The Truth About Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's brings different things to mind for people, depending on who you ask. For some, Wendy's burgers, with their signature square patties, define the chain. For others, it's the frosty, arguably made for dipping salty fries into. Maybe the baked potato and chili, things you don't really find at any other fast food chain, are what stands out the most. And for many, it's Wendy's chicken that immediately comes to mind, be it the classic nuggets, or the ever popular spicy chicken sandwich. Of course, if you're one for keeping up with trends, you're probably leaning towards the latter. 

Now, you may think Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is just another attempt by a fast food chain (and a burger chain at that) to capture the public's short attention and dominate a passing fad. But there's actually a lot more to the sandwich than that, and the facts may just surprise you. Mashed did all the digging on this spicy crowd pleaser. Here's the truth about Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich.

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is older than you might think

While it may seem like we've all been sampling, ranking, and debating chicken sandwiches forever, our current obsession is actually pretty new. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, the chicken sandwich wars only really started in 2019, as hard as that is to believe (to be fair, 2020 felt like a whole decade on its own). So you might think that Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is a relatively newer offering, but you'd be very wrong. Wendy's has been making chicken sandwiches — and their spicy counterparts — well before they were cool: Wendy's introduced it's spicy chicken sandwich as a new menu staple way back in 1996

Since then, so many other items have come and gone from the Wendy's menu, from boneless wings to Twisted Frostys to deli sandwiches — and let's not forget that brief time when they were covering everything in Wendy's queso. Through it all, the spicy chicken sandwich remained, and fans still love it today.

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich started out as a limited time offering

Like so many of our favorite fast food staples, Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich started out as a limited time menu offering. It's a strategy that allows a restaurant to try new things without too much investment if they don't work out. It's also a great marketing trick to get consumers rushing to get their hands on a product that could sell out fast (via QSR). In this case, Wendy's wanted to test the waters and see if the public had an appetite for a done up chicken sandwich from a chain known for all things beef and potatoes.

Turns out, they most certainly did. Soon after Wendy's tested the sandwich in 1995, the chain says customers demanded it become a permanent menu item; by September 1996, their demands had been met. Perhaps it was inevitable. From the very start, Wendy's advertised the spicy chicken sandwich as an object of "burning desire." And as Wendy's vice president of brand marketing puts it, "once people taste Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich, they fall under its hot and spicy spell."

You could argue the spicy chicken sandwich wars started with Wendy's

These days, spicy chicken sandwiches are basically a dime a dozen at fast food chains. From Popeye's to McDonald's, Chick-fil-A to Burger King, it seems that everyone has taken up arms in the spicy chicken sandwich wars. Even Taco Bell has its own iteration of a spicy chicken sandwich (via Today). And the fierce opinions over which sandwich reigns supreme are just as vast as the range of options one has to choose from.

Some would say the tidal wave of competing spicy chicken sandwiches all started with Popeyes. And while it may be true that Popeyes' sandwich set the internet on fire, so to speak, it's worth noting that we might not even be having the debate at all if it weren't for Wendy's. Decades ago, well before chicken sandwiches were ubiquitous among quick service restaurants and national debates on Twitter were a thing, Wendy's was starting a new trend without even realizing it. The chain claims it was actually the first major fast food restaurant to introduce a spicy chicken sandwich on its menu, and customers fell in love fast. In fact, Wendy's boldly declares that it's spicy chicken sandwich has made it "one of the undisputed leaders in spicy chicken."

Sadly for Wendy's, the chain has arguably been outdone by some of its competitors on the spicy chicken sandwich front. But it seems only fair to give credit where credit is due.

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is the best-selling chicken sandwich on the menu

When you pull up to the Wendy's drive-thru, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. Even if you're just in the mood for a chicken sandwich, you've still got 14 different choices on Wendy's current menu. You've got your original fried chicken sandwich along with a healthier grilled version. Then there's the more unique options like the Asiago Ranch Chicken Club or the Crispy Chicken BLT, newer creations like the Pretzel Bacon Pub Chicken sandwich or the Jalapeño Popper Chicken sandwich, and more. It can be overwhelming. 

But at the end of the day, most customers are going for the ever popular spicy chicken sandwich. It's been on the menu longer than almost every other sandwich, and it's the fan favorite among customers, according to Wendy's. In a press release, the company's vice president of brand marketing declared that "this original classic has long been Wendy's top selling chicken sandwich."

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is made with a special blend of seasoning, among other ingredients

Every fast food chain serving up a spicy chicken sandwich has its own tried and tested concoction of spices and ingredients to achieve their signature taste and texture — and Wendy's is no exception. The chain claims that its chicken breast is coated in a special blend of spices, which include black pepper, chili pepper, and mustard seed.

A quick peek at Wendy's ingredients list, which can be found on the chain's website, provides even more insight into how this sandwich is made. There are also hints of celery seed, paprika, and turmeric in the chicken breast itself. And it's worth noting that the breading and the bun contains artificial additives in the form of phosphates.

While the chicken may contain a laundry list of ingredients, the sandwich itself is pretty simple, served only with lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is not exactly diet-friendly

A spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's is very likely to satisfy your craving for a delicious, savory sandwich, but it's probably not going to cut it if you're focused on eating healthy. Let's break down the numbers. Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is 500 calories by itself. Make it a meal with fries and a drink, and you're looking at anywhere from 770 to more than 1,000 calories.

However, it's not just the calories you should be wary of; the sandwich is also packed with a whopping 19 grams of fat, 51 grams of carbs, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, and nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium. That's almost half the amount of sodium that experts recommend adults consume in a whole day, per the FDA.

