Fried chicken

Fried chicken (Photo by Shardar Tarikul Islam on Unsplash)

Craving crispy, juicy fried chicken? Look no further than the battleground of fast food chains! Each contender brings its A-game, tempting taste buds with unique flavor profiles, breading styles, and signature sides. But with so many options, where do you start? Fear not, chicken connoisseur! This article dives into the golden world of fast food fried chicken, dissecting the contenders – from the Colonel’s secret recipe to the spicy Louisiana heat. We’ll analyze their signature buckets, sandwiches, and wings, ranking them based on crunch, flavor, juiciness, and value. So buckle up, grab your napkins, and get ready to discover the best fast food fried chicken to satisfy your cravings!

Speaking of eating chicken, a recent study found that our ancestors would likely be horrified to learn that chickens are now food. A team of researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that our ancient ancestors once revered chickens to the point of burying their loved ones with cockerels and hens. The findings are based on chicken remains from over 600 sites in 89 countries, ranging from Morocco to Greece and South America, to Stonehenge and Orkney. Bones, locations, and historical records provided the research team with new insights into how local societies and cultures regarded the chicken

Chickens may have evolved into a popular source of protein out of necessity. Chickens are easy to raise and don’t require much land or natural resources to thrive and grow into a suitable meal for humans. Regardless, humans have certainly figured out a variety of ways to cook chickens. From grilling to roasting to breading and frying, humans eat chicken in a range of different ways. 

However, frying chicken is the least heart-friendly way to enjoy this environmentally friendly protein. In fact, a recent study found that just four ounces of fried food raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. Researchers from Shenzhen University say eating fried food significantly increases the risk of major cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. Specifically, study authors find that for every 114-gram serving (roughly four ounces) of fried food a person eats, their risk of heart disease and stroke rises. Just be sure to enjoy your fried chicken in moderation, and think twice before reaching for that third fried chicken leg. 

So, which fast food places serve the best fried chicken? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 foodie review websites in an effort to bring you the best fast-food fried chicken. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed fast-food chicken joints from across these sites. Don’t see your favorite fried chicken on the list? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

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fried chicken on stainless steel tray
Fried chicken (Photo by Shardar Tarikul Islam on Unsplash)

The List: Best Fast Food Fried Chicken, According to Experts

1. Popeyes

Popeyes Fried Chicken
Popeyes Fried Chicken” by joshbousel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Love that chicken from Popeyes! Right? The top spot on the list of the best fast food fried chicken belongs to none other than Popeyes. From classic bone-in fried chicken to amazing chicken sandwiches and boneless nuggets, Popeyes offers some of the best fried chicken you’ll find. 

Popeyes takes classic Southern fried chicken to the next level and beyond. The chain rolled out its delicious chicken sandwiches a few years ago, and the fast food fried chicken giant has not looked back since. The chicken giant has continued to grow at an alarming rate. 

When it comes to fast food fried chicken, Popeyes reigns supreme, according to several sources. Foodbeast applauds their “Louisiana-style” rendition, calling it the most authentic and flavorful among chains. They praise the classic Southern sides and “mom-and-pop” atmosphere, highlighting the cultural significance of Popeye’s chicken experience.

According to 12 Tomatoes Popeyes fried chicken is fresh, made-to-order, and  gives a traditional Southern fried chicken feel. They acknowledge the “less exciting” but well-executed sides like red beans and cajun rice, solidifying Popeye’s position as a haven for Southern comfort food.

Restaurant Clicks adds a millennial perspective, mentioning the brand’s growing popularity and fierce competition with Chick-fil-A. They crown Popeyes the “king of spicy chicken,” praising its consistent crunch and juicy interior. While acknowledging quality variations across locations, they hail the success of the now-iconic Popeyes Chicken Sandwich for pushing the brand further into the spotlight. Overall, these sources agree: for an authentic, flavorful, and culturally-resonant fast food fried chicken experience, Popeyes stands out as the clear winner.

2. Chick-Fil-A

Speaking of Chick-Fil-A and the “chicken wars,” the next spot on the list of the best fast food fried chicken belongs to Chick-Fil-A. The chain might not be cooking up traditional, bone-in fast food fried chicken, but that doesn’t prevent the fast food megastar from being included in the conversation of the best fast food fried chicken restaurants. However, having some of the best chicken is only half the battle. Chick-Fil-A does the small things really, really well. 

Mashed emphasizes their exceptional cleanliness and service, acknowledging that even those who disagree with their founders’ values can’t deny the quality experience. Restaurant Clicks backs this up, citing their top ratings in customer service and praising the menu’s overall deliciousness, from the iconic chicken sandwich to waffle fries and milkshakes.

They even have fried chicken for breakfast with the delectable chicken minis you can snag before 10 a.m. Taste of Home praises their “artful” approach to chicken and their unmatched combination of service and food quality. Overall, Chick-fil-A stands out not just for its chicken, but for the consistent cleanliness, exceptional service, and overall menu appeal that keep customers coming back for more.

3. Jollibee

The third spot on the list of the best fast food fried chicken goes to Jollibee. Jollibee is a Filipino fast food chain that specializes in making some of the best fried chicken you can ever imagine, and some experts think this relatively new restaurant is going to take America by storm. 

Jollibee’s fried chicken, known as “Chickenjoy,” is making waves in the fast food scene. Foodbeast hails it as a potential “takeover” contender, praising its simplicity and the unique, flavor-packed gravy that sets it apart. They emphasize the gravy’s “ethereal” taste and ability to elevate the entire chicken experience.

Jollibee is unique, and that’s what the foodies love about it. Their fried chicken is crispy and juicy, a combination that’s simple yet tough to get right every time. As the experts explain, Jollibee needs more locations in the U.S. before it can compete for one of the top spots on this list. 

Most of us don’t associate the Philippines with delicious fried chicken, but that’s exactly what Jollibee is pumping out – deep-fried deliciousness. Still, Jollibee lovers can’t wait to see more of these unique fast food fried chicken restaurants here in America.  

Mashed calls Chickenjoy “exactly what fried chicken should be”: crispy, juicy, perfectly seasoned, and never dry. 12 Tomatoes further strengthens the case, calling Jollibee’s menu “unique.” They commend their simple chicken sandwiches and the star of the show – the “top drawer” Jollibee gravy.

Overall, Jollibee’s Chickenjoy stands out for its distinct flavor profile, quality ingredients, and perfect execution. While its limited presence might hold it back from the top spot, it’s definitely a fried chicken contender worth seeking out for its unique and delicious experience.

4. Church’s Chicken

Church’s fried chicken is a Southern-style restaurant specializing in classic, Southern-style fried chicken and sides. Church’s menu offers the perfect combination of delicious fried chicken and savory side dishes designed to transport you back to a simpler time. In all, Church’s Chicken has over 1,000 locations spread across the country

When it comes to hand-battered, deep-fried goodness, Church’s Chicken claims its throne. Foodbeast praises their national reach and dedication to flavor, calling them the “gourmet KFC” for elevating the classic fried chicken experience. Their crispy, well-seasoned chicken is undeniable, even if their menu remains “simplistic.”

12 Tomatoes takes it a step further, calling Church’s “as close to gourmet as fried chicken can get.” They highlight the freshness, flavor, and variety beyond the chicken, including the irresistible Honey-Q sandwich and sides like breaded jalapeno bombers and honey biscuits.

Restaurant Clicks backs up the “hand-battered champion” title, praising the 67-year legacy and 1045 locations nationwide. They emphasize the perfectly seasoned, crispy chicken and crown their honey-butter glazed biscuits as a runner-up. Church’s hand-battered goodness, coupled with their flavorful sides and dedication to quality, earns them a well-deserved spot on the fried chicken map, appealing to both die-hard fans and those seeking a gourmet twist on the classic.

5. Raising Cane’s

Raising Cane’s was founded in Louisiana and specializes in frying up some of the tastiest chicken tenders you’ll find. They stick to what they know, so no bone-in chicken here, but that doesn’t matter. If you’re in the mood for some delicious fried chicken, then you can’t go wrong with Raising Cane’s. 

One aspect that sets Raising Cane’s apart from other fast food fried chicken restaurants is its dipping sauce. Chicken lovers simply can’t get enough of it. In addition to their scrumptious sauce, their laser focus on quality solidifies their status as a great. Foodbeast crowns it the “winner” so far, praising the sauce’s versatility and ability to elevate even a “flip-flop.” They emphasize the iconic pairing of chicken fingers and fries dipped in the creamy sauce, drawing Instagrammers and customers alike. The sauce’s recipe is top-secret, so good luck getting it anywhere.

