McDonalds Sweet Tea – Copycat Recipe

Enjoying one of the tastiest, most refreshing fast-food tea drinks no longer requires a trip to the Golden Arches. Whip up this perfect McDonald’s sweet tea copycat recipe at home with just a few common ingredients, and you’ll have plenty to quench your thirst whenever a craving hits.

A glass of copycat McDonald's sweet tea.

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McDonald’s Sweet Iced Tea

Sweet tea is a refreshing beverage popular throughout the country, but nowhere more so than in the South. Still, even Southerners may often find themselves skipping the old family recipe and grabbing some of the delicious, addictingly sippable sweet tea from McDonald’s.

However, there’s no need to hit the drive-thru for it. You can save money and time by brewing some right at home, swapping out those massive coolers and industrial-sized ingredients for your everyday kitchen equipment. 

What Makes McDonald’s Sweet Tea So Good

Sometimes, you need a cold, flavorful drink to wash down your meal, but a soda just doesn’t feel right. That’s where McDonald’s-style sweet tea shines. There’s no carbonation, only moderate amounts of caffeine, and it’s incredibly versatile, pairing well with any kind of food or excelling on its own.

Studies show that tea is also rich in antioxidants and other compounds that improve heart and brain health and reduce cancer risk. 

Why This is the Best Recipe for McDonald’s Sweet Tea

So much of the appeal of McDonald’s sweet tea is its simplicity. It’s easy to keep these ingredients on hand for brewing up a quick batch, which can be ready to drink in just a few minutes.

In addition, it’s simple to scale up (or down) for your needs. Doubling the ingredients produces a gallon for larger events while halving them produces a personal batch that limits the potential for waste.  

While this copycat McDonald’s sweet tea recipe calls for two cups of sugar for six servings, nothing is stopping you from reducing this to cut back on sugar in your diet or to match your preferred taste. 

McDonald’s Sweet Tea Ingredients

Unsurprisingly, you can whip up a refreshing batch of copycat McDonald’s Sweet Tea with just four everyday ingredients:

  • Black Tea Bags
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Ice Cubes

As with many simple, homestyle recipes, the magic here doesn’t come from any special inputs; it’s how they’re used instead.

Copycat McDonald's sweet tea ingredients.

Ingredient Substitutions

Those sensitive to caffeine or looking to avoid it can easily replace regular black tea bags with decaffeinated ones. This won’t require any other alterations to the recipe.

You can substitute part or all of the white granulated sugar with brown sugar or honey for added flavor.

It’s also possible to replace the sugar with artificial sweeteners, though these may slightly affect the flavor. 

How to Make McDonald’s Sweet Tea

The process for making this refreshing beverage is about as quick and easy as it gets. Here are the easy steps:

  1. Bring a quart of water to a rolling boil in a large pot or saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar to the boiling water and stir until dissolved, then add the tea bags.
  3. Steep tea for five minutes.
Steeping tea to make McDonald's sweet tea.
  1. Remove and discard the tea bags.
  2. Pour the tea into a glass pitcher with ice, then add another quart of cold water.
  3. Let the tea chill in the refrigerator or serve immediately. 

If you want to make a gallon of tea, double the recipe.

Copycat McDonald's sweet tea and tea bags.

Essential Tips and Tricks for Making Iced Tea

  • McDonald’s uses their own unique tea blend that’s not available to the public. However, you can get very close to the same flavor using brands like Lipton or Luzianne. 
  • Always use double the amount of tea bags compared to when you make hot tea. For two quarts of sweet tea from McDonald’s, steep three family-sized bags or twelve regular-sized ones.
  • Add the sugar at the same time as the tea bags. This way, the sugar will be absorbed better into the tea.
  • As soon as the tea finishes steeping, pour over ice. The sudden cooling preserves the flavor of the tea and keeps its fruity flavors intact.

One common mistake made by those looking for stronger tea is steeping it for a longer time over heat. This can cause the tea to become bitter. However, adding a pinch of baking soda to the mixture can reduce bitterness. It will also darken the color of the tea. If you want a more potent brew, add more tea.

How to Serve McDonald’s Sweet Tea

Serve this sweet tea in a tall glass with ice. If desired, garnish with a slice of lemon for an extra zest. 

What Goes Well with McDonald’s Sweet Tea 

A drink like McDonald’s tea is remarkably versatile, suitable for pairing with everything from fresh, healthy salads to spicy, flavorful ethnic food.

