The 13 Best Fast Food Chicken Patties, Tasted Plain & Ranked

The 13 Best Fast Food Chicken Patties, Tasted Plain & Ranked

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Our commitment to hunting down the best fast food chicken sandwich knows no bounds. We’ve already launched an extensive investigation in search of the best chicken sandwich build — it’s Popeyes, no surprise — but that got us thinking: Who is actually cooking up the best chicken? If you strip away the dressings, the bread, the accouterments… is Popeyes still the GOAT?

That’s how we came up with today’s challenge: the naked taste test. Just chicken patties — no place to hide.

We’ve done the naked taste test before, with fast food burgers, and the results of that one surprised us. Stripped of the fixins, our ideas about who made the best fast food burger shifted. A lot. Since chicken sandwiches are fast food’s current favorite snack, it’s only fair that we put their patties to the same test.

With no condiments or pillowy buns to grab my attention, I’ll be able to focus on each fillet’s flavor, the crunchiness of breading, the breading-to-meat ratio, and the texture of the chicken itself. As a result, all of the chicken breast fillets that come drenched in sauce — Wendy’s Hot Honey Chicken, Arby’s Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, etc — have been removed. Sound fair? Let’s eat and crown a true champ!

13. McDonald’s — Crispy Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.90

Tasting Notes:

Last year, in an effort to cash in on the chicken sandwich craze, McDonald’s launched a trio of new chicken sandwiches, all built around a newly reformulated chicken fillet recipe. This new sandwich is the best chicken sandwich McDonald’s has ever offered.

Unfortunately, that still doesn’t make it good. It has a truly odd aftertaste; dull, bitter, and a little dirty. It doesn’t taste marinated in pickle brine so much as lightly grazed by a pickle. It has the ghosts of flavors — a wisp of pickle, the specter of pepper — but mostly just dry, stringy chicken that’s a chore to chew through.

The Bottom Line:

McDonald’s Crispy Chicken is one of the chain’s least processed foods, but also one of the most lacking in identifiable flavors. Go figure.

Find your nearest McDonald’s here.

12. KFC — Chicken Sandwich

Chicken FIlet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.99

Tasting Notes:

KFC, a place with f*cking ‘chicken’ in the name, shouldn’t be able to make a chicken sandwich this bad. There is no excuse. They might as well not make a chicken sandwich to begin with because this is straight-up garbage. The chicken is dry and tough, the batter tastes like eggs, and despite looking like the crunchiest thing on Earth, the texture is disturbingly soft. It has no redeeming qualities, which really puts into perspective how bad McDonald’s is. I hate KFC’s chicken sandwich this much, and there’s still something worse.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t eat this. Kick it down the street, run it over with a car, don’t even let bugs eat this garbage. KFC, if you’re reading this, stop making chicken sandwiches. Please, we beg you.

Find your nearest KFC here.

11. Jack in the Box — Cluck Sandwich

Chicken FIlet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $4.99

Tasting Notes:

I love that Jack in the Box’s chicken sandwich is called “The Cluck.” I don’t need fast food brands to get creative or cute with their chicken sandwich names (looking at you Burger King Ch’King) but there is something fun about rolling up to a drive-thru and saying “Hi, can I get the Cluck?”

Unfortunately, that’s where my adoration ends. Like a lot of these bottom-of-the-list chicken sandwiches, this one is dry, incredibly dense and hearty, and way too salty. It also suffers from the same problem as all fried food from Jack in the Box: it tastes vaguely like Curly Fries.

You may think that’s not a bad thing, because you love curly fries, and we don’t blame you, you’d have to be a monster not to. But curly fry flavor isn’t great when it’s constantly hovering over the flavors you’re supposed to be tasting like an unwanted guest. You come away from this chicken feeling like you tasted something fried in old oil.

The Bottom Line:

Not the worst thing on the Jack in the Box menu, but if you’re really craving chicken from the Box, you’re better off ordering strips or nuggets.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

10. Carl’s Jr. — Hand Breaded Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes: $6.09

Carl’s Jr.’s attempt to compete with Popeyes was to drop a hand-breaded chicken sandwich that matched the quality of the brand’s hand-breaded chicken tenders. On that front, Carl’s Jr.’s big chicken sandwich relaunch has been a success. Like McDonald’s, this is the best chicken sandwich that has ever been on the Carl’s menu, replacing that addictive, but school-cafeteria-quality $1 spicy chicken sandwich that used to be the only option on the menu. This new version is just a few missteps away from being a great chicken sandwich.

The hand-breading is great and noticeable. You can see tossing waves in the batter, and the fillet is well covered with a nice ratio of breading to meat. But the batter itself is kind of flavorless. All you really taste is salt, and coupled with the dry meat, this results in a chicken sandwich that desperately needs its accouterments to make it work.

The Bottom Line:

Most of the flavor of this sandwich comes from the sides, so if you want the best chicken sandwich at Carl’s Jr., skip the classic and reach for the Hot Honey or Bacon Swiss.

