REVIEW: KFC Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich

I confess that I can sometimes be stubborn about changing my mind; luckily, that’s not required here because KFC has always been my favorite fast food chicken chain, and its new, limited time only Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich just makes me even more confident in that choice.

The first thing I noticed about this sandwich was an extremely pungent (and promising) barbecue smell, followed closely by an observation of just how pretty it looked. A pristine golden bun with a plump fried chicken filet peeking out, nestled among glimpses of ruddy sauce, vibrant pickles, well-cooked bacon strips, crispy fried onions, and a dense layer of cheese…. befitting of the “Ultimate” moniker indeed! (I should note that I had to order this twice, though, as my first go-round was missing the onions, so you might want to check before leaving the store to confirm that no sections of your sandwich are MIA.)

Fortunately, KFC’s latest creation tastes just as good as it looks. Individually, each element sparkled. The fluffy, shiny bun tasted wonderfully light and buttery! The bacon hit the sweet — or should I say smoky — spot right between too lean and too fatty! The just-barely-melted blanket of cheese provided a comfortingly Velveeta-esque creaminess without being runny enough to leave a mess! The fried onions were earthy and savory with a frizzled feel that perfectly backed up the crispy fried breading practically dripping from the chicken! The pickles were snappy and sour (I must admit I don’t usually eat pickles on sandwiches, so I don’t have a ton to say about them, but I’d like to think I could at least tell if they were terrible, and they definitely weren’t terrible)!

The barbecue sauce was nicely sweet but had a subtle spicy aftertaste that left my tastebuds buzzing for more, and its presence was much more powerful than I expected, so thick and sticky it almost reminded me of jam! And the chicken would make Colonel Sanders proud, with the meat providing tender, juicy nourishment and the breading throwing in a zesty crunch that even managed the rare feat of not flaking off immediately the second I bit in!

When taken in all together, a few components stepped out of the spotlight — the flavors of fried chicken, barbecue sauce, and pickle dominated, with the cheese, onions, and bacon more noticeable in terms of texture than taste — but I didn’t find that to be a problem. As I begrudgingly learned in my high school marching band, not everyone can play the fun parts all the time, but even if some bits aren’t as exciting, they’re just as important for a harmonious whole. I truly can’t imagine the Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich without any of these ingredients.

The biggest potential criticism I could predict some having is a desire for more barbecue sauce; mine was merely glopped timidly onto the top and bottom buns rather than boldly oozing out as it does in promotional images, and while that was just enough for me as someone who eats my pancakes without syrup, my fries without ketchup, etc., I can see others finding it a little dry. Ultimately, though, I’d suggest this sandwich for even the sauciest shopper.

I’ll also mention that KFC suggests pairing this with another newbie for the summer menu, its Blackberry Lemonade. It was unfortunately sold out at my local store. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck — but then again, anyone who has this sandwich as an option is already pretty dang lucky.

Purchased Price: $8.37
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 650 calories (other nutritional info not available at time of publication).

REVIEW: KFC Double Down (2023)

When the KFC Double Down was released nationwide in 2010, it instantly became part of the cultural zeitgeist. It was joked about on late night shows and pointed as to why Americans were so obese. Yet, in the four years it was on the menu, I never tried it. However, once it was gone, I regretted not taking the time to seek it out.

Thankfully, many companies have learned that nostalgia is a great way to boost sales, and my chance to try the sandwich has come. The KFC Double Down was rereleased on March 6th and is (currently) only expected to be offered for four weeks. In lieu of buns, there are two 100% white meat chicken Extra Crispy filets. Between them are two slices of cheese, two slices of bacon, and Colonel’s real mayo or spicy sauce. As I always like to try the original version first, I opted for the mayo over the spicy.

Usually, the 10-minute travel from the restaurant to home can have a negative impact on an item, but in the case of the Double Down, it ended up working in its favor. Before leaving, I checked to make sure my order was correct and noticed the cheese was unmelted. When I got home, it was perfectly gooey after sitting in its foil bag.

I was actually shocked by the size of the sandwich. I knew it would be big, but it was bigger than I thought. Cutting it in half was easy and made eating it a less daunting experience.

I got about as perfect of a first bite as you could possibly want. The crispy, tender chicken filet was a great base for the melty cheese, smokey bacon, and creamy mayo. The familiar blend of KFC spices shined but didn’t overpower the sandwich. All four ingredients worked together to create a unique flavor that made me understand why people started petitions to bring back the Double Down.

My only real issue is the lack of nutritional information. I like being somewhat informed about what I’m eating, but KFC has only released the calorie numbers. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as looking at the original sandwich’s stats, as the 2023 version is 410 calories more than the 2010 one. It’s safe to assume the other numbers must also be much higher.

While I cannot compare it to the original, the 2023 KFC Double Down was an absolute delight. Gimmick foods rarely live up to the hype, but the Double Down certainly exceeded my expectations. It isn’t an item that I would eat with any regularity, but I would love to see it receive the Shamrock Shake treatment and be released yearly for a limited time.

Purchased Price: $8.99
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 950 calories (other nutrition numbers aren’t available)

REVIEW: KFC Classic and Spicy Slaw Wraps

This ain’t KFC’s first wrap rodeo.

