Genius KFC hacks you wish you'd known sooner

Ever since Colonel Harland Sanders started frying chicken in a pressure cooker 1939, Kentucky Fried Chicken has kept its offerings pretty finger lickin' simple. Aside from the namesake chicken breaded with those 11 (formerly) secret herbs and spices, and stalwart sidekicks such as mashed potatoes and coleslaw, there have been few radical changes to the core KFC menu. Sure, there's been the odd upheaval — most recently the 2020 jettisoning of potato wedges in favor of fries — but overall KFC's menu has remained compact and focused. This means that if you're looking to hack it, you're going to have to think outside the (snack) box.

Fortunately, there's a deep bucket of inspiration to draw upon. KFC is currently present in 145 countries around the world, each with their own exotic and inspired riffs upon Kentucky Fried classics (such as Malaysia's Cheezilla), and some of which are gloriously imitable. Meanwhile, in the U.S., aside from regional and secret menu offerings, in recent years KFC has mastered the art of the limited-time-only special menu item. Dissed by some as mere "stunt food," some of these over-the-top but undeniably creative concoctions — we're talking chicken Cheetos sandwiches — have attracted cult status and are crying out to be hacked.

With all this (mostly fried) food for thought, here without further ado are some genius KFC hacks you wish you'd known sooner:

Strip your drumstick and dip

Back in 2018, KFC asked its Facebook followers to divulge their secret menu hacks. Out of 177 replies, the most original by far was that of Jessica Cole, who shared a hack she described as "mind-blowing!"

Facebook user Jessica Cole's brave and ballsy KFC hack involves ordering any version of KFC chicken in which drumsticks are involved, along with fries, mashed potatoes, and gravy. If this sounds pretty humdrum, just wait until you hear what Jessica recommends you do next (which is where it pays to be confident).

Grab the drumstick at the stick end and proceed to peel off the finger-lickin' skin. (In Indonesia, where crispy fried skins are actually on the menu, this step is dispensable.) Then take that crispy coating and wrap it tightly around a fistful of Secret Recipe fries. Use your free hand to douse the mashed potatoes with gravy and then send your fistful of skin-wrapped fries plunging into that mashed gravy goodness.

On Facebook, KFC for one was visibly impressed with Jessica's moxie, declaring: "Now that's a hack, Jessica."

Go for the gizzards

While lots of people have heard of gizzards, not too many have tried them. For the uninitiated, a gizzard is a muscle in a chicken's digestive tract. You've undoubtedly watched (and wondered at) chickens pecking around in the dirt. During all that pecking, they swallow some of the grit and gravel, which travels through their digestive tract and ends up in the gizzard. When it's feeding time, this powerful muscle contracts like a fist, squeezing the gravel, which then grinds up food before it heads to the stomach.

Aside from this ingenious digestive function, gizzards are actually rumored to taste pretty divine. Aficionados describe the flavor as similar to a morsel of rich, dark, chicken meat, which when cooked becomes succulent. Gizzards are also one of the most nutritious parts of a chicken. Teeming with protein, they contain abundant amounts of iron, phosphorus, and zinc (that said, they're also high in cholesterol).

Now that you know the truth about gizzards, you'll want to order some. Thankfully, some regional KFCs actually offer them, particularly in the Southeast U.S, where fried gizzards are a beloved Southern delicacy. In fact, after gizzards (and livers) were discontinued from many locations in the late aughts, a wave of discontent led to the creation of the Return Livers, Gizzards to KFC's Menu Facebook page. Ultimately the campaign proved so successful that KFC brought gizzards back to select locations.

