I do not stray very far from the biscuit options on my somewhat rare, morning fast-food visits, so I didn’t even know that McDonald’s had a very popular bagel sandwich option that has appeared on their menu from time to time. But I have a few friends on social media that shared excited comments and posts when the steak, egg, and cheese bagel returned just last year.
Since it seems like people are big fans of this item, I figured I would have to swing by my local McDonald’s and try a bagel sandwich and find out for myself.
Short McDonald’s bagel sandwich history
McDonald’s introduced bagel sandwiches in 1999. The rest of the world was worried about Y2K and the bigwigs at McDonald’s were focused on the future. Around 20-ish years later, it appears that the bagel menu options were slowly phased out across various regions. Some sources say they removed the bagel sandwiches prior to the pandemic and others say they were fully removed from the menus in January 2022.
Four years ago an internet person named Z Stamper started a Change.org petition asking McDonald’s to bring back the Steak, egg, and cheese bagel. Almost 25,000 people have signed at this point. And they brought them back. So maybe these petitions actually work?
I assume what probably happened is the steak bagel option was removed first since the steak in this bagel was only used in one menu item and it took a while for the other bagel sandwiches to be removed fully since their main ingredients were already used in other breakfast sandwiches. McDonald’s tweeted that the steak, egg, and cheese bagel might have been removed in April of 2020. With so many different restaurants and varying menus, it’s not totally clear when the bagels disappeared fully.
Anyway, we don’t need to worry about this anymore because as of late 2022, they are all back.
What is this sandwich?
The McDonald’s version of a steak, egg, and cheese bagel is made up of a seared steak patty, a folded egg, two slices of melty American cheese, something called “breakfast sauce,” and a butter-toasted bagel.
I left my kitchen to visit McDonald’s to try one.
The steak, egg, and cheese bagel that I purchased was ok on the scale of fast-food breakfast items. It certainly was not pretty as you’ll see soon, but the bagel seemed fresh, and the meat, cheese, and egg tasted about like I expected. The steak patty was effectively a super consistent, formed patty made from chopped or sliced beef that I guessed was frozen into an oval shape and cooked on a hot surface (you can see this confirmed process in the video below). The egg seemed just like the eggs used in their sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits and the sauce was savory, and creamy but mostly just salty with hints of lemon juice.
This breakfast sandwich certainly didn’t hit anything out of the park, but it was a solid sandwich on the fast-food breakfast scale with several components that worked well together. I have no doubt that we can do a few things to make a better version at home.
The video here is from a McDonald’s franchise owner that frequently shares behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube of how the restaurants make their food. This video he uploaded clearly shows onions, steak patties, and folded eggs being prepared for the breakfast sandwich we’re making today. It gives a clear idea about how McDonald’s makes theirs, but they are cooked with methods that we can’t really replicate at home. We’re going to do our best though.
If you’ve never seen how things work inside the kitchen in a fast-food restaurant, this type of video might be interesting to you. I personally enjoy seeing behind-the-scenes action for what goes into the process of ordering a sandwich and then getting it 3 minutes later. In this case, I enjoy seeing how they prepare components and then reverse engineering how we can do the same at home.
First, as usual, we need some bread. If you’re new here, I’ll be making homemade bagels for this sandwich. You can buy yours if you want though, it’s up to you.
I wrote about a bunch of different bagel sandwiches last year for this blog but didn’t quite get around to a simple steak, egg, and cheese version. I have since worked on my own home-baked bagel recipe and am sharing it down below.
I think with bread items like pretzels and bagels, the boiling process probably seems intimidating at first, but you shouldn’t let it worry you. I get why it might be stressful because you’re moving dough that you don’t want to deflate, but if you handle it carefully, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Here’s my new bagel recipe. It should be an easy-to-handle dough, but I would list it as an intermediate-level baking process due to moving around risen dough into boiling water. Even though this process isn’t hard, I think the intimidation factor might push away beginning bakers.