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr. here.

9. Jack in the Box — Spicy Chicken

Chicken FIlet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $6.61

Tasting Notes:

The Spicy Chicken is a very slight improvement over Jack in the Box’s Spicy Cluck Sandwich. Side note, why couldn’t this have been called the Spicy Cluck? I digress. What this chicken has going for it is a spicy cayenne kick that masks some of that ghostly curly fry fryer flavor (try saying that five times fast). The breast here is also a bit more substantial and meaty.

Unfortunately, it’s still pretty dry, so while more meat will deliver a more substantial meal, it also takes more effort to chew through. That probably matters less when you have cheese, bacon, and sauce on the sandwich, so I won’t hold it against this fillet.

The Bottom Line:

Jack in the Box’s best chicken fillet, but that’s not saying much.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

8. Wendy’s — Classic Homestyle Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $7.36

Tasting Notes:

I love Wendy’s, and I especially love Wendy’s chicken sandwich. So the most shocking result of this experiment was finding the Wendy’s Classic Chicken in the middle of the ranking. I truly believe Wendy’s is a few menu tweaks away from taking the top spot from Popeyes for best chicken sandwich. Yet when you taste just the fillet, that feeling couldn’t be more wrong.

The breading has one flavor: salt. And while the quality of the chicken is a step up from everything lower on this list, tender meat is not enough to bump this chicken any higher.

The Bottom Line:

Wendy’s makes a great chicken sandwich, but their standard Classic Chicken Sandwich is shockingly middling.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

7. Burger King — Ch’King

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $6.50

Tasting Notes:

I have to hand it to Burger King. The brand is bad-to-middling at just about everything they do — they make bad fries, horrible milk shakes, bitter and burnt coffee, and the Whopper is one of the worst fast food burgers you can buy — but the Ch’King is in another class. We do a lot of food rankings here at Uproxx, and I’ve personally placed Burger King at or near the bottom of many of them. But the Ch’King, which was launched last year, gives me hope that the brand is changing for the better.

The Ch’King is Burger King’s best menu item. It may not be top-five worthy for the purposes of this list, but it is an objectively good chicken fillet. It’s well seasoned, with a nice balance of cracked black pepper and garlic powder, it’s crispy and craggy, a perfect sponge for soaking up whatever sauce you douse it in. I really don’t have anything bad to say about this sandwich. There are just a handful that taste better.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re at Burger King, order the Ch’King. It’s the best thing on the menu in any iteration.

Find your nearest Burger King here.

6. Wendy’s — Spicy Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $7.36

Tasting Notes:

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Okay, granted, landing just outside of the top five isn’t that much of an ‘L,’ but as I said before, I truly believe Wendy’s Asiago Ranch Chicken Club is one of the best fast food chicken sandwiches your money can buy. But that’s not because of the chicken.

The spicy version of Wendy’s fillet is a step up from the flavorloess homestyle version, but just barely. When biting into this sandwich your palate will be met with a black-pepper dominant flavor and a strong cayenne pepper kick that lingers with a steady, sustained burn. The chicken isn’t the juiciest, but it’s not dry either, and it breaks from the rest of the fillet easily and isn’t laborious to chew through.

But let’s be real here, all that spice is meant to mask the mediocrity of the chicken’s actual flavor. It works, but think of how much better this chicken could be if Wendy’s put a little more effort into either the sourcing or the preparation.

The Bottom Line:

It hurts me that Wendy’s fillet isn’t top-five worthy, but the various sandwich builds and the spicy cayenne kick is enough to make it come across as a sandwich capable of punching above its weight.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

5. Chick-fil-A — Chick-fil-A Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.05

Tasting Notes:

We’ve finally reached top-five territory! Before I get into the merits of this particular breast fillet, let me just say that any of these sandwiches could be someone’s favorite. They’re all delicious winners in our book and are definitely worth ordering. Chick-fil-A believes so strongly in their chicken sandwich that they actually call it the “Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich.” This is the restaurant’s namesake, and for good reason. While this chicken is a little drier than the birds ranked above, it’s tender enough and the flavor is fantastic. A medley of fragrant and spicy garlic, onion, and black pepper greet your tongue, settling into a briny, complex finish courtesy of the pickle marinade.

The fillet is pressure cooked, which keeps it from being as crispy as some of the more traditional deep fried fillets, but the breading adheres to the meat no matter how chaotic your bites, delivering a consistent flavor from first bite to last.

The Bottom Line:

Chick-fil-A’s chicken breast fillet was, until very recently, the best fast food chicken sandwich in the universe. Without this sandwich being so good we probably never would’ve gotten the Popeyes chicken sandwich, so for that we’ll always look at this fillet fondly. But it’s no longer the best.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

4. Raising Canes — The Sandwich

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $5.98

Tasting Notes:

This is f*cking stupid. As you can clearly see, Raising Canes’ chicken sandwich isn’t so much a chicken sandwich as it is three individual chicken tenders thrown in a bun and doused in housemade thousand island-style sauce. This hurts it in our definitive chicken sandwich ranking, and it’s going to hurt it in this chicken fillet ranking because… well it’s not a fillet. It’s the fillet equivalent of three kids stacked up inside a trench coat. For that reason alone it doesn’t get the top spot. Having said that, at the end of the day this is a ranking that’s all about flavor, and on that score I have to hand it to Raising Cane’s. This is some damn good chicken.

