Five Guys Vs In-N-Out: Which Is Better?

Five Guys and In-N-Out burgers
Five Guys and In-N-Out burgers - Beth McMurray/Mashed

When it comes to titans of the fast food world, Five Guys and In-N-Out aren't just flipping burgers — they're flipping the script on what it means to be a burger restaurant. But in the juicy realm of burger royalty, who wears the crown? Is it Five Guys with its seemingly endless toppings and peanut gallery or In-N-Out with its secret menus and famous spread?

Armed with a hearty appetite, I headed to both places for a little comparison tasting. I sank my teeth into burgers, fries, and grilled cheeses, sipped some shakes, and played around with the myriad ways you can tweak your meal at both places. You'll find the juicy details of my methodology at the end of this article.

Now armed with a full stomach and an even fuller notebook, I'm ready to dish out my saucy comparison. We'll cover the food, the customization possibilities, ease of service, value, and, for those who dare to look, even the nutritional content of comparable meals at both joints. Both Five Guys and In-N-Out have their strengths -- and weaknesses. Join me as we chew over the details of this sizzling rivalry to find out which chain comes out on top.

Read more: Fast Food Hamburgers Ranked Worst To Best

Five Guys Overview

Five Guys fries, drink, and hamburger
Five Guys fries, drink, and hamburger - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Back in the 1980s, Jerry and Janie Murrell gave their sons an ultimatum: "Start a business or go to college." Choosing the grill over the thrill of term papers, the Murrell boys fired up a burger spot in Arlington, Virginia. They started simple, with just burgers and fresh-cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil. That humble family venture exploded into an international burger sensation. Today, Five Guys has spread across the globe, with nearly 1,700 locations worldwide.

Five Guys has stuck to its roots, using fresh ground beef and fresh fries cooked in peanut oil. Stroll into a Five Guys restaurant and you'll likely find complimentary peanuts to snack on while you wait for your order. And that order can be uniquely yours. With a choice of over a dozen free toppings, you can go classic with ketchup and lettuce, wild with hot sauce and jalapeños, or all of the above — and then some.

But it's not just about burgers and fries anymore. The menu has grown to include hot dogs, sandwiches, and milkshakes, the last of which you can jazz up with everything from chocolate and vanilla to adventurous mix-ins like bananas and bacon. Of course, if you'd rather see bacon on a burger, that's also an option at Five Guys.

In-N-Out Overview

In-N-Out burger, fries, and drink
In-N-Out burger, fries, and drink - Beth McMurray/Mashed

In 1948, before Netflix and color TV programming, Harry Snyder spent his days flipping the entire burger industry on its head. He rose before dawn to buy fresh meat and produce from local markets. He'd then prep those ingredients and serve up fresh hamburgers out of a 100-square-foot spot in Baldwin Park, California. While his wife, Esther, took care of the accounting, Harry spent nights in his home's garage, cooking up a two-way speaker system that let customers order from their cars. This turned his burger stand into California's first drive-thru restaurant (McDonald's didn't open a drive-thru until 1975).

Today, In-N-Out has multiple patty-making facilities where 100% USDA ground chuck patties -- free of additives, fillers, and preservatives -- are shaped. These patties are delivered to restaurants and cooked fresh to order. You won't find freezers, microwaves, or heat lamps at In-N-Out. The menu keeps it simple with burgers, fries, and shakes. For those in the know, there's also In-N-Out's not-so-secret menu, with options like grilled cheese and a Neapolitan shake.

From its modest beginnings, In-N-Out has bloomed into over 400 U.S. locations, with more on the way. However, In-N-Out doesn't franchise, but remains family-owned. In-N-Out has stayed stubbornly the same over the years, with every burger just like the good old days of Harry and Esther's original dream.

Which Franchise Has The Better Burger?

In-N-Out burger closeup
In-N-Out burger closeup - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Five Guys and In-N-Out both pride themselves on crafting hamburgers with fresh, quality ingredients. Both celebrate their freezer-free kitchens. Both have loyal fans who will fiercely defend the better burger.

