KFC’s New Jack Harlow Meal Highlights The Chain’s Most Underrated Dish

Celebrity-endorsed fast food combos have been a thing since 1992 when McDonald’s first dropped the McJordan Special. But something changed in 2020 with the unveiling of the Travis Scott Meal. The Le Flame branded combo consisted entirely of food McDonald’s already had on the menu just slightly remixed. In spite of the lack of ingenuity, it was a giant success — inspiring around-the-block drive-thru lines and McDonald’s running out of Quarter Pounder ingredients.

Just like the great Popeyes Chicken Sandwich rollout, seeing the success of the Travis Scott Meal inspired all the other big brands to follow suit. Soon, we had the Megan Thee Stallion Hottie Sauce Chicken Sandwich, Charli D’Amelio’s Dunkin’ Collaboration, Nelly’s BK Keeping It Real Meal, and a BTS-inspired meal, among scores of others. Bringing us to our latest entry in the celebrity fast food pantheon — Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Jack Harlow Meal.

“When KFC asked me to create my own meal, I knew it couldn’t be just any meal,” says Harlow in a press release. “My meal brings together my childhood favorites from growing up in Louisville, the KFC Mac & Cheese, with my new go-to Spicy Chicken Sandwich (with plenty of ranch,) Secret Recipe Fries, and Lemonade — it doesn’t get much better.”

We have to say, we’re a little bummed that KFC didn’t take this opportunity to do Jack Harlow and the widely-beloved Come Home The Kids Miss You justice by actually creating dishes with him. Or at the least sauces. “First Class Chicken Sandwich” or the “Nail Tech Chicken Sandwich” — those would have been fly! Okay, maybe not that last one, but seriously, elevate your game, KFC!

The Jack Harlow Meal

Jack Harlow Meal
Dane Rivera

The Jack Harlow Meal features a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Original Recipe fries, Mac & Cheese, and Colonel’s Lemonade with a side of ranch. If that sounds like nothing special, it’s because it’s essentially KFC’s Chicken Sandwich Combo with an added side order of Mac & Cheese, and at $9.99, costs the same too. But we can’t hold that against KFC or Jack Harlow, they didn’t promise that this meal was a deal.

As part of the campaign, KFC has designed special packaging that combines the brand’s iconography with Jack Harlow’s image, a portrait of Harlow is used in place of the Colonel’s — complete with a chain in the shape of the state of Kentucky, which happens to also look like a piece of fried chicken.

I like this packaging a lot. It’s true to KFC’s weird marketing, these are the people who brought us a dating app, and a yassafied Colonel, after all. The presentation is on point. Now onto the food — let’s break the tasting notes down piece by piece from worst to best.

4. Colonel’s Lemonade

Jack Harlow Meal
Dane Rivera

Sorry to begin this review on a negative note but this lemonade is terrible. The Colonel’s Lemonade, which as far as I can tell is a fairly new lemonade recipe from KFC, doesn’t taste fresh squeezed or tangy like what you’d find at Chick-fil-A or Raising Canes. Instead, it tastes like it was made using lemon juice concentrate and a whole lot of added sugar.

It tastes almost like soda, but without the fizz. You could choose any drink with your Jack Harlow meal and we strongly suggest you pick something else.

3. Mac & Cheese

Jack Harlow Meal
Dane Rivera

In the hierarchy of fast food mac and cheeses, which admittedly are all pretty bad, KFC, sadly, has one of the worst. The noodles are over-boiled, giving them this mushy quality that makes for an awful mouthfeel. The cheese is also not very cheesy. Instead, the whole thing just tastes like salt. It doesn’t have the distinct sharpness and subtle floral quality of quality cheddar or the intensity of something like Velveeta. It’s just wet salt.

2. The Sandwich

Jack Harlow Meal
Dane Rivera

After two major misses, things finally kick up with the main course of the meal, the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. The fast food landscape is littered with chicken sandwiches right now, just about every chain has relaunched a new sandwich in the wake of Popeyes’ success, including KFC. While this year-old sandwich is a step up from the snack wrap, it still needs a bit more work.

First the batter, it’s completely flavorless — it uses KFC’s Extra Crispy batter recipe which delivers on the crunch but is seriously lacking in spices compared to the Original Recipe. It’s just crunchy and salty, you don’t even get a hint of garlic or onion powder and the thick chicken filet is strangely flavorless too. The meat has this weird texture to it that looks highly manufactured… even by fast food standards.

The sauce does a lot to remedy what’s missing in the chicken. KFC’s spicy sauce provides a nice cayenne-backed heat and brings a savory quality to the sandwich when paired with the tangy pickles. I tried dipping this a bit in the ranch, but it’s not easy to dip a chicken sandwich, which is why I really feel like KFC should’ve worked the ranch into the actual recipe.

It’s not a bad sandwich, it’s fine, but Jack Harlow deserved better.

1. Original Recipe Fries

Jack Harlow Meal
Dane Rivera

Since they were first released in 2020 I’ve been hating on KFC’s Original Recipe Fries for the sole reason that they replaced the delicious potato wedges. I don’t know if it’s just the power of Jack Harlow but, I’ve come around on them — these are f*cking good! These fries are encased in a light batter seasoned with garlic, black pepper, and onion powder flavor providing a crispy crunch and a whole lot of flavor.

This additional single-handedly saved the meal for me, once I placed a few fries in my sandwich it made each bite come alive, turning the sandwich from a dud to an absolute flavor bomb. My only regret is that I didn’t try working the mac and cheese into the sandwich as well.

The Bottom Line:

The Jack Harlow meal unfortunately cobbles together some of KFC’s weakest menu items. If you want to celebrate your love for Jack Harlow, just listen to “Nail Tech,” it’s a much better time. That said, Jake helped me awaken to how good these fries are — so shouts to him for that.