Best Fast Food Fried Chicken: Top 5 Restaurants, According To Foodies

Whether you’re looking for a hearty meal to feed your growing family or just need a quick snack while you’re on the move, fast-food fried chicken always hits the spot. This crispy culinary creation has been around for decades, and Americans have been indulging in it for generations now, but the debate rages on, which is the best fast food fried chicken?  

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! 

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

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

“Oh man, do we love that chicken from Popeye’s. The Louisiana-style chicken is the best rendition you’re gonna find at any fast food joint. Their restaurants feel more like a traditional fried chicken shack than any other chain. With all of the classic Southern sides and the levels of TLC that go into each piece of bird, you’re almost transported to a mom-and-pop fried chicken spot at any of their thousands of locations. Nobody else has yet to fully replicate the cultural resonance of fried chicken the way Popeye’s has, and it’s why they take the top spot on our fast food list,” raves Foodbeast

Popeyes takes classic Southern fried chicken to the next level and beyond. Whether you’re looking for traditional bone-in fried chicken or you want a hot, juicy chicken sandwich, Popeyes offers fried chicken in a variety of ways.  

“Popeye’s chicken sparked the 2019 ‘Chicken Wars’ when they released the limited edition spicy chicken sandwich. But they’re no slouch in the fried chicken department either, with bird pieces seasoned overnight, battered, and cooked fresh to order. The rest of Popeye’s menu is fried Southern hospitality on a large scale, including Louisiana sides such as red beans or cajun rice, which may not be exciting but are well done. If you’re looking for a fast food option that feels like a traditional Southern fried chicken joint, then Popeye’s will likely appeal more than any other chain on the list,” adds 12 Tomatoes

Popeyes rolled out its delicious chicken sandwiches a few years ago, and the fast-food fried chicken giant has not looked back since. After rolling out its chicken sandwich and following it with hand-breaded, all-white meat chicken nuggets, Popeyes has continued to grow at an alarming rate. 

“For millennials, the name Popeyes brings back memories of the classic cartoon with Popeye the sailor, but the restaurant is altogether a different story. The chain has 2,347 units in the US, and the number seems to increase. Popeyes has regularly seen an increase in sales over the years and is giving Chick-A-Fil tough competition. For spicy chicken lovers, nobody does fried chicken better than Popeyes. Their chicken is equally crunchy throughout from the outside and so juicy inside. With so many locations, it’s a real challenge to maintain excellent quality in every unit, but they’ve done it. Before 2019, Popeyes was famous for their bone-fried chicken, but then came the now supremely popular Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, which turned the chicken world on its head,” furthers Restaurant Clicks

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. When it comes to fried chicken done fast, no restaurant has the reputation of Chick-Fil-A. 

“The fact that Chick-A-Fil tops the American Consumer Service Index year after year is enough proof of why it is rated as the Best Fast Food Restaurant in the US. Their customers are fans of everything on their menu. Although their fried chicken sandwich consists of a buttery bun, a fried chicken breast, and pickles, nobody knows how they make it so good despite the very simple concept. Another menu item worthy of praise is the chicken nuggets with the sweet Polynesian sauce. Chick-A-Fil not only tops as the chicken expert but other offerings by the chain are equally delicious such as waffle fries and milkshakes,” explains Restaurant Clicks

Chick-Fil-A 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 fast-food fried chicken is only half the battle. Chick-Fil-A does the small things really, really well. 

“Another thing that catapults Chick-fil-A to the top is their cleanliness and service. You can be assured that your shoes will never stick to the floor in this restaurant’s bathroom. Even if you don’t agree with the political and religious leanings of the founders, you can’t disagree that Chick-fil-A offers some of the best fast food available,” furthers Mashed

Cleanliness is everything in the chicken business. If a chicken restaurant is clean, then you can expect it to be good. Still, Chick-Fil-A goes the extra mile, and its recipe for fried chicken is unmatched throughout the restaurant industry. 

“Their chicken is quintessential, but what we especially enjoy about Chick-fil-A is that they’ve turned fried chicken and breakfast into an art. Most other places don’t even serve fried chicken in the morning, but at Chick-fil-A, it’s all the rage and the perfect way to start your day. And while it’s lack of traditional pieces of fried chicken keeps it out of the top position, the Chick-fil-A mantra of great service and highly appetizing food is unmatched by anyone else in the nation… save for one,” adds Taste of Home

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 is the Filipino fast food chain that’s gonna take over the United States because of their BOMB fried chicken. They keep it simple like Church’s, and you can get it in tender form or in varied piece buckets. What makes it stand out beyond the rest, however, is a gravy packed with flavors of onion and celery that is absolutely ethereal. You almost want a whole bucket of the gravy just to dip into the chicken, it’s that good. The unique savory notes of that gravy compliment fried chicken in a way that no other fast food chain on this list can replicate, and it’s why Jollibee deserves such a high spot on this list,” raves Foodbeast

Jollibee is unique, and that’s what the foodies love about it. Jollibee’s 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 US before it can compete for one of the top spots on this list. 

