When you’re on the move and get hungry, nothing beats a hot, delicious order of onion rings. Drive-thru onion rings are just one of those foods that you can’t duplicate at home, no matter how hard you try. For those who love to indulge in the guilty pleasure that is a hot order of onion rings straight from the deep fryer, it certainly pays to know your options for the best fast-food onion rings. And no, not all fast-food restaurants make great onion rings.
Speaking of fast food restaurants, a recent study found that fast food menus are more unhealthy now than they were 30 years ago. Researchers at Boston University analyzed menu items at several of the most popular fast-food restaurants in the United States in 1986, 1991, and 2016. The research team found that fast-food entrees, sides, and desserts have increased significantly in total calories, and sodium over the study period. The portion size of fast-food entrees and desserts has also grown since the 1980s, and the variety of entrée, side, and dessert options across these menus has increased by over 200 percent.
Fast food menus have definitely expanded over the years. Today, fast food restaurants offer a range of menu items for different times of the day including breakfast. However, a common misconception is that only lower-income families eat fast food, and according to a recent study, that’s simply not the case. Researchers at Ohio State University found that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they enjoyed fast food at least once in the previous week. The research team honed in on upper-middle-class respondents and found that even the richest Americans are eating fast food. Turns out we all love a good, greasy burger or chicken sandwich once in a while.
So, which establishments are dishing out the best onion rings? StudyFinds did some research, consulting 10 foodie review websites in an effort to bring you the very best fast food onion rings available on the market today. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed onion rings from across these sites. Think we missed one? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
The List: Best Fast Food Onion Rings, According to Experts
1. Sonic Drive-In Onion Rings
The top spot on the list of the best fast food onion rings belongs to Sonic Drive-In. Sonic’s onion rings are hand-breaded every day, and the experts agree, Sonic is making some of the best onion rings you can find at any restaurant, not just fast food.
“They’re large and thick with maximum crisp, they sport a rock-solid batter-to-onion ratio, and the onion stays firmly put in its fried shell. The breading is sweet and the onions, too, leaving perhaps only a small sprinkle of sodium to be desired—but that’s where Signature, BBQ, and Honey Mustard sauces come in. These are a shining example of onion rings done right. When a fast food chain’s onion rings could easily pass for a full-service restaurant’s, you know you’ve struck deep-fried gold. Sonic might as well string a ribbon through a big one and wear it as a medal,” raves Thrillist.
Sonic should be proud of its onion rings. These delicious, deep-fried treats are made a little different from other onion rings. Sonic’s onion rings are made 100 percent in-house, every day. “Sonic serves up the ideal junk food for late-night snackers, and their onion rings are no exception. Made fresh daily, these crispy lil’ guys have a thin layer of batter and soft onions on the inside. However, there’s a kicker. Sonic’s onion rings have an unexpected sweetness to them (think cornbread). Some customers love the change from the traditional salty/savory flavor you’ll find in other onion rings. But, it’s definitely different, so ask a friend to order them first before you commit to ordering your own,” writes Fast Food Menu Prices.
Sonic slices its onions fresh every morning and onion ring lovers appreciate the freshness and quality of Sonic’s onion rings. However, Sonic Drive-In adds a little something special to its onion ring batter to make them taste like traditional ‘fair’ food.
“Each morning at Sonic, onion rings are handmade—onions are sliced, battered, fried, and never frozen. And apparently, the chain has one secret ingredient that sets it apart from the rest. Sonic’s onion ring recipe calls for vanilla ice milk mix (but melted vanilla ice cream apparently works just as well), according to an ex-employee. This unique addition is what makes them much sweeter than your average fast-food chain’s take,” explains Eat This, Not That.
2. Culver’s Onion Rings
Next up on the list of the best fast-food onion rings is none other than Culver’s amazing onion rings. Culver’s is known for its burgers, but this fast food giant is also cooking up some great onion rings.
