Full disclosure: I’m usually a wimp when it comes to spicy food. I can get on board with some standard buffalo wings, but anything spicier than that and I cry. So when I started hearing about all of these new over-the-top-spicy items popping up at the major fast food restaurants, it was with much trepidation that I set out to try them all. It’s called job sacrifice.
I decided to rank the spice/heat level on a scale of one to five flames, with one being “Is this a joke?” and five being the seventh layer of hell. The overall opinion: When it comes to the “spicy” label at fast food chains, don’t believe the hype.
Buffalo Chicken Ranch McChicken
Menu Description: A crispy McChicken patty topped with Buffalo sauce, buttermilk ranch and iceberg lettuce served on a toasted bun.
This is a pretty standard chicken sandwich with buffalo sauce — we’ve all had one. The spice here is practically nothing, and I didn’t taste this alleged “ranch.” If you’re in need of buffalo “flavor” rather than actual buffalo “heat,” this sandwich will do just fine.
Fiery Doritos Locos Taco
Menu Description: A crunchy taco filled with seasoned beef, lettuce and cheddar cheese in a shell inspired from a spicy Doritos Chip that is seasoned with spices and lime.
I had been holding out on trying any of the Dorito-shelled tacos—I’ve been hoping to keep my dignity intact—but I was pleasantly surprised with this. The spice level felt just right for me, but it may be a little tame for something labeled “fiery.”
Menu Description: The Sriracha Quesarito is filled with seasoned beef, Latin rice, Sriracha Crema, which the chain says is their spiciest sauce yet, sour cream, wrapped up in a grilled quesadilla loaded with melted cheese.
I didn’t even know this existed, but once I saw it, it was a no-brainer buy. It’s safe to say sriracha is having a “moment” and this is hybrid of a quesadilla and a burrito takes full advantage of the addictive sauce. For me, the heat was moderate and the sauce’s creamy quality made for a surprisingly delicious Taco Bell experience. (No, I’m not part of their PR team.)
Classic Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Menu Description: A classic chicken breast is infused with a blend of peppers and spices. Topped with mayo, lettuce, and tomato.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve literally been afraid of this sandwich for years. I’ve always avoided trying it, assuming it would be too spicy for my taste. I was wrong. I could barely discern any spice under the thick glob of mayo that topped this sandwich.
Ghost Pepper Fries
Menu Description: Classic, natural-cut fries are topped with fresh, diced jalapeños, ghost pepper sauce, and warm cheddar cheese sauce.
This was the menu item I feared the most: I once watched some friends eat ghost pepper wings and they actually thought they were dying. Ghost peppers have a reputation as being the world’s hottest pepper, and here, they pack some heat. But the cheese sauce and the ghost pepper sauce help balance it out so it wasn’t an unpleasant experience. Honestly, I was shocked at myself for going back for more—but I suspect that if it really was anything truly close to the heat of a real ghost pepper, I wouldn’t be so relaxed writing this.
Jalapeno Fresco Chicken Sandwich
Menu Description: A classic spicy chicken breast is topped with fresh, diced jalapeños, ghost pepper sauce, Colby pepper jack cheese on a red jalapeno bun.
Having already established that a classic spicy chicken sandwich is seriously lacking spice, this sandwich is all about the ghost pepper sauce and jalapenos. The heat is on par with the ghost pepper fries, though I didn’t get any indication the bun was adding to the experience.
Research note: I attempted to try Burger King’s Jalapeno BLT Whopper — but I was served a version with no jalapeños; and McDonald’s Jalapeno Double Burger — which wasn’t available at my nearest location. It’s the thought that counts.
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