We tried Popeyes' new wings. They're crazy delicious and could spark another fast-food chicken war.

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We tried Popeyes' new wings. They're crazy delicious and could spark another fast-food chicken war.
  • After testing wings earlier this year, Popeyes made them a permanent menu item in late November.
  • The chain now serves five spicy wing varieties, including one slathered in Cajun hot sauce.

Popeyes made wings a permanent menu item after the overnight success of its Ghost Pepper and Sweet 'N Spicy wings earlier this year.

They expanded the line in late November to include three new flavors, intending to crash into the "wing game."

I tried all five.

Popeyes, which ignited the chicken sandwich wars in 2019, is not just crashing into this wing party. The chain is bulldozing into a sector, led by Wingstop, with five distinctly innovative flavors.

There's no plain Jane in the bunch. Nearly all of them pack a ton of heat, including entry-level wings like the Roasted Garlic Parmesan.

Here's how they stacked up.

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Popeyes made wings a permanent part of the menu in late November.

Popeyes made wings a permanent part of the menu in late November.
Popeyes said the Sweet 'N Spicy wings, left, became the highest-performing product since the launch of its chicken sandwich.Popeyes

Popeyes launched its chicken wings experiment in January with the debut of Ghost Pepper wings. The item returned for a limited time in May.

Then, the chain introduced a second wing flavor in August: Sweet 'N Spicy.

Response to the two wing flavors, especially the Sweet 'N Spicy, prompted Popeyes to expand the wing lineup and make them a permanent part of the menu last month.

Amy Alarcon, the chain's head chef and vice president of culinary innovation, said the Sweet 'N Spicy wings became "the highest performing product since the chicken sandwich."

In November, the culinary team added three new flavors: Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic Parmesan, and Signature Hot.

I ordered all five flavors at Popeyes in Southern California. It took about 20 minutes for our order to arrive at the table.

I ordered all five flavors at Popeyes in Southern California. It took about 20 minutes for our order to arrive at the table.
The new chicken wings at Popeyes pack a lot of heat, except for the Ghost Pepper, far right. Nancy Luna/Business Insider

A six-piece a la carte order cost $6.99. Unfortunately, there's no mix and matching.

My order seemed to take the kitchen off guard. It took about 20 minutes to prepare my order of all five flavors.

In a nice hospitality touch, a manager came up to me to let me know that my order would be done in about four minutes. He told me after I was sitting around for about 15 minutes.

I didn't mind waiting because I knew it meant that the kitchen staff was preparing my wings to order. With the exception of the Ghost Pepper wings, each flavor is tossed in its own unique sauce.

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I ate them in order of the suggested heat levels – from least spicy to most spicy.

I ate them in order of the suggested heat levels – from least spicy to most spicy.
On each table, Popeyes promotes the wings and their spice levels.Nancy Luna /Business Insider

I was perplexed to see that the Ghost Pepper wings were listed in the middle of the heat scale. I figured they'd be up at the top.

I started with the Roasted Garlic Parmesan wings. I was really looking forward to this one.

I started with the Roasted Garlic Parmesan wings. I was really looking forward to this one.
Roasted Garlic wings at Popeyes show red flakes, indicating I might feel some heat.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

I don't eat wings a lot, but when I do eat them, I typically order garlic Parmesan wings. I love the savory combo of garlic and cheese on the breading.

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But I immediately got a little nervous when I noticed red chili flakes on the wings.

But I immediately got a little nervous when I noticed red chili flakes on the wings.
I got nervous seeing red marks on the Roasted Garlic Parmesan wings.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

The wings looked absolutely beautiful, slathered in a super rich-looking garlic and cheese sauce.

Before grabbing a wing, I immediately noticed red marks on the fried breading.

What is that? It looks like chili flakes. Is this entry-level wing going to burn my mouth, I asked myself.

So I took a bite. It was crazy delicious. The asiago cheese gave the wings a smoky flavor. If you wanted more sauce, there was plenty pooled in the to-go container.

You could eat the creamy béchamel-style sauce with a spoon.

But, my swooning stopped after a few seconds when the heat kicked in from the wings. Wow. This is not what I expected from a roasted garlic Parmesan wing. But, this is Popeyes, so I guess they can't do anything without adding a bit of Louisiana heat.

The Honey BBQ wings at Popeyes are tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.

The Honey BBQ wings at Popeyes are tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.
The Honey BBQ wings at Popeyes are tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

The Honey BBQ wings are one of the new flavors added to the chain's wing lineup. Again, the wings are attractive. The breading is crispy and crunchy and lathered in a tangy but smoky barbecue sauce.

