McDonald’s have taken quite some time to enter the chicken sandwich wars. The Golden Arches only real contender in the ever escalating arms race to date has been the passable but forgettable, Buttermilk Crispy Chicken. So when news broke at the start of 2021 about the brand’s intention to launch not one, but three new chicken sandwiches, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to sit up and take note.
This week sees the formal launch of the trio of all there of the new menu items, and also probably the farewell to the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken too. The basics of the three new chicken sandwiches are as follows:
- Crispy Chicken Sandwich – crinkle cut pickles, served on a , toasted buttered potato roll, $3.90 sandwich, $6.90 combo
- Spicy Chicken Sandwich – served with a Spicy Pepper Sauce, crinkle cut pickles on a toasted potato roll, $4.00 sandwich, $7.00 combo
- Deluxe Chicken Sandwich – served with shredded lettuce, Roma tomatoes and mayo, $5 sandwich, $8.00 combo
Those prices are from my local McDonald’s here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Obviously I had to grab all three the moment I spotted them on the menu; if these are anything like last years Spicy Nuggets release – they will sell out fast. So you’re probably asking, how do they stack up against the reigning champion from Popeyes, do any of the sandwiches come close? First up, here’s a few photographs of each of the sandwiches. After the main review, scroll down for even more in depth shots of all the new chicken sandwiches from McDonald’s:
Taking a nod from the competition, both the regular and spicy crispy sandwiches come in foil bags, reminiscent of Popeyes and KFC packaging – but smaller and simpler in design. The Deluxe oddly comes in standard McDonald’s cardboard package, presumably to keep more of the looser toppings contained
Best I could tell all three chicken sandwiches share essentially the same chicken patty; each of the three sandwiches offering a different flourish and finish with toppings. In an age of sandwiches featuring rippling ridges of cracks and crunch, the McDonald’s patty was a surprising let down (bear in mind this sandwich was reputedly tested to great success in both 2019 and 2020)
The coating used here is more thin breading that riotously crispy batter. Many brands are looking to ape the Popeyes approach (think KFCs new sandwich, or Zaxby’s upcoming release) but McDonald’s definitely takes a different route. I can’t image many diners will approve. Theres some minimal crisp, but it dissipates faster than competing battered sandwiches. As it cools, its strip easily away from the chicken too.
Indeed in the case of the Spicy Chicken the spicy sauce actually caused the breading to disintegrate into a mushy, unappealing mess. This made me wonder if that’s the reason there’s no mayo or otherwise on the basic Crispy Chicken – the coating doesn’t seem to hold up to much moisture. I’d say I encountered the same issue on the Deluxe which does come with mayo, but my sandwich featured so little sauce, it made little to no difference.
The chicken itself shreds and tears – this is real chicken. That said, there’s a noticeable processed quality to it. This chicken is actually quite juicy, but doesn’t have that “ooh real chicken” moment, indeed the softer texture was something of a turn off personally. One other item to note is that McDonald’s confirmed that the new chicken sandwiches do use MSG like other brands (Popeyes, Chick-fil-A) but I can’t say it added anything for me. I’m actually an MSG fan, and use it in my own cooking from time to time; nonetheless I found this an interesting move when the larger McDonald’s brand is famously moving to a cleaner product line up in general.
The toppings and bun were sadly more let downs. The bun itself was a simple potato roll, definitely more denser than a typical sesame seed bun. The pickles on all three sandwiches were basic affairs, thin and a bit listless. Definitely not the smack you in the face brightness of Popeyes’ pickles. One bright star of the show was the spicy sauce; this added a fun tingle with a distinctly fruity note. I have to confess not understanding the point of the Deluxe at all; some scattered iceberg, a dab of mayo and three slices of the ever dubious fast food tomatoes – which even *in* tomato season are mediocre. Honestly, is there anyone out that enjoys fast food tomatoes?
In the context of what’s happening across fast food menus right now, I can’t say I’m a fan of any of the new sandwiches sadly; which is a shame as I’m a big fan of the Golden Arches in general. I’m not sure any of these three new options will help bring crowds to the restaurant; Popeyes, KFC, Habit Burger – they’re all distinctly better choices. The price isn’t there for me either. With Popeyes and KFC both retailing at $3.99, for much better sandwiches, McDonald’s really needs to look below the three dollar mark to compete on a value proposition; and again the Deluxe just doesn’t make sense. If that’s a five dollar sandwich, well insert your own analogy here.
There’s time yet for this one to evolve though. McDonald’s CEO Joe Erlinger was quoted by CNN to as saying the new releases would “jump-start our chicken journey,” intimating these were just the start of a new approach. Time will tell. In the interim my personal pick for chicken at McDonald’s remains the budget friendly Hot N Spicy, I can eat those things by the dozen. Here’s hoping this one stays on the menu!
Order the new Crispy Chicken Sandwiches
Grab one before the sell out! They should be available nationwide for both dine in, drive thru or delivery. You can get the sandwiches delivered via Door Dash. They usually offer some great free delivery deals for new users – plus we get a referral fee when you signup and make an order too.