Wendy’s has a new outrageously spicy chicken sandwich, and it was one of the worst chicken sandwiches I’ve had

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Hollis Johnson

What could possibly be trendier than a chicken sandwich?

A lethally spicy chicken sandwich.

Or so Wendy’s hopes with its latest limited menu item: the “Jalapeño Fresco” chicken sandwich.

As we inexorably approach the peak of the chicken sandwich trend, more attempts emerge to capture the trend before it wanes.

And as the hot and spicy craze progresses toward more multicultural flavor profiles, this sandwich might very well be the last hurrah of two major food fads.

My hopes were not high; the head-on collision of huge food trends in a fast-food fashion rarely bodes well.

I decided to test out the Jalapeño Fresco sandwich to see if it’s worthy of the trendy chicken sandwich mantle.


Wendy’s is hoping to hop on the spicy chicken sandwich craze before it’s too late; enter the Jalapeño Fresco sandwich.

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Hollis Johnson

Immediately, I can smell the sandwich — it has a very distinct aroma. Think bread, fake nacho cheese, and acrid chili peppers. It’s enough to give pause, or perhaps a warning.

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Hollis Johnson

It’s a very messy sandwich — to use a pseudo-scientific term, “goopy”. I can’t even take it out of the box without getting a flow of neon yellow sauce and jalapeño bits on my hands.

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Hollis Johnson

Open up the sandwich, and you’ll find it slathered with a “ghost pepper sauce”, with diced pepper floundering in the depths of the shocking yellow liquid. It’s disconcerting, but the fact that real jalapeño bits are being used is a consolation, as are the crispy red onion slices.

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Hollis Johnson

I’ve always been a fan of Wendy’s chicken. It’s crispy and tender white meat, and the spicy version has a satisfying seasoning to it. I wouldn’t call the chicken alone spicy, but it has a slight kick that differentiates it from the norm.

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Hollis Johnson

The diced jalapeño adds a gratifyingly fresh crisp to the otherwise sludgy lava flow of sauce. There’s Colby-Jack cheese in there somewhere, but it’s lost amongst the acutely fiery zest.

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Hollis Johnson

The “red jalapeño” bun isn’t bad. It seems to be whole grain or something similar, and it has a slight savoriness to it. It’s not hot, but the pepper brings an interesting flavor to it. It’s actually one of the nicer, more interesting buns I’ve had from a fast-food establishment.

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Hollis Johnson

However, the heat goes to an unexpected level. I suppose I deserve this for bemoaning the lack of real spicy fast-food, but this is far beyond what I had in mind. The heat is an empty, dry, merciless one that adds little flavor or depth to the sandwich. It seems to be an extreme burn for the sake of an extreme burn, nothing more.

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Hollis Johnson

So, what’s the verdict? In a word: frustrating. This sandwich is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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Hollis Johnson

It’s horrifically messy. It’s outrageously hot, with any flavor eviscerated by heat. The perfectly good chicken, bun, and normal toppings are smothered in a sickly, vibrant, molten lava flow of sauce. I suppose I can’t win — either something is nowhere near spicy enough, or it’s a towering inferno of mindless heat. Will we ever reach a happy medium, or is this to be the spicy sandwich of our discontent?

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Hollis Johnson