However, nothing goes better with it than delicious burgers, chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, and other cookout-friendly or Southern-style foods. The indulgent sweetness and refreshing character contrast perfectly with these saltier, richer, more savory meals.

However, it’s also perfect for enjoying on its own, whether you’re kicking back on the front porch on a summer afternoon or need something to sip on while working. 

How to Store Sweet Tea

McDonald’s tea is also easy to store. If possible, remove the ice or pour the tea into another airtight or easy-to-cover container. Then, stash the batch in your fridge, ideally in an airtight or covered container or pitcher. It should be good for about two to four days. You should avoid leaving the tea at room temperature for more than 24 hours.  

Don’t bother trying to freeze the tea. While it’s technically possible, it’ll likely alter the flavor or mouthfeel of the tea, and with such a simple recipe, it’s easy to make up a new batch when you need it. 

Copycat McDonald's sweet tea in a glass with ice.

Love fast food drinks? Check out these other restaurant drink recipes!

Be sure to check out more of my copycat recipes of drinks and easy restaurant recipes.

Make Sweet Tea just like McDonald's does. No need to leave home to make this famous sweet tea.

McDonalds Sweet Tea Copycat Recipe

You can recreate the McDonald’s Sweet tea at home. 
5 from 24 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: McDonald’s Recipes, Sweet Tea
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 258kcal


  • 2 quarts water divided use
  • 3 family-sized teabags or 12 regular-sized teabags
  • 2 cups sugar or less, if desired
  • ice


  • Boil 1 quart of water. When the water reaches a boil, add the teabags and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce the temperature to a simmer and let the tea steep for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the teabags.
  • Fill a pitcher with ice. Pour the tea over the ice and add the rest of the water to fill the pitcher.
  • Store the tea in the refrigerator.



Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 0g | Fat: 0g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 0mg | Sugar: 66g | Iron: 0mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Serafina

    I used to work for an unnamed “big international coffee company” that served several types of iced tea. Double strength tea to water. We had large ice tea bags and steeped them in 1qt of boiling temp water for 5 minutes. Then ice and cold water until 2 qt pitcher was full. Made un sweetened. Added simple syrup;1:1 ratio of 1cup sugar + 1c boiling water. In a pump bottle 3 for the “smallest size” etc. The iced coffee AND brewed coffee double strength; 1:1 ratio. Home coffee makers call for 1 scoop per cup;use 2..that’s the only difference. 💯

    • Colten

      Dont let this lady fool you, here in America, McDonald’s enhances their sweet tea with two BAGS of sugar; not two cups! Well, at least it taste like it! 😂

  2. AJ

    When McD’s used to have the HUGE cup of Sweet Tea for $1, I’d buy it, no ice; cap it & take it home. Then I’d pour into qt pitcher with about 5 more teabags and 4oz or so of water. (Not sure why, but without the extra water, the tea flavor was less intense). I also keep 2 40oz glass containers of COLD water in fridge at all times. Then when I wanted fairly sweet tea, I’d mix 1/2 concentrated McD tea to 1/2 COLD water. If I wanted LESS sweet tea, I’d just increase the water amount. That way we can all make it by the glass. The cold water is easy to refill & the spare lets you always have enough for a few glasses of tea should you want some that is really cold. I’d still end up going to McD’s a few times a week (every 2 or 3 days). Since they now only serve in smaller cups, it’s more of a pain (to me) as I don’t care to go more often, so I want to be able to make my own. I’m experimenting with adding 1/2 sugar & 1/2 stevia to keep the sweetness without too much SUGAR, but the dilution per glass makes
    me feel less guilty than if I drank it straight.

    • Jdk

      I worked at mc Ds. They use Lipton tea. They make it in a huge coffee pot and dump in a 2 pound bag of sugar. Thats all it is. Nothing special at all. I make my own with 5 teabags a coffee pot filled to 12 cups and 2 cups sugar, and water for a gallon. Tastes better in my opinion not overly sweet but definitely sweet.

  3. David

    Tea leaves either in a bag or loose should reach a temperature over 185 degrees F. Bitter oils are released from the leaves above 185.

  4. Julie Warner

    If you love Mcdonaldd’s sweet tea I agree it’s too sweet but if you asked for it half cut you’ll get half sweet tea and half unsweet tea and it makes it perfect. Like the others I’m addicted to that McDonald’s sweet tea

    • Karen Thompson

      That’s what I get is half and half. I finally like the new tea we tried Luzianne. My husband and I are iced tea junkies. lol
      Nothing compares to Luzianne Tea. We get the big tea bags and follow the direction on the side of the box.

