Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets: What To Know Before Ordering

For many Wendy's fans, the chain's crown jewel is not its burgers, but rather, its spicy chicken nuggets. First introduced in 2009 as a limited-market offering, the spicy chicken nuggets quickly became a standout item, joining the menu everywhere the following year. Like the Spicy Chicken sandwich, they were a spice-lover's dream: peppery, zesty, and delicious. But unlike the sandwich, the nuggs packed this blend of heat into bite-sized, shareable morsels.  

It makes sense then, that in 2017, Wendy's fans everywhere were devastated when the chain abruptly removed them from menus, citing a lack of popularity. But as with any food with a major cult following, fans weren't going to let this go down without a fight. And so, following a viral tweet from musician Chance the Rapper in May 2019 attempting to manifest the fiery nuggets' return, Wendy's launched a campaign that challenged followers to show them exactly how much they wanted the beloved snack food back. Two days and 2.1 million likes later, the power of the people prevailed, and the chain announced on Twitter that they would definitely bring the iconic fast food back. By August 2019, Wendy's delivered on that promise, as spicy nuggets made their grand return to locations across the US.

Whether you've been ordering them for the past decade or yet to try them at all, you can't deny that Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets are an iconic fast food. Here's everything you need to know.

How does Wendy's make its spicy chicken nuggets?

'Spicy' is often a relative term, and when chicken nuggets are concerned, it invites one important question: Where is the heat? Is it on the side in a sauce? The breading? Or perhaps somewhere else entirely? Well, with Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets, it's the latter. Wendy's website describes them as "100% white meat chicken breaded and marinated in our unique, fiery blend of peppers and spices." In other words, nope, you can't order them mild or medium. 

Interestingly, despite the word "peppers" appearing in the named description, there are no specific chili peppers of any kind listed under ingredients. In fact, the only named seasonings are salt, celery seed extractives, and paprika, the latter of which likely gives the nuggets their signature reddish hue and a bit of a kick. Otherwise, the jury's still out on those other "spices" are.

And as for the details on how these nuggets are made, we can assume they're prepared the same as the chain's regular nuggets: in the deep fryer. Wendy's discloses that they cook all their nuggets in a blend of soybean oil and vegetable oil that may contain traces of corn, canola, and cottonseed oil, so they may not be the best option for those with certain food allergies. 

How do they taste?

A fast food item that earns enough hype to spark a mass celebrity-led petition and nearly 2 million likes on Twitter surely doesn't have its popularity up for debate. But some people may be wondering how much of it is just hype.

Wendy's certainly isn't the only place to offer hot chicken, and with McDonald's now selling a hot version of its McNuggets, they're no longer the only place to sell spicy nuggets, either. So what is it that makes these nuggets so special? According to reviewers, it's the level of heat. "Once the flavor of cayenne and the pepper subsides, you're left with a lingering burn that activates your tastebuds," writes Dane Rivera on UpRoxxInsider agrees, writing "the chicken is moist without sacrificing the outer crunch of the thicker breading layer."

But while many agree Wendy's spicy nuggets deliver on heat, not everyone is impressed with their overall flavor. In one Reddit thread, one user expressed they didn't understand the hype, describing their taste as "like very salty regular nuggets that burn your mouth after." 

Still, despite the criticism, Wendy's spicy nuggets are indeed, very well-liked. Or at the very least, people generally prefer them to McDonald's.

Some people think Wendy's changed the recipe

While Wendy's fans everywhere have been counting their lucky stars since spicy nuggets rejoined the menu, some folks suspect that the recipe may have been tweaked. In a Reddit thread, one user wrote that after the 2020 relaunch, the spicy nuggets are "not nearly as good as they used to be." One commenter wrote the current nuggets taste as if they derive their spice from a traditional buffalo flavor, while the previous versions had more of peppery seasoning. Others agreed, and pointed out that the current nuggets have a bold red tint, while the original spicy nuggets from before the hiatus did not.

Whether or not any of this is true remains unknown. When the spicy nuggets made their grand return in 2020, Wendy's didn't announce any changes to the recipe, nor did they use any phrases like "new and improved recipe" in their advertising. In fact, the only actual change was the addition of a new spicy ghost pepper dipping sauce (via Wendy's).

But for what it's worth, Redditors weren't the only ones to notice a difference to their favorite chicken snack. In fact, in 2020 the very person who helped bring back the spicy nuggets to menus, Chance The Rapper, tweeted "THEM NUGGETS EXTRA SPICY NOW." Considering he followed up with several laughing emojis, we don't think he meant that as a bad thing!

