The 14 Spiciest Fast Food Items You Can Order Right Now

The appeal of fast food is immediately right there in the name. You're famished while you are either on your way to a job and need a belly filler or you're en route back home and need to pick up some vittles for the family.

Beyond the convenience of fast food, there are literally kitchen laboratories filled with food scientists who experiment with all of the innovative ways to make these quick meals especially delicious in their flavor, but also transportable, a bit gimmicky to stand out against the competition, and above all worth a repeat buy. In early 2023, The New Yorker did a deep dive into the years long process that goes into Taco Bell's output of southwestern Tex Mex cuisine. It took several changes of ownership to get the clever and ergonomic design of the Crunchwrap Supreme to even get a ride in the test kitchen before it became one of the franchise's greatest hits.

Spicy food can actually be addictive. The more your taste buds are tested, the more you feel compelled to eat more. So it would only make sense that fast food chains would lean into the heat to reel its patrons back again and again. And if you're a fan of peppery food and in need of a quick meal, there's likely a fast food location nearby that will give you what you crave. Here are a few options that you can snap up in no time at all.

1. McDonald's -- 6 Piece Spicy Chicken McNuggets

To sell the world on chicken nuggets, we don't think you really need to package it with a shiny bright throwaway toy that's marketing an upcoming movie release or a trending cartoon franchise. The general concept of bite-sized fried chicken is delicious enough on its own, and McDonald's certainly has the market cornered.

Warning: It's better to not have the full details on how the proverbial sausage is made in the case of McDonald's McNuggets. But for those who are curious and not squeamish, we'll sum it up by saying that you are eating chicken that's been blended into a mash, then molded into a shape, battered, fried, frozen, and shipped off to your local franchise where they are fully cooked in another fryer.

Currently, you can enjoy Chicken McNuggets that have already been heftily spiced, and maybe you might like a dipping sauce from Mickey D's that adds a cooling element such as its Creamy Ranch or Honey. Or go even further with the temperature and try its Spicy Buffalo sauce. If you're at a McDonald's and are more in the mood for a spicy sandwich rather than McNuggets, look toward its Spicy McCrispy Chicken Sandwich or the Deluxe version, which adds Roma tomatoes and shredded iceberg lettuce and eliminates the crinkle cut pickles.

2. Burger King -- Spicy Melt

Burger King offers up an abundance of spicy menu items. Maybe you're in the mood for a hamburger. Or perhaps today you're feeling more inclined to go with a fried chicken situation which you can get in the form of its Spicy Chicken Fries or through a sandwich via the Spicy Tendercrisp. The good news with BK is that there are lots of options for fans of peppery food. And rest assured that it will stand by its advertising campaign that you can have it your way. 

In terms of Burger King's recent entry to its menu, the Spicy Melt Hamburger, in addition to having a layer of a warm slice of American cheese, you will find two beef patties that are complemented by a hearty dose of thickly sliced pickled jalapeños to ensure that you're getting an appropriate amount of heat in every bite you take. A scattering of caramelized onions help add some tangy sweetness for an extra boost of flavor.

3. Wendy's -- Spicy Chicken Nuggets

There's always been something a bit odd about Wendy's square shaped burger patties. But, when there's a lot of competition in the fast food space, you have to stand out somehow and we appreciate the commitment to consistently serving up distinguishing elements even if they might come off as gimmicky. Over the years since the late founder Dave Thomas launched the eatery and named it after his daughter Wendy, there have been unique riffs on fast food options. We are fans of its Cheesy Baked Potatoes, and we definitely recommend Wendy's delicious Frostys. 

We can confirm that Wendy's does know its way around fried chicken. We'll admit we've been admirers of Wendy's fried chicken options for quite a while. Whether it comes in the form of a sandwich or a basket filled with pieces of Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets, you might want to try giving your meal even more kick with some of the sauces available. Wendy's offers a ghost pepper buttermilk ranch dressing as well as a habanero pepper honey dip, and both are sure to set your taste buds on fire.

4. Five Guys -- Cajun Fries

Five Guys Cajun Fries is a name so nice you can say it twice, and it turns out the fries from Five Guys are appropriately cooked twice. Take a look into the eye of the potato, and then give it a taste without any seasoning whatsoever. It's obvious that it could use some dashes of heat. While spuds certainly have their merits which include a few qualities we really like such as affordability, vitamins, and fiber, the amount of bland starch in those taters requires a lot of help in the flavor department. 