      • Pat

        I use to use the Luzianne all the time and for some reason I bought Lipton tea the last time, but I I am definitely going back to Luzianne. It’s so much better!!

  5. Jelaine Cunanan

    This recipe I found way too sweet. I did a test with the McDonalds tea, this recipe and an adjusting the sugar to 1 cup all together. I did a comparison and the 1cup recipe matched more to the McDonalds version. But I do love how quick this recipe is, and thank you for sharing this with the world. 🙂 This will definitely be a sweet treat for my family. 🙂

    • Karen Thompson

      I agree about the sweetness on this copy Kat version of McDonalds. 2 cups of sugar equals
      400g of sugar. There is 71g of sugar in a 32 oz.
      Sweet tea (large) from McDonalds.
      16 cups in a gallon
      4 cups in a Sweet tea (8×4=32oz.)
      71×4=284g of sugar in a gallon of McDonalds Sweet Tea.
      Copy Kat version has 2 cups of sugar in a gallon which is 400g of sugar. So, in reality copykat iced tea has more sugar in a gallon than a gallon of McDonals tea. Crazy huh?

      • Stephanie

        Thank you for doing the math. Much appreciated. I am not sure if it is Crazy. It was my attempt to duplicate the Sweet tea in the McDonalds I have tried in the Houston, Texas area.

    • Travis

      Negative. The 2 cups recipe is correct. Back when Mcd’s used real sugar, they made batches 5 gallons at a time. They poured a whole 5 gallon bag of sugar into each batch. That comes out to 2 cups per gallon. However, sugar doesn’t have enough negative side effects, so a few years ago, Mcd’s switched to a liquid sweetener that I’m pretty sure is high fructose corn syrup. By using the liquid sweetener, they save a lot of money, but I’m sure it also allows them to report that unrealistically low sugar content Karen cited. The new recipe they’ve been using has about the same sweetness, but to me, there is now a strange synthetic taste with it. Just like others on here, I too have become addicted to their tea. Sounds like your Mcd’s owner must be putting more money in their pocket by skimping on the recipe, if one cup per gallon tastes the same. I would like to note that Mcd’s might have different recipes for different countries. And since it’s been a while since I’ve traveled internationally, I am talking only about the US.

  6. MaryAnn

    My advise to anyone that has never tried McDonald’s sweet tea, is NOT to try it now. I have been addicted to their tea for several years. My addiction is so bad that I get one everyday. I kid you not when I say this. I have so many friends tell me that I am going to get kidney stones and gain weight, BOTH have not occurred, luckily. But when I tell you I am addicted I mean that 100%. I literally go to McDonald’s every day for a large cup of tea. I have even risked being late for work in order to get my fix. Don’t do it folks. If you have not tried it, do NOT start now. You have been warned.

      • Jessica

        Me too girls! And Stephanie, you nailed it! All math aside it’s sweet! If you like McDonald’s sweet tea then this recipe is for you. Period! If it’s too sweet then look for another restaurant’s recipe. Stephanie thank you so much! I love it! (Jacksonville, NC)

    • Tyanna

      I thought it was only me!!! OMG… I seriously get a headache if I don’t have any. I’m waiting to get off work to go get me one as we speak.. Hence, the reason I’m Googling about it. It’s so sad!

    • William

      There was a time about 2 years ago for me where I was getting 2 tea’s a day sometimes three, but luckily I am down to one a day and I have lost over 25 pounds just when I stopped drinking there tea for a month, but now I drink one a day and am satisfied, I just cut out other sweets trough the day.

    • Wanda daniels

      I know all about your addiction to McDonalds tea. We are fortunate that they sell it by the gallon! ❤️ I order a gallon of sweet tea and then request 6 extra squirts of their liquid sugar I do this about 2-3 times a week. I really am not a fan of their food but the tea earns an10. ✅

    • WB

      I too am sickening addicted. I work from my car and will go in and grab a tea and plan out my day at a table so I can refill it 2-3 times before leaving then if I happen to be back in the area then I’ll slide in for a refill and or stop at others 1-2 times per day just for tea. It’s rather annoying because sometimes it’s 8-12 mins to the closest McDonald’s for tea but I’ll certainly drive it and just extend my work day if needed.