I found that both came on soft, unassuming buns, though Five Guys adds a few sesame seeds. The beef at both places is top-tier, though I liked the flavor of In-N-Out's variety slightly more. If you like a weighty burger, Five Guys is your heavyweight champ, serving up double patties as standard. At In-N-Out, you'd have to call in a Double-Double to match that heft.

Both places offer great toppings, including fresh, crisp lettuce and tomatoes that taste like they've just been plucked from the garden. In-N-Out doesn't skimp on the onions and Five Guys doesn't skimp on its numerous topping options. But there's one topping Five Guys simply can't offer: the legendry In-N-Out spread, which is better than all of Five Guys' sauces combined.

Ultimately, In-N-Out slightly edges out Five Guys. That's largely because the In-N-Out burger comes with spread and nails the Sheldon Cooper-approved "meat to bun to condiment ratio." The Five Guys burger almost has too much beef, which overpowers the toppings. What's more, the slightly better burger has a way better price. My In-N-Out hamburger cost $3.75 at my local restaurant. My Five Guys hamburger cost $10.99 — well over twice the price, thoughit wasn't twice as good.

Which Is The Fries Frontrunner?

Five Guys and In-N-Out fries
Five Guys and In-N-Out fries - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Ever scrolled through social media, come across the hostility hurled at In-N-Out's fries, and wondered, "They can't be that bad, can they?" Yes, they can. As it turns out, the Internet is telling the truth about In-N-Out fries. I roped my dad into joining me for a taste test and he simply said, "In-N-Out fries are losers." The only way he could eat the dud spuds was by slathering them in extra In-N-Out spread; but he would probably eat cardboard if it were slathered with that spread. The fries are also served in only one size.

With the Five Guys fries, my cup runneth over, literally. The restaurant serves the fries in a paper cup and the Regular size I ordered was overflowing, with just as many fries in the bag as in the cup. Fries also come in Little and Large sizes, which would be more than enough to share. unlike In-N-Out fries, Five Guys fries have flavor and texture, with just the right amount of crunch on the outside and perfectly fluffy insides.

In the fries game, Five Guys is the clear winner, while In-N-Out doesn't even deserve a participation trophy. At least In-N-Out's packaged ketchup tastes better than Five Guys' variety. Yet Five Guys fries don't need condiments — a true mark of deliciousness.

Beyond Burgers

Five Guys and In-N-Out grilled cheese
Five Guys and In-N-Out grilled cheese - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Five Guys has ventured beyond the burger borders more extensively than In-N-Out, adding a veggie sandwich, BLT, hotdogs, and grilled cheese to its menu. In-N-Out, on the other hand, sticks closer to hamburger home. But if you're in on the secrets, In-N-Out will slip you a grilled cheese, which is listed on the chain's not-so-secret menu.

I tried the grilled cheese from Five Guys and In-N-Out. Both opt for American cheese gently melted on hamburger buns, but Five Guys takes a creative twist — the buns are flipped inside out and then grilled to crispy perfection. Meanwhile, In-N-Out's version is essentially a cheeseburger without the meat. At both places, you can pile on the burger toppings. Since Five Guys is a toppings treasure trove, that means everything from hot sauce to grilled mushrooms. In-N-Out, while more limited, does let you slather on its signature spread, along with the usual suspects like tomato and onions.

Between the two, I prefer the grilled cheese from Five Guys, with its attractive golden bun, meltier cheese, and the freedom to pile on an array of toppings. Melted cheese oozing around grilled mushrooms and onion tastes like a real sandwich. By contrast, In-N-Out's grilled cheese is just a meatless cheeseburger that, in over 75 years, still hasn't earned a spot on the main menu.

Which Has The Superior Shakes?

Five Guys and In-N-Out strawberry shakes
Five Guys and In-N-Out strawberry shakes - Beth McMurray/Mashed

If you've ever wondered why Five Guys milkshakes are so delicious, it's because they start with a darn near flawless vanilla base. From there, you choose from an array of mix-ins at no extra charge, such as chocolate, strawberry, Oreo cookies, and even bacon. These will be handspun into a creamy treat.