Condiments like ketchup are always going to help out an order of french fries. Salt and pepper, a dried herb blend, along with some minced garlic are some good ways to give french fries even more flavor. But we would recommend going with peppers. If you're near a Five Guys and are craving french fries and spice, you're in luck. Five Guys fries its potatoes in peanut oil. While it isn't giving away its exact recipe for its Cajun seasoning, this fast food side dish does come through with the heat.

5. Carl's Jr. / Hardee's - Hand-Breaded Jalapeño Chicken Sandwich

One of the oddities within the fast food world is that Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are pretty much one in the same. Carl's Jr. got its start by grilling up hot dogs on the west coast of the United States and Hardee's became big through the sales of their hamburgers and milkshakes in the middle and southern regions of the country. These two companies merged in the 1970s, but apparently couldn't compromise on a singular name or logo. Between the two, the menus tend to be consistent despite the differences in the branding.

Wherever you might find it, the Hand-Breaded Jalapeño Chicken Sandwich from either Hardee's or Carl's Jr. is going to be a spicy serving of white meat chicken that's been coated in buttermilk ahead of the breading and the deep fry. In addition to all of that, there are thick slices of pickled jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, tomato, slices of red onion, and a Santa Fe sauce.

6. Subway -- Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

While Subway locations offer a variety of fried chicken options, the difference with their Buffalo chicken version is that its coating is comprised of Frank's RedHot sauce. The Buffalo chicken hoagie from Subway was cancelled, came back on the menu, and also seems to be rather popular in the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines if you glance at some of the Subway international franchise locations' social media posts. We're not exactly sure what sparked a connection between the cayenne spiked, vinegar laden, and puckering fried chicken saucy coating that originated in the frigid region of Buffalo, New York and the sunny warm weather of those aforementioned regions, but the love is clearly there.

Because the chain is called Subway, it automatically conjures thoughts of going from point A to point B. So, if you're traveling abroad, we also found some pretty intriguing spicy international sandwich options from Subway that included tikka in both chicken and vegan forms within the United Kingdom, and a tandoori sub in Singapore.

7. Panda Express -- Eggplant Tofu

While a lot of the spicier fast food offerings tend to feature hotly spiced fried chicken, and perhaps a burger with a peppery sauce, we did not want to overlook the vegetarian offerings. And for the '90s kids out there who watched "Doug" and are leaning into the plant-based food space, zoom over to Panda Express as soon as possible because that chain is slinging some killer tofu.

Panda Express provides a vegetarian entrée that's loaded with a gently crispy, pan-fried tofu, juicy red peppers that offer just a hint of sugar, and vibrantly purple eggplant. After this trio is stir fried, hot and warm, it's tossed with a sauce that adds sweetness and spiciness. All combined, this makes for a rather eye catching and colorful dish with plenty of aromatics that could entice even the most hardcore carnivores. It's possible to buy Panda Express' Eggplant Tofu by the single bowl a la carte or get a large platter in a catering order, but call your nearest location ahead of time to ensure that it's available there. Some locations don't carry this tasty treat, unfortunately.

8. In-N-Out Burger -- ask for banana peppers

In-N-Out, the iconic burger chain with its origins in Southern California, has long remained steadfast about sticking to the general region so as to ensure the freshest meat and produce from the state's bounty of both. But, it has finally decided it's time to head much farther east with plans to add franchise locations in Tennessee.

This fast food company is known for its minimalist menu that includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, fountain sodas, and milkshakes. You could stick to the classics, but it's also beloved for its not so secret menu that notoriously includes Animal Style, which features mustard (and that can add some spice), as well as grilled onions.

There's no snootiness from In-N-Out. The company is generally very happy to honor a request for an extra hamburger patty, an additional slice of cheese, or to go easy on the onions. And just imagine how much better an already amazing burger from In-N-Out would be if you could add some hot peppers into the mix. When we called the company to inquire about the availability of hot peppers to add to your burger, the customer service representative we spoke with was glad to say that's an option upon request.

9. Chick-fil-A -- Spicy Chicken Sandwich

For those who like spice but aren't in love with pickles, be prepared to make a special request when ordering the Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A. A rather considerable spread of sour dill pickle chips are part of the standard package. And for those who are superfans of pickles, ask for more. In our past personal experience with a gathering that represented both sides of the pickle aisle, the helpful employees at Chick-fil-A were happy to accommodate in either direction.