The sauce is made with a mix of tamarind, sweet honey, and molasses. Not surprisingly, the honey made these wings a sticky mess.

Grab a stack of napkins for this one, or be prepared to lick a few fingers.

Like the Roasted Garlic Parmesan wings, the Honey BBQ came with some heat. But they weren't as hot as the Roasted Garlic wings. If you're looking for less heat, I'd order this one.

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The cashier looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if I had to sign a waiver to eat the Ghost Pepper wings.

The cashier looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if I had to sign a waiver to eat the Ghost Pepper wings.
The Ghost Pepper wings were first introduced in January 2023. They returned in May. Popeyes

Some restaurants require waivers when ordering scorching hot chicken tenders or wings. That's what I encountered during my review of Dave's Hot Chicken in early 2023.

I thought the Ghost Pepper wings at Popeyes would be the hottest item on the wing menu. It's not. Its heat level lands in the middle of the Popeyes scale.

When I ordered, I hadn't seen the Popeyes heat scale yet.

So, when I asked the cashier about signing a waiver for the Ghost Pepper wings, he looked at me like I was nuts.

I took one look at the Ghost Pepper wings, and thought I had received the wrong order. They looked so plain.

I took one look at the Ghost Pepper wings, and thought I had received the wrong order. They looked so plain.
There's no real heat in the Ghost Pepper wings.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

Unlike the other wings, the Ghost Pepper wings are not slathered in any spicy sauce.

Instead, the flavor on this wing is in the actual chicken. The manager told me it was marinated for 12 hours in ghost pepper spices.

That explains why it didn't look intimidating. I was expecting a wing with hues of deep red or orange breading, indicators of spices blended into the outer coating. But the ghost pepper spices are not in the breading.

I was not intimidated by these wings at all. They were very approachable. But that's what made them a letdown. I couldn't taste any heat.

I would suggest eating these over the Roasted Garlic Parmesan wings if you're nervous about getting too much heat.

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Sweet 'N Spicy wings debuted as a limited-time offer in August and were an overnight success, the chain said.

Sweet 'N Spicy wings debuted as a limited-time offer in August and were an overnight success, the chain said.
The Sweet 'N Spicy wings are served in a pool of chili oil.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

Popeyes said in November that the Sweet 'N Spicy wings became the "best performing product since the infamous Chicken Sandwich."

Well, the chain's Chicken Sandwich spurred a battle among the nation's top chicken chains, including Chick-fil-A and KFC. Even the burger titans – McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's – got into the game with fried chicken sandwiches.

So, I expected a lot from these wings, and they delivered.

So, I expected a lot from these wings, and they delivered.
The Sweet 'N Spicy wings are swimming in chili oil.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

The wings came swimming in a pool of sauce that looked like the kind of chili oil served as a condiment at Chinese restaurants.

I was excited and scared at the same time. In terms of heat levels, this is the second-hottest wing flavor at Popeyes.

It was sticky, tangy goodness in one bite. This is a boldly flavored wing that reminds me of orange chicken but with a lot more heat.

I can see why it is a fan favorite.

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The hottest item on the wings menu is the Signature Hot wings.

The hottest item on the wings menu is the Signature Hot wings.
I was intimidated by the look of the Signature Hot wings at Popeyes.Nancy Luna/Business Insider

The color of the wings, which came in a pool of orange sauce, looked frightening.

Bright orange and red hues are indicators of heavy heat.

One bite triggered a wave of mouth-scorching heat. It started with my lips, followed by the roof of my mouth, and throat. I could even feel a sensation in my teeth.

I grabbed my water for some relief.

My dining partner ate two wings, as he loved the flavor of the Cajun sauce. But it's a sneaky kind of heat. Hours later, he felt the pain of that decision. "It did me in," he said.

This wing was too hot for us, but if your digestive system can handle the chain's signature Cajun hot sauce, you'll love every bite.

Popeyes' new wing menu is on brand. They are packed with bold flavors and could spark a new kind of fast food chicken war.

Popeyes' new wing menu is on brand. They are packed with bold flavors and could spark a new kind of fast food chicken war.
The new wings at Popeyes come in five flavors.Popeyes

Alarcon, the chain's head chef, said her team has been working three years to get this lineup of wings right.

Well, Bravo. They did a fantastic job.

If you're a fan of the bold flavors and crispy hand-battered breading at Popeyes, these wings will not disappoint. They're a fun extension of the menu. They're on brand, and should please any wing aficionado.

But are they better than Wingstop?

That review is up next. Stay tuned.

Are you a fast-food insider with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at nluna@insider.com or via Signal encrypted at 714-875-6218.

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