The Best Fast-Food Fried Chicken, Ranked
In November 2019, Taco Bell became the latest fast-food joint to throw cash in on America’s fried chicken frenzy. After Popeyes dominated the summer with its own fried chicken sandwich, we say the more chicken, the merrier!
But as each restaurant cooks up new tasty, deep-fried meals, it made us wonder — which place has the best fried chicken? We’ve taken a look at each contender’s menus and based our ranking on user reviews (and our stomachs) to determine which fast-food joint serves the best fried chicken meal.
And yes, there’s plenty of fowl humor to get you through the countdown.
40. KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken
Look, if you have to introduce your product to the world with a tagline like “it’s still finger-lickin’ good,” then you know you’re serving something far from tasty. This meatless mess may have only been tested in one store for five hours, but we’re doubling down on ranking it dead last on our chicken-fried countdown.
Rest assured, the rest of this list will feature menu options with actual chicken meat. KFC gets credit for thinking outside the bucket with their plant-based experiment, but we’re looking for the real deal.
Colonel Sanders will make another appearance on our list, but there’s plenty of chickies competing for the top spot.
39. McDonald’s Premium Chicken Selects
Take a look at this picture of McDonald’s Premium Chicken Selects. What exactly is going on here?! Are McDonald’s sad excuses for chicken tenders just stretched out chicken nuggets? This is ridiculous. There’s barely any chicken in their thin, flabby tenders.
And when it comes to the texture, the Selects are often stringy and tasteless. There’s no amount of sweet and sour sauce in the world that can get these to taste good.
Sorry McDonald’s, but this order would leave anyone peckish for something else.
38. Burger King’s Chicken Fries
Have you ever wondered what deep-fried gummy worms look like? Go to Burger King and grab yourself an order of Chicken Fries. They’re long, thin and available in a possessed-looking french fry box. It’s like an assortment of tiny fried entrails with a box featuring the dreaded poultrygeist.
Even if we put aesthetics aside and focus on the flavors, the Chicken Fries are a major fail. The chicken is bland with breading that lacks the important crunch from fried chicken. Worst of all, it’s far from filling, but that box is too spooky to have more than one sitting in front of you.
37. Chester’s Livers & Gizzards
Deep in the South is where you’ll find a Chester’s Chicken restaurant. And in true Southern tradition, this chicken shack offers up some deep-fried livers and gizzards. But beware— this is a delicacy that is not treated delicately.
Livers and gizzards can be a hearty addition to your diet, but not this way. Reviews for Chester’s are not kind in regards to this option. Everything is greasy and chewy, like a tough piece of oily chewing gum. I’m getting queazy just thinking about these little morsels.
36. McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
McDonald’s has the high honor of having the first fried chicken sandwich on the list. In reality, that makes it the worst fried chicken sandwich on this list, but because we’re about to ruffle their feathers, the least we could do is give them a compliment.
The main problem with this sandwich is that the promise of a buttermilk fried piece of chicken should have a rich, creamy flavor with each crunchy bite. That is not the case with this sandwich.
It’s often dry, bland and lacking essential flavors that make eating fried chicken sandwiches so enjoyable.
35. Krispy Krunchy Chicken’s Tender Biscuit
When you wake up in the morning, a breakfast sandwich usually calls for some bacon, eggs, a warm bun and maybe some cheese or avocado to add a nice touch. KKC appears to have the warm biscuit under control, but breakfast chicken? Explain yourself.
Cajun-infused fried chicken tenders in between a warm biscuit does not a breakfast make. A nice marmalade or a little butter could make it more of a believable breakfast dish, but this is just a dry, poor excuse for breakfast.
34. Checkers and Rally’s Big Chicken Sandwich
Size isn’t everything in a sandwich — unless you say your sandwich is big. Then you’re opening yourself up to ridicule. And the chicken isn’t big! It’s a quarter-pound of meat (pre-cooked) sandwiched between two small pieces of bread.
You can’t try to sell us on a giant fried chicken sandwich and give a regular-sized patty with smaller portions. It’s not a great selling point, and the flavors are far from ginormous. Better luck next time, small fry.