See, a long time ago — close to 20 years ago, in fact — the Colonel (or a zombie approximation of the Colonel OR some marketers in the R&D department) created the Twister. It was a tortilla stuffed with chicken strips, lettuce, tomatoes, sauce, and shredded cheese.

There were different versions of it — a rendition featuring BBQ sauce and one that featured a spicy sauce. Then there was one with mac and cheese inside, too. Then the Twisters became “burritos” at some point, and then maybe they reverted back to Twisters again? I don’t know. It all gets fuzzy. Anyway, they went away in the States but remained (and remain) on the menu at some international locations, exotic locales like New Zealand and Canada.

And now they’re back in the United States… at least temporarily.

But okay, they’re smaller. Remember the beloved McDonald’s Snack Wrap that went away in 2016 much to the dismay of nearly everyone? I think these are about the same size. So if you’re hungry, you’re gonna want to do the two-wrap combo with a side and a drink. Or maybe just the wrap pair, which is being sold 2 for $5 at most places throughout the country. Then you can pair them at home with a bowl of applesauce, a handful of Pringles, or whatever it is that people who don’t buy sides at fast food places do.

Let’s back up, though — are these even worth $2.50 a piece?

Well, like most things in the fast food world, a lot is contingent on the freshness of the ingredients. I got to the KFC nearest me shortly after opening, so the strips were freshly made. They were good, too, crunchy but not at all dry, with the familiar 11 herbs and spices. The tortillas were bland but serviceable, no different than what you’d find at Taco Bell. The pickles were sour and crunchy, not up to par with Popeyes, but considerably better than the ones you get at McDonald’s. The mayo on the original wrap “split” because of the hot chicken, so it didn’t add much. The sauce on the spicy wrap, though, fared better. If you’ve never had it (I’m fairly certain it’s the spicy sauce they’ve used on sandwiches before), it’s like a very mild chipotle mayo, but maybe just a bit sweeter.

What really sets the spicy wrap apart, however, was the slaw. While I don’t usually indulge in the Colonel’s cabbage (why would you when you can have the artificially-delicious mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, or the surprisingly good French fries), the sweet crunch it lent to the wrap made it significantly better than its slaw-less brother. Additionally, I was surprised at how sog-free the chicken remained; truly, this wrap fired on all cylinders.

While many will hold these up — perhaps unfairly — against the aforementioned McDonald’s wraps, or KFC’s original Twister, two of these things for $5 isn’t a bad deal at all. Hopefully, they stick around for a while.

Purchased Price: 2/$5
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Original), 8 out of 10 (Spicy)
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable as of publishing, though the website has “800-900 calories” for the pair.

REVIEW: KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Plated

I am still shocked by how ubiquitous meatless has become, especially at fast food restaurants. As the quality of meatless proteins has improved, the cost has also come down enough to make it more commercially viable. Plus, with the social media popularity of #MeatlessMonday, you’ve got a lot more people seeking out a meatless option when going through the drive-thru. KFC recently rolled out its entry into the meatless market: Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets.

Starting with regional testing in 2019, KFC has taken its time to tweak the nuggets to be uniquely KFC. After trying the Beyond Chicken Tenders last year and being fairly underwhelmed, I was worried these nuggets would be more of the same. Thankfully it seems KFC and Beyond spent three years of research and development to deliver an absolutely delicious product. While these particular items seem to be the most expensive of the fast food meatless options (12 nuggets cost $13.99), considering their special nature, it makes sense. They are a one-of-a-kind product that can’t be found in stores like most other fast food meatless items can.

It has been quite some time since I went to a KFC. With the plethora of fried chicken options available, the chain never seems to fall into our rotation. If these Beyond Chicken nuggets become a standard menu item, that will change.

The first thing I noticed was the strong, familiar smell of KFC while opening the box. This was a promising sign. As I mentioned, I was worried these would be just a deep-fried version of what you can get in the store. Thankfully, they weren’t.

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Closeup

The breading has that unique flavor of 11 herbs and spices, accented with grease that makes these about as authentically KFC as possible. The “meat” was what we’ve come to expect from meatless items: firm and, sometimes, tough. I think your mileage will vary when it comes to these nuggets, and it’ll depend on the location. One of the difficulties with meatless is they are easy to overcook. I know the store employees are doing their best, but just know your nuggets might end up more on the tough side.

For me, these ended up being a home run. I don’t mind the firmer texture of the meatless proteins. The breading is the absolute star and, when paired with the KFC Sauce, it hits all the right notes.

KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets Split

Much like other meatless fast food products, these aren’t going to fool you into thinking they are real meat. But they are absolutely worth trying if you go in with that expectation. They aren’t a cheap option, but their uniqueness justifies the price tag for me. They are also extremely filling and were easily split between myself and my husband. I’m already planning my next outing to get them and maybe see if I can substitute the popcorn chicken on the Famous Bowls with the Beyond Fried Chicken.

Purchased Price: $13.99
Size: 12 Pieces
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 960 calories, 54 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 2880 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 72 grams of protein.

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.

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