15 McDonald's Desserts, Ranked Worst To Best

For most of us, McDonald's twin arches resonate as a beacon for savory hits like McNuggets, McMuffins, and of course, the Big Mac. But for others (and those prone to a post-meal sweet tooth), Mickey D's promises a one-stop shop from breakfast through dessert. However, the rotating treat offerings on the brand's menu can be difficult to untangle — many of the sugary items are scattered between the in-person menu board and the McDonald's app ordering screen.

Sure, mainstays like the warmed apple pie and the more recent phenomenon, the McFlurry, are dependable classics, but what about the lesser-known and harder-to-come-by items like the elusive shakes, seasonal pies, and chocolate chip cookies? We sampled our way through all 15 of McDonald's current dessert items — from the morning McCafe pastries to the soft serve ice cream.

Although we found many of the brand's treats falling short of crave-able, we did identify the sweet spots (pun intended). Perhaps because the average consumer's tongue is already so exhausted from a value meal, we noticed the average McDonald's dessert to be one-dimensional compared to the savory side of their menu. But there are some decent options among them. Read along to see how we ranked McDonald's confections.

15. Apple fritter

McDonald's apple fritter merely masquerades as a pastry. A deep bronze brown color and covered in a sugary glaze, there's something off about the item from the second you pull it out of the bag. It appears almost as if it was baked in a mold to make the pastry look haphazardly shaped — like a true apple fritter – because there's something uncannily uniform about the globular dessert on McDonald's menu. 

The apples are "fried to a golden brown" (according to the McDonald's website description of the dish) and are difficult to discern from the baked dough surrounding them. The pastry is also served cold (unlike the other McCafe offerings) and is unappetizingly glossy with its glaze. Sort of like a reanimated doughnut, McDonald's rendition of an apple fritter resembles the dessert, but the exterior of the pastry, in functionality, is really more of a crust. The interior of the dessert lacks any of the cinnamon spice an apple fritter should promise. Furthermore, the treat's insides look and taste more like a biscuit — dry, tough, and shockingly less sweet than a donut-adjacent dessert.

14. Cheese danish

With this treat, McDonald's reminds us that not all retro fads are worth our nostalgic energy. A classic breakfast item from the brand during the tubular 1980s, the cheese danish returned to the golden arches with a whimper. Obviously, we don't have a time machine to conduct a side-by-side comparison of the fast food chain's original version offered over 30 years ago. Still, if it was as underwhelming as the current contribution to the growing McCafe menu, we're not the least bit surprised it didn't survive the Reagan era. 

Markedly sweeter-smelling than the rest of the treats at McDonald's, we caught a strong waft of sugar the moment we cracked the clamshell container open. Once unsealed, the pastry is noticeably monochromatic, with only shades ranging from off-white to a pale canary yellow — the streaks of frosting promised from the menu board were either left off entirely or had been absorbed by the dessert's creamy middle. Even handling the danish was slightly offputting, as it's substantially heavier than we expected and reminded us of a moist sponge (or worse, a diaper). But when biting into the morsel, we realized we'd have to wait until bite number two before experiencing any of the moistness the weight of the pastry suggests. In a devastating cream cheese bullseye, you see all of the fillings convene in the center of the otherwise stale pastry.

13. Cinnamon roll

We can't decide if a cinnamon roll devotee would be offended by McDonald's attempt to capture the dessert classic or just appreciative of its inclusion in the McCafe menu. But for us, the carb-y dessert is an abomination. 

Coated so heavily with a thick toupee of frosting, the circular layers of the cinnamon roll are barely visible, and once we bit down on the upsettingly stiff dough, we understood why. Not only is the glaze hardened to the point where it's almost shell-like, but the topping also hides how none of the sugary sauce lines — or even reaches — the interior folds of the roll. Instead, the inside layers are naked, leaving the pastry uneven, dry with a smattering of cinnamon spice, and overall unrewarding. Not even the large size of the 21-ounce McCafe coffee could wash down the "sticky on the top but dry everywhere else" dessert.

12. Pumpkin and creme pie

McDonald's falters the most when attempting to capture the gaze of another beloved fast food chain's customer: In the graveyard of long-forgotten McDonald's offerings stand the tombstones of items like the McDonald's Pizza, Mighty Wings, and the McSalad Shaker. With its pumpkin and creme pie, it looks as if the burger chain is reaching for Starbucks' dominance in the seasonal pumpkin spice market. However, McDonald's mishandles the pumpkin spice craze by failing to fully embrace the admittedly basic urge to indulge in it. 

Like the strawberry creme pie, the pumpkin variety is sliced up the length of the pastry with two parallel stripes of pumpkin and cream running through the interior of the dessert. Surprisingly, both segments are under-spiced and barely sweetened. Moreover, the two hemispheres of the pie do not contrast enough in texture, mouthfeel, or flavor to justify their separation. Certainly, the dessert would improve if the two sides of the treat's insides were blended into one thick custard instead of two dueling fatty — yet bland — alloys.

