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Is McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce Spicy?

The short answer is “it depends.”

As we all know, spice tolerance differs from person to person. Some find mayonnaise spicy while others can drink a bottle of hot sauce extract without breaking much of a sweat. In just a few days, McDonald’s will release their Spicy Chicken McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce claiming both to be “menu innovations.” Before we get to the taste results, we wanted to break down the ingredient list to determine the level of heat you can expect.

 

spicy mcnuggets and mighty hot sauce

What’s in the box?!

Mighty Hot Sauce Ingredient List

Full ingredient list: water, vinegar, sugar, chili peppers, cayenne red peppers, salt, apricot concentrate, garlic, corn starch, contains 2% or less: spices, xantham gum, natural flavors, soybean oil, oleoresin capsicum, garlic powder, preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate), yeast extract.

If you know much about hot sauce or have heard us talk about it before you likely see a few interesting things in the ingredient list. Let’s break down some of those parts in the Mighty Hot Sauce.

Top 3 Mighty Hot Sauce Ingredients

A lot can be distilled (vinegar puns amirite) from the top 3 ingredients in any sauce. For McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce it’s water, vinegar, and sugar. Water and vinegar are pretty common at the top of sauce lists. You may say, “why so much water?” but really it just means the vinegar is cut with water to reduce the sharpness of the acidity. Most vinegar is already mostly water with distilled white vinegar sitting at 95% water and 5% acetic acid.

The third ingredient being sugar is the most concerning for us because it means the sauce will be sweet and rely on your taste buds to plow through the sucrose to reach the heat. Especially for those of us in the craft hot sauce world, sugar is a bit of a cheap way to balance flavor and heat, but really it’s all smoke and mirrors. You can get the right blend in other ways as we do with our Ginger Reaper sauce, but sugar does not need to be the answer.

mighty hot sauce seeds

Are those seeds we see?

Mighty Hot Sauce Peppers Featured

Peppers being at four and five on the ingredient list is exciting because it seems like they are getting them as close to the top as they can. Chili Peppers is ingredient list code for “uhhhh, we grabbed a handful but don’t want to tell you what they are” but typically refers to cayenne or thai-like chili peppers. Regardless we’re likely looking at a pepper combo that is under 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and then cayenne peppers roll in between 30,000 and 50,000.

Tough to tell the density of peppers in the Top 5 Mighty Hot Sauce Ingredients, but the presence of sugar ahead of the peppers is troublesome and salt being directly after peppers leads us to believe it will be a fairly briny composition.

Oleoresin Capsicum

Some of you are already rolling your eyes seeing this one, but bear with us. Oleoresin Capsicum is fancy language for, say it with us now, “EXTRACT.” It’s not a complete shock McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce would leverage extract in their sauce because it makes the overall recipe more consistent. When the heat source comes from a consistent source, each packet will be roughly the same level of spiciness. If McDonald’s relied on the peppers alone, you would get variance between each packet depending on the pepper potency in that particular batch.

Some hot sauce purists consider this a cheat code, but it’s understandable why it’s used. Extracts typically add and extra little chemical taste, but can definitely bump the heat up. Fun fact, Oleoresin Capsicum is the active ingredient used in personal defense sprays.

mighty hot sauce pouring into a dish

Thiccccc sawce.

Corn Starch and Xantham Gum

Want your sauce to be thicc? These are two ingredients that will help you get there. Corn Starch is gluten-free and doesn’t tweak the color of the sauce at all but will get things thicker in a hurry. Xantham Gum is similar in that a little goes a long way. We still remember our first foray into the xantham gum world and while it keeps sauces from separating, it’s easy to overdo it and turn a sauce into sludge. Based on these two ingredients, expect the sauce to have some thickness to it.

Mighty Hot Sauce Taste Test

Once we broke down the ingredients, it was time for the actual taste test! The sauce is thick and almost sticky, similar to their honey mustard. On sniff alone, you start to pick up on some of the peppers used within the sauce, but overall it’s almost a sweet-smelling version of Frank’s Red Hot. Initial taste, the sweetness is a bit over-powering and hides the flavor of the peppers. It’s possible that we’re biased and enjoy the pepper flavor more than others, but we believe a hot sauce should hit some of those pepper flavor notes.

dipped mcnugget in mighty hot sauce

When I dip you dip we dip.

