If you don’t have at least one spicy menu item, are you even a legit fast food establishment? Spice is such an interesting flavor profile — though technically just a pain signal by the nervous system — that people are willing to watch celebrities eat spicy chicken while being interviewed, even if the structure of the interview is the same every single time. Weird sadism aside, great spicy food hits you with a rush of heat that lingers and simmers on the palate, offering a slow burn of flavor so powerful that it tricks our brains into thinking we’re experiencing a change in temperature. It even causes us to break out into a sweat sometimes! That’s about as wild as a flavor can get.
With all the different options of spicy food in the fast food landscape, we thought it might be helpful to take out some of the guesswork you might experience and create a list of each establishment’s best spicy food item. Before we get to the list though, we have a rule: The food must come spicy, no add-ons. Yes, if you modify a menu item with some spicy sauce, it’s going to be spicy. That kind of goes without saying. We’re looking for menu items that are inherently spicy, or else we’d just put our favorite salsa on everything (after all, it is literally the greatest condiment anyone could ever hope to eat).
This rule has lead to some casualties, In-N-Out Animal Style fries with chopped chilis being a major one. But sorry, thems the breaks! Rules are rules, and without them, we’re just animals. Let’s get to the list and get you the best spicy menu item at every fast food restaurant!
Arby’s doesn’t really do spicy. They’re more about piling cuts of savory meats on top of each other, doused in bbq or tzatziki sauce. They have a Buffalo Chicken Slider, but if you eat one of these we are officially not on speaking terms anymore. They’re straight up gross! The Jalapeño Bites on the other hand — well, they’re better at the least.
We aren’t exactly starting the list off with a bang, but if you’re into jalapeño halves encrusted in a crispy batter and stuffed with cream cheese, you’ll be all over these. Personally, I feel the cheese mutes the spicy sensation considerably, leaving you with only a small burn in the after-taste. The heat from Arby’s Jalapeño Bites lingers, we just wish the initial kick was a little more powerful.
Burger King isn’t going to be topping any lists in the chicken sandwich department, this is a mid-tier bird at best, but dammit if their sandwiches aren’t tasty. The Burger King Spicy Crispy Chicken is hands down their best sandwich. The flavor hits you with black pepper-heavy tones and leaves a lingering burn between each bite that’ll have you reaching for that Coke.
Unfortunately, Burger King doesn’t offer a lot when it comes to spice, so if eating very spicy food is “having it your way” you’re sh*t out of luck. Occasionally the chain has spicy nuggets, which aren’t bad, but the sandwich still wears the crown.
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Chick-fil-A’s Spicy Deluxe sandwich is delicious. It’s their best, not only spicy offering, but menu item. I’ve even called it such in the past. But I’m also not down with them anymore. The thing is, lots of places have good chicken sandwiches, and they somehow are able to serve them without giving money to organizations that believe in conversion therapy.
Making a delicious chicken sandwich at home isn’t all that difficult, and if I’m crunched for time, there’s always Wendy’s —who makes a chicken sandwich almost as good. And I’ll take an almost as good spicy chicken sandwich (that doesn’t include a side of bigotry) any day.
Ah, yes, the Carl’s Jr Fiery Chicken Sandwich, one of the few spicy menu items of which no decent pictures exist on the internet. Probably because the sandwich is hot garbage. The chicken patty is made from that weird spongy processed chicken meat that makes you say, “Well, I mean, I guess this is chicken, what else could it be?”
The Fiery Chicken Sandwich does, at the very least, have a nice little kick when you bite into it and the spicy sensation definitely stays with you after you’re done with the sandwich. But other things stay with you too, less pleasant things. Like the memory of eating this sandwich.
In terms of spicy menu items, Carl’s Jr is seriously lacking, and what they do have is awful. If this list was ranked, this would’ve been given the worst spot.
The Del Taco Chicken Rollers are probably the most underrated item on the entire Del Taco menu — freshly grilled chicken wrapped up in pepper jack cheese, covered in a tangy green salsa-like sauce, and lovingly placed in a warm tortilla. Delicious! Unfortunately, it isn’t all that spicy, the pepper jack cheese gives a little heat but there just isn’t nearly enough to really feel it.
It’s a shame that all of the Mexican-food-inspired fast food joints on this list are seriously lacking in spiciness — that’s the very thing that makes Mexican food so damn good.
