Last week was a big one for the United States of America. We celebrated the Fourth of July, cheered as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the World Cup for the second time in a row, and a Cheetos chicken sandwich debuted at KFC.
Feel free to re-rank those three things in order of how much they made your chest swell with patriotic pride. I think that was patriotic pride I was feeling in my chest after eating the KFC Cheetos Sandwich? Anyway, it went away after I laid down on the sofa for a few minutes.
After test-marketing the new sandwich at a few locations in the South in January, KFC rolled out the sandwich ($5.39) nationwide for just a few weeks. I give KFC credit for this — increasingly, fast-food chains seem to be releasing limited-edition items in one or two markets just to get some social media buzz, like the CBD-infused Burger Carl’s Jr. released only in Denver, and only on April 20.
This time, for good or for ill, we all get the chance to sample this sandwich in its shimmering orange glory.
The foundation of the KFC Cheetos Sandwich is, of course, the chicken. It's a big, thick hunk of breaded white meat chicken, so big that even on its own it’s a little unwieldy to get your mouth around. KFC is often derided (perhaps rightfully) for monstrosities like the KFC Double Down or the Famous Bowl, but for a fast-food chain, they do have darn good chicken. Where other fast-food white meat chicken sandwiches have patties that are look processed and compressed beyond recognition, KFC has thick, plump chicken patties.
Sprawled out on the patty like sunbathers on the beach are about eight to 10 Cheetos, held in place by a layer of mayonnaise on the top bun. (In the promotion photo, the Cheetos and mayo are under the chicken, so maybe my local KFC cook got a little confused.) Slathered all over the chicken is bright orange “Cheetos sauce,” which will quickly find its way all over your fingers as you eat.
That’s a lot of cheese, or “cheese,” given that Cheetos only vaguely approximates the taste of Wisconsin’s beloved dairy product. The Cheetos added a second, satisfying layer of crunch with the crunch of the breading, although one of the Cheetos I got was inedible, petrified as if it had accidentally fallen into a deep fryer or something. I don’t know what the mayo was doing there, other than as an adhesive to keep the Cheetos from falling out of the sandwich.
The Cheetos sauce was kind of messy and viscous and had no heat whatsoever. I get that it’s supposed to be replicating the mild tang of a Cheeto, but with the trend towards Nashville hot chicken and other spicy birds, it tasted bland and cloying. You can also order popcorn chicken nuggets drizzled with Cheetos sauce on the side, although they’re impossible to eat with your fingers without making a huge mess, and leaves an unappealing puddle of sauce at the bottom of the carton afterwards.
Wash it all down with the KFC-exclusive Mountain Dew Sweet Lightning, a peach-and-honey flavored soda just added to permanent rotation on the soda machines. Billed as a perfect complement to the Colonel’s secret recipe, it does add a refreshing Southern twist on Mountain Dew’s ultra-sweet flavor, which always reminded me of bubble gum in liquid form. Also, apparently Mountain Dew has now shortened its name to MTN DEW, much like Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC, so the two brands share a love of pointless acronyms.
I am proud to support our nation's soccer stars and fireworks displays, but I don’t see myself eating another KFC Cheetos Sandwich before they leave in a few weeks. Once the novelty wears off, the taste isn't that compelling. But when the inevitable Flaming Hot Cheetos Chicken Sandwich comes out next summer, I’ll be hard-pressed not to give it a shot. American innovation cannot be held back.