Fast Food Secret Sauces: Secret No More!

Get ready for a story not even WikiLeaks could crack. Or maybe they just didn't want to waste their time. A lot of fast food places boast about secret and special sauces, with enigmatic recipes, to lure hungry customers through their doors. But it turns out these sauces aren't secret and are pretty far from special. Get ready to be underwhelmed with some facts about some famous secret sauces.

Employees have to sign non-disclosure agreements

Fast food companies, places like McDonald's, take their special sauce recipes very seriously. They're treated with the utmost concern, so much so that employees only know the ingredients on a "need-to-know" basis. And even then, those employees are made to sign non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, which are contracts that basically say, "Don't tell anyone you know this, or else." This has become so common a practice that sites like refer to drafting NDAs as "Protecting your 'secret sauce.'"

Big Mac Special Sauce comes special delivery, with special hardware

The special sauce that comes with a bunch of other stuff "on a sesame seed bun" is the granddaddy of them all, debuting in 1974. Micky D's actually has a special special-sauce delivery system. The greatly-guarded gravy arrives in sealed containers made by a company called Sealright, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. The Golden Arches have been doing business with this once humble Kansas-based company since 1996. No word on whether the sauce arrives under the cover of darkness escorted by armed guards, though.

Despite all its specialness, the Big Mac Special Sauce isn't really dispensed in a glamorous manner. Sealright's documents say their specially calibrated equipment "dispenses controlled portions of sauces, condiments and dressings." As fancy as that sounds, all it really means is McDonald's squirts the sauce onto their Big Macs using something that looks like a caulking gun. They're not the only chain to do it though. Taco Bell uses a similar method for dispensing sour cream, guacamole, and other flavorful oozes onto their south of the border snacks, which is odd because Taco Bell doesn't have a secret sauce. What a bunch of phonies.

The recipes exist online, and they're made of pretty common ingredients

Of course, so much secrecy and subterfuge is all for naught. According to the Daily Mail, the recipe for Big Mac special sauce has existed online "for years," and it's even available on McDonald's website. And it's all thanks to former executive chef Dan Coudreaut. (Way to take the fun out of it, Coudreaut.) Aside from exposing what's supposed to be a well-guarded secret to the world, this revelation goes one step further to take all the specialness out of the sauce by divulging just what the ingredients are. Talk about a buzzkill. Everything needed to make McDonald's special sauce can be bought at the "local grocery store." Seriously, it's nothing more than mayonnaise, mustard, and relish, with some other spices thrown in. Why, there's nothing special about that at all! What's worse, these publicized pieces of privileged information pretty much all contain the same main ingredients, with a few minor differences in spice quantities. So now that the cat's out of the bag for the Big Mac, it seems only fair to spoil a few more childhood favorites.

Jack in the Box Secret Sauce Recipe

Despite their success, McDonald's special sauce wasn't the first. Jack in the Box had their secret slather for almost as long as they've operated, since 1951. However, Jack's was the first restaurant to stop using any kind of groovy gravy, which was sometime in the 1990s, according to Yet despite the topping moratorium, Jack in the Box requires all franchises to have the sauce on hand for nostalgia-ridden customers. And that's despite the fact that it's pretty easy to make at home. Just pour "mayonnaise, mustard and chili sauce into one pot," according to the San Diego Union. They really busted their humps coming up with that one.

Burger King chicken fries sauce

Not wanting to be left out of the secret sauce game, Burger King introduced a special sauce for their chicken fries in 2015. This sauce is so secret that BK didn't have signage for it in most of its locations. A secret handshake was required, or knowing a hashtag handle or something, according to Consumerist. (That is if you happen to visit a franchise that's heard of the sauce. Most hadn't at the beginning.) Those who managed to get their mouths on some of this hush-hush relish say it's a combination of barbecue sauce and honey mustard. Looks like Burger King got the secret part down. Just not the right secret.

In-N-Out Burger's secret sauce

A California hallmark, In-N-Out adorned their burgers with something simply called "spread" for over six decades. The "spread" recipe remained a So-Cal mystery until August 2015, when the recipe was revealed to the world. The formula long thought to be a variation of Thousand Island dressing turned out to be just that. It's just a combination of ketchup, mayonnaise, and relish, with some other ingredients thrown in. At least In-N-Out avoided embarrassment by giving their "spread" a fancy name. That was a close one.

Hardee's and Carl's Jr's Big Twin sauce

Unlike most of the other sauces on this list, Big Twin Sauce is still a closely guarded secret, despite what Internet recipe sites may have you believe. However, just like most of the other sauces, it seems to be nothing more than a variation on Thousand Island dressing. Notwithstanding the lack of industrial espionage, chefs with well-developed palettes believe the ingredients to be ketchup and relish. Seeing as how it's used at two franchises, all that means is double the disappointment.

Arby's sauce

Arby's may have the meats, but they definitely don't have the sauce. That's not to say they didn't try. They threw their hat in the ring by selling bottles of their sauce in 2013. But since bottles of this mock flavoring hasn't become a staple of American refrigerators, it's safe to assume that Arby's failed in this venture. It shouldn't come as a surprise though. Their narrowly-regraded relish can be easily copied with ketchup, garlic powder, and Tabasco sauce. Few people really need to make it an Arby's night with a flimsy formula like that.

It's all a load of hooey

So with the lackluster reality of secret sauces, all the fake subterfuge probably looks like a waste of time and energy. But is it really? Think about it. Most of us won't hurry to plunk down our hard-earned cash for a special burger topped with plain-everyday sauce. But call it secret sauce, or special sauce, and many of us will happily fall for it each and every time. Because no matter how much we know the truth, when it comes to the fantasy, we're loving it.