KFC likes to say that their Nashville Hot Chicken is spicy, smokey, and crispy, but this is a terrible lie. It’s more like — wet. Just wet. Ordering your KFC “Nashville” style is a mistake. The Nashville Hot Chicken is simply not good. KFC seems to think you want your chicken served in a pool of sauce, they always use way too much, and it tastes, frankly, like someone mixed up the spices with their eyes closed.
If you’ve partied hard enough to wander into a KFC (instead of just getting a burrito like a normal person), you’ve probably made enough mistakes for the evening. Take our advice and just get some normal chicken.
I struggled with whether or not to include this dish. Does it count? It certainly comes spicy with no modifications needed on your part. But it is “pool of sauce” based. Ah whatever, we’re including it because it’s a delicious pool of marinade-like sauce. Bell peppers, zucchini, peanuts, chili peppers, green onions, and chicken all stir-fried together in a hot wok, the Panda Express Kung Pao chicken is amazing and legitimately one of the spiciest dishes on this whole list.
On the first bite, you’re greeted with pepper and sweet soy sauce but the real heat hits after. Luckily, you have a lot to work with to handle the heat. Take some peanuts, zucchini, and a fork full of rice and you should be able to keep the heat at bay. Just make sure you watch out for the spicy red peppers!
Ordering your Popeyes chicken “spicy” style is where it’s at! Crispy and fiery, the seasoning adds an extra bit of flavor to Popeyes already delicious fried chicken. Pair the chicken with some cajun style fries and it’ll be a party of flavor in your mouth. When I hear Guy Fieri talk about “Flavor Town” I imagine a Popeyes on every corner. One for every man, woman, and child. In fact, I’m almost positive when Guy Fieri lays his sweet, bleached hair on a pillow, he’s instantly transported to a dream world where visions of spicy fried chickens dance in his head.
The heat is more of a dry heat. So, if you aren’t careful, it could lead to a cough or two between bites. That’s why you gotta douse that baby in even more hot sauce!
Taco Bell truly outdid themselves when they made this Frankenstein’s monster of a taco. Taco Bell has hot sauce, yes, so theoretically you could make anything on their menu spicy, even the cinnamon twists. Everyone loves hot sauce on dessert. Everyone. But as I made clear in the rules, hot sauce doesn’t count if you have to add it yourself, so this is Taco Bell’s spiciest menu item.
Is it spicy? Sure, but is it good? Does anyone even want this? I honestly don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, if you gave me one, I’d eat it. I’d eat a whole bag of them if they happened to be in front of me. But I certainly have never, and would never, buy one myself. What do you want me to say, it tastes exactly like you’d imagine it does, like a big ass, spicy Dorito. I’m not sure if Taco Bell sells the Doritos Locos Taco because they think it tastes good, or if they’re just daring stoners to order it.
In any case, if you like Doritos but you wish they were more like tacos, you’ll be all about this. Taco Bell says you can never have too many Doritos, but I don’t know, I think you kind of can.
Wingstop’s Louisiana Rub is their best flavor. While it isn’t their spiciest, the dry-rub makes it so that your fingers aren’t stained red for the rest of the day. Cajun spices and garlic mingle in a fiery mixture that’ll have you dabbing your chicken on your fries to try and transfer the flavor to your whole meal. Somehow, ordering this dish boneless makes the whole thing spicier. If the Louisiana Rub isn’t hitting the spot for you, feel free to order the ultra hot Atomic flavor. But know that your fingers will be stained red like you’re in middle school and just tore through a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But if that’s how you want to live your life, we won’t stop you. We rarely drive to readers’ houses to force them to make different fast food choices.
Since these are about to officially make a come back we’re closing out our list with the legendary Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nugget. Don’t get me wrong, Wendy’s makes a damn good chicken sandwich, but if we’re going to Wendy’s we’re going to order a Dave’s single or double cheeseburger. Which means, we can get a side order of spicy nuggets and have the best of both worlds. A spicy chicken sandwich with a side of spicy nuggets? Come on, that would just tacky. A Dave’s single with a side of Spicy Chicken Nuggets, and, why not, a side of fries — that’s a dignified meal. The kind the new baby prince, Archie, will someday eat in a palace.
The reason that Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets were so popular in the first place was because of their impressive level of heat. With each bite, you’re greeted with a kick of spice and nice afterburn that’ll hover over your whole meal. The level of spice is so satisfying that all you need is a single order of four nuggets to satiate your desire for spice.