The Best Secret Menu Options at Your Favorite Fast-Food Chains
The menus at your favorite chains may seem set-in-stone, but many people fail to realize that their food orders can easily be tailored. As long as you're cool with straying from your low-maintenance customer status, it's possible to beat restaurant boredom with secret menu items. Read on to discover the best meal alterations from your favorite fast-food and fast-casual chains.
And for more, don't miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.
Chick-fil-A: Spicy Char
For those looking for a way to beat chicken boredom, we suggest checking out The Spicy Char. Like everything you'll see here, it's not even listed on the menu! It's made with a char-grilled, unbreaded chicken breast that's been sprinkled with hot and spicy seasonings. The fillet is served on a bun of your choice and comes with toasted dill pickle chips. It's quite similar to the chain's Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Give it a try next time you find yourself at Chick-fil-A, and round out your meal with water and fruit or a side salad.
You can have not one, not two, but four cheeseburger patties on an In-N-Out burger. Simply order a "4×4" and you'll get this delicious masterpiece, with your favorite toppings and secret sauce included. Don't want all four? You can order a 2×2, or even a 3×3, but the max caps at 4×4 after someone once tried ordering a 100×100!
McDonald's: All-American Burger
The odds are low that the person taking your order will know the dish by name, so you'll want to place an order for a regular hamburger at McDonald's without onions and mustard. Because no meal would be complete without some sort of side, we suggest pairing it with a side salad topped with a light drizzle of balsamic dressing.
And for more on the Golden Arches, don't miss these 50 Biggest Myths About McDonald's Food.
Starbucks: Cold Buster
Feeling blue? Head to Starbucks and order one of the chain's most popular secret menu items. The Cold Buster is made of half steamed lemonade, half hot water, and a teabag each of Jade Citrus Mint green tea and Peach Tranquility herbal tea.
Taco Bell: Double-Grilled Quesadilla
When it comes to fast-food menu items we can't get enough of, Taco Bell's quesadilla is a top contender. But when it comes to food, there's always room for improvement, right? Right! To make a good thing even better, ask for your quesadilla to be grilled twice. It will be extra crispy—and extra tasty. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
We have some bad news: Taco Bell Just Announced More Big Cuts To Its Menu.
McDonald's: Grilled Cheese
To the passive consumer, there may not appear to be many vegetarian-friendly options on the McDonald's menu. Sure, you can order apple slices and some of the breakfast items, but that's where the road ends. However, if you mix and match the ingredients a bit, another dish becomes apparent: a grilled cheese sandwich. It's one of Ronald's most popular "secret menu" items, and it's made by grilling up a slice or two of cheese between a hamburger bun. You can even request they add on a tomato slice. This is one road trip sandwich we can get behind.
In-N-Out: Animal Fries
If you haven't ordered this iconic secret menu item from In-N-Out yet, west coasters, get on it! This delicious fry box is topped with American cheese, caramelized onion, and the iconic signature sauce.
For more, don't miss the 17 In-N-Out Secret Menu Items You Have to Try at Least Once.
In-N-Out: Animal Burger
Didn't see that one coming, did you? Yes, Animal Fries is a secret menu staple at In-N-Out, but did you know you could order the same "animal" toppings on a burger as well? That's right! Order an Animal Burger and you get the American cheese, caramelized onions, and signature sauce added to your burger.
Chipotle: Single Taco
Chipotle-loving kids have always been able to order a single taco at the fast-casual joint. However, if you ask your server for it, they'll have no problem whipping one up for you, too. Pair your single taco with an orange (another kids' menu find) for a healthy, satiating mini-meal.
And for more ideas, check out these 9 Healthy Chipotle Orders.
McDonald's: Chocolate Chip Cookie McFlurry
Next time you're craving something sweet from McDonald's, ask for a plain snack-size McFlurry with half of a chocolate chip cookie mixed in (the entire cookie is overkill in such a small cup).
Panera: Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey
This flavorful, secret-ish breakfast bowl is filled with antibiotic-free turkey, basil pesto, egg whites, roasted peppers, and baby spinach. If this dish sounds familiar, that's because Panera officially released a secret menu a few years back. It has since been removed from the web, but you can still order the items at a fair number of Panera locations. For more secret Panera orders, check out these Panera Secret Menu Items You've Got to Try.
KFC: Make Your Own Bowl
Traditionally, KFC's Famous Bowl comes layered with creamy mashed potatoes, corn, crispy chicken bites, gravy, and shredded cheeses. We sent one of our staffers to their neighborhood KFC to see if the waitstaff would be willing to make him a custom Famous Bowl. And though his request was met with a raised eyebrow, he got what he asked for: a cheeseless bowl, built upon a bed of green beans instead of mashed potatoes. The best part: You still get to sit down to a meal that includes crispy, fried chicken!
McDonald's: Hashbrown McMuffin
Not all secret menu items have to be assembled by the staff! You can throw together some secret menu items yourself by ordering a few McDonald's staples. The Hashbrown McMuffin is an easy one! Simply order a hashbrown and an egg McMuffin to make this delicious, hearty breakfast sandwich.
Panera: The Power Chicken Hummus Bowl
This is another one of our faves from Panera's not-so-secret secret menu. It's hard to go wrong with a combination of antibiotic-free chicken, hummus, baby spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, fresh-squeezed lemon, and chopped cilantro.
