McDonald's Mambo And Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauces Review: A Must Try For Heat-Lovers

Just when you thought the creative geniuses who come up with new McDonald's dipping sauces couldn't take their creations further, the team hits the fast-food world with not one, but two entirely novel combinations. Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo sauce become part of the menu on October 9, just in time to spice up your autumn. These flavorful options were launched with a saucy social media campaign on TikTok to help spread the word, giving McD's the opportunity to connect with a slew of online foodie influencers. This may be the first time in dining history that dipping sauces have gotten their own official trailer to announce the release.

To find out where Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo fit in the hierarchy of McDonald's dips, we hit the drive-thru as soon as the sauces were available to see if they were worth the hullabaloo. All the extra buzz had us wondering how they might fit in the range of McDonald's sauces and whether they were unique enough to warrant the special promo.

Each sauce has its own special ingredients

Sweet & Spicy Jam is for fiery flavor fans. The recipe is a remix of red pepper sauce featuring sizzling Szechuan peppercorns and cayenne tempered with the sweetness of jam, though there doesn't appear to be any actual fruit jam in the recipe. There's a touch of apple cider vinegar to add acidic notes, creating what sounds like an exciting spectrum of flavors. It's easy to imagine this sauce adding a blast of sweet heat to McNuggets and fries, two foods that make agreeable vehicles for bolder flavors.

Mambo takes tomato sauce for a walk on the smoky side, bringing extra spice along for the trip. The description makes it sound an awful lot like a mix of ketchup and barbecue sauce, which isn't a bad blend by any means. Home cooks have been mashing up these two favorites for generations to create a custom baste for grilled meats. Specifically, this sauce is a riff on a classic recipe pioneered by African American cooks in Washington, DC. So though it doesn't sound like it took a brainstorm to come up with the Mambo formula, it's a familiar taste that's bound to entice traditionalists — and we found out that it holds a spicy surprise.

These sauces come at no extra cost to customers

As always, McDonald's dipping sauces are free with the purchase of any food product, making them a total bargain for anyone eager to try them out. This means you can see how you like them by trying them on a small order of fries, which, if you play the promotions on your McD phone app right, could cost you nothing. Even if payment is required, you can get by for under $2.00. If you're looking to pour the whole packet onto a meatier option, a basic burger runs just under $3.00, which starts to get a bit pricier. And of course, if you need a whole combo, you'll be paying upwards of $12.00 to give Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo a whirl on the dining dance floor (prices vary depending on location).

Since they're free add-ons to your orders, you might want to ask for extras, just in case you love what you taste in these creative combinations. You never can be sure how far a single packet will go.

Both dippers are available starting October 9

Though diners are getting a chance to taste these sauces October 9, the end date of the promotion seems to be a guarded secret kept close to the vest — or the apron. Our best guess is that they'll be around at least through the end of the year before possibly shuffling off to the place where the other limited-edition sauces go. 

The company launched a similar release of four special McNuggets sauces in Australia as a tie-in for the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023, so limited editions in the sauce world are nothing unusual for the folks at McDonald's. There's a whole trove of sauces served outside the U.S. that have never made it to our side of the world. Maybe this pair of flavor-packed culinary companions will be popular enough to find a permanent place on the menu. Alternatively, they might end up as specialty sauces in a far-off land where tourists can journey on a mission to recreate the sensation they first had back home.

The new mixes make exciting additions to the existing sauce line-up

Leaving aside the array of discontinued McDonald's sauces, the current collection includes: Tangy Barbecue sauce with vinegar and smoky hickory flavor; Spicy Buffalo sauce, which mimics the taste of your favorite wings; Creamy Ranch sauce, a favorite for topping almost everything; Honey Mustard sauce, which whirls together Dijon and honey; Honey, a straight-up sweetener; and Sweet 'N Sour sauce with peach and apricot essences. The only sauce that comes close to infusing your combo meal with any heat is Spicy Buffalo. This puts the blazing Sweet & Spicy jam in a league of its own, if the description holds true. Lovers of hot flavors finally have a dipping sauce that's truly fire.

Mambo is a bit of a remix of some of the other sauces. The description sounds like the McDonald's designers squeezed a packet of ketchup into a tub of the Tangy Barbecue sauce and gave it a good stir. However, as you'll see, the description is a bit misleading. 

Sugar is your biggest nutrition consideration here

Most of the McDonald's dipping sauces contain between 30 and 50 calories per packet, with Creamy Ranch taking it to the extreme with 110 calories. A packet of Sweet & Spicy Jam falls in the middle of the range, adding 80 calories and zero grams of fat to your meal. With 16 grams of sugar per serving, you'll be getting about 32% of your daily recommended allowance all at once, which seems excessive considering this is just a sauce and not the main event.

Mambo is a bit more conservative, offering up only 60 calories per packet and the same zero grams of fat as its spicier cousin. At only 13 grams of sugar per serving, you can knock down your daily sugar consumption to only 24% — not a spectacular difference, but every percentage point counts if sugar intake is a concern. You can always use the sauce conservatively to prevent getting too much of this less-than-desirable ingredient in your McMeal.

These scorching sauces are a hot addition to your order

We slid into the drive-thru at first light to get our hands on these two temptations. First up was Mambo, which we reasoned would be a tamer flavor to start with. We were terribly mistaken. This spunky sauce is loaded with heat, much more than we bargained for. It did a fantastic job of perking up an order of hash browns, giving standard fried potatoes a burst of tangy flame that was unexpected, yet thoroughly delightful. Expect your lips to burn for a while afterward.

After we recovered, we tried Sweet & Spicy Jam as an Egg McMuffin topper and were surprised at how mellow it was in comparison. The sweet, fruity notes do much to temper the peppery pop, which stays at a simmer instead of rising to a sear. The ultimate effect was similar to an Asian sweet and sour sauce with a bit more burn. Our one complaint: The sugary gel-like texture was a drawback, making an awkward medium for the spicier flavors.

Overall, both sauces expand the McDonald's orders you know and love into new flavor territory, as long as you can stand the heat.