Let’s make a steak patty
The texture of McDonald’s version of the steak patty tells me that it’s not just a hamburger patty, but it’s also not a whole piece of steak either. It’s more of a roughly chopped patty that is cooked on the flattop griddle from a solidified, frozen state. So that’s what I did. I got some thinly sliced sirloin (and ribeye) from my grocery store and sliced it into thin strips and then sliced those thin strips into smaller pieces.
You could leave the steak whole, but even the most tender cut of meat might be tough to chew through when inside a toasted bagel sandwich.
Then I packed all the pieces (about 3 to 4 ounces worth) into a 4-inch biscuit cutter on top of a piece of parchment. I did this for several pieces and placed all the formed patties on parchment into the freezer for a couple of hours and then packed them into a sealed zip top bag for future use. I used parchment to make the patties easier to use and when you move them into a zip top bag the parchment keeps them divided very well.
Do not thaw out the steak patties prior to cooking.
When it came time to cook, I pulled out a frozen patty, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and placed it on a hot, oiled cast iron pan for cooking. The texture seemed right, and it worked in a sandwich as well. I have eaten 6 of my homemade frozen steak patties at this point and they all had a good texture and weren’t hard to chew through or bite—which is what I was initially concerned about.
With a bagel, which requires a reasonably stiff bite to chew through, you are probably ok with a tougher piece of meat, but once an egg/omelet is included things shift in the other direction. I think making the steak patty thinner slices of meat is the right decision because it just makes each bite give less resistance.
If you don’t want to make your own steak patty, you can do what most of the copycat recipes for steak, egg, and cheese do and use something like steak-umms or some recipes call for a Wal-Mart product called “Great Value Seasoned Sirloin Beef Philly Steak,” which you also cook from a frozen state.
McDonald’s breakfast sauce
Ok, sandwich nerds. Here we go.
The official breakfast sauce has copycat recipes all over the internet and let me tell you that almost all of them are copying some original recipe and that original recipe is wrong. My wife and I both tasted the sauce and didn’t notice any discernable dill in this sauce at all and every copycat I could find has you using dry, or fresh dill, or creamy dill mustard. The official ingredients from McDonald’s also do not mention dill at all, although I guess a minuscule amount of dried dill could be under the generic “spices” listing.
What there is in the ingredients that I could taste was saltiness and citrus from lemon, which lead me to initially believe this was a mayonnaise-based sauce with a bit more citrus than is typical.
Sauce ingredient comparison
After a lot of googling and reading recipes and forum comments, I did find this Reddit comment (screenshot below) from someone who worked at McDonald’s. I was still a bit skeptical, but I tried it.
I made a version of this sauce from powdered hollandaise and it was fairly good, but after looking at the McDonald’s breakfast sauce ingredients (down below) and comparing them to all of the powdered hollandaise mixes that I could find, it’s clear that this sauce wasn’t created from a powder. The end results were similar, but my final recipe ended up with you having to buy fewer ingredients to recreate this.
First, I looked at the ingredients in powdered and packaged hollandaise and that was a non-starter. None of those ingredients compared at all to what is in McDonald’s breakfast sauce.
Next, I set out to compare the official McDonald’s breakfast sauce (ingredient list A – below) with a prepared and jarred hollandaise sauce (ingredient list B – also below). I figured that might be the first thing that McDonald’s might be using instead of something mayo based.
Hollandaise vs Mayonnaise
At its most basic, hollandaise is a cooked sauce made from egg yolk, butter, and sometimes lemon. Mayonnaise is made from oil, whole eggs, and some sort of vinegar or mustard (which contains vinegar).
So hollandaise is cooked and has butter and mayonnaise never has butter.
Warning: there are three more text-based screenshots coming up. A sandwich enthusiast like me calls this research. A third grader would probably call it something like a “Comparison Activity.” Feel free to skip past the text-based screenshots and read my synopsis and maybe scroll back if you want to check and compare for yourself.
McDonald’s Breakfast sauce ingredients
Reese brand Hollandaise sauce (from a jar)
Everyone on the internet is wrong, again
The idea that McDonald’s breakfast sauce is mayonnaise plus creamy dill mustard is simply wrong.
