REVIEW: KFC Chicken Sandwich (2021)

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Wrapper

Here in Kansas City, we don’t get many cool new things.

We got a great—like-once-in-a-lifetime-level-great—quarterback a few years ago, but that was after decades of mistakes, cast-offs, and retreads. We have a few of those places where people throw axes, all paint the same picture, or play golf in a giant net, but we only got them after they’d been elsewhere for years.

So imagine my joy when I learned Kansas City was one of the select cities receiving a sneak-peek of KFC’s new chicken sandwich. We are in, after all, the Golden Age of Chicken Sandwiches, and what better place to unveil a new version of a breaded bird on a bun than the grandfather of fast food fried chicken, KFC.

Then imagine my disappointment when I got my sandwich.

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Whole

KFC describes it as “… (a) quarter-pound, all-white meat, double-breaded, Extra Crispy chicken breast filet… freshly-toasted buttery brioche bun, crispier, thicker pickles, and the perfect amount of the Colonel’s real mayo or spicy sauce.”

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Top

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Split

What I got was a piece of chicken only a smidge bigger than a deck of playing cards. Further disappointingly, it even seemed absent the Colonel’s traditional 11 herbs and spices. I tasted salt and dry, chewy chicken breast. The “double-breading” made no impact whatsoever, though there was plenty of it (sans chicken, mind you). Nor did the pickles, which were limp and thin, much closer to McDonald’s pickles than anything I was expecting.

The brioche bun seemed like it had the potential to be the best part of the sandwich — which, let’s just let that sink in for a moment — but half of the bottom half was stale. How do you get half of a half of a stale bun, you ask? So do I. Let me know if you have an answer. The mayo was tangy and good — quintessentially KFC mayo — but the best mayo in the world couldn’t save this wreck of a sandwich.

Look, I like KFC. I like its original chicken and the Extra Crispy variety. I love its Nashville Hot Chicken tenders. If I could only choose Popeyes or KFC for the rest of my life, I’d have a hard time deciding; it’d be a tossup, honestly. But not when it comes to their signature sandwiches, oh no.

If Popeyes’ sandwich is a Picasso, KFC’s offering is a 3rd grader writing a swear word in the dirt on the back window of his mom’s minivan. This chicken sandwich isn’t even in the same league as Church’s, frankly. It’s seriously weird that KFC is proud of this.

In 2018, KFC unveiled a new chicken sandwich called “The Crispy Colonel.” For the life of me, I cannot figure out how this sandwich differs. In fact, the couple of Crispy Colonel’s I’ve had have been considerably better than whatever this abomination was. Back to the test kitchen, KFC.

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Take 2 Split

Due to the sandwich’s abysmal initial showing, my esteemed editor kindly asked that I try another, you know, to assure that the first one wasn’t an aberration. And the verdict? It wasn’t. While the chicken breast on this one was meatier than the first, it was no juicer or more flavorful. (In fact, the extra size maybe gave it more of a chance to be drier while also amplifying how bland it is.)

KFC Chicken Sandwich 2021 Take 2 PIckles

The pickles still weren’t crispy, and the bun on this one — while fresher — certainly wasn’t “buttery” as the copy proclaims. This sandwich is still a huge disappointment, and you’d do better to stick with Popeyes. Or Chick-fil-A. Or Wendy’s. Or Church’s. Or Sonic. (Hey, I think McDonald’s has a new chicken sandwich coming out soon, too!)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 3 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 650 calories, 35 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1260 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of total sugars, and 34 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Sauce

KFC Sauce Container

What is KFC Sauce

It’s KFC’s new and improved special sauce.

How is it?

KFC Sauce Closeup

Apparently, chicken places are becoming my schtick. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate a crispy chicken tender, so it’s all good. As I mentioned in my last review, there just so happens to be a KFC along my normal route home. When I heard about the new sauce, I was definitely interested, as sauces really make the meal when it comes to chicken-based finger foods.