Meanwhile, In-N-Out is on a dwindling list of fast food restaurants that make milkshakes with real ice cream. The restaurant sticks to the classics with just chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. For those indecisive diners among us, try one of In-N-Out's popular menu hacks to order a Neapolitan Shake, which will garner you a tasty swirl of all three flavors. You can also go halfsies with just two flavors.

In the spirit of delicious research, I ordered a strawberry shake from Five Guys and In-N-Out. Both locations serve just one size (roughly 16 ounces). I've always been a fan of In-N-Out's shakes and the side-by-side comparison surprised me. The Five Guys shake was bursting with the bright, authentic taste of fresh strawberries blended with thick, rich vanilla. In contrast, In-N-Out's version tasted like artificial strawberry syrup. I'd still happily order an In-N-Out shake — even strawberry -- but I won't drink it next to Five Guys, which takes fast food shakes to a new level. Sure, the Five Guys strawberry shake is twice as expensive, but it's also twice as good.

Customization Comparison

Five Guys burger bowl with meat and toppings
Five Guys burger bowl with meat and toppings - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Five Guys offers so many unlimited toppings that the restaurant claims there are over 250,000 ways to customize your burger. I didn't do the math for myself, but I did see the long list of toppings that includes the usual suspects along with more unique options such as BBQ sauce, hot sauce, grilled mushrooms, green peppers, and jalapeños. If you're looking to ditch the bun, you can wrap your creation in lettuce or put the burger and all those toppings in a bowl.

The customizations on In-N-Out's not-so-secret menu were born out of good customer service. Meanwhile, the restaurant's Animal Style Burger is so beloved it's trademarked. This particular customization features a mustard-cooked beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, and extra spread. Animal Style fries are also available and come smothered in melted cheese, onions, and more of that spread. For the carb-conscious, In-N-Out also trademarked the Protein Style Burger, which swaps the bun for a lettuce wrap.

In-N-Out may have history on its side, with the first Animal Style burger hitting the scene decades before Five Guys even opened a restaurant. But Five Guys isn't just playing catch-up. With so many toppings, you can mimic Animal Style Burgers at Five Guys or venture into new territories. Though it costs extra, Five Guys also offers excellent-tasting bacon, which is notably absent from In-N-Out's menu. Five Guys doesn't just bring home the bacon — it also brings home the customization crown.

Not-So-Fast Food

Peanuts with big metal scoop
Peanuts with big metal scoop - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Five Guys and In-N-Out are both notoriously slow. These places aren't taking shortcuts with microwaves or heat lamps. The patience required for a good burger is supposedly why Five Guys offers free peanuts to customers. While patties sizzle on the grill and fries cook in peanut oil, you can munch on peanuts to keep your stomach from grumbling and your mind off the wait. Five Guys also offers online and app ordering for pickup in-store. Though Five Guys doesn't embrace drive-thrus, a few locations have mobile pickup windows for orders placed ahead of time.

Though In-N-Out introduced the first drive-thru in California, the In-N-Out drive-thru has become legendary for the wrong reasons. Cars from long drive-thru lines can sometimes spill into the street, blocking traffic and causing accidents. To combat the chaos, In-N-Out sends associates darting between cars with mobile Point of Sale systems in an attempt to speed things up. If you want to order or dine inside, be prepared for long waits there, too, in part because In-N-Out does not currently offer online ordering.

When it comes to speed and convenience, my nod goes to Five Guys. The ability to order online makes the slow cooking process much more convenient, even if I have to get out of my car. While drive-thrus are synonymous with fast food and a core part of In-N-Out's history, the system is frankly no longer working at many of In-N-Out's locations. You can get in and out ... but not quickly.

Which Chain Offers Better Value?

Money in an In-N-Out fries basket
Money in an In-N-Out fries basket - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Five Guys isn't about value. It's about paying more for fresh ingredients, hand-crafted burgers, fries cooked in peanut oil, and unlimited toppings -- just some of the reasons Five Guys is so expensive.