“Whether you’re having the breakfast chicken sandwich, the boneless chicken dippers, or their bone-in Chickenjoy, this fried chicken is exactly what it should be. With a crunchy outside and juicy inside, you can sit down to a bucket of Chickenjoy and not stop until you’re ready to explode. It’s well-seasoned and never dry. Also, the skin of the chicken is perfectly cooked — always crunchy, never rubbery. It’s what most fried chicken is striving to be. So, why isn’t Jollibee higher on the list? Simply because there are not enough of these restaurants in America,” furthers Mashed

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.  

“Filipino fast food favorite Jollibee is making huge strides in the US market with a unique menu, cool company mascot, and willingness to take on the other established restaurant chains. Just the fried chicken, known as Chicken Joy, puts Jollibee on this list. It’s fresh-tasting and juicy but with the crispy element that’s now a must-have for chicken joints everywhere. They also do great, simple chicken sandwiches, and the Jollibee gravy is top drawer,” adds 12 Tomatoes

4. Church’s Chicken

Church’s is known for its crispy, delicious fried chicken served in traditional ways. “Church’s knows how to do hand-battered, deep-fried chicken right. They’re well-known throughout the entire country, and have never been one to skimp on flavor. Church’s is essentially the KFC of gourmet fried chicken, since they’ve got the national reach of KFC but elevate every aspect of their chicken to a level out of Colonel Sanders’ reach. They’re simplistic, sure, but you can’t deny how good their chicken is,” writes Foodbeast

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.  

“Woo boy, I like Church’s Chicken, especially that Honey-Q chicken sandwich as a change up from the classic or spicy ones you get elsewhere. Church’s is about as close to gourmet as fried chicken can get, with their freshness and flavor a real feature of their service. They also stand out with their side options, whether grabbing a few breaded jalapeno bombers or a tasty honey biscuit, there’s a lot to love… Actually, I should put them higher,” raves 12 Tomatoes

Church’s Chicken makes really great food and definitely deserves its fair share of recognition. Church’s only does a few items, but does it very well. In all, Church’s Chicken has over 1,000 locations spread across the country

“Church’s Chicken has been in business for 67 years, and with 1045 locations in the US alone, it has become a go-to place for many fried chicken fans. Nobody does hand-battered chicken better than Church’s Chicken. The chicken is well-seasoned and crisp; it’s all about quality. The runner-up item is their honey-butter glazed biscuits that are buttery and crumbly. If you’ve never tried these, you’re missing out on the amazing flavor. Other try-worthy items on the menu are the Southern-style sides, which include fried okra, and jalapeños, as cheese bombers or pickle,” adds Restaurant Clicks

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. “What sets Raising Cane’s above and beyond is their legendary Cane Sauce. To quote Guy Fieri, ‘You could put it on a flip-flop and it would taste amazing.’ If you’re not down with eating footwear, though, at least grab some of Raising Cane’s chicken fingers and fries to dunk into their creamy next-level sauce. That pairing is an absolute winner, and it’s why so many Instagrammers flock to this place to get pictures of their chicken. Raising Cane’s has the popularity and flavor to set it up above the others on this list so far,” writes Foodbeast

Raising Cane’s sticks to chicken tenders, 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. 

“The beauty of Raising Cane’s menu is its simplicity. They don’t need six different kinds of chicken and 12 sides — Raising Cane’s does a few things, and they do them well. Their food options consist of chicken fingers, crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast. That’s it. Their small menu allows them to focus on what’s important: the quality. Customers know this, and they keep coming back for it,” furthers The Daily Meal

One aspect that sets Raising Cane’s apart from other fast food fried chicken restaurants is its dipping sauce. Raising Cane’s is heralded for its tasty dipping sauce that chicken lovers simply can’t get enough of. 

“There’s no need to get expansive with ordering at Raising Cane’s, whose first venue opened up out the front of Louisiana State University in 1996. They have chicken fingers, and they’re outstanding cooked fresh after light breading. You can stick them between buns and call them a sandwich, or get a boxed set with Texas Toast, some slaw, and crinkle cut fries. The whole shebang is made better by Raising Canes’ killer proprietary sauce, whose makeup is known only to their general managers,” adds 12 Tomatoes

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