KFC Sauce on Chicken

Traditionally, I’m a honey mustard type of girl. Something about that perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and subtly spicy just makes me happy. I’ve been known to slather it on everything from burgers to salads. I even got some as back up just in case I wasn’t a fan of the new KFC Signature Sauce and was left with an abundance of tenders to finish unadorned. I am still somewhat surprised to report that it went entirely untouched. The new KFC Sauce is so good that it made me forsake my beloved honey mustard without even realizing it. Yep.

In terms of flavor, it’s reminiscent of barbecue sauce. A little sweet, a little tangy, a little sharp. But it differs distinctly from your standard barbecue sauce in that it’s also creamy.

I think I’ve finally figured out why I love dipping my fries and onion rings in Thousand Island dressing. That creaminess factor just rounds out the flavor profile and adds that subtle silky mouthfeel that you didn’t know what you were missing.

KFC Sauce on Fries

The generous employees at KFC gifted me with two little sauce cups, so I used the other one to test out how well various things went with it. Pretzels, potato chips, and corn chips are all a resounding thumbs up.

In comparison to the previous incarnation of the sauce, it’s literally as if they turned the flavor dial up juuuuust enough. It’s sweeter, it’s tangier, it’s all around kicked up a solid notch.

Anything else you need to know?

The new KFC Signature Sauce replaces KFC’s Finger Lickin’ Good Sauce.

Conclusion:

The new sauce is a total upgrade.

Purchased Price: Included with my chicken tenders combo meal
Size: 1 cup (28g)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28g) 130 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Secret Recipe Fries

KFC Secret Recipe Fries

As I ordered the Secret Recipe Fries from my area Kentucky Fried Chicken, there was a debate going on in the kitchen regarding these new test items: the server, who took my order, declared loudly how much she absolutely adored this new item and couldn’t wait to eat some when she got off her shift, while the guy in the back making them, on the other hand, said in a gruff voice that he liked the potato wedges better and these weren’t “flavorful” enough for him.

Listening to this fierce debate kind of got me pumped to sample this individual-sized order, waiting with small gasps of seasoned breath as I quietly wondered how the kitchen-fresh geniuses in Kentucky gently mixed their famed secret herbs and spices with their not-so-famous French fried potato offerings.

Order up, I sat down at the nearest plastic table and spilled the overflowing box all across the brown bag, the secretive spices and affirmative grease staining the area. Taking a bite out of the plump starch stick, I have to agree with the server on this one; good job, Col. Sanders!

KFC Secret Recipe Fries 2

With that crunchy twice-fried heavy coating that I really enjoy on fries from the local, independent chicken places around town, the secret herbs and spices — seemingly fried right on the potato — are a salty Kentucky song of twangy finesse that is quite comparable to Taco Bell’s recent French fried output, give or take a small hurting of cheese.

The unknown spices that coat the fries are deeply Southern in their affectation — I’m sorry, but even with a detective’s delineation I couldn’t tell you what those spices are or were — but offered a saliferous smile of that famous moderately spicy KFC zing, with a slight bit of down-home sass that is definitely on par with its original recipe style of fried chicken.

KFC Secret Recipe Fries 3

And while I can’t say that it compliments KFC’s chicken per se, I can say that, as a light snack — of which these tubers definitely work best as — it’s a decently delightful soiree of Kentucky fried tastes and French fried goodness, one that should be sampled soon. And if you can bring a cup of nacho cheese from Taco Bell — these are all Yum Brands, right? — all the better.

Editor’s Note: KFC is currently testing these Secret Recipe Fries in select test regions, like Oklahoma, Virginia, and Indiana.

Purchased Price: $2.19
Size: Individual
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable.

REVIEW: KFC Nashville Hot Chicken & Waffles

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken  Waffles Sign

Combining two of its regional rip-offs in one entrée – the tempting Nashville Hot Chicken and those doughy delectable waffles — KFC is determined to end the year on a high note and, for the most part, it succeeds.