“We don’t highlight Culver’s nearly enough – they’re one of the highest quality fast food joints around but often get overshadowed by bigger names in the industry. Not today, though. Culver’s tops our list with the best fast food onion rings. They are thin and crisped to perfection. There’s no need to order fries with your Butterburger because onion rings are the only side you need to pay attention too. Except the cheese curds, those are good, too,” writes Fast Food Menu Prices.
Culver’s originated in Wisconsin, so it makes perfect sense that this fast food megastar offers truly delicious cheese curds, but we’re talking about onion rings here. Culver’s onion rings are truly reminiscent of a midwestern diner or drive-in.
“Culver’s thick-cut onion rings are made from whole white onions, then battered with a delicious blend of spices and seasonings. What’s nice about these rings is how you can actually taste the onion, not just the batter. They are fried fresh to order, and Culver waits to salt them until the exact second they leave the fryer. The result? Just heavenly,” adds The Daily Meal.
Culver’s onion rings not only look great, but they’re so tasty, too. Culver’s onion rings offer the perfect combination of taste and visual appeal. As the foodies explain, Culver’s uses naturally sweet onions to create onion rings that blend sweetness and saltiness.
“When it comes to the onion rings at Culver’s, everything about these rings is perfect. First of all, they look drop-dead gorgeous. These majestic beings are always a deep golden brown, always thick, and never falling apart. Secondly, when these onion rings reach your mouth, you’ll experience their perfectly crunchy texture, the perfectly seasoned coating, and an accompanying onion-powered flavor that is so good that you’ll immediately reach for your next ring. The onions they use are naturally sweet, and once that sweetness combines with the added salt, the combination is breathtaking,” furthers Mashed.
3. Dairy Queen Onion Rings
Of course, Dairy Queen is known for having tasty ice cream and other frozen treats, but ever since Dairy Queen started making hot food, it has been producing some of the best onion rings you can find.
“The best part about the onion rings from Dairy Queen is that they’re served piping hot. For that reason, make an effort to eat them right away because they aren’t nearly as good when they cool off. If you eat these onion rings when they’re hot, the juices will erupt in your mouth as the crispy texture tantalizes your senses. Did you get them from a drive-thru window? If home is far away, pull over in the parking lot to ensure that you eat these onion rings while they’re still fantastic,” explains Mashed.
Onion rings are certainly meant to be eaten fresh out of the fryer. However, Dairy Queen doesn’t slice and bread its onion rings in-house. Although Dairy Queen relies on its onion rings to be shipped throughout the country, these deep-fried bad boys bring some serious flavor.
“The onion rings at Dairy Queen are pre-made at a designated company location, packaged frozen, and shipped to DQs across the country. Let it be known, just because they’re not made in-house daily, doesn’t mean they aren’t undeniably delicious,” raves Eat This, Not That.
Dairy Queen produces large onion rings, and that’s something most ring lovers can appreciate. Dairy Queen’s onion rings are crunchy and possess lots of breading, so just beware of this ahead of time, especially if you plan on eating them on the move.
“Big onion rings are automatically delectable, and by fast food standards, Dairy Queen’s are substantial. They come with lots of crumby breading, which makes a mess in the car and on the couch, but it also allows for an unbelievably satisfying crunch that few onion rings possess. Unfortunately, as is the pattern with fast food sides, DQ’s onion rings aren’t incredibly flavorful, but even so, they’re an oily joy for those moments when your mouth is craving a little grease,” adds Thrillist.
4. Whataburger Onion Rings
Dipping into the fourth spot on the list of the best fast food onion rings is Whataburger and its amazing fried onion rings. Whataburger is primarily located in the Southwestern United States, so if you ever find yourself out that way, then do yourself a favor and stop at the nearest Whataburger to grab a quick order of piping hot onion rings.
