What Is Special Sauce?

The term “special sauce” can be different kinds of sauces but typically refers to the burger topping on McDonald’s Big Mac. Homemade sauce has ingredients like salad dressing, mayo, pickle relish, etc.

special sauce in a red bowl

Are you a fan of the Big Mac’s special sauce? The world-famous McDonald’s sandwich was launched over half a century ago in 1967. The toppings include lettuce, onions, pickles, and cheese but the most famous one is the “secret sauce.” It has a complex blend of sweet and tangy flavor with a slightly crunchy texture from the pickle relish. Besides the cheeseburger, the sauce has made the Big Mac one of the Golden Arches’ most iconic burgers. That said, while many people are fans of the famous burger topping others consider it a big mess. When ordering at the fast-food chain you could get it without the sauce. The two-patty burger can still be a hearty meal with ketchup and mustard.

You can also make a homemade version of the special sauce. While the ingredients aren’t actually a “secret” the complex flavor/texture includes lots of ingredients. They include French salad dressing, mayo, and pickle relish. All of the ingredients combine to produce a symphony of flavors. In fact, one reason it’s often referred to as a “secret” sauce it can be difficult to figure out all the ingredients. Some like French dressing and sweet pickle relish are easy to guess. Others are tougher like two kinds of salad dressing and pickle relish.

What’s the History of the Big Mac and Special Sauce?

The Big Mac is easily one of the most iconic menu items at McDonald’s along with Egg McMuffin, McNuggets, and French fries. The big sandwich celebrated its 50th anniversary a few years in 2017 but many people don’t know the history of the double-patty burger.  

The history of McDonald’s itself dates back to 1955 when it was founded by Maurice and Richard McDonald. They had moved from New Hampshire to Hollywood, California in the 1930s.

It’s ironic but McDonald’s was originally known as McDonald’s Bar-b-que. The restaurant’s original menu was reduced to burgers and cheeseburgers. Later milkshakes and French fries were added. The Filet-O-Fish was added half a decade before the Big Mac in 1962.

Meanwhile, the history of the big sandwich dates back to 1967. It was first launched in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region in 1967 then nationwide in 1968. The burger’s original names were: The Aristocrat and Blue Ribbon Burger.

After launching the burger quickly became one of the most popular menu items at the Golden Arches. There are some famous features like the 2 beef patties and sesame bun. The toppings include cheese, pickles, and onions but not tomato slices.

Another interesting difference is the McDonald’s sandwich also doesn’t have plain ketchup, mustard, or mayo as condiments. These are usually the go-to options for fast food burgers, although there are some exceptions.

In fact, a homemade special sauce usually includes a blend of mayo/ketchup so you get some of the classic burger flavors.

During the burger’s history, the fast-food chain has released several variants including:

  • Mega Mac/Double Big Mac (4 patties and 2 slices of cheese)
  • Big Mac (Quarter Pounder-like burger)
  • Denali Mac (2 quarter-pound beef patties)
  • Big Melt (cheddar cheese)
  • Maharaja Mac (vegetarian)
  • Big Mac BLT (bacon and tomato)

Many of these items were only offered for a limited time.

What is special sauce

How to Make Homemade Special Sauce

If you want to make a DIY version of the Big Mac’s famous special sauce there are several versions. Here are some of the main ingredients you should include:


The main ones include a Miracle Whip-type dressing and French salad dressing. This provides a classic mayo/ketchup blend. It’s important to include both types of salad dressing since you’ll get different flavor combos from the two salad dressings. The two ingredients provide a rich/tangy flavor and creamy texture.


Real mayo includes basic ingredients like egg whites, lemon juice/vinegar, and oil. While mayo is often considered to be “heavy” a limited-ingredient option is chock-full of healthy fat. A healthier option is to add omega-3 oils like coconut oil as an alternative to omega-6 oils.


Fresh relish can be quite healthy since it’s fermented pickles. The fermenting process adds healthy bacteria to the food, which is good for the immune system and gut health. If you want the best results go with sweet AND dill pickle relishes. This will provide the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors.  


This is another healthy ingredient that provides a tasty sour flavor to the sauce. It’s also high in antioxidants, which is a key to good health.


Ketchup can be quite healthy without a lot of additives. Tomatoes themselves are high in antioxidants, which can help to fight off inflammation, illness, and disease. In fact, cooking tomatoes actually increases the antioxidant level. Try to go with a limited-ingredient and organic version since you’ll get the most nutrition.


This is a classic herb that adds some extra flavor to the secret sauce. It also pairs well with the pickle relish to reduce some of the sourness. Interestingly the same combo is included as onion and pickle toppings on the burger itself.

Big Mac: Nutrition Facts


You get 540 calories in the 2-patty burger. This is over one-quarter of the total calories on a 2,000-calorie diet. It’s quite high. You can reduce the calories by swapping out the special sauce or buns to make it Keto/Paleo-friendly.

Fun Fact: Don Gorske has the Guinness World Record by eating 30,000+ Big Macs.


There’s 46g of carbs in this burger so it’s definitely not low-carb. In fact, it’s close to 50g of carbs allowed on Keto and Atkins. If you add fries and a soda you can easily pass that mark.


You get 25g of protein from beef patties, which makes it a high source of protein. There’s some debate about whether or not the burgers are “healthy” since some experiments show the company’s patties don’t break down over time.


There’s 28g of fat. This is a mixed bag since you’re getting “good” fat from the burgers and cheese. However, much of the fat is saturated, which is the type you’ll generally want to reduce versus unsaturated fat.


There’s 3g of fiber, which decreases the net carbs a little to 43g. No, it’s still low-carb but the fiber is good for improving digestion. The fiber is subtracted from total fat because the body doesn’t digest it.


It’s quite high at 950mg. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 1500mg for most adults so you’re getting almost two-thirds to form one big sandwich. If you’re going to eat the burger you can reduce sodium by swapping out the sauce.


It might be surprising but there’s 9g of sugars in this burger. That’s mostly from the buns and sauce. You can make this burger Paleo-friendly by making it bunless and sauce-free.


You get different ones from the burger like Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron. This includes the special sauce.

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