Resuscitate the KFC Double Down

When KFC unleashed the Double Down back in 2010, it was as if a bomb had gone off. The bunless sandwich — in which bacon, sliced cheese, and the Colonel's Special Sauce sat between two fried chicken filets posing as bread — provoked massive controversy (and maybe a few coronaries). Food critics such as The New York Times' Sam Sifton declared it to be "a disgusting meal, a must-to avoid." Nutritionists also jumped on the bandwagon as did celebrity statistician Nate Silver who did the math to see whether the Double Down was the unhealthiest sandwich ever. Even comedian Stephen Colbert weighed in, referring to the "deep-fried madness" as "the warped creation of a syphilitic brain."

Calories and carbs aside, the Double Down was a hit. In just over a month over 10 million units were sold, causing KFC to extend the limited-edition lifetime of the breadless sandwich. Although the Double Down has since disappeared from KFC menus, the essential components are available individually with the exception of the Colonel's sauce, a hybrid mayo-ketchup condiment. Most hackers are content to revive the original Double Down in all its greasy glory. However, particularly innovative (and gluttonous) customers have gone even further, creating the likes of the Mac & Cheese Double Down, and the Triple Down (achieved by adding a third layer of fried chicken along with extra bacon and cheese). Feeling guilty about all the grease? Just swap the fried chicken for grilled.

Jolt your KFC with some Taco Bell heat

You may or may not know that KFC and Taco Bell are fast food siblings (along with Pizza Hut), whose parent company is Yum! Brands. Like any sibs, there's a bit of rivalry between the two, but also a lot of closeness. In many cases, the proximity between the two is physical; numerous KFC and Taco Bell locations literally share space — not to mention costs and utilities — under the same roof.

While such cohabitation adds benefits to Yum!'s bottom line, it also offers advantages to indecisive diners who might otherwise have a difficult time choosing between Kentucky Fried goodness and Mexican hotness. Then again, why limit yourself to one when you can hack the best of both?

Thrillist has a couple of spicy suggestions, including Nacho Cheese Fries. Start by ordering your fries at KFC and then head over to Taco Bell for a side order of cheese sauce to pour on top of them. Before digging in, bathe the proceedings in all different temperatures of hot sauce from the condiment bar. To turn up the heat even further, consider concocting a Hot Chicken Mexican Pizza. This hack begins at Taco Bell with an order of Mexican pizza (hold the seasoned beef). Then traipse over to KFC for an order of spicy Nashville hot chicken tenders and a side of corn. Arrange the KFC fixings on top of the pizza and enjoy your hybrid hack.

Make your own KFC poutine

Ahh poutine. How to explain the glory of hot crispy fries and melted cheese curds, doused in beef-infused gravy? A culinary accident dating back to rural Quebec in the 1950s, poutine (which in Quebecois slang means "a mess") has grown into one of Canada's favorite iconic foods. It even beat out maple syrup (!) in a recent survey by Maclean's magazine.

These days the dish is such a mainstay that no fast food restaurant competing in the Canadian market would dare to offer a poutine-free menu. Burger King kicked off the trend in the late 1980s and McDonald's and KFC wisely followed suit. Tragically, although KFC recently introduced fries at its American locations, cheese curds can only be found at KFCs north of the 49th parallel. 

Happily, there's no need to head across the border when you can make what's known as "Sanders poutine". While you're covered in terms of the fries and gravy, you have several cheesy options. It's likely that your KFC will have some cheese slices kicking around. Plead with your server for a couple, then tear them into bite-sized pieces and scatter them on your fries before pouring on the gravy.  You may also want to consider lathering your fries with a side order of mac and cheese. Finally, if your KFC happens to be joined at the hip to a Taco Bell, make the trek next door and request a side of cheese sauce to complete the holy poutine trinity.

Mash it up with mashed potatoes

Even though KFC is legendary for its chicken, its old-school mashed potatoes have an incredibly loyal following. A testament to the love is the number of copycat recipes in existence, including one from a devoted (but deceitful) Long Island mom who had a long history of passing off KFC mashed potatoes as her own because her son swore they were the best "in the world."

