Review: Chick-Fil-A Scores A Creative Win With New Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich And Caramel Crumble Shake

For the first time ever, legendary fast food chain Chick-fil-A is offering a spin on its traditional chicken sandwich. The Fall-focused Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich has launched, and we went for a taste.

As with Chick-fil-A's usual offerings, the sandwich itself is available in three forms: Original, Spicy, and Grilled filet. Boasting that it contained ingredients and flavors the chain has never offered before, Stuart Tracy, the Chick-fil-A chef behind the special, said in a press release that: "We wanted to create a standout sandwich that would deliver a unique spin for our guests, without losing the classic taste of the Original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich." Along with the specialty sandwich, Chick-fil-A also released a new, limited-time dessert, the Caramel Crumble Milkshake, which offers an infusion of butterscotch flavors to the seasonal menu.

Although the Caramel Crumble is the seventh seasonal shake from Chick-fil-A, this is the first time the chain has put a twist on its Original Chicken Sandwich. Still, seasonal specials are not new to the company. A recent example is the Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich, which surfaced in the summer of 2023. While that special was arguably a touch more generic, the new sandwich has more traceable roots, taking its flavor from a well-known dish from the American South, pimento cheese.

What is the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich?

Faithfully translating a beloved cultural classic into a mass-marketable and palatable chicken sandwich isn't easy, but Chick-fil-A seems to have gone all out to ensure that its seasonal special is as special as can be; the star of the dish is the pimento cheese, which is manufactured "in-house." It consists of a combination of "sharp cheddar cheese, green chilis, and red pimento peppers" blended together and used to adorn the top of every sandwich.

Mildly pickled jalapeños are added to serve as a counterpoint to the sweet and salty flavors already on offer. Just as this is the first time a special variety of Chick-fil-A's Original sandwich has been offered, it's also the first time the humble jalapeño pepper has found its way into a Chick-fil-A menu item.

Finally, some extra sweetness is added in the form of a drizzle of honey. The sweet, viscous liquid is splashed on the lightly toasted buns and is designed to boost the natural sugariness that pimento peppers already add to the sandwich.

What is the Caramel Crumble Milkshake?

It may be cool to the touch, but the taste of Chick-fil-A's Fall special Caramel Crunch Milkshake was intended to encompass some of sweater weather's beloved tastes. When conceptualizing the character of this milkshake, Chick-fil-A Chef Christy Cook looked toward the bottom of a pan of baked blondie cookies for her motivation, according to a press release from the company. If you've never had one before, think of them as a chocolate-less brownie. As for the milkshake, the caramelized, brown sugar features show up through actual cookie crumbles of blondie that are studded throughout the milkshake and over the top, along with a whip cream and cherry finish, of course.

As far as the body of this sweet treat goes, the Caramel Crumble Milkshake uses Chick-fil-A's handspun Icedream dessert, which is similar to vanilla soft-serve, only with less butterfat to make for an airier mixture. In this particular milkshake, the vanilla is paired with butterscotch flavoring as well. Finally, caramel is imparted in the shake through a rich, flavorful syrup.

Price, availability, and nutritional info

Where do these new specials sit regarding nutritional value? The Original version of the sandwich is one of the chain's most caloric, at 570 calories per serving with 28 grams of fat in total. The Spicy has 600 calories and 30 grams of fat, while the Grilled-style Honey Pepper Pimento has 18 grams of fat in 430 calories. Each option has at least 30 grams of protein. For total carbohydrates, the Spicy sandwich packs 54 grams, while the Original sandwich and Grilled versions have 50 and 39 grams, respectively. At the moment, the meal price for a Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich is around $12-$14, depending on your region and sandwich style. A la carte, the sandwiches range from $8-$10. 

In general, Chick-fil-A milkshakes come in 16-ounce sizes. The seasonal specialties are no different. For that size, the Caramel Crumble Milkshake comes with a total of 690 calories. There are 102 carbs and almost as many (95 grams) of sugar, so anticipate your sweet tooth getting its full fix with this treat. Caramel Crumble Milkshakes cost around $5.

Both of Chick-fil-A's seasonal menu additions went on sale on August 28th and will be available until supplies last, though a product page for the milkshake on Chick-fil-A's website lists availability for the dessert until November 11th, 2023, at the latest. Currently, both Fall specials are available in 49 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Taste Test: Original Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich

Pimento can go a few ways, so it's hard to guess exactly what you'll get before you take that first bite. As for this particular Southern spin on a Chick-fil-A classic, what you get is a lot of sweetness to go along with savory profiles. Those initial sweet notes developed to become tart after a few seconds, which paired well with the slight saltiness of the chicken filet. The nature of the sweet taste is interesting. It's not totally the flavor of honey, but something more saccharine than that. Pimento peppers themselves are, by their nature, sweet — so it could just be that the vegetal sweetness of garden pepper becomes highly present with a honey drizzle. 