Once the sweetness disappears, the heat is more noticeable than the ingredients initially let on. There’s a quick kick of the cayenne and chili peppers but then fades away into extract heat. For the uninitiated, you will likely think the peppers are super spicy and keep the linger going, but it’s the oleoresin capsicum coating your tongue and keeping the heat in place.

The Mighty Hot Sauce surprisingly packs a punch and we were pleasantly surprised at the level of heat for a fast food joint. Taste-wise, not a big fan because it’s too sugar-heavy and hides the peppers, but heat-wise we’d put it at a 4/10. Psh, can’t even taste the apricot concentrate though (wasn’t really expecting to).

Mighty Hot Sauce Comparisons

Now that we’ve dissected what’s in the sauce, given an initial taste test, how does it compare to other common hot sauces?

Mighty Hot Sauce vs. Frank’s Red Hot

Top 3 Ingredients for McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce: Water, Vinegar, Sugar
Top 3 Ingredients for Frank’s Red Hot: Aged Cayenne Peppers, Distilled Vinegar, Water

Frank’s contains only 5 ingredients against the Mighty Hot Sauce 17 and Frank’s Red Hot sauce has peppers as the top ingredient. Based on the ingredient list, we expected Frank’s Red Hot to be more acidic, spicier, and less thick. After tasting the two, we’d prefer Frank’s and can confirm Mighty Hot Sauce is thicker. McDonald’s Mighty Hot SauceĀ is spicier than Frank’s Red Hot though, thanks in large part to the oleoresin capsicum.

Mighty Hot Sauce vs. Tabasco

Top 3 Ingredients for McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce: Water, Vinegar, Sugar
Top 3 Ingredients for Tabasco Original Red Pepper Sauce: Peppers, Vinegar, Salt

Another pepper-first sauce, Tabasco contains 3 ingredients against McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce’s 17. We expected more tang and a higher level of heat from Tabasco, but also a more liquidy experience. After the taste test, tang and liquidity are in fact higher in Tabasco, but heat is higher in the Mighty Hot Sauce.

Mighty Hot Sauce vs. Fartley Farms Garlic Serrano

Top 3 Ingredients for McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce: Water, Vinegar, Sugar
Top 3 Ingredients for Fartley Farms Garlic Serrano: Chile Peppers (Serrano, Bell Peppers), Distilled Vinegar, Garlic

Relying on only 6 ingredients compared to McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce, Follow Your Fart is the most garlicky of the options listed above. No thickeners used, but the density of pepper content makes the sauce naturally thick. Based on ingredients, the Serrano Garlic hot sauce is likely spicier and would be comparable in thickness. After tasting, all assumptions hold true and the spice level is higher and the sauce is thicker in the Fartley Farms Serrano Garlic.

Is McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce the Hottest Sauce Available?

Based on ingredients alone, we’d say no, but from our taste tests the Mighty Hot Sauce is likely higher heat-wise. We still need to do some field tests for you, but looking at the ingredients for McDonald’s Mighty Hot Sauce and McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo sauce, the Spicy Buffalo is more pepper forward and as far as we can tell has no sugar. The only leg up the Mighty Hot Sauce might have is the Oleoresin Capsicum (extract) for cranking the heat level higher.

Conclusion

Initially, we were skeptical about the heat level of the Mighty Hot Sauce. We speculated that the oleoresin capsicum was a wild card that could crank up the heat and that proved to be the case. The extract cranks up the heat and was spicy enough to get our attention and induce at least one sniffle. Too spicy for those not accustomed to hot sauce, a nice lunch-time spicy for those mid-level spice heads and won’t really register with the heat-seekers.

McDonald’s can throw around claims of “menu innovations” as much as they want, but if we’re honest it’s not like they made the McNugget HyperLoop with this sauce. It’s a decently spicy hot sauce, so props for that. We’re stoked to see McDonald’s branching into the spicy swimming pool, but likely no need to rush out and get these right away if you’re looking for major heat.

 

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