How To Fill Your Wendy's Spicy Jalapeño Popper Sandwich Void

Wendy's likes to keep its customers hopping with periodic menu changes. While this may be a prime example of the scarcity principle (or McRib effect) in action, it's also an effective sales tactic — although some fan favorites do get brought back, there are numerous other menu items you'll never get to eat again. Among the latter may be the bar food-inspired jalapeño chicken popper sandwich that was introduced in 2021 along with a jalapeño chicken popper salad. Alas, this sandwich, which also featured cream cheese, bacon, cheese sauce, and pepper jack, is no longer on Wendy's menu, and we don't know when (or if) it's ever coming back.

If what you miss most about the chicken popper sandwich is its jalapeño heat, you'll be glad to know that Wendy's hasn't abandoned its chile-loving patrons. (Not to be confused with chili-loving ones, as the former word refers to peppers while the latter describes the beef and bean concoction the chain's been dishing out for 50+ years.) Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich and nuggets are menu staples, while 2023's ghost pepper ranch chicken sandwich is still on offer at the time of writing. Be aware, though, that it could vanish in a puff of ectoplasm at any time. Plus it's no real substitute for the cheesy, balcony, peppery popper sandwich. Instead, we present the following options that may better approximate your long-lost lunchtime love.

It's possible that Wendy's UK still has this sandwich

If you have ample leisure time and money to burn and are willing to spare no expense, there may be one way to have the real deal Wendy's jalapeño chicken popper sandwich without having to travel through time back to 2021. Instead, you merely have to travel through space to the U.K. because the sandwich was added to the menu there in the summer of 2023 and might (or might not) remain there in spring 2024. This sandwich does appear to be identical to the U.S. one: spicy chicken patty, check; cream cheese, check; sliced jalapeños, check; cheddar cheese and bacon, check and check. No pepper jack, though, so it's not 100% identical to the U.S. version

Before you book your flight, you may want to drop a few bucks on an overseas call to find out whether any given Wendy's can still make you this sandwich. While it does still appear on Wendy's U.K. website, it does not seem to feature on the online menu. The jalapeño Banonator fries that were introduced at the same time do still appear to be available, so perhaps those were a bigger hit than the popper sandwich on the other side of the Atlantic.

Canadian mini-chain Chica's Chicken has a jalapeño popper sandwich

If you find that Wendy's U.K. no longer carries chicken popper sandwiches (in which case, it really ought to archive the web page), you can still go on a little international adventure in search of a similar sandwich. Chica's Nashville Hot Chicken, a mini-chain with two locations in the Canadian province of Ontario, does feature jalapeño popper "sandos," as it styles them, on its menu, and they do not appear to be designated as a limited-time offer. (Although still maybe check before you pull out your passport.)

Despite the name, these jalapeño popper sandwiches don't appear to be made with cream cheese, nor is there any bacon. However, a Yelp review suggests that the item has or used to have a cheese sauce of some sort that isn't mentioned on the menu. Mostly, though, what you're getting is spicy, crunchy fried chicken on a brioche bun (seriously, is there some kind of law mandating these in the post-chicken sandwich wars era?) topped with pickled jalapeños and a surprisingly sweet chipotle aioli. Come to think of it, these chicken popper sandwiches aren't much like the Wendy's ones at all. Still, if you feel a road trip to check out fried chicken chains across the northern border might help to ease your pain, the Toronto Chica's has a 4.5-star Trip Advisor rating and 4.4 stars on Yelp.

These US-based restaurants offer chicken popper sandwiches, too

If you hunt around, you might be able to locate some indie bars and restaurants that sell some type of popper-inspired chicken sandwich. Should you happen to be in or around Nixa, Missouri, you might want to visit Mo Slider Company at 14 Mill Market. Not only does Mo's have jalapeño popper burgers, but it also has two kinds of chicken popper sliders: fried and grilled. Both come with cream cheese and grilled jalapeños, while cheddar is available as an add-on.  Dilly's Restaurant and Bar in Akron, Indiana has also been known to feature a jalapeño popper chicken sandwich special with fried chicken, cream cheese, jalapeños, and shredded (yet unidentified) cheese.