The Nashville Hot Chicken has seemingly gotten better over the past year, this batch with very little skin uncovered in that smoking red sauce, allowing every bite to predictably burn. It’s something you really want and crave in any chicken, from Nashville or not, especially with the word “hot” in the header.

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken  Waffles Sans Syrup

The waffles are still a well-crafted confection, thick and bready as ever, with a taste that’s more suited to a carnival midway than a KFC. But, here, its unapologetic sweetness almost makes up for a slight wish I’ve had for years that KFC would get off their behinds and make a breakfast menu, with this as their first item.

Regardless, the noble marketing geniuses, Southern gentlemen all, have decided to put these two rebel yells together in the fast food battlefield, brothers-in-arms fighting a common enemy: hunger.

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken  Waffles Syrup

Thankfully, the doubled-up aggression towards your ever-lovin’ tastebuds are far more than a tasty skirmish. The spicy heat that envelops the Nashville Hot charges right onto the waffles, already a sweet treat that becomes an absolute tooth-terror with the heady addition of Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup drizzling over every inch of red and white.

The hot meat and the cakey sweet do a well-timed promenade in your mouth, both tastes mixing swell and working well with each other. It’s nice to have these here chicken and waffles perfectly complement each other and, while they’re not the best I’ve ever had, still, for KFC, they do a darn good job that I can highly recommend.

The only real war-wounds here? The $6.49 price for a basket as well as the outrageous count of 1000+ calories.

Purchased Price: $6.49
Size: One waffle/leg and thigh
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Numbers are for the sandwich version, basket nutrition numbers are not available on website) 1010 calories, 61 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1510 milligrams of sodium, 83 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 21 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts

Note: This guest review was written by our internet pal Russ Shelly from What’s Good at Trader Joe’s.

You don’t have to take Bowling for Soup’s word for it: 1985 was an odd year.

I mean, check this out – any further proof needed? Recorded and released as a single for Live Aid’s quest against world hunger, David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of the Martha and the Vandellas classic “Dancing in the Street” is, well, perhaps the zenith of well-intentioned goofiness the mid-’80s offered. Or so I think, I was only like three years old and preoccupied with Sesame Street. Perhaps more interestingly, the video proves that because two things (in this case, Bowie and Jagger) that are awesome separately aren’t necessarily great when streams are crossed and forces combined.

Think about it. Chocolate and gum. Pickles and ice cream. Could you picture Freddie Mercury with Gimlee’s beard? Hard no.

Once again, though, two all-time classics, in the name of combating hunger, come together in the new Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts Sandwich, currently being test marketed in Pittsburgh as well as the great Virginia cities of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. Fried chicken. And donuts. That’s all, that’s it. Big question: is this another Bowie/Jagger or is it more Bowie/Mercury?

The answer, of course, is a little bit of each.

First, take a look at this behemoth. My goodness. It’s a full-sized fried chicken filet bookended by two full-sized glazed donuts, served warm and drippy and gooey. There’s no way anyone could eat this while driving. Or even manage a full bite: the sandwich is too colossal. Human mandibles are not meant to chomp something of this size – it’s simply impossible. It’s a two-hand job for sure.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Bun

Aside from its size, what’s most impressive about this chicken donut sandwich is the quality of the donuts themselves. It’s doubtful the Colonel is making 4 a.m. wake up calls for freshly made donuts at each store, so to have fresh, warm donuts within minutes of ordering is some sort of fast food management marvel.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Sugar

And not just that – they’re legitimately good. Crispy on the outside and warm and cakey on the inside, there’s almost like a funnel cake vibe to them, except in larger form, and instead of being doused with powdered sugar, there’s a syrupy sweet plain sugar glaze amply gooped all over the place. And while the donuts weren’t as melt-in-your-mouth as, say, fresh made Krispy Kreme, they were soft and comforting, but a bit crumbly if smushed to create a more manageable bite.

If you’ve had KFC chicken, you’ll know what the filet tastes like. Just fried chicken. Heavy on the crispies, decent seasoning, a little peppery. Not awful, but not Chick-Fil-A or Popeyes either. Just all right.

