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What is the sauce in Rick and Morty?

Rick and Morty is an adult animated sci-fi sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block Adult Swim. The show follows the misadventures of cynical mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his goodhearted but fretful grandson Morty Smith, who split their time between domestic life and interdimensional travels.

One of the show’s most iconic recurring gags involves a green dipping sauce that Rick is obsessed with called “Szechuan sauce.” In the show, it’s revealed to be a limited edition promotional dipping sauce that was originally released by McDonald’s in 1998 to tie-in with the Disney film Mulan. Rick claims it’s his “series arc” to try this sauce because he considers it to be the tastiest sauce in the universe.

The Szechuan sauce has taken on a life of its own beyond the show, leading to riots when McDonald’s briefly re-released it in 2017. But what exactly is Szechuan sauce, and why is Rick so obsessed with it in Rick and Morty?

The History of McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce

In 1998, McDonald’s released a new Chicken McNuggets promotional dipping sauce flavor called Szechuan sauce. It was inspired by the Szechuan cuisine of China’s Sichuan province, known for its bold, pungent flavors.

The sauce was released in tandem with the Disney film Mulan, as a tie-in promotion. Mulan is set in ancient China, so the Szechuan sauce was presented as an “authentic” Chinese sauce to eat with McNuggets while watching the film.

The Szechuan sauce had a sweet, tangy flavor profile. Its ingredients included soy, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and chili peppers. It came served in limited edition packaging featuring Mulan characters.

The Sauce’s Brief Run

The Szechuan sauce was only available for a short time in 1998 during the Mulan promotion. After the film left theaters, McDonald’s no longer offered the sauce. For the next 19 years, the Szechuan sauce became an obscure footnote in McDonald’s history.

However, for some customers who tried the sauce back in 1998, the memories stuck with them even two decades later. It attained a mythic, nostalgic status over time as people fondly remembered the unique, limited edition flavor.

The Sauce in Rick and Morty

The Szechuan sauce entered popular culture again in 2017 thanks to Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. In the Season 3 premiere “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” Rick Sanchez reveals his motivation for everything he does is to taste McDonald’s Szechuan sauce just one more time.

In a meta reference, Rick directly tells the show’s creators he wants them to get the sauce back on the market as part of a joke about satisfying fan demands:

“I want that Mulan McNugget sauce, Morty. That’s my series arc, Morty. If it takes nine seasons, I want my McNugget dipping sauce Szechuan sauce, Morty. That’s what’s going to take us all the way to the end, Morty. Season nine more seasons Morty, nine more seasons until I get that dipping Szechuan sauce. For ninety-seven more years Morty, I want that McNugget sauce Morty!”

This moment transformed the Szechuan sauce from an obscure 1990s relic into an internet meme overnight. Fans became obsessed with trying the legendary sauce that Rick is so impassioned about.

Why Is Rick Obsessed with Szechuan Sauce?

In that same episode of Rick and Morty, Rick reveals what made the McDonald’s Szechuan sauce so special to him:

“It’s an excellent source of alternate dimension energy, and I lost access to it in 1998 when McDonald’s stopped carrying it as a tie-in promotion for Disney’s Mulan movie. This sauce is f*cking amazing!”

According to Rick, his fond memories of the sauce are tied to both its flavors and unique energy properties he was able to exploit. It represents a nostalgic piece of his past he’s chasing.

This is typical of Rick’s characterization on the show as a brilliant but unstable man who pursues his own obsessions without concern for how it affects others. The sauce demonstrates the lengths Rick will go to satisfy his own desires.

McDonald’s Brief Szechuan Sauce Revival

After Rick and Morty propelled it back into the public consciousness, McDonald’s decided to take advantage of the sauce’s newfound fame. In October 2017, they announced a one-day limited release of the Szechuan sauce at certain locations.

Szechuan Sauce Riots

The extremely limited supply led to riots breaks out at some McDonald’s locations during the Szechuan sauce release event. Only a handful of sauce packets were available per location. Fans lined up for hours ahead of time to get a taste.

