We Tried Wendy's New Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich to See if It's Any Good

The new spicy sandwich isn't bad, but it's not exciting either.

wendy's jalapeno popper chicken sandwich
Photo courtesy of Wendy's
Photo courtesy of Wendy's

It feels like we have been living in a perpetual season of new chicken sandwich releases since the Popeyes sandwich landed. There's always a new one, and they're all trying to find the slight tweak that will make it reach the viral summit that Popeyes hit. One of the latest entries into the world of chicken and bread is the Wendy's Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich

On paper, there's a lot going on in this sandwich with its pickled jalapeños, jalapeño cream cheese, and cheddar cheese sauce. It sounds like a flavor explosion, which is basically how Wendy's hyperbolically describes the sandwich in its announcement. "This sandwich is embedded from top to bottom with powerful new tastebud enactors—meaning it’s really, really good," it reads. 

Is it "really, really good" as Wendy's claims?

It's really just fine. There's an attempt here to do something a little different, but we're really in well-trod territory as far as the final product is concerned. It's the same old Wendy's chicken, which is a little funny considering its claims of "powerful new tastebud enactors."

You can get the chicken in three varieties: spicy, classic, or grilled. I went with spicy because that seems like the obvious thing to do here. Still, it's not a new recipe. So, if you didn't like the chain's spicy chicken before, you're not going to uncover new ground here, even if the sandwich is a new construction with some new ingredients.

Inside, you're going to find the previously mentioned six slices of pickled jalapeños, as well as jalapeño cream cheese, some bacon (this is Wendy's, after all), and a cheddar cheese sauce. I grabbed one via delivery, and after it was kind of a mess, tried again at a drive-thru window to give it a second chance. I didn't find much difference between them. The delivery was a little more put together, but the difference was negligible. It doesn't travel particularly well, something that's important right now for obvious reasons.

Wendy's jalapeno popper sandwich taste test
Photo by Dustin Nelson/Thrillist

What is working?

The individual ingredients aren't bad. There's an artificial taste to Wendy's spicy breaded chicken that doesn't drive me away entirely, but pales in comparison to the spicy chicken of competitors that have stepped it up over the last couple of years. The pickled jalapeños have a nice tang and a bit of bite. Tasting the jalapeño cream cheese separated from the sandwich, it's good and seems well-suited to the sandwich.

But altogether, a lot of the flavors get buried. The cheddar cheese sauce hides a lot of the cream cheese flavor and any balance it might bring to the stack of spicy ingredients. The bacon is a bit flaccid and only adds to the salty profile.

I sound negative. The sandwich isn't all that exciting. In fact, it seems almost cynically timed with the release of the long-awaited McDonald's chicken sandwich refresh, as though it's trying to steal a bit of the thunder from the chain's big release without reinventing the wheel. (Who would do that!? Certainly not Taco Bell with a chicken sandwich stunt or Popeyes with a website stunt or Burger King or Zaxby's or...) But, despite my seeming negativity, the sandwich is fine. It isn't a standout, but it's not awful. If you like the Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Wendy's, you'll probably find something to like about this one, its heavier, jalapeño-ier cousin.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.