33. Mrs. Winner’s Chicken Dinner
For a trip to Mrs. Winner’s, you’ll need to head to the Southeast to wrestle yourself up a nice two-piece dinner combo. But when you scroll through some of the Yelp reviews of some of their establishments, the food and service are reason enough to fly elsewhere.
The biscuits and fixings tend to be better than the chicken itself. Overcooked. Undercooked. It seems that it’s a gamble whether you’ll ever get the chicken prepared correctly. This franchise, namesake aside, hardly seems like a winner.
32. The Organic Coup’s Signature Sandwich
Would you like an unseasoned, uncooked collection of bland vegetables in your fried chicken sandwich? I didn’t think so. The Organic Coup is the San Francisco Bay Areas rising fast-food chain of so-called “healthy” chicken sandwiches.
Throwing a salad on top of the sandwich doesn’t make it healthy. We all know we’re here for fried chicken. There’s no shame in the game, so buzzwords like air-chilled and coconut oil don’t equal a delicious sandwich.
31. Jack in the Box’s Spicy Chicken with Cheese Sandwich
We’re going out on a limb here, but a spicy sandwich should taste spicy, correct? Apparently, there are egg-ceptions. Jack in the Box promises to lure you into flavor country with Jack’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, but this sandwich only takes you to the desert.
The chicken tends to be pretty dry and severely lacks in the spice department. Where’s the flavor Jack was promising?! Jack owes us some heat! If you have to rely on adding Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Dipping Sauce to add some spice, you may want to rename your sandwich.
30. Whataburger’s Whatachick’n Sandwich
What-a-basic fried chicken sandwich. Look, I’m not going to hate on Whataburger for lacking in perfecting the art of a fried chicken sando. They’ve got plenty of good concoctions up their sleeves, and some of them are top contenders in this list! But this is not the one.
The filet is fine, but the wheat bun takes the fun out of eating of a fried chicken sandwich. I’m not here for the pseudo-healthy wheat bun mixing with a guilty pleasure like fried chicken. Oh, and did I mention there are Reddit pages devoted to hating whatever the WhatasSauce spread on those buns is? Yeah.
29. Chester’s Chester Breaster Sandwich
If you’re hankering for some Southern-fried chicken, this is not the spot. There are plenty of amazing, soulful restaurants to visit instead. Online reviews of this sandwich are severely lacking in that sweet, Southern charm.
The Chester Breaster sandwich bills itself as a “juicy boneless breast of chicken specially marinated, double hand-breaded, fried and served with lettuce & mayo on a sesame seed bun.” But if you ask the neighbors, it’s a dry, dull sandwich.
28. Sonic’s Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Meanwhile, Sonic’s version of the fried chicken sandwich has all of the elements people usually look for but fails to impress in the end. The chicken is a tad bland, and the shredded lettuce is often a mess. Remember — presentation matters!
It’s a rare occasion when the sandwiches in the marketing photos actually resemble what you get, but Sonic’s service and quality definitely have room for improvement.
They do get a henerable mention for the tasty brioche bun. But again, it’s not enough to move this clucktastrophe up the list.
27. Burger King’s RODEO Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Want to know why the chicken crossed the road? To get away from all of these extra ingredients! If done right, the RODEO Crispy Chicken Sandwich could have been Burger King’s blue ribbon winner. Sadly, the sandwich is too ambitious for its own good.
The RODEO sandwich comes with bacon, onion rings, American cheese, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. There’s simply too much dressing and too many oily toppings for one sandwich to handle! Get those toppings on the side so you can enjoy them all separately.
26. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Bacon Swiss Crispy Chicken Filet
This sandwich is a classic case of a restaurant cutting corners to serve the bare minimum. The addition of Swiss cheese and bacon is a solid touch to make your chicken sandwich stand out among the others, but that involves some extra effort. No eggs-cuses!
The bacon is usually super thin and far from crispy, which is totally unacceptable. If you’re looking to try this sandwich, ask for extra bacon and cheese to bring out the flavors.
Or grab yourself a sandwich that’s higher up on the list.
25. Arby’s Buttermilk Chicken Bacon Swiss Sandwich
Looks like someone got the memo about alternatives to Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s bland bacon and Swiss sandwich. Arby’s prides itself on serving quality deli meats at their restaurants, and they follow through when you compare their bacon and Swiss to other fast-food joints’ versions.
