Is McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Spicy?
An age of spicy chicken sandwiches is upon us, as was foretold in the capsaicin prophecies.
Okay, so it’s nothing that intense, but as we’ve seen from our Hot Sauce News series, fast food chains are noticing that folks are trending toward the spicier fare. McDonald’s was the latest to hop on this trend, releasing a Spicy McNugget and Mighty Hot Sauce. They are now pushing even further forward by releasing a Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich (out now) with two other chicken sandwiches. The biggest question now is, “is McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Spicy?”
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Ingredients
As with all spicy foods, we can take a look at the ingredient list to learn about what goes into the heat of the food. In an interesting move, McDonald’s is not doing anything different to the chicken chonk itself, instead opting to restrict all of the spiciness to the “Original Spicy Sauce.” Yes, in less than a year, McDonald’s created two new spicy sauces, the Mighty Hot Sauce, and the Original Spicy Sauce. It is interesting that the OG came after another spicy sauce, but whatever.
In order to best explain on paper what the heat of the spicy chicken sandwich is like, we must review the spicy innards. To prove the chicken itself is de-heated, take a look at this ingredient list.
Crispy Chicken Fillet
Ingredients: Chicken Breast Fillets With Rib Meat, Water, Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Sugar, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Leavening (baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Yellow Corn Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Spices, Wheat Gluten, Yeast Extract, Monosodium Glutamate, Extractives Of Paprika (color), Natural Flavors, Gum Arabic, Maltodextrin.
McDonald’s misses out on a major opportunity for consistency of heat by using their standard Crispy Chicken Fillet, but in doing so prevents the need for multiple chicken fillets. Smart from a production standpoint, but sad from a peppery perspective.
Original Spicy Sauce
Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Egg Yolk, Habanero Pepper, Salt, Sugar, Contains 2% Or Less: Mustard Seed, Garlic, Onion, Xantham Gum, Red Bell Pepper, Lactic Acid, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Spice, Natural Flavor, Oleoresin Paprika (color), Preservatives (sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate), Calcium Disodium Edta (protect Flavor).
- Habanero Pepper
- Oleoresin Paprika
Those two bits are the primary indicators of pepper with any heat, with oleoresin paprika really only there for color. Paprika as a pepper rolls in around 250 – 500 SHU, so way not hot. Habanero Pepper being the fifth ingredient on the list is promising because it comes before the salt and sugar and doesn’t fall into the “less than 2%” category. Habanero peppers sit around the 350,000 SHU mark, about 43 times hotter than a jalapeño.
Oil, water, vinegar, egg yolk and xantham gum lead us to believe the sauce is slightly gelatinous, with a consistency similar to that of mayonnaise.
There is one wild card in the mix that could also change the level of heat and that is our good friend “spices.” Spices can mean a mix of things, but in this case could refer to any combination of powders that individually make up a small amount of the sauce itself. When combined they may pack a bit of a punch, but in most cases it’s not enough to evoke sniffles.
Many hot sauces or spicy sauces are accidentally vegan in that they don’t set out to do so, but in many cases the ingredients needed do not wander into animal territory. Not true with the Original Spicy Sauce. You may have missed it, but they use egg yolk as a thickener, meaning the sauce is no longer vegan-friendly. It’s on a chicken sandwich so it likely doesn’t matter to most folks, more just an interesting callout.
We’re banking on the habanero pepper being a major feature in the sauce and contrary to pictures, the sauce will likely be slathered rather lightly within the bun.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taste Test
On the initial outset we appreciate that McDonald’s is saucing both the top and bottom of the chicken, adding to the heat capabilities 2x what most sandwiches bring. If they’re not going to make the fillet itself spicy, the least they can do is give the best coverage.
The heat and flavor of the sandwich is about what we expected after reviewing the ingredient list. A hefty hit of habanero and a mayo-like spreadability, the sauce is definitely spicier than some others, but it’s a different heat than the Mighty Hot Sauce. The Mighty Hot Sauce has a chemically punch, while the Original Spicy Sauce on the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a lighter, more real heat from the habaneros. A couple bites in and the heat was apparent and lands at a nice medium heat. A couple bites and a couple sniffs later, the sandwich was gone.
Pickles are an interesting touch on this sandwich, leaning toward the hot chicken style that has become popular. Chick-Fil-A does the same, while Wendy’s opts for lettuce to add some cronch. All in all it’s a solid chicken sandwich from a fast food spot and stacks up well with others.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Comparison
After analyzing the ins and outs of the McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich, we feel it’s best to prop it up against a few other staples in the spicy chicken fast food game.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. Spicy McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce
When we look at these two competitors from the same chain, it’s a win regardless for McDonald’s. This is a close one, largely because both sauces bring some heat, but in different ways. The Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is much more natural in the heat department (yes we know there are a bunch of other ingredients in there), but we’ll give a slight edge to the Mighty Hot Sauce because of the extract used within it. Preferred sauce between the two is definitely the Original Spicy Sauce, but it’s also probably the better of the two on a sandwich.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken
If it’s a Sunday, the McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich wins this one hands down because, well, Chick-Fil-A is not open on Sundays. Any other day of the week it’s a toss up. Spicy Crispy Chicken to Spicy Chicken, McDonald’s takes this one due to the habanero peppers in the Original Spicy Sauce.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. Chick-Fil-A Spicy Grilled Deluxe
Refer to our above comment about day of the week, but past that, the chicken of Chick-Fil-A tends to be of a higher grade than other fast food restaurants. When it comes to grilled chicken it’s hard to compete with Chick-Fil-A and the spiciness of the Spicy Grilled Deluxe, but matched against a spicy crispy chicken sandwich, things get evened out. We give the Spicy Grilled Deluxe from Chick-Fil-A a slight edge here, but largely because there’s no breading to soak up the heat so it hits a bit harder.
Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken
Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich has not changed (to our knowledge) since it was released back in 19-something. It was one of my first introductions to spicy sandwiches and after adding cheese and getting rid of the tomato, Wendy’s Spicy Chicken holds a special place in my heart. That said, the cayenne-enhanced chicken fillet cannot stand up to the habanero-based sauce that McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich brings to the table. While overall we’d opt for the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich, from a heat perspective McDonald’s takes it with their spicy chicken.
McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich Verdict
Looking at the ingredient list alone and knowing that there are habanero peppers in the Original Spicy Sauce, we definitely expect the sandwich to pack a punch, but a lot of it will be dependent on the spread and thickness of the sauce itself. In our case, there was solid spread on top, but the bottom had next to no sauce. That being said, it was a level of heat that new adventurers will enjoy, but the capsaicin chasers will say “eh, didn’t feel much.” As fast food spicy chicken sandwiches and sauces go, this is definitely toward the top.
If you’re on the go and want some quick heat, the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a fine choice. You won’t be blown away with the heat, but for those just starting to get into their heat-seeking journey, this is a good measure of where your tolerance is.
If you enjoyed this review, we’ve also got a look at the Mighty Hot Sauce and where that ranks in the spicy world.
Hello spicy traveler, try our sauces!
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