The first ingredients on the McDonald’s side of things certainly make it clear that we’re dealing with mayonnaise, and not a sauce that was brought forth from a powdered mix. Neutral oil, eggs, and vinegar with salt and sugar look just like the ingredient list for Hellman’s Mayonnaise (see: ingredient list C). But it’s the lack of butter that hollandaise is supposed to have that sort of seals the deal for me.
Hellman’s brand mayonnaise ingredient list
So, since we’ve learned that breakfast sauce has no butter, it seems like we’re working with a mayonnaise base that has cheddar cheese powder, yeast extract, buttermilk powder, and the ingredients also mention the use of turmeric for coloring.
There’s absolutely no mention of dill, but in theory, it could be listed under the “spices” or “natural flavors” item in the ingredients. But since neither myself nor my wife could taste any dill, I left it out.
The cheddar cheese powder addition will lend more savoriness to the finished sauce as well as additional thickness or viscosity. You can buy cheddar cheese powder online or you can sometimes find it where you buy popcorn. You can also steal it from a mac and cheese package if you are desperate.
My last adjustment to the recipe was swapping out yeast extract—which contains glutamates—with Mono Sodium Glutamate or MSG. Yeast extract supposedly isn’t as strong as MSG in the savory glutamate category, so I used only a small amount. But if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll no doubt be aware that I’m not afraid to slip MSG into a recipe.
These aren’t caramelized onions, they’re simply softened and cooked alongside the steak patty. McDonald’s calls these “slivered onions.”
McDonald’s has two types of onions, the dehydrated and then rehydrated onions that you’ll find on their burgers and these slivered onions. The de/rehydrated option is the finely diced onions on a regular McDonald’s cheeseburger or Big Mac. And the second type of onion they have is sliced or “slivered” onions that are cooked on the griddle as you’d find in this sandwich, and the Mc Rib when it’s available.
I have written about folded eggs before. In my opinion, they’re my favorite way to make a soft egg for a breakfast sandwich that will hold together and doesn’t crumble all over the place as scrambled eggs do.
BUT I have also written about the other technique that I used during the making of a couple of these steak, egg, and cheese sandwiches and I feel that one is worth mentioning again for sure.
Microwave round egg
This microwave egg technique is something I’ve also written about and I don’t make very often but for this particular sandwich, I did utilize it twice. With this steak, egg, and cheese, if you want to replicate McDonald’s sandwich fully, you’re using a few different pans and cooking a steak patty and onions, toasting bagels, melting cheese, and then cooking a folded egg all at the same time.
McDonald’s simplifies their process in a few ways. First, they cook everything in advance and keep it warm. This solves most of the problems. Second, McDonald’s doesn’t care if the cheese is melted. This is usually solved by wrapping up the sandwich in parchment with warm ingredients and the steam melts the cheese.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and don’t want to cook a soft scrambled egg, you can use this microwaved round egg trick to get a quick egg with almost no effort.
Anyway, you can watch my Instagram reel above to learn how to do a perfect, quick, microwaved egg or you can just whisk together an egg and a spoonful of mayo in a microwave bowl, season the egg, and then microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute—all microwaves differ, you might have to do some tests. Once you have the timing dialed in, you can have a soft sandwich-ready egg prepared in less than 2 minutes.
The McDonald’s copycat steak, egg, and cheese bagel
Here are all the steak, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches I ate this week. The main copycat recipe is right below these photos, but if you’re the type that reads words, just a heads up there’s another recipe for a steakhouse version of the steak and egg bagel down near the bottom with a couple more photos.
Here's a copycat version of a steak, egg, and cheese bagel from a popular fast-food joint that you might have heard of. Oh, it's a copycat McDonald's recipe. Have you heard of them?
- 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cheddar cheese powder
- 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric powder (for color)
- 1/8 teaspoon MSG (optional)
- 3 to 4 ounces thinly sliced sirloin or ribeye steak
- pinch onion powder
- pinch garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1⁄4 small onion, thinly sliced
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 whole large egg
- 1 butter toasted and split bagel
- 2 American cheese slices
- 1 steak patty (from above)
- onions (from above)
- breakfast sauce (from above)
- salt and black pepper
Breakfast sauce: combine all Breakfast sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine fully.
Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Steak and onion: slice 3 to 4 ounces of sirloin or ribeye steak very thinly and then slice those thin pieces into strips and turn the strips to slice those into small pieces. The goal here isn't minced steak, but to create small pieces. Dust the steak with a pinch of garlic powder and a pinch of onion powder. Rub the powders over the steak pieces.
On top of a small piece of parchment form the steak pieces into a patty. I use a 4-inch biscuit round, but you can just use your hands to form a roughly circular patty on top of the piece of parchment paper.
Freeze the patty on top of the parchment for at least 2 hours. The easiest way to do this is to add the parchment on top of a sheet pan to the freezer. Once it's fully frozen if you formed extra patties, add them to a ziptop bag with the parchment piece still attached to the bottom of the patty.
When you're ready to make the sandwich, add 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add onion slices to one side of the pan. Season a steak patty and add it to the other side of the pan. Cook the steak patty for 4 to 5 minutes per side. If the onions start to brown too much, remove them to a bowl to rest. Once the steak is cooked, move it to a plate or cutting board to rest and top it with the onions.
Folded egg: if you're using the same pan that you cooked the steak and onions in, remove it from the heat and wipe it out really well to remove any cooked bits. Break one whole egg into a small bowl and whisk to combine fully. Add salt and pepper to the egg to season. Add the pan (or a new pan) back to medium-low heat and add a tablespoon of butter.
Once the butter is bubbly and melted, pour your whisked egg on top of the butter. Immediately start letting the egg spread out on the bottom of the pan so that it all starts to cook. While it is cooking, you can help it out by keeping the egg in a round or square-ish shape and tilting the pan to allow the runny egg on top to roll off and touch the pan itself. Try to keep the shape somewhat consistent. This will help with folding.
Once most of the egg is set (after 1 to 2 minutes) you can start to fold. Using a spatula, attempt to scoop up one side and fold it over the other. This isn't always easy to do, and it doesn't really matter if you mess it up. But you effectively want to fold everything over itself once or twice until the egg is folded into a size that is consistent with your sandwich.
Once the egg is fully folded, add a slice of American cheese on top and cook for an additional 1 minute, which allows the cheese to melt.
Move the fully cooked egg to a plate to start sandwich assembly.
Sandwich assembly: add a slice of cheese to the bottom bagel slice. At this point, you can broil it for 1 to 2 minutes if you want it to fully melt. But the steak patty should still be warm enough to help with that.
Place your steak patty on top of the slice of cheese and top with onions if you have not already done that.
Add your folded egg on top of the steak and onions.
Add a spoonful or two of breakfast sauce to the top bagel slice and then place that on top of the sandwich to complete.
Serve and enjoy.
A steakhouse version of the steak and egg bagel
For this bagel sandwich, I used a different cut of steak than for the other steaks and I enjoyed this version of the steak patty a bit more because there was a bit more fat in the steak. This was ribeye and the other sandwiches were all made with a leaner cut of sirloin. The fat rendered in the pan and crisped up which added a lot more texture to each bite.
If you were enjoying dinner at a fancy steakhouse, there’s a chance that you could be enjoying your steak with an au poivre sauce. This is just a swanky way of saying that the steak has a sauce that is heavily focused on ground black pepper. There’s usually some cognac or fancy alcohol in the sauce as well, so I turned these components into an au poivre sandwich sauce. Here’s the recipe.
Here’s my steakhouse and egg bagel.
I pretty much made a spinach and mushroom omelet with some seared steak and pepper sauce, and it turned out tasty. The recipe is below the photos.
This steakhouse bagel turned out pretty good. I don’t know if I prefer it over the copycat McDonald’s version though. I do think it showed me that a fattier cut of meat works better in the steak patty for sure.
Check back next week
I’ll be making an something chicken-y. Everyone always loves chicken! Or maybe you don’t. I don’t know.