In terms of meat quality, the chicken was fantastic. It's moist, tender, and perfectly cooked. But Chick-fil-A has built its reputation on this level of quality, so that isn't a shock. The breading itself does add some much-needed texture to the sandwich as a whole.

Although this is the Original sandwich, there's a notable absence in the form of spice. You barely notice any, despite the pimento cheese having a mild heat and jalapeño peppers being added to the sandwich. Albeit, this is one area where your experience could differ, and that's down to the nature of jalapeños and your tolerance to them. 

Taste Test: Spicy Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich

On the face of it, you would think a spicy filet would be an ideal pairing for what is essentially a spicy sandwich. However, Chick-fil-A's spicy effort doesn't quite have the hot kick we expected. Yes, it is the spiciest of the three options — but at best, its heat level is on par with fresh ground black pepper. It's better than nothing for those heat lovers, but it's definitely not something that will have you desperately reaching for your Caramel Crumble Milkshake after every bite. As with the other sandwiches, the heat you get does linger, and it retains its full spiciness until it dissipates.

Similar to the Original breaded option of the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich, you'll initially notice a strong burst of sweetness. Unlike the Original version, however, the sweetness doesn't develop into a tart jam-like flavor later on. This may be down to the slightly increased level of spiciness stealing the show and curving that honeyed incursion. When it comes to heat-adding ingredients, the jalapeños play only a small part in terms of flavor and texture.

Taste Test: Grilled Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich

We aren't sure if this is supposed to be the case, but the grilled version of the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken sandwich we ordered arrived with pickles instead of jalapeños. On the plus side, this allowed us to try an alternative and better gauge exactly what the jalapeños added to the sandwich.

The answer is not much. Jalapeños add a spicy garden flavor, but they offer essentially nothing in terms of actual tingling heat. The pickles, however, stood out prominently on the grilled sandwich and were the first thing we tasted. A mild but persistent spice courtesy of the pimento topping followed this. The chicken filet itself didn't add much to the sandwich as a whole. Its flavor was barely noticeable, and its extremely tender texture didn't much stand out against the softness of the bun and topping. The pickles, which may have gatecrashed the party, were the only notable bit of texture on offer. Curiously, the sweetness we noted with the other sandwiches wasn't present. Our best guess is that the breading is a trap for any added honey and then shoves it to the forefront. With no breading, it becomes thinly spread and flies under the radar.

Taste Test: Caramel Crumble Milkshake

When sipping the Caramel Crumble Milkshake, you'll initially be greeted with a strong bust of warmingly spiced caramel flavor, followed by a lingering sweetness that coats your mouth. Although butterscotch is a noted ingredient, picking the flavor out against a wall of sugar is hard. After considering the nuance of darkened baking flavors, look beyond taste, and you'll see where things get interesting.

The blondie crumbles provide some much-needed texture in the shake. You'll likely find yourself chewing the crunchy little pieces for a few seconds after each sip. They add to the sweet flavor of the Caramel Crumble Milkshake and reinforce how important texture is to a dessert beverage. Where they make a difference is when the shake starts to melt. The melting becomes less noticeable, and you don't miss the thickness of a truly fresh shake when you have a mouthful of crumbly little rocks.

So what's the downside? Unfortunately, cloying sweetness is all the Caramel Crumble Milkshake has to offer. It's only billed as plain caramel, but some saltiness would have balanced things out and added a lot to this shake. Chick-fil-A could have even been brave and tossed bacon bits into the mix. 

Are the specials worth it?

The specials certainly offer something different from Chick-fil-A's standard fare, so yes, all of the Fall menu items on offer are worth a try if you're craving Chick-fil-A and want to change things up a touch. Of the three sandwiches, the Original Chicken version is the best overall. The added sweetness is a good match for the thick, crackling, high-quality filet. The lack of spice also makes this the most accessible overall sandwich.

If you like heat, the spicy sandwich is the obvious option, though don't expect to break a sweat. The additional spice also takes away from the pimento experience slightly, so it ranks second. The grilled filet is a bit anonymous and contributes little more than a small amount of texture. It's hard to find an argument that would convince us to choose this over the other fried pieces, as they are both far better sandwiches. 

As for the Caramel Crumble Shake, if you like a sweet treat with your meal, then it is a must-try. The texture is exceptionally pleasant, though the flavor can be a bit one-note. Although you can't complain about a sweet, delicious, hand-spun milkshake, something more complex would be nice. Any sort of salty addition can take the edge off, which we imagine is why Chick-fil-A released these two new Fall favorites side-by-side.