I love McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets so much I should be embarrassed. I don’t care though. When cooked correctly they are perfect and have no equal in the nugget world. But for ten years, ever since Wendy’s added spicy nuggets to its menu, all I’ve wanted is for McDonald’s to counter with their own kicked-up caliente version. Now the fast food giant has finally brought them to U.S. stores, the first American McNugget variation since they first debuted in 1983.
And they are a massive disappointment. Because Spicy McNuggets are a bland facsimile unworthy of both their original counterparts and Wendy’s version.
The new limited-time Spicy McNuggets look great. They have a reddish-orange color that matches their (supposed) flavor profile. And mine were cooked well, neither dried out from sitting under the heat lamp for too long, nor undercooked and soggy. These nuggets definitely look the part. Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends.
These Spicy McNuggets are flat and lack any sort of depth. That would be totally fine if they were good! But they aren’t even remotely flavorful. All you get from them is heat—but not the kind you want. They are technically spicy, but only in the way horrible buffalo wings are “spicy.” It’s an empty flavor. The mixture of cayenne and chili peppers that go into the batter doesn’t come through. The flavor profile is akin to the most boring hot sauces you’ve ever had. The word “blah” came into my mind with every bite.
Also, the breading seems off. Despite an ideal cook, the Spicy McNuggets had a noticeable difference in texture from the regular variety. The breading also separates from the chicken in a way the originals don’t, and that only makes the mouthfeel more upsetting.
Things only get worse when you dip them in McDonald’s new accompanying Mighty Hot Sauce, which features a “powerful blend of crushed red peppers and spicy chilis.” Powerful in this case means too much rather than enjoyable amounts. And the sauce also features a weird color and unpleasant flavor profile. The lingering, low-level “burn” it leaves behind on your tongue is an unfortunate reminder of what you just voluntarily ate. (And yes, the sauce stinks with fries too. They actually ruined the fries, which I would have thought impossible.)
The only other condiment I tried the Spicy McNuggets with was the GOAT sauce, Sweet ‘N Sour. That reliable item made the nuggets passable, but they were still a cheap imitation of the original nuggets at best. The most delicious part of Spicy McNuggets should not be Sweet ‘N Sour sauce.
Ultimately it feels like McDonald’s feared making their nuggets and hot sauce too spicy—as though they believed a genuinely spicy nugget would be a niche product that lacked appeal to a wide swath of customers. But by trying to please everyone they ended up with something that won’t appeal to anyone. These aren’t good. And there’s no reason to ever choose them over regular McNuggets. Wendy’s spicy nuggets have always been great, which makes McDonald’s failure even more inexplicable. We know a spicy nugget can be done well, and McDonald’s was working from a superior base.
Regular Chicken McNuggets are perfect, and I’d choose them over any item on Wendy’s menu. But the only thing spicy about McDonald’s new nuggets is how bland they are.