Jonathan Primus, 22, had tried to get it in Tallahassee, Fla., and said he was “really upset” when he learned the McDonald’s there had run out.
Mr. Primus, a fan of the show, had been visiting friends in Texas and drove back with a friend to Florida on Saturday, calculating a route that would place them in Tallahassee at precisely 2 p.m., the time that McDonald’s announced it would start giving the sauce away.
They arrived at 2 p.m., but it was too late: The restaurant had already run out.
“I kind of did a little bit of a yell of sorts,” he said. “It was a disappointing drive home.”
Mr. Primus had plenty of company. Although some fans were lucky — and in some cases tried to sell the sauce on eBay — McDonald’s had underestimated just how popular it would be.
Employees were inundated with requests.
At a McDonald’s in Los Angeles, a crowd chanted, “Szechuan sauce! Szechuan sauce!” as employees tried to maintain order.
Dominick Tao, 31, a graduate student in New York, visited three McDonald’s restaurants on Saturday afternoon. At one of them, he spoke with people in line who told him they had been there since 8 a.m.
For Mr. Tao, who is also a “Rick and Morty” fan, the sauce was steeped in nostalgia. He remembered eating it at McDonald’s with his family when it was first released.
He was hooked.
“It increased my McDonald’s consumption probably twofold,” he said. “I would beg my mom to take me back to McDonald’s.”
Tasting the sauce again would have been “fulfilling a childhood dream,” he said. Even so, he wasn’t willing to wait hours in line. He struck out at two other locations before eventually giving up.
As of Sunday evening, the McDonald’s Twitter account was still featuring a photo of the limited-edition sauce. The company apologized for the shortage in a pinned tweet: “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.”
A promotional website for the sauce, which was meant to lift sales of its new Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, invited fans to “get obsauced” — with the caveat that the Szechuan sauce could only be found in select locations. “When we say limited, we mean really, really limited!” the website said.
But in its statement later on Sunday, McDonald’s said: “We’re gonna make this right. In the last 24 hours, we’ve worked to open any portal necessary. And it worked.”
Until then, making it from scratch might be the best option.