I know, I know. Who goes to a fast food restaurant to eat a salad? When you have a bevy of burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches, and French fries available, the last thing most of us want to do is order a bowl of lettuce. Fast food salad offerings have long been ridiculed for not fitting in with the rest of the menu. They've been teased on social media, in standup comedy routines, and even in Spongebob Squarepants.
And for a long time, it seemed like national chains were in on the joke. Salad offerings have been relegated to the bottom of fast food menus and were typically comprised of all the vegetables you'd normally find on their burgers. Maybe, if they were feeling generous, they'd add a handful of shredded cheese. It's almost as if they didn't want us to order them in the first place.
Since the fast food salad boom of the early aughts, we've largely let go of the expectation that burger chains need something green. Spots like Burger King, McDonald's, and Taco Bell have quietly removed salads from their menus over the past few years. And with the rise of fast-casual salad chains like Panera, Sweetgreen, and Just Salad, we anticipate that the availability of fast food salads will continue to dwindle.
But for when you're on the road and want a quick, affordable salad fast, we've rounded up all the salads you can get at major fast food chains and ranked them all from worst to best. We factored in things like the variety of ingredients, how substantial they are, and overall quality. So next time you're at the drive-thru you can get your greens without sacrificing flavor.
12. Dairy Queen Rotisserie-Style Chicken Bites Salad Bowl
If I searched the encyclopedia definition for "sad fast food salads," Dairy Queen's version would be it. The combo of roasted chicken, bacon, and cheddar isn't enough to salvage the plain iceberg lettuce and watery tomatoes.
11. Dairy Queen Crispy Chicken Strips Salad
This salad is essentially the same as Dairy Queen's other one. The only reason this ranks higher is because the crispy coating of the chicken strips almost resembles a crouton. Don't waste your time, just get a cone and call it a day.
10. Jack In The Box Club Salad
Jack In The Box's club salad comes with either grilled or crispy chicken, but is pretty standard when it comes to fast food salads. However, there are a few upgrades that you won't see in Dairy Queen's offerings.
Instead of mushy diced tomato, you get grape tomatoes. Doesn't seem like a huge difference in theory, but the crisp texture of the grape tomato is major. They also up the ante with some sliced cucumbers, which adds more crispness and textural intrigue to the overall salad. And most importantly, it comes with croutons.
9. Anything From Subway
From a fake tuna lawsuit to yoga mat bread allegations, we all stopped believing Subway was a healthy fast food spot a long time ago. The quality of ingredients is seemingly always in question. There's a reason why their market share continues to dip year after year.
They also have the largest salad lineup of any fast food chain in the country. It might sound impressive, but it's ultimately just lazy. Every Subway salad simply places their sandwich toppings on a bed of lettuce. We need more imagination and better quality ingredients.
8. Chick-fil-A Market Salad
We're certainly not opposed to fruit in a salad. In fact, we love adding a touch of sweetness to a classic caprese or even a plain spinach salad. But even we think this Chick-fil-A salad goes too far.
Their market salad has strawberries, blueberries, and two kinds of apples. And as if that wasn't sweet enough, this salad is topped with a sweet and salty granola and an apple cider vinaigrette that leans on the sweet side. There's a whopping 26 grams of sugar in each salad. You might as well just eat dessert for lunch instead.
7. Wendy's Taco Salad
If this ranking were in the style of a Dance Moms-style pyramid, this salad would be comfortably in the middle tier. We love all of the components: crispy lettuce, crunchy tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream, and of course their iconic chili.
But it's when they're put together in a salad that we start to struggle. The chip pieces are too large and unwieldy to eat with a fork and the warm chili causes the lettuce to wilt. It's like a half-baked bowl of nachos with lettuce added as an afterthought. It certainly doesn't taste bad, but it's not what I want in a salad.
6. Jack In The Box Southwest Salad
Jack In The Box's club salad is just meh, but their Southwest salad is worth stopping for. Besides the choice of grilled or crispy chicken, you get cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, fire roasted corn, and crispy tortilla chips. Add in their creamy, smoky Southwest dressing and we're sold.
5. Wendy's Apple Pecan Salad
Wendy's fruit forward salad tops Chick-fil-A's by a mile. They swap out the blueberries and strawberries for dried cranberries, which provides a nice change in texture. Overall, you can certainly taste the fruit, but it's not a sugar bomb.
Also, the pecans here add more exciting texture and flavor than the almonds in Chick-fil-A's salad. It's a solid salad through and through.
4. Wendy's Parmesan Caesar Salad
A Caesar salad is one of the best bites known to man. The rich, anchovy-scented dressing is the perfect compliment to crisp romaine and savory Parmesan. And Wendy's version captures the flavors we know and love.
They even up the ante with crispy Parmesan croutons on top of their Italian blend that's already in the salad. Cheese lovers, this salad is for you.
3. Chick-fil-A Spicy Southwest Salad
Chick-fil-A's Southwestern-inspired salad is packed to the brim with toppings. There's corn, black beans, grape tomatoes, cheddar, crispy tortilla strips, poblano and red bell peppers, and we can't forget about the chili lime pumpkin seeds.
The only reason we're docking it to third place is that we weren't wowed by the accompanying creamy salsa dressing. The creamy consistency mixed with the cumin didn't exactly sit well with us. If you do order this salad, we suggest getting the avocado lime ranch instead.
2. Wendy's Cobb Salad
Cobbs have the most textural variety and the most toppings out of any salad out there, so it's no surprise that they're at the top of our list. And you can't go wrong with Wendy's version.
We love how the egg is chopped and can be easily distributed throughout the bowl. The ranch is creamy, tangy, and classic. And don't even get us started on those crispy fried onions. A 9/10 salad.
1. Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad
The only reason I gave the Cobb at Wendy's a nine was to give Chick-fil-A's a 10. There's a reason why this is the chain's most popular salad. It checks off all the boxes, and then goes above and beyond.
The first thing we love? Your protein options are almost endless: nuggets, filet, spicy, mild, crispy, grilled, even cauliflower! You can also find the usual suspects in a Cobb, but there's also roasted corn, charred tomato, crispy red peppers, and Monterey Jack cheese. Top it off with their avocado lime ranch, and we're in salad heaven.
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