We're not telling you not to enjoy that spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's. Go ahead and savor the fries and soda, too. Just be aware of what you're consuming.

The public has mixed feelings about Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich

Just because Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is the oldest one on the market doesn't necessarily mean it's the best, depending on who you ask. The public's feelings about this spicy sandwich are mixed.

The taste testers at Insider called Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich "a fuddy-duddy of a chicken sandwich" that was "soggy and sad" with dry chicken and way too much mayo. One Wendy's lover on Reddit called the sandwich "just okay" and agreed that "the amount of mayo is excessive" to the point that it made the sandwich "difficult to eat."

But there are still plenty who count Wendy's as their go-to spicy chicken sandwich, reports Mic. Plenty of Redditors agree, saying they prefer Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich to the cult favorite that is Chick-fil-A. Maybe it's the flavor, or maybe it comes down to the nostalgia factor; one fan noted that Wendy's sandwich has "been a favorite of mine since I was a kid," adding that "it's not overly hot, and it has great flavor in addition to the heat that is there." Another said "Wendy's introduced me to spicy chicken sandwiches and I still love theirs."

Some speculate that Wendy's has changed its spicy chicken sandwich, and not for the better

It might be hard to believe in the world of fast food, but Wendy's 25-year-old spicy chicken sandwich has seemingly been made with the same recipe since it was first introduced. Wendy's has never officially announced any changes to their original spicy chicken sandwich, but that doesn't mean that fans aren't still speculating that something is different — and it's not a good thing. 

One disappointed Wendy's fan on Reddit asked "What happened to the Spicy Chicken Sandwich?" They claim that it "was once my favorite chicken sandwich in all fast food" but now "the chicken has become bland, and very flat." They aren't alone in their misery. Another poster said "The Spicy Chicken Sandwich is my go-to, but over the past year or so it seems to have become consistently thinner." There were several other Redditors who agreed that the spicy chicken sandwich was smaller or thinner than it used to be in the past. And one angry Wendy's fan went so far as to declare the "death of the spicy chicken sandwich," claiming Wendy's sandwich isn't as spicy as it used to be, and "now it's pathetic."

It's not to be confused with Wendy's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

If you're looking to get your spicy chicken sandwich fix at Wendy's, you now have more than one option to choose from. Along with Wendy's classic spicy chicken sandwich, which you can order by itself or as a combo meal, there's also a second spicy sandwich available on the value menu. Wendy's introduced the new Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich in August of 2020 (via QSR). The new sandwich is available as part of Wendy's much loved 4 for $4 value deal, which lets customers create their own mix-and-match meal by pairing an entrée — a Jr. Cheeseburger, Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, or chicken sandwich — with a 4-piece chicken nugget, a small order of fries, and a 16-ounce drink.

The biggest difference between the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and Wendy's original spicy chicken sandwich seems to be that the patty on the new sandwich is thinner, and has the consistency of a large, flat chicken nugget, rather than a breaded piece of chicken breast (via The Washington Post). Furthermore, the crispy sandwich is served sans tomato. It may not be the most exciting spicy sandwich you've ever laid eyes on, but for just four bucks for a whole meal, it'll get the job done.

You can get an upgraded version of your spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy's

Sometimes you don't need anything more than the classic to satisfy your spicy chicken sandwich craving, but at Wendy's you have options anyway if you feel like spicing things up even more. Wendy's is known for frequently rolling out creative, sometimes over-the-top menu items, many of which only last for a limited time (via QSR). And that includes plenty of spicy chicken sandwich innovations.

For example, for a while Wendy's offered a Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which included the same spicy chicken breast customers know and love, all done up with fresh jalapeños, spicy pepper jack cheese, a jalapeño bun, and ghost pepper sauce. These days, you can order an upgraded version of the spicy chicken sandwich in the form of a Spicy Jalapeño Popper Sandwich, a Spicy Pretzel Bacon Pub Sandwich, and a Spicy Asiago Ranch Club.

And of course, you can always just get creative and doctor up your sandwich on your own — maybe by adding some of Wendy's chili on top?

You can also look out for deals on Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich

Because fans love Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich so much, the chain likes to use it as bait to get more customers lining up. That means you will frequently find meal deals and promos for the spicy chicken sandwich. For example, last summer Wendy's offered free spicy chicken sandwiches to anyone who made a purchase through the company's mobile app (via Thrillist). And back in 2019, Wendy's announced it was passing out free sandwiches just for downloading the app, no purchase necessary. 

There's also the come-and-go 2 for $5 deal at Wendy's, which lets customers choose two entrées for just five bucks. When it's available, the options include a spicy chicken sandwich, a classic chicken sandwich, a 10-piece nugget, or a Dave's Single. And it's worth noting there's nothing that says you can't just get two spicy sandwiches for $5. So keep your eyes peeled and your appetite ready.

Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich is now a Pringles flavor

If you're craving a spicy chicken sandwich, but can't make it to the Wendy's drive-thru, you're in luck: Now you can satisfy your craving in the snack aisle at your local supermarket, for a limited time at least. Wendy's and Pringles have teamed up to offer spicy chicken flavored chips, giving the spicy chicken sandwich wars a crunchy new twist. The new Pringles flavor is said to pack "the savory taste of Wendy's spicy fried chicken into one perfectly crunchy and extremely convenient bite that satisfies the spicy thrill consumers can't get enough of." We don't know how they do it, but we're certainly not complaining. 

And it's worth noting that you might want to hit the drive-thru afterwards anyways. Each can of the limited-edition Pringles includes a special code that will get you a free spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy's when you order through their mobile app.