Unfortunately, they’re lacking in the fried chicken department. The sandwich benefits from its thick-cut bacon, cheese and honey mustard, but the buttermilk fried chicken isn’t very flavorful.
Without feather ado, let’s move on to the next contender!
24. KFC’s Crispy Colonel Sandwich
Don’t ruffle your feathers quite yet. This crispy-looking sandwich can be deceiving. Yes, this adorable little sandwich has all the makings of a delicious treat: very crispy chicken, sweet-as-pie pickles and a healthy dose of mayonnaise.
KFC upped the ante on their sandwich by offering three varieties of the Crispy Colonel: Smoky Mountain BBQ, Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold. While all three pack a flavorful punch, the chicken loses all crunch potential with the heavy dressings, so it’s best to go back to basics.
23. Bojangles’ Cajun Filet Sandwich
This is going to sound bird-brained, but this sandwich needs a better chicken-to-bread ratio. We need more chicken! There’s never enough delicious Cajun-spiced chicken in comparison to the hefty amount of buttered bread that takes up most of this sandwich.
The addition of lettuce, tomato and creamy mayo is all well and good, but they need to bulk up on birds to qualify as a top fried chicken item.
We’re taking our fried chicken sandwich rankings seriously, especially because everyone keeps clucking about their favorites these days.
22. Chick-fil-A’s Chick-n-Strips
Chick-fil-A has some very tasty chickens. Their secret recipe for their fried chicken makes them one of the leading fast-food restaurants in the country. Just last year the fast-food giant raked in $10.5 billion in sales, making them the top-selling chicken-focused restaurant in the pecking order.
It’s no secret their chicken is delicious, but their choice of sauces really ups the ante. The Polynesian Sauce is tangy and sweet. The Chick-fil-A Sauce is a creamy delight. Even their Buffalo Sauce packs a unique punch. But the tenders are the real standouts.
So tasty. So dependable. Great…now we’re hungry.
21. KFC’s Original Recipe Chicken
This is the original fast-food fried chicken. Colonel Harland Sanders opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise way back in 1952. While we’re sure there have been some tweaks to the recipe since then, you have to give it up to the OG of the fried fast-food feast.
We’re not sure which 11 secret herbs and spices they use to keep things fresh, but their bone-in fried chicken rarely fails to disappoint. If you feel adventurous you can get their extra-crispy option, but we recommend the more flavorful choice. Go ahead, call us “chicken” all you want.
20. Zaxby’s Club Sandwich
If you haven’t heard of Zaxby’s, then hightail it down to the Southeast. They have a very diverse selection of fried chicken sandwich options, but the Zaxby’s Club is a real winner. They take two pieces of their delicious Texas toast and add their signature Chicken Fingerz with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, American cheese and mayo.
The only problem is that the Chicken Fingerz can be a tad bland at times, so you may want to add a side of their Zax Sauce to spice up the meal. Or get yourself an extra side of Chicken Fingerz, because sometimes this sandwich can use some more meat.
19. Bojangles’ Chicken Supremes
A good recipe goes a long way. Take Bojangles’ Chicken Supremes, for instance. Just the right blend of brown sugar and hot Cajun spices actually makes each bite nice and flavorful. The tasty tenders are a solid example of finger-lickin’ fried chicken.
If you’re hankering for something with a little less bite to it, you can try out the Homestyle Tenders option. It’s basically a Supreme without the spice. Like the actual Supremes without Diana Ross, for example. But don’t worry. Bojangles has some great dipping sauces to make your taste buds stop in the name of love.
18. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
Raising Cane’s has the most exquisite boneless chicken fingers this side of the drive-thru. Their attention to quality and detail is what helps separate these fingers from others. They promise meat that’s always fresh, never frozen, and blended with a special marinade to lock in moisture and flavor.
They also avoid using heat lamps to make sure customers can count on quality. Plus, they have a very tasty signature Cane Sauce to add a peppery, zesty punch. It’s the perfect dipping equation from this Louisiana-based restaurant’s incredible menu.