It’s crispy, and strikes the perfect balance between salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic powder. The breading to meat ratio is perfect, it’s craggy enough to soak up Cane’s sauce, and provides a nice audible crunch (though some pieces deliver on this better than others). Yet it’s not over-battered to the point that some of your bites are nothing but breading. All of that earns this chicken top placement, but the real highlight is the meat itself.

This is fast food’s best chicken. It’s juicy, tender, citrus marinated. It tears away nicely with each bite, and practically melts in your mouth. Raising Canes has one thing on the menu, chicken, and they do it exceptionally well. But the chicken sandwich is the most low-effort thing on the menu, and that includes the coleslaw.

The Bottom Line:

Delicious, worth every bit of hype this chicken has ever received. But c’mon, Raising Cane’s. Give us a proper chicken sandwich! Take a chicken breast, pound it out, bread it, and Popeyes will forever be a footnote in the history of chicken sandwiches.

Find your nearest Raising Cane’s here.

3. Chick-fil-A — Spicy Chicken

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $3.29

Tasting Notes:

The non-spicy fillet may be Chick-fil-A’s namesake, but the Spicy Chicken is their best menu item. Added to that complex pickle finish is a mix of smokey paprika and a fair shake of cayenne, overall leading to a more distinct and memorable flavor. It has everything the original Chick-fil-A fillet has, the same semi-soft but consistent pressure cooked batter, the same tender bite, but it manages to have more flavor. And that makes it a better bird in our book.

The Bottom Line:

Kick it up a notch by ordering the spicy deluxe and add some pepper jack cheese to this medley of spicy flavors.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

2. Shake Shack — Chicken Sandwich

Chicken FIlet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $6.29

Tasting Notes:

Next to Raising Cane’s, Shake Shack has some of the highest quality chicken in all of fast food. It’s fresh and never frozen, antibiotic free [Ed. note: there is some debate about whether this designation actually means anything, and whether “antibiotic free” — no antibiotics in the meat, which is always true by law — is the same as “raised without antibiotics”], and the chicken is so tender that I had to take a close-up picture of it just to show it off. Like Carl’s Jr., Shake Shack hand-breads the chicken and it has those beautiful tossed flour waves in the breading — which is light, crispy, and full of onion, garlic, and black pepper flavors. The chicken has a soft mouthfeel, you can truly taste that it isn’t frozen.

It was a real toss up between the top two, but this chicken just wasn’t quite as juicy as our number one. Like everything at Shake Shack (except for the fries) a lot of care and craft was clearly put into this sandwich. But there’s a reason you think “burger” when you hear the words “Shake Shack.” This chicken sandwich still plays second fiddle to Shake Shack’s true virtuoso of flavor, the Shack Burger.

The Bottom Line:

It’s great, easily one of the best chicken sandwiches you’ll ever eat and probably the best sourced. But it doesn’t taste better than number one.

Find your nearest Shake Shack here.

1. Popeyes — Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Filet Ranking
Dane Rivera

Price: $4.99

Tasting Notes:

I desperately wanted this plain taste test to result in a surprise number one, but alas. Once I bit into this fillet it was more than clear — Popeyes chicken sandwich is truly the GOAT. No other chicken sandwich tastes nearly this good. The sourcing probably isn’t as good as Raising Cane’s or Shake Shack’s, and the pricing reflects that you’re dealing with lower-quality bird, but dammit if it doesn’t taste the best. Hell, you don’t even need the pickles, mayo/spicy sauce, or the bread. I’d happily eat this shit with a knife and a fork like George Costanza eating a Snickers.

The chicken is tender and so juicy, bursting with mouthwatering flavor. It’s fried to a perfect golden brown, the breading a medley of buttery, sweet, garlicky, peppery flavors that ricochet across the palate and cause salivation between bites. It has a subtle hint of spiciness to it. I’m not sure why Popeyes hasn’t given us a proper spicy version of this sandwich when they already have a spicy breading on hand, but it almost doesn’t matter.

This chicken sandwich is so good that Popeyes doesn’t have to do a single thing to it to make it better. But that doesn’t mean they can’t. Add cheese to it, throw in an order of macaroni and cheese, put some fries in their — it’s a delicious canvas for your imagination.

The Bottom Line:

Truly the best chicken sandwich in the fast food universe, the hype is fully justified. If Michael Jordan was a chicken sandwich, he’d be Popeyes. Fast food chicken doesn’t taste better than this.

Find your nearest Popeyes here.

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