When the sauce quickly sold out, people who missed out became furious. There were angry chants of “We want sauce!” Police were called to manage unruly crowds in some places. McDonald’s later apologized for severely underestimating the demand.

Date Location Description
October 7, 2017 Los Angeles, CA Hundreds line up at pop-up McDonald’s location for hours leading to altercations.
October 7, 2017 Lansing, MI Police officers called to control 500 person crowd that chanted “We want sauce!” after it sold out.
October 7, 2017 Miami, FL Woman arrested for attacking manager and screaming about lack of Szechuan sauce.


McDonald’s later admitted it had “under estimated” how badly people wanted to actually taste the Szechuan sauce for themselves. The riots demonstrated the rabid demand that Rick and Morty had whipped up.

In the aftermath, limited edition Szechuan sauce packets sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay as collector’s items. Burger King tweeted it would bring back its own discontinued Chicken Fries if enough people tweeted at McDonald’s to ask for more Szechuan sauce.

What’s So Special About the Szechuan Sauce?

So what exactly gives the McDonald’s Szechuan sauce such an intense cult following? There appear to be a few factors at play:


The sauce was originally released for only a few months in 1998, so very few people alive today have tried it. This gives it a mystique as a rare, unattainable artifact. Even though it’s just a fast food dipping sauce, its limited availability makes it intriguing.


For those who did try the Szechuan sauce in 1998, it holds nostalgic memories of their childhood during that era. Interest in nostalgic pop culture from the 1990s was already escalating before Rick and Morty due to shows like Stranger Things. The sauce taps into that generation’s cultural nostalgia.

Rick and Morty Fandom

The show’s rabid fanbase latched onto Rick’s obsession as part of the overall Rick and Morty mythos. Fans yearned to taste the sauce Rick holds in such high regard themselves, similar to fans wanting to visit real places featured in shows.

Emotional Bonding

Eating the sauce creates a sense of connection between Rick and Morty fans. It lets them feel closer to characters they love who value the sauce so highly. The communal experience and bonding over the sauce enhances its appeal.


When supplies of the revived Szechuan sauce were so limited, it enhanced the sense of urgency and created viral buzz. Getting hold of rare sauce packets felt like an exclusive prize. The riots augmented the scandal and intrigue.

Other Rick and Morty Szechuan Sauce Facts

Here are some other interesting facts surrounding Rick’s obsession with McDonald’s Szechuan sauce within Rick and Morty:

– In the Season 3 episode “The ABC’s of Beth”, Rick admits his fondness for the sauce may also be tied to an unhappy childhood memory he associates with it. This adds a darker emotional complexity to Rick’s obsession.

– During Season 3, Rick wears a shirt featuring the chemical structure of Szechuan sauce’s ingredients as if they were a complicated scientific formula, showing the depth of his obsession.

– An entire section of Rick’s secret underground lair is filled with coded notes and research on how to replicate the Szechuan sauce, suggesting he tried extensively to recreate it himself.

– In the Season 4 episode “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty”, Rick kidnaps the dragon Balthromaw to force him to recreate the Szechuan sauce using his breath.

– Rick has vials labeled “Szechuan Sauce” in his lab, though their contents are unclear. It’s possible they contain a cloned sample he managed to acquire through multiverse travel and not the original.


Rick Sanchez’s crazed love for McDonald’s limited edition Szechuan sauce may have started as an absurd Rick and Morty joke. But it snowballed into a real life pop culture phenomenon when the show’s popularity reached fever pitch.

The public’s insane demand for a novelty fast food dipping sauce from over 20 years ago is a testament to the cultural impact Rick and Morty has achieved. It demonstrates how passionate and willing to engage fans are. The Szechuan sauce riots gave McDonald’s a candid lesson about underestimating zealous fan communities.

While the Szechuan sauce was originally tied to Mulan, Rick and Morty has made it iconic all over again in the internet age. And for the show’s creators, it provided an extremely effective example of how they can use Rick’s eccentric appetites to drive real world connections with fans, even if it also leads to some frustration when promoting fictional products fans expect to be able to taste for themselves.