11. Strawberry and crème pie

A somewhat hard-to-come-by menu item, the McDonald's strawberry and crème pie is often left off the sanctioned menu board in the drive-thru and in-person ordering kiosks. If you'd like to try the snack, you'll need to keep your eyes peeled for temporary signage on your drive up to the pick-up window (if in the drive-thru) or pinned to the cashier's register (if dining in). But sampling the pie doesn't need to be on your McDonald's bucket list since it never comes close to their beloved apple pie and is, instead, a confusing mix of strawberry jam and vanilla cream, separated by a slit in the center of the dessert's top crust. 

First, the strawberry filling bores its eater with no tart flavor — only sweet notes. This leaves us to wonder why the fast food chain chose this fruit instead of other more toothsome berries like blackberry or raspberry. But most of all, the vanilla cream is entirely unnecessary. It's not very sweet and reminds us more of plain cream cheese covering a bagel than any dessert application of the spread. The mishmash of dull jam and flavorless cream refuses to jell here.

10. Vanilla shake

McDonald's slyly refuses to call their shakes milkshakes on its menus and media material because they are made with the brand's signature reduced-fat, soft serve ice cream and not whole milk. In fact, depending on the state, this cannot legally be deemed a "milkshake" (via Insider). 

For the customer, the result is a shake lacking in viscosity that too easily succumbs to the pressure of being sucked through a straw; what we love most in a milkshake is the simple struggle of coaxing the thick liquid through a straw and onto our awaiting tongues. The vanilla flavoring is the least graceful of McDonald's amendment to the dessert. So delicately vanilla-tinged, the treat tastes more like sweetened, super chilled milk than a proper shake. Moreover, the crown of whipped cream atop this version of the McDonald's shake feels like overkill and melts into the dessert in a disconcerting puddle.

9. Blueberry muffin

Though we'd probably eat a bad blueberry muffin if offered, we do consider McDonald's blueberry-studded dessert slightly above average compared to the aggregate store-bought version. 

First of all, unlike some misleading treats on this list, the muffin is exactly what it says it is. As large as an onion, the pastry mingles together the right ratio of berries to batter, so you're not left searching for a good bite. The outer layer carries large sugar crystals, contributing to a varied mouthfeel. There is something seemingly artificial about the muffin, though; it recalls blueberry candy more than the baked berries it actually holds, which makes us wonder if McDonald's drips blueberry flavoring into the dough during preparation to make up for lackluster fruit. Either way, the treat is slightly better than a gas station's version of the soggy dessert but quite a bit worse than the Costco blueberry muffins we think of as the gold standard of store-bought pastries.

8. Chocolate shake

Again, finding a McDonald's serving its signature shake seems to be on the decline. Still, when you run across a franchise committed to offering it, it seems to make all three classic flavors: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. 

Middling but not disappointing, the chocolate shake (because of McDonald's liquid-y take on the dessert) reads more like cold chocolate milk topped with a peak of whipped cream — which isn't unpleasant as much as not ideal. Hard not to compare to an In-N-Out shake, the dessert also suffers from being comparable to Swiss Miss or another packet of chocolate powder and lacks the punch of distinct cocoa flavor that the restaurant's hot fudge sundae assuredly provides. But, at the end of the day, it's hard to deny the appeal of a dessert you can drink while driving home, and McDonald's chocolate shake sits at the equator of desserts between options we'll order again and those we surely won't.

7. McFlurry with M&M'S

Listen, nothing that originates from a McDonald's ice cream machine is bad in our book, though with the M&M'S McFlurry, we have many notes for the fast food giant. 

Unlike the classic Oreo McFlurry, the M&M'S variation does not come with crunched-up candies. Instead, the M&M'S are simply stirred in and topped wholly intact inside the whipped dessert. In fact, consider yourself one of the lucky customers if you're handed a McFlurry where they make it to the middle of the cup. Sure McDonald's uses mini M&M'S to make up for refusing to break up the candy-coated chocolates. However, even with the shrunken candies, we still prefer Dairy Queen's technique of grinding their Blizzard candy options down to tiny shards to McDonald's studded approach.

However, our biggest gripe with this variation of the McFlurry is how many candy pieces adorn the top of the ice cream. Sometimes looking like one of Yayoi Kusama's masterpieces, the M&M'S McFlurry too often scatters ¾ of the candies on the surface instead of whipping them into the body of the dessert.

6. Hot caramel sundae

We were surprised to find McDonald's hot caramel sundae more widely available than its chocolate cousin. Still, this simple dessert glows on nearly every menu board for the brand throughout the country. 

