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9 Fast-Food Chains With the Best Sides

Whether you want something classic or more creative, these chains offer some memorable meal accompaniments.
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What's a burger without fries? Or, fried chicken without mashed potatoes? When it comes to fast-food orders, there's rarely, if ever, a meal that doesn't include a side. And why would there be?

Side dishes not only complement their larger entrées, but sometimes, they'll even outshine them. Although you'll probably lose count of the number of fast-food chains serving the classics like french fries and onion rings, there are plenty of other eateries that sell less standard options like cheese curds and crispy Brussels sprouts.

Since no fast-food meal would be complete without a side dish or two, it's helpful to know which spots have the best offerings. Here are nine fast-food chains that offer some buzzworthy sides.


mcdonald's food fries lights
Photo: Shutterstock
World Famous Fries (small size): 230 cal, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

If there's one thing McDonald's is known for—besides the Big Mac, of course—it's the chain's trademarked "World Famous Fries." This crispy, salty side is an incredibly popular one, repeatedly earning the top spot on "best fast-food french fry" lists. In fact, McDonald's reigned supreme as the fast-food chain serving the best fries in America in a recent survey from CivicScience. The competition wasn't exactly tight either, with McDonald's being a "runaway winner," getting 50% of the vote, while Wendy's, the runner-up, only received 15%.

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wendy's baked potato
Wendy's / Facebook
Plain Potato: 232 cal, 5.4 g fat (3.4 g saturated fat), 1900 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (4.7 g fiber, 2.4 g sugar), 4.4 g protein

While McDonald's fries are tough to beat, there are still plenty of Wendy's fry fans, too. Plus, unlike McDonald's, the chain has multiple varieties to choose from beyond the classic version. Wendy's menu currently houses five options, which include the Ghost Pepper Fries, Queso Fries, Baconator Fries, Cheese Fries, and Chili Fries.

However, the potato sides don't stop at fries. Wendy's also has baked potatoes, which the chain first launched in 1983 to provide a lighter choice. Now, this menu item can be ordered plain or with toppings, such as sour cream and chives, bacon and cheese, or chili and cheese.

Speaking of chili, Wendy's chili has received so much love over the years that a canned version rolled out in grocery stores in April.


smashburger crispy brussels sprouts, regular fries, and sweet potato fries
Smashburger / Facebook
Sweet Potato Fries (Regular): 480 cal, 22 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 67 g carbs (8 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 4 g protein

If it wasn't already obvious, potatoes hold the side dish throne in the fast-food world. At Smashburger, the versatile ingredient is served in different forms to appeal to multiple potato preferences. In addition to offering french fries, the better burger chain sells sweet potato fries and tater tots. Customers can order the latter in plain or opt for the Smash Tots, which are coated in rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. Other side dish options include onion rings, which can also be ordered as a burger topping, and crispy Brussels sprouts.

Sonic Drive-In

sonic tater tots, onion rings, and drink
Wild As Light / Shutterstock
Tater Tots (small): 250 cal, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 620 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Nostalgic fast-food chain Sonic is celebrated for more than just its famous cherry limeade. It's also praised for its sides, such as its tots, which took the number one spot in a recent tater tot taste test (try saying that three times fast). This potato-based side dish comes in a classic version—deep-fried and lightly coated with salt—as well as topped with cheese or chili and cheese.

Also on Sonic's list of popular sides are its onion rings, which took home the crown in Thrillist's onion ring taste test. According to a former Sonic employee, the chain's secret ingredient in the item's breading is vanilla ice milk, though "using melted ice cream works just as well."


popeyes sides
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen / Facebook
Mashed Potatoes With Cajun Gravy (Regular): 110 cal, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 g protein

The Louisiana-style kitchen is most often associated with its famous fried chicken and biscuits, but the chain is also home to a variety of sought-after sides. These include the homestyle mac and cheese, red beans and rice, and mashed potatoes with gravy, to name a few.

"The mashed potatoes are like a dipping sauce too for the fried chicken, SO good especially when it's hot," one person wrote in a Reddit thread.

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Chick-fil-a Mac and cheese
Mac & Cheese: 450 cal, 29 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 1190 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (3 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 20 g protein

While waffle fries are probably the first side that comes to mind when thinking about Chick-fil-A, the chain has several other options to pair with your original chicken sandwich. There's the mac and cheese, which features a blend of parmesan, cheddar, and Romano cheeses. This menu item has come out on top in multiple fast-food mac and cheese taste tests.

But if you're looking for something lighter, Chick-fil-A also sells two different side salads: the regular and Kale Crunch. The regular side salad was going to be discontinued last spring, but the fast-food chain reversed its decision due to the customer feedback it received. A few other sides you can score at Chick-fil-A include the fruit cup, chicken noodle soup, and Greek yogurt parfait.

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box – Egg Roll
Courtesy of Jack in the Box
Egg Roll (1 piece): 150 cal, 70 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g protein

Jack in the Box sets itself apart from the typical American fast-food chain by offering some less mainstream bites. Yes, it sells fries—both regular and curly—but there are some more unique options you don't see at most places, such as stuffed jalapeños, which are breaded, fried, and filled with melted cheese. Then, there are the jumbo egg rolls, which are filled with ground pork, cabbage, celery, carrots, onions, and spices and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

The chain also puts a spin on loaded fries by using potato wedges instead. The classic version is topped with shredded cheddar cheese, cheese sauce, and bacon crumbles, while the spicy version throws Spicy Good Good Sauce and jalapeños into the mix.


in-n-out animal style fries
In-N-Out/ Facebook
French Fries (125 g): 370 cal, 15 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 6 g protein

French fries might be the only side dish listed on In-N-Out Burger's menu, but you can still get creative with them. One secret menu item, which actually isn't all that much of a secret, is the animal-style fries. This popular order consists of french fries topped with In-N-Out's signature sauce, cheese, and grilled onions. Customers can also ask for cheese fries, which aren't technically on the menu, either.

If you feel strongly about the texture of your fries, In-N-Out can also cook them to your liking. Just ask for them "light" (lightly fried) or "well-done" (extra crispy).


culver's cheese curds
Culver's / Facebook
Wisconsin Cheese Curds (medium): 510 cal, 25 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1230 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 20 g protein

Famous for its Butterburgers and frozen custard, this Wisconsin-based burger chain also has some enticing sides. Staying true to its roots, Culver's dishes out Wisconsin Cheese Curds, which are made with un-aged yellow and white Wisconsin cheddar cheese from La Grander Hillside Dairy in Stanley, Wis., according to the chain's website.

"The cheese curds are the best. It goes really well with the marinara sauce," one Facebook user wrote on a post from the chain. A few other sides you can get at Culver's include onion rings, chili cheese fries, and pretzel bites, which are served with a Wisconsin cheese sauce.

Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna