Review: McDonald's New Special Grade Garlic Sauce Is Worth Downloading The App

McDonald's has partnered with the producers of the hit anime series "Jujutsu Kaisen" and introduced a new limited-edition sauce, Special Grade Garlic Sauce, into its lineup. Inspired by McDonald's Japan's Black Garlic Sauce, Special Grade's main flavor components are garlic and soy sauce, and the packets feature different characters from "Jujutsu Kaisen." There's a plot twist when it comes to this sauce, though: It's only available on the McDonald's app. On the app, you can get the sauce with Chicken McNuggets for free, and add it to other orders as well. When you purchase the sauce, you'll receive a 30-day free trial of Crunchyroll, which is a platform where you can watch various anime.

I was able to try the Special Grade Garlic Sauce at a tasting event held by McDonald's in Manhattan, so I can tell you everything you need to know. The limited-edition sauce is available beginning on July 9.

Recommendations are based on firsthand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by McDonald's.

Character-themed packaging

"Jujutsu Kaisen" is supernatural and action-packed, and it centers on a student named Yuji Itadori, who eats a cursed finger to help save a classmate. However, the cursed finger belongs to an evil sorcerer, who proceeds to take up residence in Yuji's soul. As a result, Yuji has to learn the dark arts, including curses and other arcane dangers.

The packets for McDonald's Special Grade Garlic Sauce are a sleek and minimalistic-looking black, which is a lot less colorful than the fast food chain's usual sauce packaging. Each of the sauce packet variants does have a splash of color featuring a different character from the anime on top, from the protagonist to villains and more. All told, there are eight "Jujutsu Kaisen" characters for fans to collect. But enough about the packaging — now it's time to do a deep dive into the flavor of this new sauce.

Trying Special Grade Garlic Sauce on its own

McDonald's Special Grade Garlic Sauce contains both black garlic and regular garlic. Black garlic is a type of garlic that's fermented for a long period of time, and its flavor profile is a bit milder and more complex than your typical everyday garlic. It features both sweet and savory notes, and black garlic can be used in a variety of ways.

Upon opening, the Special Grade Garlic Sauce had a strong scent of garlic, which I found both comforting and warming. It had a super velvety texture and a refreshing, umami-forward aftertaste. Although far from it ingredient-wise, the sauce was almost reminiscent of a good barbecue sauce. It was more on the savory side but also had notes of sweetness, which would make it a super versatile choice to accompany almost anything (with the exception of desserts). The sauce also had a great tanginess to it. 

The tasting experience at McDonald's event was curated by the chain in collaboration with food filmmaker Alvin Zhou, who mentioned that he has been using the sauce at home and playing around with it in some of his favorite recipes. In addition to on its own, attendees including myself tried the Special Grade Garlic Sauce on four McDonald's items, chosen to showcase how multifaceted the sauce can be.  

Taste test: McCrispy with Special Grade Garlic Sauce

This chicken sandwich was part of the tasting and left me feeling super refreshed with its use of lettuce, Special Grade Garlic Sauce, and mayo. I put the sauce on the bottom bun in the center, so when I put the sandwich together, it found its way across the base of the chicken and gave it a zesty flavor. The addition of the sauce gave the McCrispy a nice tanginess. I love how the condiment almost acts like a barbecue sauce or a tonkatsu sauce

Altogether, the flavors balanced each other out well, and as I bit into the sandwich, the flavors and textures reminded me of a good katsu chicken sandwich. If you're craving a katsu sandwich but don't have a katsu spot nearby, the McCrispy with Special Grade Garlic Sauce is a great alternative that still gives you those textures and flavors you know and love. 

Taste test: loaded fries with Special Grade Garlic Sauce

Although this is not a regular menu item but something prepared for the tasting event, you could easily throw this together yourself. (All the same, please make it a menu item, McDonald's.) I devoured this presentation of the Special Grade Garlic Sauce. For this dish, attendees mixed the sauce with mayo, which basically created an aioli to drizzle on top of the fries before topping them with burger toppings, namely pickles and onions. The mayo gave the garlic sauce a more mellow flavor compared to some of the other options on the event's tasting menu. I could still taste the cozy notes from the sauce, but with the mayo's creaminess, it was super tasty. If you are someone who loves loaded nachos, this might be your next favorite side. Think of the sauce-mayo mix as a glue to keep all the toppings on!

The Special Grade Garlic Sauce paired with the toppings gave the fries a great texture, but the toppings also did a great job playing with the smooth flavor of the sauce. Since the pickles were sour and sweet, they gave the fries that extra oomph that you find while adding jalapeños to loaded nachos. The onions added a nice, bold taste and texture. Plus, who doesn't want loaded fries?  

Taste test: McDouble with Special Grade Garlic Sauce

Burgers are a summer essential, so I was thrilled to see the Special Grade Garlic Sauce used in a McDouble. The sauce took on a milder role in this burger, but it still helped to make this dish unique from the others at the tasting event. In addition to traditional burger toppers, this McDouble included an unusual ingredient: french fries.

What made this dish stand out was how the attendees added the fries on top of the burger and how they played off the flavors and textures of both the garlic sauce and the mayo. The sauce paired well with fries and basic burger toppings, but the texture play in this was what made it so special. It had pockets of flavors that burst in my mouth, making it a delightful experience. Although fries aren't usually something to add to burgers, I highly recommend trying the combo with Special Grade Garlic Sauce mixed in.

Taste Test: saucing the McNuggets

Last but certainly not least, I tried Chicken McNuggets coated in the Special Grade Garlic Sauce, and let me tell you, this has to be the best McDonald's hack I've ever tried. Shaking the chicken in the sauce was a fun way to destress, but what really made me fall head over heels for this take was the drizzle of honey on top of the sauced nuggets. That little extra was courtesy of the tasting event, but you can request a packet of honey to do this yourself. The touch of sweetness from the honey really helped keep the McNuggets extremely well-balanced without being too sweet. The sauce paired well with the nuggets, reminding me a bit of sweet and sour chicken. 

This combo didn't even feel like something you'd get from McDonald's; it felt super playful. To elevate this sauce and chicken further, instead of pairing it with fries, try layering it on top of your favorite rice at home. I promise you won't regret it. Although every single item at the event tasted great, on McNuggets was my favorite way to use the Special Grade Garlic Sauce.  

Final thoughts

After trying McDonald's limited-edition Special Grade Garlic sauce at its tasting event, I can wholeheartedly say it's 100% worth downloading the chain's app for. I already know that I'll be grabbing this sauce as much as possible while it's available. Although I loved everything the sauce was paired with, my absolute favorite was the Chicken McNuggets. I'm grateful that I was able to experience McDonald's and Alvin Zhou's curated tasting menu. Keep in mind that the special items from the event can easily be recreated. Trust me — if I could do it, you can, too. 

Overall, I really enjoy the versatility of Special Grade Garlic Sauce and would recommend checking it out. It's well-flavored and seasoned and can give dishes just the right amount of umami while also keeping things savory with a touch of sweetness. I'm eager to try the sauce on more menu items and would be happy to see it as a permanent offering.