We Tried The Top 4 Fast Food Soft Serves — & Here's The Creamy Winner

Everything about a crispy cake cone covered in thin wax paper and filled to the brim with a swirl of frozen soft serve on top screams summer. It's creamy, refreshing, affordable, and you can pick one up just about anywhere in the country. Case in point: fast food chains. While we may initially equate fast food restaurants with burgers and fries, most of these speedy stops also shell out soft serve. But, it's been a while since we went anywhere other than a dedicated ice cream shop for the cold treat, except maybe for a late-night McFlurry once in a while. So, we set out to taste the most popular fast food soft serves to see if the nostalgic brands we used order still measured up.
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Scroll ahead for a full rundown on McDonald's, Burger King's, Wendy's, and Shake Shack's vanilla soft serve.
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Burger King's Soft Serve

Small Vanilla Cone, $1.39
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Thickness
Not very thick at all, ran down the cone a few seconds after the hand-off.

Consistency
A watery-icy consistency.

Flavor
Despite the watered down consistency and thinness, there was a strong vanilla flavor and aftertaste.

Cone
Cone was nothing to write home about — thin and crumbled easily with a stale flavor.
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McDonald's Soft Serve

Small Vanilla Cone, $1.99
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Thickness
Much thicker than BK's — held a strong swirled form on the cone with very little drippage (even outside).

Consistency
Smooth and light, almost like a frozen whipped cream.

Flavor
Very creamy but not as vanilla-heavy as anticipated. Surprisingly, BK's cone was more flavorful.

Cone
About the exact same as BK's — just your standard cake cone that was a bit too thin and a little on the stale side.
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Wendy's Frosty

Small Vanilla Frosty, $0.99
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Thickness
Similar thickness to McDonald's soft serve, but noticeably denser.

Consistency
More like a very creamy milkshake, as opposed to Mickey D's more airy consistency.

Flavor
Very vanilla-y — like a hybrid between the best attributes of McDonald's and BK's cones.

Cone
No cone option at Wendy's, you can only purchase your Frosty in cup form — which honestly was not a negative, as the ice cream was very good on its own. (Plus the past two cones had been lackluster at best.)
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Shake Shack's Custard

Small Vanilla Custard In A Cone/Cup, $3.79
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Thickness
The thickest/densest of all the options thus far — much more like a scooped/molded ice cream then a swirled soft serve.

Consistency
Very smooth and very creamy (arguably the creamiest of the bunch).

Flavor
While there was good vanilla flavor (more so than Mickey D's), the flavor wasn't as strong as the vanilla Frosty's from Wendy's.

Cone
The sugar cone option was by far the best of all! Tasted like a thin crunchy cookie, but it had trouble supporting the weight of the dense custard, so I opted for a cup on the side.
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Final Results
The results of this taste test weren't as straightforward as we'd imagined them to be. Although many fast food chains offer ice cream on their menus, there are categorical differences between the bunch that make them difficult to group together. The biggest part about fast food soft serve is the cost: each of the four options came in under the $5 mark, which is cheaper than most specialty ice cream shops. And, they still tasted pretty damn good. So instead of choosing one soft serve winner, we instead decided to assign them some sweet superlatives. Because at the end of the day, no matter where it hails from, doesn't ice cream always come out on top — especially when it's fast, cheap, and easy?

Most Like Classic Soft Serve
McDonald's

Creamiest & Densest
Shake Shack

Most Like A Soft Serve Milkshake
Wendy's

Best Vanilla Flavor
Burger King
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