Taco Bell Waffle Taco vs. McDonald's McGriddles

Find out which chain's offering came out on top in this battle of the breakfast sandwiches

Published: July 2014
Nutritional tale of the tape
Click on the illustration to see the nutritional information for each sandwich.

Taco Bell took a direct shot at rival McDonald’s—and its longtime clown mascot—earlier this year when the chain rolled out a new TV ad featuring various men named Ronald McDonald savoring Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco breakfast sandwich. The not-so-subtle put-down of the similar McDonald’s McGriddles prompted Consumer Reports to join the fray and settle the argument objectively with a Taco Bell Waffle Taco vs. McDonald's McGriddles battle of the breakfast sandwiches. (Check our buying guide and Ratings for fast-food restaurants, and look at our gripe-o-meter to see what bugs Americans when they dine out.)

To tackle the project, three expert testers drove to several McDonald’s and Taco Bell restaurants near our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters and ordered multiple bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches to assure they didn’t get a bad apple. One staff member placed the order, anonymously, of course, and brought the food back to the car so that the team could sample it at the peak of freshness.

They bit into their sandwiches to get an overall impression, then jotted down notes. (They also used a spit cup—a common accessory tasters use to avoid palate fatigue and to keep from packing on the pounds.) They also tasted each of the components separately and discussed the attributes until they reached a consensus.

Fortuitously, the car windows happened to be tinted. That kept out the eyes of curious passersby who might wonder what all the chewing and spitting was about. The experts knew what attributes to look for in a high-quality sandwich based on knowledge and experience tasting eggs, breakfast meats, and a variety of breads. (Read "New Taco Bell Breakfast Menu Is a Nutritional Mixed Bag" and watch the accompanying video to get all the details.)

Deconstructing the sandwiches

The Taco Bell Waffle Taco contains pieces of scrambled egg, melted shredded cheese, and bacon bits wrapped in a waffle. The waffle had a sweet aroma reminiscent of a boxed cake mix. The bacon bits were plentiful and flavorful but slightly dry and chewy. Neither the egg nor the cheese had much flavor.

A Taco Bell staff member said the cheese was cheddar. We couldn’t tell because it was so bland. When tasters added the syrup that accompanied the sandwich (the menu described it as “sweet” syrup, and a follow-up phone call to a different Taco Bell restaurant confirmed that it was a processed product far from pure maple syrup), it masked the bacon flavor a bit and contributed to a pleasant sweet and savory character.

The well-stuffed McGriddles was about two-thirds larger than the Waffle Taco. Inside two thick, sweet, and slightly doughy pancakes were a folded plain egg omelet, a slice of processed American cheese, and several bacon strips (the number varied). Like the Waffle Taco's, the egg had little flavor, but the generous portion of bacon was tasty and the cheese had identifiable American cheese flavor. The sandwich left a slightly bitter taste on the tip of the tasters’ tongues, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

The bottom line

Our testers preferred the McGriddles because of the tastier bacon and cheese flavors. Both sandwiches were quite greasy, so be sure to pick up plenty of napkins. Considering the components, neither is a great nutritional choice. Ounce for ounce, there isn’t much difference in calories between the two. (Click on the illustration above to get the nutrional information for each sandwich.)

Both sandwiches come in several variations. The Waffle Taco, for example, is available without meat, and you can substitute egg whites for whole eggs on the McGriddles. The two also have a sausage, egg, and cheese version, which actually worsens the nutritional damage.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.  

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