The presence of salt and vinegar in pickled cucumbers provides plenty of pucker to contend well with the heat in the marinade on this rather thick cutlet of chicken breast that's been generously breaded and deep fried in pure peanut oil. If you want a boost of fiber, ask if you can have it served with a multigrain bun as opposed to the white bread. 

10. Papa John's -- Fiery Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza always tends to taste slightly better when there's a sprinkling of dried chili peppers on the slice. It could be worth saving some time and effort to just order up a pie that's already coated with plenty of mouth-burning seasoning. And Papa John's happens to have a Fiery Buffalo Chicken Pizza that is just the ticket.

It's not recommended that you eat this entire pie in one sitting unless you have some Tums on hand. There is plenty of heat to be had here both in the temperature and the spice levels courtesy of the Buffalo sauce. It comes packed with protein primarily in the form chicken, but it's also topped with a scattering of hickory-smoked bacon. You've also got plenty of mozzarella to mellow out your palate. There are also red onions involved in the topping.

If you want to eliminate carbs, but still want some peppery chicken, Papa John's also has fried wings that include Buffalo sauce, but go even further. There are Hot Lemon Pepper Wings and Honey Chipotle Wings as well.

11. Taco Bell -- Diablo Sauce on anything

Taco Bell has a variety of sauces to top on their myriad menu items to give them even more fire than what has already been seasoned into the meats. The options range from rather mild heat to moderate spice to smoked peppers. 

At the top of the Scoville scale when it comes to this Tex Mex fast food chain is its Diablo Sauce. Taco Bell throws the phrase "next level" onto the packets of this sauce, and we concur. Holy smokes. A whiff of this hot sauce and you will automatically know you're in for a spicy adventure. It can be used to heat up everything on the Taco Bell menu from one of its early morning breakfast Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burritos to a lunchtime Chalupa Supreme or a dinner with the family enjoying its Mexican Pizza and a side of Yellowbird Nacho Fries.

12. Wienerschnitzel -- Green Chile Chili Cheese Dog

Sausages are known to have a bit of spice to them. There's a reason we refer to some of them as hot dogs and it's not just because they're coming off of a sizzling grill. Unless they're the ho-hum versions that are processed and mass produced, you should always brace yourself to get a little bit of a nip or a bite from those puppies.

Wienerschnitzel, previously known as Der Wienerschnitzel, has been around since 1961 with its first location in the Southern California city of Wilmington, and the oldest locations have an iconic mid-century A-frame architecture that evoke plenty of nostalgia that upon sight will cause you to pull off the freeway and get into the drive-through. 

The company has built up its business around serving hot dogs with a variety of toppings that include chili, pickles, cheese, sauerkraut, and even french fries. The straight-up chili dog might be the natural menu selection, but the spiciest dog from Wienerschnitzel could arguably be its Green Chile Chili Cheese Dog. It's topped with Hatch green chiles, along with chili sauce, and shredded cheddar. 

13. Buffalo Wild Wings -- Blazin' Carolina Reaper

There is a lot to admire about Buffalo Wild Wings if you appreciate spicy food that arrives within minutes of your order. We should also give a shout out to BWW for its dedication to draft beer and providing its welcome guests with an array of televised sports because in our experience, the locations we've been to are not skimping on the screens and they're happy to change the channel.

To speak of the wings that are part of the brand's name, the spicy options of culinary influences are plentiful and span from Thailand to Jamaica to Mexico. It's also well appreciated that there are options for fried wings that have been seasoned in a dry rub and not coated with sauce — sometimes that can get a bit messy. And for the vegetarians out there, there are also cauliflower wings.

But in order to truly impress the crowd and set some tongues ablaze, order up a tray of Blazin' Carolina Reaper Wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and test your mettle. The sauce that coats these wings is a scorcher and no slouch when it comes to bringing the heat.

14. Popeyes -- Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Who doesn't love that chicken from Popeyes? This Louisiana fast food chain's hefty Spicy Chicken Sandwich hasn't been pulling punches against the competition since 2019. The main contents of this sandwich are chicken breast cutlets that have been hand battered in buttermilk and deep fried to crispy perfection. The whole deal comes along with a nice and creamy spicy mayo and a layer of pickles. And then it's all packed between two slices of a brioche bun. You could take it to go, but we recommend eating it immediately while it's still hot.

For even more Cajun flavor, try out Popeyes' fries or its gravy mashed potatoes. And don't sleep on Popeyes' Popcorn Shrimp but for some extra heat, it's advised that you ask for some of the chili sauce. And there's also a Blackened Chicken Sandwich to try from Popeyes if you're not too much in the mood for fried food.