McDonald’s Adds D.C.-Area Condiment Mambo Sauce to Its Dipping Options

Plus, a new sweet and spicy pepper jelly arrives for you to try with McNuggets, breakfast sandwiches and more.

September 27, 2023

Photo by: Photo courtesy of McDonald's

Photo courtesy of McDonald's

There’s a good chance you have a regular order at McDonald’s. While the menu does change from time to time, it’s those classic burgers, nuggets, fries and other specialties that have us memorizing combo numbers by heart. Now, while McDonald’s does have something new up its sleeve, this latest limited-edition menu drop may not require any change to your core entree choices, though it may give them a little kick.

McDonald’s is rolling out two new dipping sauce options in those familiar rectangular cups — and if you’re versed in the regional cuisine of the Washington D.C. area, one of them will seem familiar. McDonald’s Mambo Sauce, inspired by the condiment found in many fried chicken and Chinese restaurants around the capitol city, and McDonald’s Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce, a thicker jelly with similarities to pepper jellies popular in the American South, are hitting restaurants nationwide on October 9.

So what is Mambo Sauce exactly? Also known as “Mumbo Sauce,” it’s a ketchup- and hot sauce-based staple that, since the 1960s, has spread across D.C. beginning at a restaurant called Wings-n-Things, before being adopted by Chinese carry-out restaurants and other chicken joints. Every eatery’s Mambo Sauce is a bit different, that’s part of what makes it a local specialty. (It should be noted that Chicago also lays some claim to Mumbo Sauce, where that particular spelling has been trademarked.)

It’s a product that’s readily available online, including from many Black-owned businesses. You can also make your own using this Mambo Sauce recipe — and then feel free to play around with the ingredients a bit, as everyone should have their own signature Mambo Sauce.

So what does McDonald’s take on Mambo Sauce taste like?

The Mambo Sauce is thinner than ketchup, a bit like Buffalo sauce in consistency. In addition to heat from cayenne, it has a fruity tang (in this case, from apples, though many mambo sauce recipes include an ingredient like pineapple juice) along with notes of vinegar. It offers a sustained heat, but not one that is so intense you can’t keep taking bite after bite.

As for the Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce, the flavor is brighter and sweeter, as you might expect from a jam. Despite the “spicy” in its name, the heat wasn’t as pronounced, but it was akin to the kind of sauce you might dip your spring rolls into at a Thai restaurant.

McDonald’s culinary team chef Mike Lingo said the two sauces were designed with chicken dishes in mind, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them with other lunch items … or even for breakfast. In our tasting, the jam sauce brought a welcome acidity and a little heat to the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit and McDonald’s says the jam is its first specifically breakfast-inspired sauce. Per its proper usage, the zesty Mambo sauce played extremely well with McNuggets and especially the fried McCrispy chicken sandwich with pickles. And McDonald’s oblong hash brown patties are as delicious dipped in Mambo Sauce as the French Fries were.

This isn’t the first time Mickey D’s has leaned into its fans sauce-centric interests. Earlier this year, the chain offered its signature Big Mac Sauce in a dipping cup for the first time. And, of course, there’s the viral, Rick and Morty-fueled saga of the thrice-returned Szechuan Sauce, a product that first hit restaurants in 1998 as a supposed tie-in to the Disney animated film Mulan and which saw comebacks in 2017, 2018 and 2022. While not entirely the same, fans of Szechuan Sauce might find enough similarity in the Sweet & Spicy Jam Sauce until the OG returns a fourth time around.

In the end, this major announcement is just a couple of new cups of sauce. But that seemingly small launch is where McDonald’s shines, by taking its tried and true stable of menu items and taking them up a notch.

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