“Skip the apple slices when you’re looking to upgrade your Whatameal and opt for these golden rings of sweet, tangy onion (you can even get them during breakfast hours). The not-too-salty crispy batter has a slight hint of garlic that adds a touch of nuance, plus a batter-to-onion ratio allowing the root vegetable to really shine. As with most onion ring experiences, your order will include the teeny-tiniest of rings to mammoth ones almost the size of CDs. For the ultimate O-ring eating, make sure to add on a dipping sauce (Jalapeño Ranch always does the trick for us) or load up the rings right on top of your burger for some added crunch,” explains Thrillist.
Adding onion rings to your burger is a great way to spruce it up and give your meal a little extra flair. Whataburger’s onion rings are crispy, crunchy, and delicious. “Most of the time, greasy onion rings are frowned upon and viewed negatively. However, at Whataburger, that greasiness is just part of the charm of their onion rings. Whataburger’s onion rings are super crispy, super flavorful, super greasy, and super scrumptious. You’ll be tempted to go back for seconds and thirds after you’re done with your first box of rings,” furthers Mashed.
Whataburger seasons its onion rings with garlic and other seasonings and it shows. Whataburger makes some tasty burgers, and as the experts explain, topping your burger with a few hot and golden onion rings makes all the difference in your dining experience.
“As far as flavor and texture, the onion rings at Whataburger crunch nicely, which means they can also be a nice topping for a Bacon and Cheese Whataburger. The rings have a bit of garlic seasoning that adds some complexity to the flavor, which makes them stand out from the crowd a bit. To enhance the experience, try the rings with one of Whataburger’s many amazing sauces, which include a choice of honey mustard, creamy pepper, honey BBQ, buffalo sauce, jalapeno ranch, ketchup, fancy ketchup, or even gravy,” adds The Daily Meal.
5. Jack in the Box Onion Rings
Rounding out the list of the best fast food onion rings is none other than Jack in the Box’s golden fried onion rings. Jack in the Box offers everything from burgers to tacos, but experts agree, its onion rings are some of the best around.
“The onion rings are not bad, but it’s just that the side dish menu at Jack in the Box is so good. When your choices include mozzarella sticks, curly fries, jumbo egg rolls, and even jalapeño poppers stuffed with gooey golden cheese, playing it safe and sticking to only ordering onion rings may leave you with FOMO. But if a crunchy, crumbly onion ring is what you’re craving, Jack in the Box really won’t disappoint. Their onion rings are panko-crusted, which gives them an edge and adds a real crunchy kick to your bite,” writes The Daily Meal.
Jack in the Box offers a variety of sides and extras that will blow your mind, but its onion rings are absolutely outstanding. Jack in the Box’s onion rings aren’t the most visually appealing side dish you’ll find, but you’ll forget all about the way these rings look after you take that first bite.
“Jack’s onion rings are not pretty. Visually, they seemed overdone with a far-too-dark brown coating. The rings themselves were broken and came in pieces, the victim of some unseen collision in the kitchen perhaps before they made it onto my tray. But somehow through all of that they remained admirably flavorful, even sweet – a taste I hadn’t experienced with any of the others up until now. Overdone yes, but still retaining both a softness and crunchiness at the same time somehow. Overall, an appealing experience,” adds Mandatory.
Again, Jack in the Box really gets creative with its side dish offerings, and the fast food franchise prides itself on a variety of fun foods. As the experts explain, Jack in the Box does the little things right, and it shows.
“The entire brand’s concept appears to be for the lulz, and it’s part of what makes it great. But the chain can also do the small things right, which brings us to the unsung hero of the sides menu: the onion rings. The sides menu at Jack in the Box is a stoner’s fever dream, with Stuffed Jalapeños, Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges, and Jumbo Egg Rolls. Skip that and roll with an order of simple, filling, panko-breaded onion rings. The panko does the lion’s share of the work here, lending the ring an ultra-crispy bite that still packs plenty of onion flavor. Some would say there’s too much breading, but only a fool doesn’t want more panko,” furthers Thrillist.
You might also be interested in:
- Eat This, Not That
- Serious Eats
- The Daily Meal
- WJBR – 99.5
- Fast Food Menu Prices
- Foods Kitchen
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