  7. Nunya

    I find McD’s sweet tea to be FAR too sweet. So much so that it churns my stomach. So to answer “Who doesn’t love McDonald’s sweet tea?” *raises hand* ME! LOL

  8. Steve Thomas

    Swqeet tea isn’t thirst-quenching.
    It’s thirst-creating. ALL sweet beverages do that, although the
    ones that use sugar, honey or corn syrup seem to be the worst.
    Ask for unsweet iced tea – it’s the best item on the McD menu.
    (Their unsweet iced coffee is pretty good, but the crew doesn’t seem
    to grasp the concept of filling the cup with ice to the very brim,
    half filling it with hot black coffee, filling it to the brim
    with ice again, and adding more coffee. The guy behind you in
    the drive-thru is justifiably irate. (Dunkin Donuts does

    For unsweet tea, I use the 1-ounce Bromley tea bags.
    They seem to have the best aroma, yet at 14c to make a gallon,
    it’s no extravagance. (WEBstaurant store sells the 1-ounce
    bags; you can use multiple smaller bags, or make smaller batches.
    Bromley says there is NO difference between their 1-ounce iced tea
    bags and their regular hot tea bags except the size.) I’ve
    tried cold-brew, sun-brew, ice-tea maker, putting it in the basket of
    a coffeemaker, putting it in the carafe of a coffee maker, but what
    works best (it’s not a BIG difference) is to low-boil a gallon of
    good water in a saucepan, plop in a one-ounce tea bag, and after 5
    minute, pour the tea into a gallon pitcher or gallon jug..

    NOT refrigerate the tea. Pouring it over ice is what explodes the
    flavor. I might lose some flavor after 24 hours, so even though it’s
    still wholesome to drink, at 14c a gallon, I dump it and brew more.

    Tea varies a lot, and I suspect it tters how long a given package has been on the shelf or in aarehouse. I know Red Rose from my grocery store is better than
    Salada from the same store, but the opposite is true at my sister’s
    store; Tetley and Lipton are terrible either place. WEBstaurant
    sells a LOT of tea to restaurants so their’s is fresh, but they don’t
    have an exclusive.

    And yes, this recipe is pretty much a cat of McDonald’s unsweet tea.

    • Stephanie Manley

      You sound very passionate about iced tea! I don’t understand why many people make it in gallon jugs for the home use. I typically get my tea from or a local place that sells it in bulk. I’ll have to try Red Rose sometime. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on tea making.

      • Tanya

        I was born and raised in the south, and this is how we make it. Like you, we have two brands, Lipton and Luzianne. I use Lusianne decaf, no difference in taste. It takes 7 family sized tea bags tied together and put in a pot with cold water. Bring to boil and turn off. 21/2 cups sugar in a gallon pitcher and pour the hot tea into pitcher and stir until dissolved. You can add sliced lemon to this if you want. Then fill to top. This is so good and about the same recipe everyone uses. Yummy.

      • Rileysmom

        After discovering Luzianne Tea living in Tennessee, there’s no other for me!
        I’ve had friends bring boxes when they come to visit, as we now live in Montana!

      • Steve Thomas

        The folks at WebstaurantStore put together an explanation of whatr the various types of tea are, and how to brew them.

        McD uses common black tea. Packages often will say “orange pekoe and pekoe cut tea”. (Pekoe qand Orange Pekoe are measures of how bug the tea leaves are cut into. For decades, I thought Pekoe was a variety of tea.)

        Tea experts recommend using 2-3 tablespoons of tea for every 8 ounces of water, steeping it at 200F for 2-3 minutes, then pouring it over a LOT of ice. But that’s just a starting point; you’re allowed to adjust things to your personal tastes.

        Author George Orwell (Animal Farm, 1984) said
        “All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.”. Lately, I’m drinking VERY strong unsweet green tea. It might be my imagination that my arthritis is bothering me less, but I’m sure that it’s very refreshing!

      • Steve Thomas

        When I learned that diet pop causes weight gain, I switched from pop to iced tea. Most people make it by the gallon because they have families, but I live alone. Buying the one-ounce bags at and throwing away half the tea is cheaper than buying generic teabags, and it’s the best tea I’ve found.

        Red Rose and Salada appear to be the same tea; Redco puts a porcelain figuring in Red Rose, puts a cute saying on Salada tags (and sells it for less.) Redco also makes (They also make Teekanne, which I think is herbal tea, and Junket, which is great, but it ain’t good tea,)

        I suspect those drinking sweet tea are less aware of the actual tea taste. Turkey Hill is the #1 company in refrigerated tea, and they recently introduced an unsweet tea, but it’s not very good, IMO.