How much do the spicy chicken nuggets cost?

It's fair to assume part of what has made the spicy nuggets so appealing is their price point. When they first launched in 2010, television commercials for Wendy's in the US advertised a 5-piece spicy nugget for just 99 cents (via YouTube). Sadly, back in 2013 Wendy's downsized this deal to a 4-piece (via CBS News), but for the most part, the cult favorite food has remained relatively affordable.

So how much can you expect to pay your spicy nuggs today? It depends on where you live. Currently, they're available in a 4, 6, and 10-piece size. Based on the prices at a Los Angeles Wendy's location on 7135 Sunset Blvd, a 4-piece order will only set you back $1.49 cents, while a 6-piece costs $2.19. Regardless of the size, each order of spicy nuggets comes with one dipping sauce of your choice free of charge. If you want more, it'll cost you.

Those who are hungry enough for a 10-piece may want to opt for the combo, because the price of the 10-piece a la carte at the same location costs $5.19, which more than three times the price of the 6-piece for only four more nuggets. Meanwhile, the 10-piece combo with fries and a drink costs just 30 cents more at $5.49. We think the math speaks for itself there!

Nutritional information

Although the orange color of these nuggets might remind some folks of sodium-packed junk food like Cheetos, the truth is they're not that different nutritionally from the chain's regular nuggets. Per Wendy's website, a 4-piece order contains 190 calories, 480 milligrams of sodium, and 12 grams of fat. Compare that to a 4-piece of the original nuggets, which clock in at 180 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 380 grams of sodium, before sauce, and you might as well go for the spicy ones if you're craving some heat.

However, we still would hesitate to call the spicy nuggets a "healthy" option. One glance at the nutrition info reveals a few eyebrow-raising ingredients — sodium phosphate, an additive that's been linked to kidney disease, as well as hydrogenated oils, which can raise bad cholesterol. Even worse, some research into Wendy's food products has revealed the nuggets might not be made of 100% chicken, which is a bit of a bummer considering their claim to fame is using fresh food.

Still, despite the questionable amount of real poultry in them, the nuggets aren't totally empty calories. A six-piece order gets you 15 grams of protein, which isn't bad considering Healthline notes most adults need between 46 and 56 grams per day. Maybe just don't make spicy nuggets an everyday thing if you want to watch your sodium intake.

How long will the spicy nuggets be around?

We know. It's hard to imagine going back to a world without Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets after fighting so hard to bring them back.

But truth is the chain hasn't been clear on how long they're sticking around this time. The verbiage on their website specifically states the spicy nuggets are back for a limited time only.

Of course, some of this may just be marketing. So far, it's been two years since the nuggets came back, which means the chain recognizes the demand. It's reflected in the numbers, too — in 2019, Restaurant Business Online reported that Wendy's decision to bring back the beloved snack stimulated sales nationwide to the highest they had been in nearly four years.

But even if popularity isn't enough to keep them around for a long time, surely, some competition is. In August of 2020, after McDonald's announced it was adding a hot version of McNuggets to its menu, the Wendy's Twitter account savagely mocked the golden arch chain's attempt at trying to compete with their spicy nuggets (via Twitter). So there's hope that as long as there's a title to defend, spicy nuggets will be at the ready. As Wendy's once tweeted, "There's only one top dog in the spicy nugget game, and that's verified."

How to make your own spicy chicken nuggets

Since we can't be totally certain whether or not Wendy's will keep the spicy nuggets for good this time, it's probably a good idea to learn how to make them on your own. Not only will this save you money in the long run, it'll also give you to the freedom to adjust the spice and salt level to your liking. Plus, if you're not too happy about how the most recent Wendy's spicy nuggets taste, but still craving some good hot chicken nuggets, one of the options available online might do the trick. Taste of Home's spicy nugget recipe derives its heat from ground chipotle peppers, while MyRecipes uses a combination of paprika, garlic, and chili powder.

But, if your heart is set on recreating Wendy's specific spicy nuggets at home, YouTuber Joshua Weissman offers a video demonstration showing how perfectly replicate them, down to the flavor and texture. Weissman even specifies in the video that a crispier nugget can be achieved with panko, but if you want something that tastes authentically close to what they're serving at Wendy's, stick with a classic buttermilk and flour dredge. Whatever you do, don't forget the dipping sauce!