Made with a base of McDonald's truly stupendous soft serve, the treat has a headstart over any of the chain's non-ice-cream-based desserts. Served in a little cup with a plastic cone protecting the cute soft-serve tip, the sundae's caramel and whipped vanilla ice cream pleasingly interact, with the hot topping stiffening around your spoon as the soft serve gently liquefies around it. The combination makes for an ideal mouthfeel of a bite. But we can't help but notice a missing note on the finish. Maybe we're subconsciously expecting the salty burst of flavor from Dairy Queen's Peanut Buster Royal Treat parfait (their finest offering), but the caramel sauce falls flat and yearns for a pinch of salt in its gooey mixture.

5. Chocolate chip cookie

Our expectations weren't high for this nearly obligatory menu item, but McDonald's chocolate chip cookie took us by surprise. Served warm all the way through, we're willing to suspend our disbelief and pretend that these treats are baked daily instead of sitting in a warmer where they assuredly wait to be ordered. Nevertheless, we've been conditioned to expect the hardened cookie offerings Subway designed to satisfy the post-meal sweet tooth. However, McDonald's manages to step up this version of the fast food dessert by holding them at a temperature hot enough to give the illusion of being pulled lovingly from an oven but cool enough to keep the chocolate chips intact and unmelted. 

A good approximation of a home-baked alternative, McDonald's chocolate chip cookie boasts a soft middle with a crispy circumference. It seems to hit the sweet spot between store-bought products like Chips Ahoy and high-end bakery cookies.

4. Strawberry shake

The only McDonald's shake we're taken by is the blush-colored strawberry shake once again capped with airy (even for whipped cream) whipped cream. 

Contrary to the other two flavors served at McDonald's, the strawberry rendition can wear the liquid texture McDonald's shakes all boast seamlessly. Tasting like somewhere between a strawberry Mamba fruit chew and a bowl of strawberries and cream, this dessert is the most forgiving of the company's insistence to use its otherwise perfect vanilla soft serve as the base for its shakes. 

The treat seems barely distinguishable from flavored milk in both the vanilla and chocolate versions. In contrast, strawberry has just enough edge in whatever flavoring McDonald's uses to pass as a certifiable dessert. We'll still look to Shake Shack and other chains for a wider variety of flavors and a more pleasing viscosity, but the brand's strawberry shake scratches the itch of a mid-summer, post-meal sugar rush.

3. Baked apple pie

Call us sentimental, but our favorite add-on to our childhood McDonald's order still hits. Like us, the hot apple pie has undergone a few changes since our youth — namely, the top crust covering the entirety of the dessert with a few slits in its roof for air to circulate is now served with a lattice top. But, just as in the good old days, the 2018 reboot of the baked dessert still comes packed with warm apple squares swimming in spiced goo from corner to corner. 

Every bite contains a generous amount of apples and crust, and the lattice amendment makes the pinched corners of each pie better than the original. What we appreciate the most from this classic McDonald's menu item is how each fruit chunk still retains a tiny bit of tooth and carries a slight tartness that's missing from the remaining dessert items.

2. McFlurry with Oreo cookies

The oft-discussed and debated McDonald's McFlurry, sits high on the fast food chain's sweet offerings but fails to capture the top spot only due to widespread consistency issues. Even if you're lucky enough to locate a franchise with a working machine (via NPR), the chance that you'll get one of its (certainly overworked) operators to whip up an ideal McFlurry is about 50% as far as we can tell. 

Certainly superior to the other McFlurry mainstay, the M&M'S McFlurry, the Oreo version promises crunched cookie crumbles stirred into airy, vanilla ice cream, which is an undeniable pairing. However, more often than not, we receive an ombre McFlurry, where the cookie chunks mostly hover on the top inch of the cup and drastically dissipate as we eat our way to the bottom. 

McDonald's online menu visually suggests a version of the dessert where Oreo dust is evenly dispersed throughout the ice cream. At the same time, larger, more visibly identifiable Oreo bits are sprinkled over the peak before being crowned by a plastic lid and adorned with the square spoon. However, we have yet to encounter this white whale of a McFlurry but are satisfied enough, even with a subpar preparation, to keep searching.

1. Hot fudge sundae

Far rarer to happen upon than the more widespread hot caramel sundae, the hot fudge sundae was only available at around a quarter of the franchises we called. However, we were not given a solid answer as to why. We gathered that, while the caramel sauce always seems ready to serve, the hot fudge takes longer to heat to a squirtable consistency. We're guessing this small hurdle causes most McDonald's locations to opt out of offering the sweet treat–though we caution them all to rethink this. 

While we will always prefer a perfectly blended Oreo McFlurry, a top-tier McFlurry remains harder to find than this uncommon goodie, which (once tracked down) is consistently great. The fudge sauce — as finicky as it may be for employees — is an ideal viscosity from the guest's standpoint. Hardening into a soft lump around the spoon, the fudge clings to your utensil, so each bite contains at least a trifle of the warmed sauce. Plus, once the ice cream starts to melt, the fudge is plentiful enough to where the declining vanilla ice cream is all tinged with a chocolatey hue, so no bite is without a satisfying trace of the flavor.