On the flip side, In-N-Out is known as a value-friendly option. Reasons In-N-Out can keep prices low include its simple menu and self-sourced supplies. While the rest of the world's food prices are on a skyrocketing space mission, In-N-Out's prices seem to be moonwalking backward.

The value verdict is an easy one. In my area, an In-N-Out hamburger, fries, and shake totals $9.20, without tax (and In-N-Out does not pass a tip jar). Plan on at least doubling that for Five Guys — a hamburger, regular fries, and shake totals $23.67, without tax and tip (Five Guys does ask for a tip). The grilled cheese has a similar price discrepancy, though exact prices vary by location. The difference in prices can't be explained by meal size, either. Except for the fries — Five Guys' regular fries would overload In-N-Out's fry basket — the portion sizes were similar. If you want to fill your belly without emptying your wallet, In-N-Out is the clear choice.

How The Nutritional Values Compare

an open lettuce-wrapped In-N-Out burger
an open lettuce-wrapped In-N-Out burger - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Without toppings, a Five Guys hamburger racks up 840 calories, 43 grams of fat, and 430 mg of sodium. If you go bunless with a lettuce wrap or burger bowl, you'll shave off 240 calories. While most of the toppings don't add a ton of calories or fat, tread lightly around the mayo — it adds 110 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 70 mg of sodium. Also beware of sneaky sodium spikes from toppings like hot sauce (200 mg), pickles (260 mg), A1 sauce (280 mg), and BBQ sauce (400 mg).

An In-N-Out hamburger totals 360 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 660 mg of sodium. A Double Double totals 610 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 1,660 mg of sodium. Opt for Protein Style by swapping the bun for a lettuce wrap, and you deduct 160 calories. Unfortunately, In-N-Out's tasty spread has a surprising amount of fat. If you order your burger with ketchup and mustard instead of spread, your hamburger drops to 300 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 610 mg of sodium. But let's be honest — skipping the spread defeats the purpose of going to In-N-Out.

Looking at the numbers, In-N-Out is somewhat of a less guilty pleasure than Five Guys. Even the modestly named Five Guys Little Hamburger surpasses an In-N-Out hamburger in calories (540) and fat (26 grams). As they say, everything in moderation.

Overall Pick

looking up at In-N-Out sign on restaurant
looking up at In-N-Out sign on restaurant - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Whether you swing by Five Guys or In-N-Out, you're pretty much guaranteed a tasty, satisfying meal. If money were no object, Five Guys would be better. It offers a delicious burger, more toppings, more options beyond burgers, far superior fries, higher-quality shakes, and is much more convenient thanks to its app and online ordering.

Though both burgers are great, In-N-Out has a slightly better version, slightly better nutrition, and the legendary In-N-Out spread — make sure to ask for an extra packet or three. In-N-Out also offers far more value. While I recognize you get what you pay for, the quality difference between In-N-Out and Five Guys doesn't make up for the price difference. Since money is an object for most of us, the value combined with the great burger tips the scales in In-N-Out's favor.

Unfortunately for many people, In-N-Out hasn't conquered the map yet. If you find yourself outside of In-N-Out country and all this burger banter has you craving or curious, you might try an In-N-Out burger copycat recipe. That recipe includes the spread. Consider making extra.


at the In-N-Out drive-thru speaker
at the In-N-Out drive-thru speaker - Beth McMurray/Mashed

I visited In-N-Out and Five Guys locations in Redwood City, California. I used the drive-thru at In-N-Out and ordered ahead for pickup at Five Guys. At both places, I ordered a hamburger, grilled cheese, strawberry shake, and fries (In-N-Out only offers one size of fries. I ordered regular fries at Five Guys to maintain some semblance of a comparison). I also tasted condiments and toppings from both restaurants. To experiment with customization options, I tried In-N-Out's lettuce-wrapped burger and the Five Guys burger bowl with bacon.

I brought my loot home and tasted each item side-by-side, noting the strengths and differences of comparable items. I also consulted each restaurant's online resources, including menus, media kits, and nutritional information (the last of which may be best left unread after such a feast).

Read the original article on Mashed