        George Orwell said “All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes,” Maybe our microbiome favors good tea,

    • mistakesweremade

      If you’re not refrigerating it, do you make it every day? I like to have cold tea on hand, but I don’t drink it every day so it tends to go bad on me. It seems to only last a day or two, even in the refrigerator. I was wondering if I could add lemon juice to act as a preservative. I am almost at the point of breaking down and buying bottles of iced tea, but that seems like such a waste of money!

      • Steve Thomas

        Tea doesn’t keep, whether you refrigerate it or not. Other foods go moldy or spoil, but tea oxidizes.
        It costs me 14c for a 1-ounce tea bag. If I make it for dinner one day, I pitch it after supper the next day, but there’s about 30 ounces to a big glass of iced tea, so that’s not a lot to throw away.
        The little bags cost me $2.39 a hundred, but it takes 3 bags to make a glass of tea, so it’s about twice as much if I drink 2 glasses a day. And it takes ten minutes to make iced tea, so it’s a pain to brew one glass at a time.
        Buying refrigerated tea, it runs a LOT more. Turkey Hill runs about $3 a gallon. other brands cost about 75c per bottle, and they taste lousy.
        I drink Bromley brand Estate blend tea. At, it’s $7.09 for 48 one-ounce bags, or $2.39 for a hundred little bags, I asked customer support at Bromley: although the big bags are labeled “ice tea” bags, andf the little ones are labeled “hot tea” bags, the tea is identical, just packaged differently.
        (If you go to WEBstaurant, check out their spices as well. Extremely good and fresh, at extremely low prices, but you don’t pay for those cutesy little glass bottles.

      • Stephanie Manley

        I am so glad you answered this. I toss tea out daily. But I make a really large 32 once glass of it once a day. What I don’t drink I just toss. I buy my tea from I buy bulk tea, I love their Hawaiian Flower Blend. I will do tea bags when I can. But to me, tea gets weird after the 24 hour mark. Again, it’s very cheap though, and a whole lot cheaper making it at home, than buying in jugs.

      • Steve Thomas

        They seem to have discontinued Flowers of Hawaii, and recommend pineapple mango instead. I have looked at Bromley’s mango tea, but decided against it, partly because I like the taste of tea-flavor tea, and the mango tea costs 17.99 versus 7.09. That still a lot cheaper than $10 for 100 grams (which would be $145 for 48 ounces) but if you really like it, there are a lot worse ways to waste money than buying foods that bring you joy.
        Thank you, Stephanie, for this site., I don’t often follow your recipes, but I often am inspired by them. If you are single, I’d like to invite you for supper, so you could taste MY baking and cooking.

      • Stephanie Manley

        They did discontinue to the Flowers of Hawaii, it may come back, maybe it is a supplier issue. I tend to think of this as my splurge for going to work. I can’t get around the bad coffee, but I can save 1.79 on a large glass of tea everyday.

        Steve, if you were in Houston, I would definitely consider dinner with you, but I doubt you are in Houston.

      • Steve Thomas

        You don’t need to apologize for buying good food. For buying food at McDonald’s, that’s another issue, but in any case, I wouldn’t be the one to apologize to. I’m noty sure if there is *anything* on their menu that hasn’t changed since they first opened. Possibly milk. The buns are different, the meat is different, the potatoes are different, the fry oil is different. The formula for Coke syrup is even different. If someone opened a place with the original McD recipes, they might do well.

        You know, the next time you feel under-appreciated, you might want to consider moving up here to the Great Lakes States. We’d love to have you.

      • Stephanie Manley

        You know, I lived up in Michigan for about 8 months. There were many things that I liked about it. Seasons would be one, and amazing produce would be another. The weather is colder than I can take.

      • Steve Thomas

        From the westerns I saw decadses ago, I think of Texas as a land of weather extremes – herding cattle in driving cold blizzards, parched lips and cracked skin, hurricanes, etc., and terrible pollution. My cousin who lives in Brownsville as a newspaperman would relocate someplace safer if the newspaper industry wasn’t failing – and suggests Newark or Watts as a law-abiding alternative,

        And for a woman of your attributes, the days might sometimes be cold, but the nights should be warm. Very warm. Why do you think Santa doesn’t live in Baja Oklahome? It’s the romance factor!

      • Stephanie Manley

        I live in/near a pine forest. The myth is so far from the reality ;-). I think you have a great sense of irony, that Newark is safe.

        If I ever win the lottery I want a summer house in the Great Lakes, then I would immediately leave about November. I enjoyed my times up north, part of it was lovely. I am not sure that Lake Effect Snow will ever be romantic words to my ears…

5 from 24 votes (19 ratings without comment)

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