Together, though? It’s not as awful as I imagined it potentially being, but there’s room for improvement. First, with the respective size of the donuts and the filet, it was hard to get a lot of bites with a decent representative sample of each in there. Many seemed to be a little too heavy on the carby and not the clucky side. Even if both get their way in, though, there’s something amiss.

Logically, a salty/sweet flavor profile ought to be in play, but it’s not. The sugar glaze overpowers a lot of the chicken and saps its strength. There’s not anything that bridges them – instead of sugar glaze, how about maple or honey? That seems a better play to me. That might also fill the gap between what makes chicken and waffles such a success while this particular interpretation isn’t nearly as inspiring.

To any KFC bigwigs reading this, here’s my two cents, and contact me for any royalties. First, use one donut and not two. Slice it bagel style so there’s half the carbs. The donuts are big and fluffy enough; they can handle it. The kindly counterperson who chatted me up while my order was readying stated that she had not seen a single person finish a whole sandwich that week simply because it was too big. Second, instead of glazing the donuts with pure sugar, switch to maple or honey glaze and put it atop the chicken instead of drenching the dough. That’d make it probably more enjoyable.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Tray

Chicken and waffles is definitely a thing, and in KFC’s case, with a little tweaking, chicken and donuts can be, too. Indeed, there’s also the option of ordering a chicken and donut basket combo. To be honest, the whole shebang was more enjoyable served up that way. At $5.99 for the sandwich or $7.99 for a combo with potato wedges and soft drink, this particular KFC excursion wasn’t regrettable but is unlikely to be repeated. We definitely weren’t dancing in the street after.

Purchased Price: $5.99 (sandwich only)
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Not available.

REVIEW: KFC Mac & Cheese Bowl

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl

Ask any small child and they’ll tell you that KFC has not only always had mac and cheese on the menu, but has always had mac and cheese with bits of chicken cut up and tossed around in the bowl. It’s a hand-mixed taste sensation that’s usually left half-eaten and thrown away by a mom tired of fighting with a child that won’t cooperate with a lunchtime meal.

From these literal mouths of children comes Kentucky Fried Chicken’s latest bowl du jour, the Mac & Cheese Bowl, an easy-enough concoction that brings the famous side to the forefront and makes it a blessed entrée for any adult that needs their food in a somewhat compact form, available in both original and, of course, spicy.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Top

Despite the trouble ordering just the bowl at my area franchise — my server told me it’s only available as a “fill up” and I did not feel like arguing — when it arrived quickly on my tray, I immediately noticed it looked far less plump than the advertisements hung all around the store made it seem. While the pictures depict the bowl as a heightened foodscape of chicken and cheese dreams, in real life, it is just a low-lying valley of flat nuggets and buried cheddar.

Popping the plastic top and letting the scented heat waft upwards though, the smell was a peppy delight of warm Nashville hot sauce and melty cheddar cheese. There was a decent enough ratio of chicken to macaroni, always a plus. The spicy chicken popcorn nuggets seemed to cover the top, my fork gently stirring the mac and cheese from the bottom, like a perverted variation of yogurt.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Mixed

While the spicy Nashville flavor of the chicken overpowered the well-meaning mac and cheese, it still worked here. The underlying cheesy taste is a heavenly layer of yellow deliciousness that manages to break through the thick wall of clucky goodness. It’s a taste that combines very well and, honestly, probably something that many of us already did before this even came out.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Closeup

Sadly, as tasty as this is, I don’t think it makes a better combination than the typically perfect chicken and mashed potato Famous Bowl, which seems like more of a natural dish, one that has a sprinkling of cheese on it already, along with a few bits of corn. Still, if you’re ordering a Mac & Cheese Bowl, you know what you’re getting and, in that case, you’re going be mighty happy.

But, you know, if this meal doesn’t make you happy, chances are you’re just a fussy four-year-old with great reading skills.

Purchased Price: $5.00 (Fill Up Meal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable at post time.