variations apart on the menu. For example, the Big Mac has an extra bun in the middle of the sandwich, while the Quarter Pounder Cheese Deluxe adds shredded lettuce.
The McDonald’s cheeseburger may be one of the simplest fast food cheeseburger options you can find, but it continues to be so popular because it is delicious. The truth is Mcdonald’s sells around 75 burgers each second, and many American children grow up eating happy meals from Mcdonald’s, so it offers a heavy dose of nostalgia. All told, however, there’s just not much special about a McDonald’s burger. There are better fast food restaurants, even if McDonald’s is the one most ingrained into our childhoods.
11. Burger King
Burger King was founded in 1954, and since then, it has served approximately 11 million guests. Over the years, Burger King has introduced several new menu items, including Chicken Fries and the Impossible Whopper, a vegetarian version of the Whopper. Burger King is well-known for its delicious burgers, but in a market flooded with fast-food chains offering similar items, each restaurant must have a spin on the classic offerings. Burger King’s distinctive spin is that its burgers are cooked over an open flame using a fire broiler, giving them a smoky and charred flavor that is hard to replicate.
Burger King offers a variety of burgers, including the classic Whopper, their signature burger. Interestingly, the Whopper does not have cheese, but several other burgers on the menu do, such as the King burgers and melts.
In the late 1990s, Burger King introduced a burger available in many Wisconsin affectionately called The Gilbert Burger. It was named after Gilbert Brown, a former defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers football team. The Gilbert Burger was a giant, messy cheeseburger with doubled cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion, and ketchup. As Gilbert Brown didn’t like pickles, they were left out of the burger.
We love Burger King for its newer offerings, but the basic burger suffers from the same issue as McDonald’s: It just isn’t unique enough, even with the flame-grilled aspect.
10. Checkers and Rally’s
Checkers and Rally’s are known for their delicious and classic cheeseburgers with a vintage look. Despite being the same restaurant, they are called different names depending on the restaurant’s location. Rally’s originated in Tennessee in 1984, while Checkers is from Alabama and was established in 1986. Then, in 1999, they merged through a stock swap.
One of the most classic burgers at Checkers and Rally’s is the All American Cheeseburger. This traditional burger includes a beef patty, melted cheese, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. But if you’re looking for a more sophisticated burger, the Cheese Champ is a great choice. It includes all the components of the All American Cheeseburger, but with the addition of tomato, red onion, iceberg lettuce, and mayonnaise.
For something unique, you can order a burger featuring those famous, seasoned fries. The Double Fry Lover’s Burger is a cheeseburger with fries, as well as basic condiments. Since Checkers and Rally’s are known well for french fries, it is a popular choice among customers wanting to enjoy the best of both worlds in one burger. And this is one of the reasons we enjoy these restaurants. Even still, the different varieties of burgers make those new to the menu a little overwhelming and even difficult to decode.
Culver’s is a beloved Wisconsin institution known for its mouthwatering ButterBurgers. Made with never-frozen beef, Culver’s cooks prepare these burgers to perfection and top each with a buttered bun to add that extra layer of flavor. Culver’s ButterBurger Cheese is the staple Culver’s cheeseburger. Topped with red onion, pickle, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, it is the perfect option for a simple and delicious meal.
For those who prefer a more loaded burger, Culver’s offers several other options, including the Deluxe, Bacon Deluxe, and Mushroom and Swiss ButterBurgers. These burgers all come with cheese, adding an extra layer of flavor and richness to the already delicious burger. In fact, it’s worth noting that the only burger option on the menu without cheese is the original ButterBurger.
No matter which cheeseburger you choose, we think you’ll love Culver’s attention to detail, hospitality, and great pride in sourcing its beef and cheese from local producers, ensuring that every bite is packed with flavor and quality. However, these burgers can be elusive since Culver’s isn’t available everywhere.
Portillo’s is a cherished restaurant chain. It is known to be a classic Chicagoland restaurant and was founded in Villa Park, Illinois by Dan Portillo in 1963. Today, the chain has expanded to over 70 locations across the country. We love it for those delicious, drug-through-the-garden Chicago-style hot dogs, but the restaurant also serves up a delightful menu featuring cheese fries, Italian beef, and many delicious items, including cheeseburgers that are sure to satisfy.
You can order the cheeseburger in either a single or double patty option. It’ll come with a freshly toasted old-fashioned style bun with cheese, mayo, pickles, ketchup, lettuce, tomato slice, and red onion. For some smokiness, add some bacon. More than many of our other favorites, this burger tastes and feels like it was cooked right at home on the family grill. Though Portillo’s has much more popular favorites on its menu, the cheeseburger certainly shouldn’t be ignored if you’re really craving a burger, but we’ll always struggle to go to Portillo’s and not order a Chicago-style hot dog.
Wendy’s first restaurant opened in 1969. From the beginning, the franchise intended to make itself distinctive from its competitors. Instead of eating at tables designed to rush you out, Wendy’s created dining rooms where you felt like guests rather than customers. The tables were even lit by stained glass lamps rather than overly bright and boring lights.
When it came to burgers, Wendy’s was different too. Instead of using a circle patty, Dave Thomas introduced the square burger. Because it would stick out from a circle bun, the squared Corners allowed Wendy’s to show off the juiciness of the burger. But it wasn’t just the shape that was different; then, like now, Wendy’s burgers are cooked from fresh beef rather than frozen beef.
Like McDonald’s, the simple hamburger is the only burger Wendy’s offers without cheese. In recent years, more creative options like the Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger and even the Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger have been added to the menu, and, yes, they all include cheese. To us, you really can’t do better than Dave’s originals. These come in single, double, and triple options with the same number of burger patties. However, the single cheeseburger already comes with two cheese slices. For us, Wendy’s makes one of the best cheeseburgers readily available through a drive-through window. Even still, these are a little on the greasy side.