17. Wendy’s Spicy Avocado BLT Chicken Sandwich
Did you bring a tarp to the drive-thru? You’re going to need one if you’re planning to chow down on Wendy’s Spicy Avocado BLT Chicken Sandwich. Don’t get us wrong; all of the best flavors are in this sandwich, but it comes at a very sloppy price.
The peppery chicken simply doesn’t have enough surface space to support the Muenster cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch dressing and creamed avocado. Each bite is a risk of toppling the whole thing over. While it is incredibly delicious, don’t be a bird brain and drive while snacking.
16. Krispy Krunchy Chicken’s Krispy Chicken Sandwich
This plucky little coop serves up one tasty crispy sandwich. And so what if KKC is attached to gas stations? You can fill up your tank while snagging one sweet, Cajun sandwich. A full tank and a full stomach isn’t such a bad deal.
Out of all of the options on their menu, this is the order to get. I mean, the restaurant’s name is Krispy Krunchy Chicken, for crying out loud. If they didn’t get this right, that would be a real clucking shame.
15. Gus’s Fried Chicken’s 3-Piece Dinner
With 29 restaurants and counting, Gus’s (yes, that extra S is perplexing) promises to prepare “fresh, never frozen, natural, hormone-free chicken and deep-fried in peanut oil.” Their meticulous attention to detail and Southern hospitality makes for one seriously delicious fast-casual meal.
The chicken is always crispy on the outside while staying nice and juicy on the inside. Plus, a dinner plate comes with some backyard sides you’d think your aunty prepped for you. Oh, and don’t forget that spicy kick that comes with every last bite.
14. Wingstop’s Crispy Tenders
Wingstop is obviously proud of their strong wing game, but don’t shake a tail feather at their crispy tenders. If you’ve got the stomach for it, try out a few… or all of their 12 different flavors.
Options like Mango Habanero, Spicy Korean Q, Louisiana Rub and Atomic-level spicy set the tone for a wild serving of fried chicken. Oh, and don’t forget to pair your choice with one of their four dipping sauces. I’m not so sure Mango Hanabero pairs well with hot cheddar cheese, so plan your order accordingly.
13. Culver’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Turns out the Midwest can throw down in the spice department! Culver’s got its start in Wisconsin back in ’84 before spreading throughout the Midwest thanks to their famous Butterburger. But don’t shake your tailfeather at the rest of their menu!
Culver’s can prepare a pretty solid spicy chicken sandwich. Fast-food joints can too often lack in their promise for spicy fried chicken tenders, but Culver’s delivers. The only drawback for customers is that the chicken can be a bit dry at times, but there’s always room for improvement.
12. Jollibee’s Chickenjoy
If you haven’t tried Jollibee’s Chickenjoy, do yourself a favor and fly to the nearest one immediately. The Filipino fast-food chain is slowly increasing its American locations, and fans couldn’t be jollier about it.
Every Chickenjoy order comes with Jollibee’s signature gravy for some good finger-licking dipping. The gravy is savory with a bit of sweet tanginess, making the tender chicken melt in your mouth. They don’t call it Chickenjoy for nothing!
11. White Castle’s Chicken & Waffles Slider
White Castle created something truly magical after finding a waffle iron. They take a crispy chicken breast, cover it in creamy country gravy, top it with bacon crumbles and sandwich it between two Belgian waffles.
They aren’t just serving up square hamburgers these days. After expanding their menu to include more unorthodox options, White Castle produced something truly egg-cellent for any time of day. It’s a unique, savory and soul-satisfying sandwich.
10. Zaxby’s Nibblerz
The best-kept secret of fast food in the South is Zaxby’s Nibblerz. An order of Nibblerz consists of three Zaxby’s Chicken Fingerz smothered in Zaxby’s signature Zax Sauce and tucked inside of three tiny buns.
It’s the perfect combination of crispy chicken with tasty Zax Sauce (which tastes like ketchup, mayo, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce mixed together). Zaxby’s has a lot of elaborate menu options, but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.
They’re pure poultry in motion.
9. Whataburger’s Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich
Texas toast. Chicken strips. Two slices of Monterey jack cheese. Honey BBQ sauce. Poetry in deep-fried motion. Whataburger, the Texas-based chain knows how to make big burgers, but don’t count them out in the chicken department.
