Fast food is known for familiarity and consistency, but that doesn’t stop chains from tweaking their offerings: Restaurants are constantly dropping menu items—even fan favorites. Many discontinued dishes never return, but in rare cases, the outcry is loud enough to precipitate a comeback. Here are some beloved discontinued fast food items that made triumphant returns.
1. Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza
Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza had a long initial run. Introduced in 1985, it consists of two fried tortillas layered with beef, beans, tomatoes, pizza sauce, and melted cheese. Many customers were outraged when the chain discontinued the dish as a cost-cutting measure in 2020. The backlash was so strong that Taco Bell reintroduced it as a limited-edition item in May 2022, and then again on a permanent basis that following September.
2. KFC’s Double Down
The Double Down became an instant fast food icon when it debuted at KFC. Featuring cheese and bacon between two fried chicken “buns,” the dish pushed the limits of what a sandwich could be. It was announced on April Fool’s Day 2010, but it soon proved to be more than a stunt: The fried chicken chain sold more than 10 million Double Downs within the first month of its release. Despite its popularity, the item was never conceived to be a permanent addition to the menu; though it makes occasional reappearances, it’s never available for long. Most recently, KFC revived the Double Down for a four-week run from March to April 2023.
3. Pizza Hut’s Big New Yorker
In 1999, Pizza Hut channeled New York pizzerias with a new type of pie. The Big Yorker featured sweet tomato sauce and large, floppy slices that were meant to be folded. It developed a cult following, but wasn’t popular enough to stick around: The chain removed the item from its menu in the early 2000s, but did bring it back for a limited run in February 2023.
4. McDonald’s Mighty Wings
When Mighty Wings were discontinued in 2003, it wasn’t due to lack of interest: The deep-fried, spicy chicken wings were originally conceived as a limited-edition item in 1990, but McDonald’s ended up keeping them around for more than a decade because of their immense popularity. Unfortunately, they were costly compared to the chain’s boneless chicken products. Though they haven’t been a regular menu item for two decades, fan demand led to brief revivals in 2013 and 2016.
5. Burger King’s Chicken Fries
Fingers and nuggets were the default chicken shapes in fast food for decades. Then, in 2005, Burger King reinvented the category with chicken fries. The skinny breaded chicken sticks are served in tall cardboard containers like French fries, making them easy to eat on the go. They quickly built a devoted fanbase, but in 2012 they disappeared from menus nationwide. Interest remained high enough to justify their brief return in 2014, and since 2015, they’ve been a regular offering at the fast food chain.
6. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets
In 2009, Wendy’s released a spicy twist on its classic chicken nuggets that maintained a loyal following even after they were discontinued in 2017. Fans included Chance the Rapper, who in 2019 tweeted: “Positive Affirmations for today: I WILL have a good day, I Will succeed today, Wendy’s WILL bring back spicy nuggets at some point please please Lord let it be today.” Wendy’s took this opportunity to issue a challenge to its followers: If 2 million people liked their tweet, they would bring back spicy chicken nuggets. The goal was reached in less than two days.
Wendy’s reintroduced the item on a limited basis in 2019 and again in 2020. Though no change in the formula was announced, some customers (including Chance) claimed they were spicier than they remembered.
7. Starbucks's Birthday Cake Frappuccino
Starbucks’s Birthday Cake Frappuccino was never meant to be a permanent menu item. The coffee chain introduced the vanilla- and hazelnut-flavored blended drink topped with whipped cream in honor of the Frappuccino’s 20th anniversary in 2015, and it was popular enough to warrant a brief comeback for the drink’s 21st birthday the following year. Today, customers in the know can often order it as an off-menu item.
8. Taco Bell’s Enchirito
With an original run that spanned from 1970 to 2013, the Enchirito was loved by generations of Taco Bell customers. In 2022, the chain gave fans the chance to revive enchilada-burrito hybrid by voting for its comeback online. It beat the discontinued Double Decker Taco by a healthy 24 percent margin in a head-to-head poll, and Taco Bell quickly made good on its promise: It offered the Enchirito as part of a limited-time promotion between November 17 and November 30 of that year.
9. McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce
McDonald’s originally released its Szechuan sauce in promotion of Disney’s Mulan in 1998. It was largely forgotten by customers until 2017, when an episode of the cartoon series Rick and Morty spotlighted the discontinued item; this generated enough interest for McDonald’s to briefly revive the sweet soy dipping sauce. It returned to menus again in 2022 as an exclusive in-app item.
10. Burger King’s Mac and Cheetos
Burger King delighted some customers—and horrified others—when it debuted Mac and Cheetos in 2016. The mozzarella stick-like concoction consisted of deep-fried mac and cheese coated in Cheeto dust. The initial run was a hit, so the burger chain decided to bring back the fast frankenfood for a limited time in 2017.