Although mashed potatoes are a classic side dish, they also work fantastically well as a rich and creamy condiment. In other cultures and moments in time, the mashed potato sandwich has been a prominent source of nutrition and comfort. During World War II, the mashed potato sandwich spread (along with potato salad, potato soup, potato pudding, and potato scones) was a life-sustaining staple in Britain. And to this day, aloo (potato) sandwiches are a popular mainstay in India.

When you reinforce any KFC chicken sandwich with a generous smear of mashed potatoes, you're creating a fusion of creamy and crispy, while adding a whole extra layer of deliciousness. Even though KFC doesn't advertise mashed potatoes as a topping, according to Thrillist, most servers are more than willing to add a scoop of mashed goodness to your meal.

Upgrade your KFC biscuit to a slider

White Castle may have invented the slider with their tiny steamed burgers, loaded up diced onions, but these days a slider is basically any edible substance that's topped with condiments and wedged between two tiny buns. 

Some people with lax criteria and/or fertile imaginations claim that KFC's Chicken Littles Sandwich is a slider. However, as Serious Eats points out, while KFC's original, square-shaped Chicken Little — which vanished in the early 1980's — could have passed for a slider "if you were the sort of person who calls small sandwiches sliders," the present-day version, reintroduced in 2012, is little more than a Crispy Strip on a long bun with some pickle chips and a dollop of mayo.  

So if you head to KFC with sliders on the brain, you'll need to get creative. According to BuzzFeed, a favorite KFC hack in Australia is a fancy slider made by slicing a roll in half and then piling it with shredded pieces of Original Recipe chicken, coleslaw, and any sauce your heart desires. Since America's KFCs are bereft of rolls, we recommend going the biscuit route — KFC biscuit sliders actually exist in Bermuda of all places — which has the advantage of warding off any potential sogginess created by slaw seepage.

Meet your (moist) maker KFC style

In recent decades, American pop culture has given rise only a handful of iconic sandwiches. Among the favored (flavored?) few is the Moist Maker.

The alliterative sandwich made its televised debut on Season 5, Episode 9 of the series Friends. Fresh off his second divorce and evicted from his apartment, Ross is feeling pretty low. Things get worse when his boss demolishes the Thanksgiving leftover sandwich his sister Monica made for him, whose pièce de résistance is a gravy-soaked piece of bread in the middle that Ross refers to as the "moist maker". Before indulging in an epic, sitcom meltdown, he whines that the sandwich is "the only good thing going on" in his life.

As Friends went into reruns and syndication, Ross's sandwich went viral as fans tried to recreate the "Moist Maker". Even KFC got in on the act. In 2017, it released a video on how to hack Ross's sandwich.

Order a Crispy Colonel sandwich, a Chicken Littles sandwich, and some gravy. Take the top bun off the Crispy Colonel sandwich and cover the chicken with a layer of gravy. On top place the top bun from the Chicken Littles sandwich and more gravy (this is Monica's "moist maker"). Add the smaller piece of chicken and still more gravy before crowning with the Crispy Colonel sandwich's top bun. Take comfort in the fact that at least one good thing is going on in your life.

Concoct a KFClub sandwich

KFC isn't known for anything bacon. However as SecretMenus points out, the bacon is actually there, out-of-sight, but crispy and available, just waiting to be ordered by a pork-addicted customer in-the-know. All you have to do is ask (and pay) for it (prices vary according to locations).

Armed with these strips of salty-smokiness, you can add a whole other flavor/texture dimension to any item on the standard KFC menu. We recommend reproducing a version of what chicken and bacon do best together: a club sandwich. This iconic American specialty was supposedly invented at New York's Union Club in 1889 and originally consisted of sliced chicken or turkey along with ham. When the first recorded Club-House Sandwich recipe was published in 1894, bacon was already being suggested as an alternative to broiled ham, with lettuce, a pickle, and mayo adding essential color, moisture, and zest.

It's pretty easy to concoct a KFClub sandwich using any of the restaurant's chicken sandwiches. Along with the essential bacon, add a side of cole slaw as an alternative to the classic condiment triumvirate of lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. Then pig out to your heart's content.