The Daily Meal sees the “beauty” of Raising Cane’s simplicity. They commend their focus on doing a few things well, offering just chicken fingers, fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast. This allows them to prioritize quality, which resonates with repeat customers.

Sources: 

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Matthew Sherdan

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47 Comments

  1. Tami says:

    I agree with Popeyes being number 1, but as for Cains I am not a fan. Don’t know what all the hype is about. It’s just so so on flavor and depending when you go can be dry.

  2. Cherry says:

    Church’s chicken is really the best and it does take us back to simpler times

  3. Jo says:

    Popeyes fried chicken is too too salty. KFC extra crispy fried chicken is by far the best.

  4. JDUBYA says:

    I want just an oz of whatever the aliens are smoking that put Popeyes at number 1 bc there’s no way they’re from this planet. Gas station chicken is better than the Popeyes locally, not to mention w/ a health food rating of at least 25 pts higher regularly. Popeyes has been closed temp 3 times for health rating, never been out of the uh, worst neighborhood, & never has a line longer than 2. That’s bc the food’s terrible and takes 12ish mins to get your food. And this is being very generous

  5. Greggo says:

    agree 100% , job well done

  6. Sam says:

    We have popeye here in canada but i find they tend to undercook their fried chicken. 3 different locations – same problem. KFC is far better.

  7. Bob says:

    Mary Brown’s throughout Canada will leave these 5 in their dust!

  8. Gail. Cohen says:

    When jollibee chicken came to Philadelphia last year I waited 2 weeks till the lines got smaller to try it out. Sadly I was so disappointed I never had to put any salt on any other fried chicken I purchased it was that flat i won’t purchase it again

  9. Linda says:

    KFC should have been in that list, probably after Popeyes 😕

  10. Delfie says:

    You forgot about Dave’s Hot Chicken definitely #1

  11. Hank says:

    The only chicken place that’s on that list is Church’s Chicken is decent it’s not the best and the other ones ain’t worth the crap

  12. Lauren Parker says:

    I just can’t believe KFC didn’t even make the list!

  13. Samarrah says:

    KFC is slop and Col.Sanders would roll over in his grave if knew how his product went down the drain. He had high standards. We have a very large population of people now who are not old enough to remember or know just how good Kentucky Fried Chicken once was.

  14. Ray says:

    Popeyes #one??? Not here in east TN. They’re all garbage and serve skin and gristle in dirty restaurants. Maryville location, talking about you!!! Campbell Station just as bad.

  15. Jay says:

    Roaming Rooster has the best chicken sandwich in America. Honey Butter sandwich is torch rooster sauce and honey mustard super smack in.

  16. DORIS MOTLEY says:

    I don’t see Lee’s Chicken in muskegon Michigan! They have some of the best chicken I’ve ever tasted! Unfortunately it’s 2 hours away from Flint

  17. GuyWithTasteBuds says:

    This article is invalid. Bojangles didn’t make the list, but Church’s did?

  18. Phillip Durkin says:

    KFC is the best.

  19. Rick says:

    As a 25 year vet of KFC, I really feel KFC has the best chicken, whether Original, Crispy, or Spicy, maybe even the rotisserie (when) it was around).four things keep KFC down the list. 1) poor training , 2) lack of Quality Control, selling …..chicken past it’s hold time. 3) management choosing to take a blind eye and sell “old”” chicken, 4) A lot, of the stores are driven by mgt incentives. It’s like who cares, as long as I make my bonus $. Do it right and some one tells 4 people, do it wrong and people tell 10 people. “But my sales are up” some argue, of course they are…..you keep raising your prices. Just sayin’

  20. damon bertonaschi says:

    Krispy Krunchy, Publix, Bojangles then KFC……

    1. Jeffrey Murray says:

      Gus’s world famous chicken, small chain but very good!!

    2. Emory Kendrick says:

      Can’t beat Publix. Tastes just like my Mother’s chicken from the sixties. Dredge chicken in milk. Put flower and salt in a paper bag. Shake a few pieces at a time in the bag. Use cooking oil and 1/2 stick of butter and fry at med temp until the chicken floats an is golden brown. Check for doneness.