This sandwich is definitely large enough to live up to the saying that “everything is bigger in Texas.” A full order of crispy, juicy chicken fingers in between two giant pieces of Texas toast is like two beautiful meals in one.
8. Burger King’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Sandwich
The Spicy Chicken Caesar Sandwich is the royal burger joint’s fine-feathered offering. The white-meat chicken filet is flavored with just the right amount of heat before getting fried and topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, crispy bacon, shaved Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar sauce.
It’s a solid balance of flavors, and the chicken doesn’t get soggy from all of the additional ingredients. They really found their niche with the introduction of this new menu item. So why has Burger King had this sandwich cooped up for so long?
7. Raising Cane’s Chicken Sandwich
Who knew a Kaiser roll came with fast food? The folks at Raising Cane’s prepared a solid fried chicken sandwich with a simple Kaiser roll, piece of lettuce and their special Cane Sauce to amplify the taste of the crispy tenders.
It’s essentially their chicken fingers on a bun, but the flavor combination gets the job done. Pretty simple, but prepared carefully enough to make each element shine.
It just goes to show that you don’t need something elaborate to wing the flavor bell.
6.Church’s Chicken Mixed Meal
Church’s has an im-peck-able recipe for fried chicken. The batter has a great consistency, so its thickness provides a killer crunch with the juicy chicken. Plus you get a big ol’ Texan-sized portion with your order, so wear your most elastic pants when you eat at Church’s.
The only trouble with eating Church’s fried chicken is that the chicken is too juicy. The juiciness of the meat can make the crunchy breading soggy in a few minutes, so you have to gobble it up fast to enjoy it at the right consistency.
We know we just made a turkey reference, but give us a break. Not every yolk has to be a chicken yolk.
5. Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich
These days, the top hen in the henhouse is Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich. It’s a dependable, albeit basic, sandwich among its competitors. It’s just a big chunk of seasoned fried chicken with a little bit of butter on the bun and a smattering of pickles to bring in some zest. But that’s it!
It’s the bare minimum, but it’s also the top-selling fried chicken sandwich in the country. They have a slew of sauces if you want to jazz it up — and cheese, lettuce and tomato — but they’re so confident with their flavors that they give you the bare minimum. But again — no one’s complaining!
4. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken Sandwich
This family-owned joint is a new contender in the chickenfight for the country’s best fried chicken. Hattie B’s started out in Nashville in 2012 but has quickly spread with locations in Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta and Las Vegas.
Hattie B’s deliciously spicy sandwich sticks to Nashville’s traditional hot chicken recipe. Definitely get in line for one of these bad boys if you’re a fan of cayenne pepper and pickle chips. It’s a top-notch spicy sandwich with a whole lot of heat!
3. Whataburger’s Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit
Say goodbye to sausage and eggs or pancakes and hashbrowns and head to Whataburger. Seriously. Get. Into. This. Biscuit. If you haven’t been to Whataburger for breakfast, you are missing out on a golden treat.
A buttermilk biscuit, a delicious crispy chicken strip and their so-good-it-must-be-illegal honey butter is the perfect breakfast combination. The only real tragedy is that this delicious sandwich is only available from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m.
Find yourself a rooster, put it next to your bed and don’t miss this morning masterpiece.
2. Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich
Marketing aside, there’s a reason Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich was the squawk of the summer in 2019. Their crispy, buttermilk-battered and hand-breaded white meat chicken with pickles and spicy Cajun spread is a zesty, flavorful take on fried chicken sandos across the country.
The world was paying an ir-egg-ular amount of attention to the arrival of this delicious sandwich, but upon eating it — everything made sense. It’s a truly tangy sandwich experience and totally worth all of the hype.
1. Shake Shack’s Chick’n Shack
Drumstick! Err… Drumroll! It’s Shake Shack for the win! This giant fried chicken sandwich is, without a doubt, the best of them all. Their perfectly crispy fried chicken is always a little too big for its bun, which makes each bite chick-full of delicious meat.
Best of all, their ratio of chicken, fresh lettuce, crunchy pickles and buttermilk-herb mayo is as reliable as it is delicious.
There you have it! Thirty fried feasts plucked from the finest fast-food establishments in the country. And because talk is far from cheep, let us know how you feel about our fine feathered roundup!