Starbucks: Matcha Tea
Matcha lovers, rejoice! You can order a matcha tea—both in hot and cold forms—at your local Starbucks. (Hot and iced matcha lattes are on the menu, but this is a "secret" item if you don't want your drink in latte form.) If you prefer hot matcha, order "unsweetened matcha tea powder mixed with hot water." But if you would rather something frothy to perk up your afternoon, you can order a matcha Frappuccino or latte, both of which are on the regular menu.
And if you're not sure what to order, here are The Best & Worst Drinks at Starbucks.
In-N-Out: Neapolitan Shake
Can't decide between ordering vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry? Why not have all three? Order a Neapolitan shake at In-N-Out for a delicious combination of all three shake flavors.
Panera: Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad
Panera mixes antibiotic-free roasted turkey, romaine lettuce, baby spinach, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, extra-virgin olive oil, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to create this tasty, Mediterranean-style dish.
Shake Shack: Protein-Style Burgers
Thanks to the west coast fast food joint In-N-Out, protein-style burgers (giant lettuce leaves replace starchy buns) have become popular among Paleo-followers and health-minded meat lovers, alike. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that the low-carb trend has moved beyond the In-N-Out drive-thru and into outlets like Hardee's and Shake Shack. If you're not in the mood for beef, request the shack's vegetarian-friendly 'Shroom Burger made protein-style.
McDonald's: Surf & Turf
Can't decide between a Filet-O-Fish and a cheeseburger? Smash the two together with this clever sandwich combination! Just order two, take the top bun off the Filet-O-Fish on top, and add the cheeseburger on top. Voila! And to see what you should never order at the chain, see the 14 Menu Items McDonald's Employees Won't Eat.
Panera: Power Steak Lettuce Wraps
This order comes with lemon and pesto-topped top sirloin, sliced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce that is meant to be a "wrap."
Headed to Panera? Here's Panera's Entire Soup, Sandwich, and Salad Menu—Ranked For Nutrition.
Starbucks: Blueberry Protein Smoothie
Starbucks carries a wide variety of ingredients, and they also have no problem making anything customers request—which means your choices are practically limitless. Next time you're there, why not play around with some of their ingredients to make a personalized smoothie? Grab a pack or two of blueberries from the refrigerator case, hand it to your barista and request a custom drink to be made by blending the fruit with whey protein, ice, and either water or milk.
McDonald's: Land, Sea, & Air Burger
Want to take the Surf & Turf burger to the next level? Buy a McChicken as well for the ultimate three-in-one sandwich! You can either add the cheeseburger patty inside the Fillet-O-Fish and add the McChicken on top, or serve it "Big Mac"-style by adding another bun between the fish and cheeseburger. For more crazy McDonald's combinations you can throw together, here are The Best Secret Menu Options at McDonald's.
Starbucks: Espresso-Banana Protein Smoothie
After a tough workout, it's expected that you may be feeling tired and depleted. But there's an easy way to refuel and give yourself a burst of energy: Sip an Espresso-Banana Protein Smoothie. It's not on the menu, though, so you'll have to tell the barista what ingredients go into the mix. It's simply whey protein, a banana, a shot of espresso, ice, and water. Simple but delicious!
Chipotle: Fresh Cilantro
Chipotle offers a wide variety of fresh ingredients, and the chain has a policy of whipping up anything a customer requests. This means your meal choices are essentially limitless. Prime example: Chipotle uses fresh cilantro in their famous guacamole, so they always have it on hand; you just have to ask for it. How should you use it? Mix the curly-leaved herb with tomato salsa and black beans for a better-for-you, flavor-filled meal topper that's absent from the traditional Chipotle menu.
In-N-Out: Flying Dutchman
In traditional mythology, The Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship that can never make it to port, doomed to sail the ocean forever. In urban mythology, it's simpler: two slices of cheese between two burger patties. Apparently, In-N-Out's version got its name from Dutch founder Harry Snyder, who loved snacking on the odd-looking 2×2.
And if you're headed to the burger chain, here are The Best and Worst Menu Items at In-N-Out.
Good news, mom and dad: Although your kids' quesadillas aren't listed on the adult menu, the Chipotle staff will cook one up for you if you ask. By default, they'll make your meal with a burrito tortilla folded in half. Or, you could even request that they make yours with two corn tortillas. Add in chicken and fajita veggies if desired!
McDonald's: McBrunch Burger
If you can't decide between a breakfast sandwich and a burger, you can always build your own McBrunch Burger. Just order a regular or double burger and add an egg and a hashbrown to it. You might have to assemble it yourself, but it's worth it.
Starbucks: Cinnamon & Banana Oatmeal
Currently, Starbucks offers two types of oatmeal: the Classic Whole-Grain variety (which comes with dried fruit, a nut medley, and brown sugar as optional toppings) and the Hearty Blueberry Whole-Grain (which comes with blueberries and agave syrup). But you can also ask for the oatmeal sans toppings and customize it yourself with a banana (sold separately at the register) and cinnamon from the milk and sugar station.
McDonald's: Apple Pie McFlurry
Yes, you really can order this! Ask for a McDonald's Baked Apple Pie to be blended into a McFlurry. However, if the employee doesn't seem game, just buy the two items and mix it up yourself.
McDonald's: Orange Creamsicle
This secret menu item is super easy to assemble, and you can do it with any drink from the Coke Freestyle Machine. Just pour a bit of soda (in this case, orange Fanta) over your soft-serve. Voila: You have a Creamsicle or a Coke float.