6. White Castle
White Castle is famous for its small, square burgers called sliders. The story of White Castle began in 1921 when Billy Ingram started selling sliders for just five cents each. These burgers were so small and inexpensive that they could be sold by the sack, which became a catchy slogan for the chain. Over the years, White Castle has become an iconic name in the fast-food industry. In fact, it helped popularize the concept of fast food as we know it today.
White Castle’s cheeseburger made its debut in 1962. The cheese slider is a beef burger with grilled onions and your choice of American, jalapeño, or smoked cheddar cheese. You can also add bacon or even double up that burger. Another cheeseburger option includes the 1921 Slider, which includes caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, a slice of Roma tomato, lettuce, and pickles.
When it comes to White Castle, these burgers are simply a classic, and since they are some of the original fast food cheeseburgers, we’re just in love with the rich history here. Simply put: White Castle does burgers and cheeseburgers well.
5. Sonic Drive-In
For years, Sonic’s cheeseburger has been a beloved fast food classic that continues to delight customers. It boasts a juicy beef patty, melted cheese, diced onions, lettuce, pickles, tomato, ketchup, and mayo, making it stand out from other fast food burgers. Sonic also offers a double cheeseburger with two beef patties and more cheese to cater to those with bigger appetites. And if you’re looking to take your burger up a notch, you can add bacon for an extra dose of savory flavor.
Sonic also has a plain cheeseburger with just a bun, beef, and cheese for a simpler option. However, the Quarter Pounder is an excellent choice for those craving more flavor. It features two beef patties, cheese, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, providing a more satisfying and flavorful meal.
Between the pebble ice, iconic drive-up, and delicious options, we love a Sonic cheeseburger. What makes Sonic even more appealing is its history as a drive-in restaurant, allowing customers to enjoy their burgers from the comfort of their own cars. Sonic’s first drive-in opened in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1953, and despite the decline of the drive-in concept in the fast food industry, Sonic has kept it as a staple of its identity.
4. Five Guys
If you’re looking for a burger with a hefty price tag but a delicious taste, a Five Guys burger is going to be your best bet. Unlike some other burger restaurants, the menu at this favorite burger chain is pretty simple, but the real magic comes from all of those customizations you can add. You can choose from a variety of free toppings, including lettuce, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and more. Additionally, you can add premium toppings such as bacon, grilled mushrooms, or jalapeño peppers for an additional charge.
Though you might not know Five Guys for its buns, the sesame bun on each cheeseburger is actually the only proprietary item the restaurant offers. In fact, these buns are baked in restaurants fresh throughout the week. In addition to your juicy but rather greasy cheeseburger, you can also order a side of fries. Be ready, though, because you’ll be taking a lot of fries with you. We highly recommend the Cajun variety, and these fries, though separate from the burgers, certainly help elevate how much we love these cheeseburgers. We also adore the incredible number of customization options you have when ordering from Five Guys.
3. Shake Shack
Shake Shack is a beloved American fast-food chain that has gained immense popularity for its delicious menu. For instance, the White Truffle Burger is a delectable treat featuring Fontina cheese with a rich and creamy white truffle sauce. It’s dressed with crispy onions on a perfectly toasted potato bun. If you prefer a classic cheeseburger, the ShackBurger is a perfect choice with all the usual loved trimmings. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the SmokeShack will satisfy your taste buds with applewood-smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and a ShackSauce.
Though Shake Shack began as a humble hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park over 20 years ago, it has expanded to over 300 locations worldwide. Still, its commitment to using high-quality ingredients and cooking techniques has remained unchanged. In addition to their burgers and hot dogs, Shake Shack also offers crave-worthy milkshakes that satisfy your sweet tooth.
2. In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger is a widely beloved fast-food chain founded in 1948 by Harry Snyder in Baldwin Park, California. The fast food joint has primarily kept to the western United States, with most locations in California. In-N-Out Burger is known for its fresh, made-to-order burgers, fries, and shakes, and it has developed an enthusiastic group of worshipers and burger lovers.
One of In-N-Out’s signature items is the cheeseburger, made with toasted buns made from sponge dough, a thick slice of American cheese, beef, fresh or grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and the company’s unique spread with unlisted ingredients. Though the burgers and cheeseburgers do not come with mustard, you can request that your burger or cheeseburger be made "Animal Style" as a mustard burger. For this unique twist, your cook will cook one side of the beef patty as normal and add mustard on the raw side. Then, when they flip over that patty, the mustard cooks right into the beef. This interesting cooking method made its appearance in 1961.
BurgerFi is a relatively new establishment that was founded in 2011 in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. This burger joint prides itself on its chef-driven recipes and commitment to using only the freshest ingredients. BurgerFi does not take shortcuts in the kitchen and ensures that each burger is perfectly prepared.
One of the standout features of BurgerFi’s menu is its selection of cheeseburgers. They offer several burger options with cheese, but its flagship BurgerFi Burger does not have any cheese. For those who love a little heat, the SWAG (Spicy Wagyu) Burger is a must-try. It features a double premium Wagyu blend patty, charred jalapeños, candied spicy bacon, a helping of sweet tomato relish, pepper jack cheese, and a hot steak sauce.
We also love The CEO burger. This burger has a double premium Wagyu blend patty, homemade candied bacon-tomato jam, rich truffle aioli, and aged Swiss cheese. The sweet and savory combination of the bacon-tomato jam and truffle aioli elevates this burger to another level. If you’re ever near a BurgerFi, don’t hesitate to stop. It’s an excellent fast food restaurant that just knows how to make a cravable burger.
Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.