The Szechuan Sauce is a Chicken McNuggets condiment that was originally released in 1998, and briefly returned in 2017 and 2018.
On June 19th, 1998, The Walt Disney Company released their animated feature film Mulan, the story of a brave daughter who posed as a man and enrolled into the Chinese military to take her wounded father's place in the fight against the Hun invasion. To coincide with the upcoming Disney film, McDonald's released a new limited-time condiment, the Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce. It was created to mimic traditional Chinese Szechuan Sauce, and it came complete with Happy Meal Chicken McNuggets and one out of a set of eight Mulan toys. After the promotion of the film, the sauce was removed from all McDonald's restaurants. Contrary to popular belief, Genuine 1998 SzeChuan dipping sauce's plastic cover is purple & white, not red. The red dipping sauce was a photoshop combination of 2011 BBQ sauce among other things.
Rick and Morty
Talk of McDonald's Szechuan Sauce became prominent in 2017 when it was referenced in the Adult Swim science fiction dark comedy series Rick and Morty. On Saturday April 1st, 2017, the first episode of the third season had a surprise airing with no announcement prior to the premiere. The episode opens up with the main protagonist, Rick, in a dream sequence in which he goes to a McDonald's within his memory to experience the taste of the Szechuan Sauce for one last time. The episode continues as normal until the gag is brought up again at the end of the episode, when Rick goes mad and yells about how one day, perhaps in 9 seasons or in 97 years, he will finally receive more Szechuan Sauce.
The unexpected nature of the premiere episode generated large amounts of discussion about the episode across social media, and with it, discussion of the repeatedly mentioned Szechuan Sauce, driving many fans of the show to want to try the sauce for themselves. Fans took to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites to demand that McDonald's reintroduce Szechuan Sauce to their menu. Some fans have predicted that the sauce will make a return when the new, live action Mulan movie hits theaters in 2020, but this seems unlikely since McDonald's promotional agreement with Disney ended in 2006, as Disney is concerned about childhood obesity.
On Saturday, July 29th, 2017, Justin Roiland (the creator of Rick and Morty, as well as the voice of both title characters) posted on his Twitter that McDonald's had sent him a four pound bottle of their Szechuan Sauce in a customized suitcase with a humorous letter.
It's Back! (or is it?)
On October 1st, 2017, McDonald's confirmed in a Twitter post that the Szechuan Sauce would be returning for a single day in U.S. restaurants, on October 7th, 2017.
Sources began showing a few days prior early releases of the sauce on YouTube and teasing a collectable poster to commemorate the event. To the dismay of their 'billions and billions served', the restaurants distributed roughly 20 Szechuan sauce packets at select restaurants, and 10 of the posters. Predictably, scalpers stood in line for hours just so they could obtain the extremely rare sauce and sell it for hundreds of dollars on eBay.
Many took to corporate in search for an answer, overwhelming the phone lines and resulting in hundreds being turned away with no response.
One Rick & Morty fan posted on Twitter, "This kind of marketing promotion is the reason Jerry is unemployed."
At one McDonalds restaurant in Los Angeles, a man was stabbed in the middle of a long line during the distribution of it.
On February 22nd, 2018, McDonald's announced on Twitter that it would bring Szechuan Sauce for a wider period of time and a larger quantity, as 20 million cups of the sauce will be available starting on February 26th, 2018.