Health

I Tried All 3 of McDonald’s New Crispy Chicken Sandwiches and I Have Questions

For all the pomp surrounding fast food “plant-based” burgers and breakfast sandwiches, you might not think that McDonald’s next move would be to release not one, but three, new chicken sandwiches.

Yet they’ve done so today, and, to say the least, McDonald’s is HYPED. They’ve been working on their new creation for “years,” according to a press release, and even created a capsule collection with record producer Tay Keith that includes the limited-edition McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich hoodie and the exclusive audio track (on 7″ vinyl!) that everyone has been so desperately asking for.

It’s as if McD’s, with its trio of new sandwiches, has chosen a weapon each in the fight against the big guns of the fried chicken sandwich game: Wendy’s, Popeyes, Chick-fil-A.

KFC and Taco Bell are also players in grand poultry-based sandwich battle, and many of these companies are now feuding with each other on Twitter because this is 2021, nearly a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and we all need something to distract us from the lonely hellscape of our deep, largely unacknowledged, collective depressive state.

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Men’s Health

I taste-tested each of McDonald’s three new chicken sandwiches today—the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and the regally named Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich—and also pulled together what, exactly, is inside each one.

That includes the nutrition information and the ingredients, just in case these are things that matter to you. (And, as the food and nutrition editor of Men’s Health, I’m obligated to tell you that these things should matter to you.)

Forever late to the exclusive fast-food capsule release party, I cannot, however, give you a review of that 7″.

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The McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

The chain describes the offering as such: “This southern style fried chicken sandwich is crispy, juicy and tender perfection. It’s topped with crinkle-cut pickles and served on a new toasted, buttered potato roll.”

It’s the base model, so to speak, of their new fleet.

men's health mcdonald's spicy chicken sandwich review

Paul Kita

Nutrition and Ingredients

This sandwich contains 470 calories, 27 grams (g) protein, 45g carbohydrates (1g of which is fiber, and 9g of which are sugar).

While 470 calories isn’t anything shocking—and 27 grams of protein is pretty dang close to the 30 we recommend you consume at each meal to build muscle and stay full—it’s evident that there’s a hefty dose of empty carbohydrates in this sandwich.

And, hold up, nine grams of sugar in a chicken sandwich? Like, the same amount of sugar that’s in two Oreo cookies?

If you unfurl the lengthy ingredients list for the sandwich on the company’s website, you’ll notice that McDonald’s shoves sugar into not only the bun, but also the breaded chicken. “Sugar” is its fifth ingredient—even before salt.

Taste and Texture

The chicken itself actually tastes pretty great. It’s well-seasoned, not overly breaded, and deeply savory (perhaps due to a secret ingredient: Monosodium Glutamate, aka MSG).

Except that the rest of the sandwich, adorned with only three warmed-over pickles, and stuffed between two sickly sweet buns, doesn’t honor the chicken.

Despite McDonald’s marketing assurances that the sandwich is “juicy”—surprise!—it’s dry.

At $4, you finish it feeling slightly shortchanged and scrambling for some mayonnaise.

The McDonald’s Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich

As any fast-food veteran knows, “deluxe” means, “Hey, look, we put some vegetables on this thing.”

men's health mcdonald's spicy chicken sandwich review

Paul Kita

Nutrition and Ingredients

For a mere $1.20 upgrade from the base model you’ll find some thin slices of kinda-red tomatoes and a scattering of shredded lettuce likely borrowed from the same bin that’s used for Big Macs. But … mayo!

The sandwich carries 570 calories, 27g protein, 47g carbs (2g fiber, 10g sugar), and 26g fat.

The ingredients mimic those of the Crispy Chicken Sandwich—same bun, same chicken patty—and for whatever reason the mayo also has sugar in it. One gram, but still?

A somewhat minor note: For whatever reason, “deluxe” does not include pickles. So there are pickles on the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, but not on the Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich—perhaps because McDonald’s doesn’t think we can handle it.

Taste and Texture

It’s basically the same damn chicken sandwich as the first chicken sandwich.

The mayo helps a little, but the tomatoes—which McDonald’s advertises are the “Roma” variety—are mealy and tasteless. The lettuce, limp from the heat of the fried chicken, tastes like how a refrigerator that hasn’t been cleaned smells.

A little more than halfway through the sandwich, I remove the bun, slide off the tomato, and shake the lettuce off, and eat the chicken patty. I call this maneuver the “De-Deluxe.”

The McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

“This sandwich was made for those who like it crispy, juicy, tender and hot,” says McDonald’s. I’m not quite sure how to take this statement as “it” is ambiguous and if, that’s intentional, then “it” seems like it could mean something sexual, which is very, very weird, McDonald’s.

men's health mcdonald's spicy chicken sandwich review

Paul Kita

Nutrition and Ingredients

Structurally, there’s not much different here. The pickles are back. The lettuce and tomato, mercifully, are gone. A spicy sauce replaces the mayo, except that the spicy “sauce” is actually just a spicy mayo. As proof, here’s the full ingredients list.

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).

(Yum, right? You protect that flavor, Calcium Disodium Edta!)

This sandwich has 530 calories, 27g protein, 47g carbs (1g fiber, 9g), and 26g fat.

Taste and Texture

You might look at those words “Habanero Pepper” in the ingredients list and think, “Oh, this is like those habanero chips that say they’re spicy, but actually aren’t.”

But then you actually take a bite of this sandwich and your mouth is completely obliterated with heat.

The heat in a McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is not the pleasantly peppery heat of a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It’s a flamethrower that scorches all the flavors of the rest of the sandwich. Your mouth becomes a chicken-and-bun-filled blast furnace—and if that sounds attractive to you, let me caution you that’s it not.

The sandwich costs $4.30, but I have a feeling it’s going to cost me a lot more later.

The Bottom Line

McDonald’s has not released three new chicken sandwiches. They’ve released three versions of the same chicken sandwich, all of which have their shortcomings.

men's health mcdonald's spicy chicken sandwich review

Paul Kita

From a strict nutrition numbers standpoint, these sandwiches aren’t awful for you. Calorically, they’re fine, and they have about as much protein as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and far more than a Filet-O-Fish.

But McDonald’s chicken sandwiches don’t offer much else for you health-wise. They have barely any fiber, too much sugar, and no sandwich contains enough vegetables to constitute a serving.

I ask of you, McDonald’s, why not a grilled chicken sandwich? McDonald’s Canada has one, after all. Why not a bun or—if it’s not too much to ask—at least a breaded chicken patty that doesn’t contain a weird amount of sugar? And why would you charge consumers $1.20 for the version of this sandwich that contains vegetables unless you hate vegetables?

Or are you waiting for the next capsule release to announce all this?

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