Up in Middlebury, Connecticut, a place called The Local Gourmet Cafe has a jalapeño popper sandwich that's somewhat closer to Wendy's version, as this one is made with a breaded chicken patty, jalapeños, bacon, and both cream and cheddar cheeses. It can also be made with a choice of breads ranging from wheat wraps to ciabatta rolls. If you're trying to cut back on carbs, though, you could instead check out the jalapeño popper chicken at the Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert, AZ. This non-sandwich consists of a grilled chicken breast topped with bacon, roasted jalapeños, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar, and not just any old cream cheese, but cream cheese flavored with scallions (aka green onions to us less fancy folks).

You can add poppers to these fast-food chicken sandwiches

Even if you're not a fan of so-called "secret menus" — why make extra work for underpaid fast-food employees? — you can still DIY a chicken popper sandwich at two different chicken chains just by ordering a couple of different menu items and then sticking them together. This is possible because both restaurants not only have chicken sandwiches on the menu (as who doesn't these days?) but also offer jalapeño poppers as a side.

The first of these restaurants is Carl's Jr., where your most Wendy's-like option would be to buy a charbroiled chicken club sandwich since it's the only one of the chain's chicken sandwiches to come with bacon. Okay, so the cheese is Swiss and not pepper jack, but these fast-food cheese slices all taste alike anyway. Top the sandwich with a few of Carl's Jr.'s cheddar-filled jalapeño popper bites and your sandwich, if not identical, will still be in the ballpark. At Church's, the spicy chicken sandwich comes with a jalapeño, but there's no bacon or cheese. You can, however, order a side of jalapeño cheese bombers to add to your sandwich.

Yet another out-of-the-tank option, but one well-suited for Lenten Fridays, is to go pescetarian with a make-it-yourself fish popper sandwich from Captain D's. While the chain has no chicken on the menu, it does feature jalapeño poppers that can be used to dress up any of its fishwiches.

It's possible to buy frozen chicken popper burgers

The quickest, easiest, all-in-one solution to filling the empty spot inside you that was once occupied by Wendy's jalapeño chicken popper sandwiches, is simply to order a box of frozen popper-flavored patties online. Isn't the internet wonderful? 30+ years of being able to find anything, anywhere, at any time never gets old (which is more than we can say for those of us who grew up in the pre-internet era).

Anyway, enough gushing about the marvels of technology; let's talk chicken. This product is made by a company called Gianni's and priced at $13.99 (plus tax and shipping, of course) for a box of 4-ounce patties, although bulk discounts are available. The photos on the website show the patties all decked out with cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, but even unadorned, they should still be pretty flavorful as the ingredients list includes both cheddar and cream cheeses along with fresh jalapeños. At present there's but a single verified buyer review on the website, but it's a five-star one where the popper patties are described as "fantastic" as well as having "a bit of a kick."

You can make our DIY version

Of course, we have a copycat Wendy's jalapeño popper sandwich recipe courtesy of Mashed developer Angela Latimer. Sure, it's a bit more labor-intensive than most of these other options, but it will likely cost quite a bit less and also won't require a passport.

Latimer starts her sandwich-making by breading and frying her own chicken breast, you could always cut quite a bit of time and effort out of the process by swapping the fresh-fried chicken for a frozen patty. Most of the flavor, after all, lies in the toppings, and Latimer (like Wendy's) doesn't stint on these. Once the chicken is cooked, you'll plop it atop a bun, then smother it with cream cheese, pickled jalapeños, bacon strips, pepper jack, and Cheez Wiz. Latimer also adds one thing that Wendy's didn't, that being chopped red bell pepper. You may feel free to leave this ingredient out, though, if you'd prefer to have a copycat creation that more closely duplicates the original sandwich.