McDonald's Mambo + Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauces Review: We Took A Dip And Now We're Hooked

McDonald's parade of permanent dipping sauces runs the rainbow from red tangy BBQ and orange spicy Buffalo to yellow hot mustard and green sweet 'n sour. New dipping sauces have come and gone to enhance the McTaste of everything the chain offers. The two latest dipping sauces lean in with spice to not only open one's mind, but perhaps sinuses too. Enter — for a limited time only — Mambo sauce and Sweet & Spicy Jam.

Hot pepper jams and jellies are nothing new, and for those who have dined in Washington, D.C., it's possible you've sprinkled some Mambo sauce (also known as "Mumbo") on chicken or pizza. McDonald's is now bringing these unique flavors to wider audiences who may have never experienced them. Tariq Hassan, chief marketing and customer experience officer at McDonald's USA, said as much in a press statement: "Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo Sauce live at the intersection of flavor and culture — pulling from decades of rich food history and tradition in local restaurants and home kitchens, and bringing the delicious spice, sweetness, and kick of heat we know today's customers are craving."

So, does McDonald's Mambo sauce make D.C. proud, or is it the shame of the city? And what of the Sweet & Spicy Jam? Should we celebrate its arrival or hit the snooze button? McWonder no more dear readers. We took a dip into these sauce pools to find out. Here is our chew and review...

What does McDonald's Mambo Sauce taste like?

Of the two new sauces, Mambo is the less appealing option with a burgundy package featuring a star that looks like a toned-down version from Super Mario. Peeling back the label revealed a hue that borders on standard-issue ketchup and a darkened Carolina barbecue-style sauce. A quick whiff of the Mambo sauces gives off an air of tropical fruit punch, raising questions about the upcoming taste of it.

If you're not familiar with the signature sauce of the nation's capital, chef Rahman "Rock" Harper described it to The Washington Post as, "a sweet, spicy, flavorful condiment, like a tomato sauce-based condiment, that, around here, we put on everything." For our tasting purposes, we used McDonald's french fries and McNuggets.

As the Mambo sauce came out of its container and hit the light, it appeared more orange on the surface. The thick sauce had an overall potent bite to it, but with a sugary underbelly reminiscent of McDonald's own sweet & sour sauce, or even a typical duck sauce found at a Chinese restaurant. The heavy influence of this sauce is its fiery chili pepper, yet smooth spice profile. It not only makes the mouth come alive with each encounter, but the spice may also lead to a sweaty forehead. It's quite the sweet and sweaty heat!

What does McDonald's Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce taste like?

The exterior of the Sweet & Spicy Jam packet invites an eater to peel back its label, decked out with a fire symbol that resembles a well-loved, roly-poly beanbag chair. Upon actually opening the sauce packet, the look-see was a bit underwhelming as it was just a  darkened jellied mass. Smelling the odorless substance did not bring much more luminance to the drab affair.

Letting this goopy Sweet & Spicy Jam get loose from its container is where the real fun begins. With a consistency similar to honey, and the sheen of blood, confusion does continue to settle in, but letting the tongue be the final judge overrules all previous objections. There is an intimate and mellow spice seasoning to the Sweet & Spicy Jam, which is also evident with the visible pepper flakes, but it cedes control of the sauce's main flavoring to the apple cider vinegar within. This sweetness makes this a more affable sauce, which like McDonald's recommends, wouldn't seem out of place being used on one of its breakfast items.

What are McDonald's Mambo Sauce and Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce made of?

The Mambo sauce contains soy and wheat, and is comprised of sugar, tomato ketchup, cayenne pepper sauce, water, distilled vinegar, and modified food starch. It also contains soy sauce, natural flavor, paprika, xanthan gum, caramel color, salty natural extractives of chili peppers, and natural extractives of cayenne peppers. A single serving size is 1 ounce (28.3 grams) and it has 60 calories, 14 total grams of carbohydrates, 2 milligrams of calcium, 13 grams of sugar (with 12 of them added), 35 milligrams of potassium, and 220 milligrams of sodium.

Sweet & Spicy Jam is primarily made of sugar, corn syrup, water, apple cider vinegar, red bell pepper, and aged red cayenne pepper, and contains bits of salt, distilled vinegar, dried bell peppers, spice, pectin, citric acid, natural Szechuan pepper extract, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate (preservatives), and calcium chloride. A single serving size has 80 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of total sugars, 20 milligrams of potassium, and 160 milligrams of sodium.

How, when, and where to order McDonald's Mambo Sauce + Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce

The new Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo dipping sauces will be available while supplies last at participating nationwide locations of McDonald's starting on October 9, although Christmas came early for us as our nearest location was offering them up much earlier than planned. The sauces can be chosen as side dipping sauces with McNuggets or ordered a la carte from the condiments menu. Additional fees may apply for extra orders of the sauces. 

Ordering can take place in-store at a register, via drive-thru, or by using a kiosk where available. To ensure that the sauces are in stock before you arrive at a McDonald's, try utilizing the handy McDonald's app for advanced pickup ordering. McDelivery is also an option, with services that include Uber Eats, DoorDash, or Grubhub.

The final verdict

If you dip the tips of your fries into the Mambo sauce and Sweet & Spicy Jam packets, they each take on the physical form of a matchstick. That's a fitting image, as these two sauces brought to life by McDonald's both light their own type of flavor fire.

The Sweet & Spicy Jam is McDonald's first dipping sauce designed for U.S. eaters with breakfast on the mind, which makes one wonder why such a great idea is only seeing the (a.m.) light of the day now. Regardless of when you dip into it, it's a great accompaniment for biscuits, fries, chicken fingers — you name it!

As for the Mambo sauce, the District of Columbia should breathe a sigh of relief that the Golden Arches did right by its version. Not many people may be aware of the sauce in the first place, so by distributing it and hopefully popularizing it nationwide, even for just a short while, it acts as a culinary postcard that eaters may want to know more about where it originally hauls from. Perhaps more regional American dipping sauces are on the way, and we can't think of a better way to unite a country than by celebrating the parts of its sum, thanks to its yum.