Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
March 2, 2023

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Crispy chicken sandwiches are an ongoing foodservice trend, with global flavors from across Asia and Latin America offering big opportunity for menu differentiation. Complexity in flavor building is key here, overlapping sweet, spicy and savory flavors for maximum craveability.

As operators continue to carve out a competitive edge in a crowded arena, staying on top of a few evolving trends within the fried chicken sandwich phenomenon can help. Expect to see fried chicken thighs pushing out the more common chicken breast, pickles will give way to more interesting pickled vegetables, coleslaw will open up beyond cabbage, builds will feature the use of multiple chile varieties or heat sources, and new chicken coatings will lend varying textures. Below are menu sightings from across the country that illustrate these evolving nuances:

CHICKEN THIGH—Use this instead of the breast for full-bodied chicken flavor and a different mouthfeel

    • Crispy Deluxe Sammy: Chicken thigh, sesame bun, tom yum spice, pickles, NJSF ranch (garlic, chile, buttermilk), iceberg

Crispy Gai, Portland, Maine

    • Fried Chicken Sandwich: (Spicy) Northern Thai-style fried skin-on chicken thigh, papaya slaw, ranch, jalapeños and cilantro

Night + Market, Los Angeles

CHICKEN COATINGS/DEEP FLAVORINGS—For high visual fun, bold enticement and textural interest

    • Cereal & Salted Egg Fried Chicken: Boneless thighs coated in creamy salt-cured egg yolk sauce and Tracy’s cereal crumbs

Damansara Co., San Francisco

    • Sweet + Spicy Sando: Crispy habanero-brined chicken breast, sweet + spicy glaze, pickle, potato roll

Fuku, New York

MULTIPLE CHILES/HEAT SOURCES—for building layers of nuanced heat

    • Hot Chicken Sandwich: Crispy chicken breast, guajillo and pasilla-chile salsa macha, escabeche carrots and jicama, creamy avocado and cabbage slaw

Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, Austin, Texas

    • Espicy: Fried chicken, árbol-garlic oil, chipotle mayo, tangy slaw, creamy jalapeño salsa

Las Abuelas, Austin, Texas

PICKLED VEGETABLES/SLAWS—For adding flavorful textural play or using acidity to pop the overall heat levels

    • Sweet Heat Crispy Fried Chicken: Air-fried crispy chicken tenders, Thai basil slaw, pickled daikon and carrots, sweet chile sauce, Sriracha mayo, fried shallots, toasted sesame brioche bun

Mendocino Farms, based in Los Angeles

    • Nashville Hot Chicken: Crispy chicken breast, spicy butter, Brussels sprouts slaw, garlic aïoli, pickles, pain de mie

Common Bond, Houston

—For building upon the “swicy” trend and juxtaposing heat throughout the sandwich

    • Spicy Churro Chicken Sandwich: Crispy sweet churro “bun,” crispy-crunchy chicken breast, árbol hot sauce, chipotle mayo, napa cabbage, pickled red onion

Xoco, Chicago

    • Fried Hot Chicken Sandwich: Fried chicken thigh, hot maple crunch, seaweed aïoli, slaw, milk bun

Automat, San Francisco



About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.