What Makes Big Mac Sauce So Good?

Plus, how to recreate it according to a former McDonald's chef.


Mcdonald's/Adobe Stock

We’ve answered why McDonald’s ketchup tastes so good, why its onions make a burger so delicious, and even what makes the french fries and Coke better than any other restaurant. But there’s one McDonald’s burger that is so iconic that we need to break it down piece by piece to understand why it’s so perfect: the Big Mac.

As the jingle goes, the Big Mac is comprised of “two all-beef patties, Special Sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” We know the double patties, triple bun, and rehydrated onions make up a large part of the Big Mac’s success, but, you can’t talk about a Big Mac without talking about the Special Sauce.

So, what the heck is Big Mac sauce and why does it taste so delicious that customers want to buy sides of it with every Mickey D’s order?

What Is Big Mac Sauce?

Big Mac sauce was invented alongside the Big Mac burger in 1968 at a Pittsburgh McDonald’s franchise. It’s a creamy, tangy, slightly sweet sauce that is slathered on both Big Mac patties for optimal flavor.

At first, there were two versions of the signature sauce, but McDonald’s eventually created a new recipe that combined the two flavors to ensure consistency at all restaurants—as was the Ray Kroc (McDonald’s original CEO) way.

This secret recipe was used from 1972 through 1991 when it was changed another time. However, in 2004, then-CEO Fred Turner decided the Big Mac needed one final revamp and he decided to bring back the OG Big Mac sauce recipe. Since then, we’ve been enjoying the original recipe made with the original ingredients from the same suppliers Big Mac founder Jim Delligatti used in the ‘60s.

It was recently announced that the Big Mac would undergo an innovation as part of McDonald’s plan to improve its most-popular hamburgers. In addition to the grilling techniques and onion flavor, the Big Mac will have even more Big Mac sauce by 2024.

What Makes Big Mac Sauce So Good?

The reason Big Mac sauce is such a hit is because it’s unique. A lot of restaurants have “special sauces,” but few are as beloved as Big Mac sauce. It’s the perfect blend of creamy, acidic, savory, and slightly sweet that compliments the rest of the burger incredibly well.

And, despite the fact that dozens of companies have tried to recreate the success of Mickey D’s special sauce, there’s nothing quite like the original. Especially because the Big Mac sauce recipe is such a closely guarded secret—similar to KFC’s 11 herbs and spices and Chick-fil-A’s breading recipe.

People speculate that it’s essentially a Thousand Island dressing, but there's actually no ketchup or tomato-based products in Big Mac sauce, according to McDonald’s website.

In 2022, Chef Mike Haracz, the former Manager of Culinary Innovation at McDonald’s, posted a TikTok recreating the Big Mac sauce saying it was “as close” as you could get.

His recipe is:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

  • 2 tablespoons Düsseldorf mustard

  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Haracz calls out that the reason Mickey D’s Big Mac sauce has an orange-pink hue is because of the paprika—rather than ketchup like some people think. Additionally, one commenter asked for a good substitute for Düsseldorf mustard, to which Haracz responded by saying Dijon mustard will work too.

While it might not be the exact recipe from the ‘60s, Haracz’s rendition will get you pretty darn close. So, next time you want to try a DIY Big Mac, give his recipe a try—or simply head to the Golden Arches for the real deal.