McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce saga continues. Following a week of speculation that the famed condiment would return, the company announced that 20 million packets would be served its locations across the U.S. beginning Monday, February 26. The brand has also teamed up with Studio@Gizmodo and Onion Labs to produce a podcast investigating the surprisingly multi-layered story behind the sauce.
It’s seemingly unremarkable news compared to the company’s tech upgrades and its heightened focus on the chicken category, but the Szechuan Sauce has morphed into something of a cultural touchstone over the last year. The greater story goes back even further, to 1998, when McDonald’s first presented it as a limited-time offer to coincide with Disney’s animated film, Mulan.
Flash-forward to last April when adult cartoon show “Rick and Morty” exhumed the LTO. In the episode, the character of Rick bemoans the long-absent sauce while waiting at a McDonald’s drive thru. The internet quickly took the reference as a cause worth championing and even started a Change.org petition to bring the Szechuan Sauce back—the online form garnered more than 21,000 signatures.
In October, McDonald’s responded by pairing the sauce with its Buttermilk Chicken Tenders at select location. But the supply didn’t come close to meeting demand, leading to many disappointed (and some angry) fans. McDonald’s apologized via Twitter with the following message: “The best fans in the multiverse showed us what they got today. We hear you & we're sorry not everyone could get some super-limited Szechuan.”
McDonald's mea culpa goes farther and even capitalizes on its misstep with a three-part podcast that delves into the events leading to and following the Szechuan Sauce's release in October. Known as 'The Sauce,' the podcast includes interviews with upset fans, McDonald's chef Mike Haracz, and DJ Deadmau5.
The fast-food giant seems better prepared this time around, but for all the hype around the Szechuan Sauce, it’s unlikely the supply will last long. Still, this latest batch may not be the last of the cult favorite. Disney is expected to release a live-action version of Mulan in 2019, and the Szechuan Sauce would make for an ideal accouterment—assuming McDonald’s can meet the insatiable demand.