The pressure’s on in Atlanta. The fate of KFC’s recently reincarnated fan favorite, the likes of which have not been seen since 2014, is entirely up to us. KFC has selected this fair city—my fair city—as the sole test market for version 2.0 of its begged-for KFC Twister Wrap. In a continuation of the throwback era, the powers that be at Yum! Brands are testing the waters in the ATL to see if KFC should, like so many other fast food chains, simply replay its greatest hits in 2022. After all, fans have been asking for the Twister Wrap ever since it disappeared from menus back in 2014.
According to Brand Eating’s 2010 review, the KFC Twister Wrap was two small-ish Extra Crispy chicken strips (or, on occasion, one larger tender), shredded iceberg lettuce, some tomatoes, and pepper mayo sauce in a flour tortilla. It came into existence at the peak of the “low-carb” craze, back when buns and bread were considered the enemy even though tortilla wraps can often be higher in calories than a bun. (What a long way our beloved brioche has come.)
The wrap lay dormant for eight years and was not seen again until just last month, when KFC revealed three new twists on the Twister, available for a very, very limited time. As in, the test is over this month, and then it’s a wrap on this wrap, its future determined by Atlantans only.
Are they actually any good? Is the Twister worth resurrecting? As an Atlanta correspondent for The Takeout (and hero to the fast food nation), off I went to my local curiosity/landmark, The Big Chicken, to try them all. Here are my recon results.
Ordering this was pretty easy, as these things go. Service has been slow at a lot of fast food joints in the past year due to staffing issues, but it was dead quiet when I went, and I had preordered my wraps. Window decals showed that KFC knew what was up and needed to pimp these wraps out for the brand’s survival; a pull-up banner by the counter reminded you that these tortilla-blanketed tenders say “Whassup.” No confusion as to its availability, which was a pleasant departure from many of my recent tastings of limited-edition or new menu items. Worst to best, here are the results.
We all know the drill now: fried chicken, two pickle slices of a sort, and a creamy dressing, most often mayo. KFC’s new “classic” chicken wrap makes it snack-sized, putting one Extra Crispy Tender in a warm fajita-sized tortilla wrapped in a tidy open-ended little purse held together with brown paper.
One thing I’ll say for this wrap is that it’s certainly cute. But to be honest, it wasn’t very interesting, nor very substantial. Two regular-thickness crinkle-cut sour pickles lay atop a generous but not obscene smear of mayonnaise, slightly coagulated from the warmth of the chicken and the wrap. A decent-sized tender peeked out of the top. No buried ledes here.
The taste, though, got a little confusing. The pickle and mayo came across like tartar sauce for some reason, which made the tender’s softer texture remind me of a fish fillet in instant association. I’m in no way saying that’s a bad thing; I love those suckers. It was mental connection in its suddenness since I’m certainly used to this as a chicken formula and am a fan of the KFC chicken sandwich. But the signature KFC seasoning didn’t really come through, trumped as it was by the pickle-mayo combo’s insistence on being the loudest flavor—and even that wasn’t very loud.
Overall, it was all just kind of blah and meek. It lacked substance, flavor, and style. Give me a brioche bun or the sweet, dense, sesame-seeded Zinger bun anytime. The carbs are worth it.
Carbs on carbs on carbs. Here, a single Extra Crispy Tender is nestled in a fair-sized scoop of elbow macaroni enrobed in a velvety cheese sauce inside a flour tortilla. (Glycemic index what?) Then, in further macro-ception, there was fat on fat on fat, courtesy of that cheese sauce, the oil from the chicken, and the extra shreds of bicolor cheese.
This may sound like comfort food overkill, but you know what? For a quickie snack for a couple of bucks, this sure will fill you up. I found this the most satisfying, belly-warming combo of the bunch. The flavors are soothing in an expected, semi-bland kind of way: You’ve got the familiarity of the cheese sauce gloop and the KFC seasonings on the chicken, both of which present mildly. However, the mix of textures may be confounding to some (raises hand).
The pairing of crunchiness and gooeyness are all good, but it’s the various kinds of soft that were a little off-putting. We’ve got the wrap and the mac, which break down in your mouth at different rates, and the soft-cooked, hollow elbows add air to each chew as they pop inside the denser tortilla wrap.
This wrap left the test market first—I got this on the last day it was available. However, there’s nothing to stop you from getting one of the other ones, then ordering a mac and cheese cup on the side to get its gist.
More often than not, I’m gonna opt for spicy. I like big flavor best, so this rendition gets the top marks of the three for having the most distinguishing flavor, a term I’m using loosely since all three wraps erred on the side of caution as far as flavor is concerned.
The slightly spicy kick is a fun surprise, and it’s well balanced by the sweetness in the finely diced KFC coleslaw. This chain’s slaw isn’t my fave (I prefer less dressing and more substantial bite), but it does the trick here as a saucy, mayo-heavy dressing. It’s a bit messy to eat since the slaw gets drippy and watered down rather quickly, so if there’s one wrap the paper sleeve is super handy for, it’s this one. Oh, and there are a couple of pickles, but they blend in like an afterthought since the coleslaw steps in heavy with the flavor lead, overshadowing even the chicken.
What made this the best of the new flavors is that it was the only one with multiple flavor elements. You’ve got a little heat, a little sweet, some salt and fat. There’s some acid in the dressing, and freshness in the slaw. Unlike the Classic, it had some substance and volume. Unlike the Mac & Cheese, it had various distinct notes. It was the best of the three, but to be totally honest, not one was more than decent.
The new KFC Fried Chicken Wraps are a good idea, but they don’t feel like a fleshed-out one. Rather, they seem like an incomplete thought the brand didn’t fully commit to.
The components are cobbled together with existing ingredients, which is an economical business move and one that won’t alienate or shock existing KFC fans. The downside of that is that they don’t feel original or like an improvement of the beloved Twisters. The brand played it too safe, from minimal ingredients to quality levels that meet the most basic expectations.
It’s nice that the tortillas are soft and warm, but they’re so bland that they may as well not exist at all. Coming from a chain whose reputation was made by a blend of many, many spices, it’s a little surprising how negative of a space the flour wraps left—they were merely tidy envelopes, a method of encapsulation more so than a standalone ingredient.
On a positive note, though, this is an immensely kid-friendly selection. They’re economical, neat, unfussy, and snack-sized. There’s nothing that pops out to scare young palates; the flavors are even-keeled and err on the side of underseasoned, which gives kids nothing to complain about.
In all, I think they were a worthy experiment on KFC’s end, but not ready for a national debut. For adults who now expect more in terms of flavor density and creativity, even in fast food (see the ghost pepper phenomenon), it’ll need some tweaking before a wider rollout. Fans of the original Twister Wraps will feel the loss of the lettuce, tomato, and non-generic dressing. All in all, these new wraps need some sort of fresh and voluminous element to make them feel more like a #snacc and less like something I’d assemble myself between conference calls.