My only encounter with a ghost pepper came when a friend tried to trick me into eating one. When I resisted, he took a bite to give me the ol' "See, it's not so bad," and then started coughing profusely. Snot, eventually followed by blood, came out of his nose. And this guy loves spicy things!
Needless to say, I haven't considered trying one since.
But I was intrigued by the idea of ghost peppers being available for mass consumption via the recently revived Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken sandwich at Wendy's. In addition to the chain's signature spicy chicken breast and Colby Jack cheese, diced jalapeños, red onions, and a jalapeño bun, the sandwich is slathered in a ghost pepper sauce (a food writer for the Bustle determined the sauce has a buttermilk base). Convulsive coughing and nosebleeds for sale across the U.S. of A? I felt compelled to tackle the incendiary sensation that has inspired eating challenges filmed on YouTube.
For $7.89, patrons can get a combo that includes the sandwich, fries, and a drink. I upgraded to ghost pepper fries—basically, fries covered in the sauce and diced jalapeños—for an extra $1.40. Now, there are some people who are masochists for heat, making sure to put Sriracha or hot sauce on every bite of food they put in their mouths. I'm not one of those people. I'd much rather taste what I'm eating than feel like my mouth was on fire. Regardless, it felt only appropriate to weigh in on both offerings. Double down.
It wasn't quite that, however, because while the Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken does have some heat to it, the sauce did not trigger any bodily discharges. Call me crazy, but it's a good thing the full power of the ghost pepper is not being unleashed—that or Wendy's isn't really using them at all. Which leads us to the jalapeños: They're so mild that they could be mistaken for garden-variety green peppers. Still, the sauce packs a subtle chipotle flavor that has a nice balance with the melted cheese, onions, and breaded chicken. And let me be clear: The sandwich has the kind of heat that sits on the back of your tongue, begging for more gulps of soda. It's ever-present without being overwhelming.
And that's just fine, because a good chicken sandwich doesn't need to make you feel like death in order to spice things up. As for the fries, they're plenty good, but you can probably hold off on upgrading your Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken. But if you want a little kick with your burger, they make a nice side.