Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)

Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Image: McDonald’s, Popeyes, Burger King, Photo: Dennis Lee, Marnie Shure, Kevin Pang, Allison Robicelli

It has been two years since customers were first introduced to the Popeyes chicken sandwich. Since then, every other major chain in America has been scrambling to release its own version of the popular menu item—to varying degrees of success. To be clear, most fast food joints have been offering chicken-based sandwiches for decades, but many have stepped up their game since 2019 by focusing on four basic components: thick and juicy breaded chicken breast, pickles, mayo and/or spicy sauce, and a pillowy brioche bun. Judging on those attributes, The Takeout has reviewed the major players’ new chicken sandwiches one by one. Here are the rankings so far.

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2 / 9

7. Boston Market’s Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich

7. Boston Market’s Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Dennis Lee

We’ve got to give Boston Market credit for a few things: first, the pickles in this thing were surprisingly great, with a nice burst of flavor where the rest of the sandwich lacked it. Secondly, the bun was sturdy enough to make this an easy sandwich to eat on the go. Things go downhill from there, but honestly, good for Boston Market for attempting something as fickle as a spicy chicken sandwich in the first place. No one expected the chain to pull one of these out of its hat, did they? Read the full review here.

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3 / 9

6. Portillo’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich

6. Portillo’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Dennis Lee

Portillo’s is a Chicago institution, and we never miss an opportunity to sing its praises. It’s known for hot dogs, Italian beef, and cake shakes, and while this new chicken sandwich released in early 2021 won’t be joining those items in the pantheon of great Portillo’s offerings, it’s still a perfectly respectable addition to the menu. This sandwich uses Hot Giardiniera Sauce as its mayo equivalent (how very Chicagoan!), an idea that is more exciting in theory than in execution. But the chicken stays impressively crispy, and the overall result is a solid, middle-of-the-road option in the chicken sandwich landscape. Read the full review here. 

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4 / 9

5. KFC Chicken Sandwich

5. KFC Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Marnie Shure

While every fast food joint was looking to Popeyes for inspiration, KFC arguably had even more of a reason to do so, as a fellow fried-chicken-focused establishment. That focus on poultry ends up being this sandwich’s strength: the chicken breast is ultra-thick, juicy, tender, and flavorful even without the assistance of breading and toppings. In fact, it’s that breading and toppings that bog this one down a bit. The skin separates from the chicken a little too easily, making it a mess (albeit a tasty one) to eat. If you’re really, truly in it for the breast meat, then this is the sandwich for you. Read the full review here.

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5 / 9

4. McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

4. McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Allison Robicelli

The fast food juggernaut released its chicken sandwich in three different forms: Regular (pickles), Spicy (pickles and spicy pepper sauce), and Deluxe (lettuce, tomato, mayo). The spicy pepper sauce is satisfyingly PG-13 in its burn levels, but it’s a bit of a Goldilocks situation: too much hot sauce drowns out the other components. The bun is a winner, and McDonald’s mayo has always scored high, so the Deluxe is a decent option for chicken sandwich lovers out there. But you’ll want to make sure to get some pickles on that thing. Read the full review here. 

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6 / 9

3. Burger King’s Hand-Breaded Crispy Chicken Sandwich

3. Burger King’s Hand-Breaded Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Marnie Shure

This is the newest one of the bunch, and its late release was baked into its marketing: Burger King declared its chicken sandwich to be “worth the wait.” We must say we agree. The sauce on the Spicy version is sweet without ever being cloying; it’s got nice heat and sweet cinnamon notes, but it doesn’t stray too far into syrupy territory, like a cheap barbecue sauce might. You leave with the heat, not the sweet. The Classic version, with just lettuce/tomato/mayo, was nothing to write home about, but in both cases the breading was thick, ultra-crispy, and satisfying. Read the full review here.

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7 / 9

2. Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich

2. Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Aimee Levitt

Unlike all the other fast food joints, Zaxby’s, available almost exclusively below the Mason-Dixon line, has decided to forge its own path when it comes to the fried chicken sandwich. Yes, it uses breast meat. Yes, there are pickles. But instead of brioche, Zaxby’s has a potato bun, and most crucially, it substitutes its own signature Zax Sauce for the usual mayo. This, unfortunately, is a mistake. Every other component of the sandwich is excellent. The bun is soft. The pickles are tart. The chicken is both crispy and juicy. But the Zax Sauce, a species of fast food salmon-colored sauce, lets it down. It’s grainy, not creamy, and it lacks the cooling effect of the mayonnaise. Read the full review here.

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8 / 9

1. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

1. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Illustration for article titled Our fast food chicken sandwich rankings, so far (with a new combatant)
Photo: Kevin Pang

Surpriiiise. Sorry to end on a predictable note, folks, but after eating our way through all the major competitors, we are forced to conclude that, for now, the Popeyes chicken sandwich is still the one to beat. The textural satisfaction of both its breading and its juiciness stand apart, perhaps because, as a chicken joint, Popeyes was focused on such details long before its chicken ever got slapped onto a bun and smothered with sauce. Whatever the case, it’s still undefeated in the fast food chicken sandwich arena. Read the full review here.

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9 / 9

DISCUSSION