Donut you want a sandwich?

As the world gets crazier by the minute, KFC has done a great job keeping up. Having finally gotten around in 2018 to experimenting with the traditional soul food/hipster brunch combo of chicken and waffles, in the spring of 2020, KFC went further down the rabbit hole (donut hole?) when it unleashed a fried chicken and donut sandwich.

Baked off-site, the "glazed to order" donuts were fried and doused with vanilla icing before serving as the circular top and bottom to a filling of Extra Crispy fried chicken. Although the limited-time creation ended in mid-March, the fact that KFC invested in all that donut equipment seemingly leaves the door open for a return. Meanwhile, if you missed out, just copy this pair of DIY hackers in Japan who picked up a box of donuts (in the middle of a typhoon!) and constructed a makeshift chicken donut sandwich in the cozy comfort of their car.

For those whose tastes skew more salty than sweet, consider hacking another surreal sandwich pairing from 2019: the KFC Cheetos Sandwich. This crunchy concoction featured a chicken filet topped with mayo, an intensely orange Cheetos sauce, and a generous layer of Cheetos. Hacking this sandwich is a cinch. Just do the prep work of showing up at KFC armed with a bag of Cheetos. While there's no substitute for the Cheetos sauce, you can (over)compensate by ordering a Crispy Colonel Sandwich to up the crunch factor.

Put those giant KFC buckets to good use

KFC recently ignited a small but starchy revolution when it introduced French fries to KFCs nationwide. As of June 2020, potato wedges are out and Secret Recipe Fries are in. Wedge lovers are up in arms; there's even a petition on Change.org to save the iconic potato chunks from extinction. However, it was always weird that while KFCs around the world served fries, they never graced a KFC menu in the country whose population consumes 30 pounds of fries a year.

With this error rectified, it's time to focus on fry hacks such as this one from the Philippines where customers can order a bucket of fries! Although supersized fries are strictly off the menu in America, supposedly you can tell your server that you want a regular bucket — with fries instead of chicken. Since KFC's eager for their fries to supplant lingering vestiges of wedginess, you'll likely be successful.

Speaking of supersizing, another ingenious KFC bucket hack you shouldn't try, but can nonetheless admire, involves filling a bucket with pop. In 2018, "Soda Bucket Man" (as he was baptized by Vice), garnered Internet hero status when a tweeted photo of him filling up a KFC bucket from a soda fountain went viral. While noting the bucketed outlaw was flouting restaurant policy, KFC took the hack in stride. "Colonel Sanders once said, 'There are few problems a bucket of chicken can't solve.' We just hope he took the chicken out first."

Finger lickin' KFC fun in the sun

One of the most innovative KFC menu hacks you can imagine isn't so much edible as it is lickable. Back in 2016, KFC came up with the stuntiest of all stunts when it released a limited edition KFC Extra Crispy Sunscreen. Conceived with the Colonel's secret recipe, users who slathered it on not only received SPF 30 sun protection, but also ended up giving off the appetizing scent of fried chicken, a sensation that increased exponentially when frying in the sun (and taking on the hue of a well-fried KFC chicken).

Despite popular acclaim for the sunscreen — some 3,000 free tubes advertised by KFC's were snapped up within two hours — KFC ultimately decided not to market the product. However, there's no reason why you can't reproduce it yourself. Simply order a multi-piece snack box or bucket of Extra Crispy chicken (hold the napkins), and then head to the nearest beach, park, or patio. Strip down to your bathing suit and begin eating your chicken, rubbing the grease into your skin until it glows. Keep in mind that since no SPF is involved, using actual sunscreen also is a good idea. Stay too long in the sun and you're going to fry way beyond Extra Crispy. On the upside, while KFC's Sunscreen was emphatically not a food product, this hack is tantalizingly comestible and may help attract a potential date (or a hungry dog).