The Evolution of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Image of Chicken sandwich with grapes.

Take your Chicken Sandwich to the Next Level


The chicken sandwich wars have been going on for years now, but it’s cool to see the evolution of how they are served: from fast drive-thru options to full-blown sit-down restaurant concepts.

How the chicken sandwich is served isn’t the only thing that’s evolved, though. What started out as a classic Nashville Hot flavor profile now incorporates different spice blends and condiments from Szechuan or Gochujang spice to jerk seasoning or pineapple slaw. The same spicy chicken patty is in the middle, but the condiments or addition of other spice blends is what’s really taking this trend to the next level.


Chicken for Breakfast

For operators, it’s simple to serve the spicy chicken sandwich for lunch or dinner, but this menu item is also a great possibility for the breakfast daypart. By using different carriers, like a biscuit or a waffle, you can incorporate a sweet and savory profile. For example, a chicken patty topped with a fried egg and hot honey on a biscuit, creates a delicious sweet and savory breakfast offering. 


Versatility of the Chicken Sandwich

As an operator, one of the biggest barriers to making menu changes is the time. Operators are running a business—and sometimes more than one—-so adding a menu item can sometimes seem like a daunting task. There will always be customers that order a traditional menu item, but “spicing things up” and offering different flavors is what will drive more traffic and bring in new customers.

The Tyson Red Label® brand offers a ton of versatility with both original and hot ‘n spicy flavor profiles. From there, you can choose to complement the patties with more than just the usual pickle slices, exploring a variety of different condiments like cucumbers, Masala spice, jerk chicken spice, pineapple slaw or kimchi. The condiments are where an operator can elevate the chicken sandwich for a diner’s experience.

You don’t have to add a ton of prep for these flavor profiles. Work with produce vendors to purchase pre-made slaw mix. From there, add a little siracha, mayo and lime juice to create a delicious sandwich. Operators could use Cayenne, jerk spice, Szechuan, Gochujang, or a spicy Masala blend with cucumber raita and more. The opportunities are endless!


Is Spicy Here to Stay?

We have seen a lot of growth over the last four or five years with the spicy flavor profile. Spicy is on 70.7% of U.S menus today,¹ and 53% of consumers say their preferred spice range on a scale of 1 (not spicy at all) to 10 (extremely spicy) is 7-10.² The spicy chicken sandwich is handheld, portable, and very accessible to a lot of customers. However, spicy can be used beyond a sandwich concept and we are seeing it in a lot of other menu items.

If an operator is trying to get someone to try something new or trying to drive new foot traffic, spicy is a flavor profile they should consider, as 32% of consumers indicate they were eating more spicy flavors in 2020 than in 2019.³

Operators are always trying to balance how to maintain the customer base they have while figuring out how to build a new customer base. By paying attention to what customers are asking for, like the spicy flavor profile that is so popular right now, operators can take advantage of the spicy trend with a lot of simple ways to menu it. 


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Our chefs discuss the evolution of the spicy chicken sandwich with tips for operators to get in on the action.

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¹Datassential SNAP! February 2022

²Consumer Trend Reports Technomic October 2021

³Mintel Trendspotting on U.S. Menus: The Fried Chicken Sandwich March 2021