We compared the most popular menu items at Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Popeyes — and the winner is clear

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe menus at KFC, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A sport similar items, but whose takes on fried-chicken staples are the best?
  • When a craving for fast-food fried chicken hits, many options are available for your deep-fried desires.
  • Three of the most popular options are Chick-fil-A,KFC, and Popeyes.
  • We traversed the San Francisco Bay Area’s fast-food scene to hit all three chains and collect some of the most popular menu items at each.
  • Chick-fil-A is clearly the winner for mastering its iconic chicken staple items.
  • And while KFC brought nothing noteworthy to the table, Popeyes came in at a close second for its high-quality crispy chicken.
  • Take a look:


When it comes to fried-chicken-oriented fast-food joints, you’ll find similar items across every menu.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderNote: We visited a joint KFC-Taco Bell location, hence the taco chain’s packaging.

The chicken tenders, the nuggets, the chicken sandwich — these are staples at any go-to chicken spot.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

But what helps brands distinguish themselves from each other is offering a unique and distinct take on these items.

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So we set out to see for ourselves how some of the best fried-chicken fast-food joints set themselves apart from each other.

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Source: Business Insider and The Huffington Post


Let’s meet our contenders (pun intended).

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We’ve got the Louisiana-founded Popeyes …

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… the Kentucky-based KFC, and the cult-favourite Chick-fil-A, which hails from Atlanta.

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We sampled the most popular or best-selling menu items from each, referencing rankings posted by the companies and other publications and public forums.

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Source: Business Insider, Business Insider, Quora,Business Insider


That meant different dishes for each chain.

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For Chick-fil-A, that was the chain’s chicken nuggets, which was the second most ordered main dish on the chain’s menu in 2018.

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Source: Business Insider


For Popeyes, we went with its spicy chicken tenders, a crowd favourite.

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Source: Business Insider


And we picked up original fried chicken tenders from KFC.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderDisclaimer: Those are two Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets stuck together in the middle. A KFC original fried chicken tender is on the left, and a Popeyes’ spicy chicken tender is on the right.

Source: Quora


KFC’s chicken tenders were large in size.

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But the breading on the KFC chicken was also the most uneven out of all three dishes.

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It was also the least crispy, and it wasn’t as flavorful or as tasty as its competitors.

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KFC’s tenders were easily overshadowed by Popeyes’ and Chick-fil-A’s warm, juicy chicken pieces.

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But that’s just the chicken on its own — how does each chain measure up when it comes to its take on the chicken sandwich?

Katie Canales/Business InsiderFrom left to right: KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ flavored Crispy Colonel Sandwich, Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich, and Popeyes’ Chicken Po’ Boy.

Let’s preface this by saying that, hands down, Chick-fil-A’s sandwich reigns supreme — the restaurant has mastered the art of the chicken sandwich.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderOn the left is KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ sandwich and on the right is Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

It truly is as iconic as the brand advertises.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderFrom left to right: Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich, Popeyes’ Chicken Po’ Boy, and KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ-flavored Crispy Colonel Sandwich.

But KFC and Popeyes have some appetizing equivalents.

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KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ-flavored Crispy Colonel Sandwich, with its BBQ-sauce-soaked fried chicken nestled alongside pickles between two buns, packs a mean punch.

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Each bite delivered a powerful, all-enveloping kick.

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There wasn’t much of a crisp to the chicken, though, which was disappointing.

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But at least the sandwich was a good size.

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The chain’s Chicken Littles were more on the smaller side, as the name suggests.

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The mini-sandwiches, dressed with pickles, are one of KFC’s specialty items. The look of them was more reminiscent of hot dogs than anything else.

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As small as they were, they were still tasty, with their breaded and mayo-dressed tenderness.

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And last, but certainly not least, Popeyes’ Chicken Po’ Boy is the chain’s take on a chicken sandwich.

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And it’s a crispy, full-size, and delicious take at that.

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It comes dressed in lettuce, pickles, and mayo with two chicken tenders tucked in a French baguette.

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Chick-fil-A may have the winning sandwich …

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… but the sheer quality of Popeyes’ crispy chicken makes its Po’ Boy more than memorable.

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For the sides, we went with french fries at Chick-fil-A and Popeyes because both menu items have been ranked as some of the best that the chains have to offer.

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Source: Business Insider and Business Insider


KFC tries to pass its seasoned potato wedges off as french fries, but we don’t think that counts. So we opted for KFC’s creamy gravy-topped mashed potatoes, which were pretty tasty.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: KFC and Business Insider


Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries took the No. 1 spot as the chain’s most ordered menu item in 2018.

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Source: Business Insider


And for good reason — the fries’ unique shape, perfectly salty taste, and texture alone would warrant a trip to Chick-fil-A.

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And while they, too, claim victory in the battle of the side orders, Popeyes’ french fries are delectable in their own way.

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The restaurant, which originated in New Orleans, knows how to season food.

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Each fry comes dressed in an even layer of Cajun spice.

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They’re difficult to ignore.

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The same could be said about the flaky, buttery triumph that is the Popeyes biscuit.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderOn the left is Popeyes’ biscuit, and on the right is KFC’s.

The buttermilk bread easily knocked KFC’s biscuits out of the park.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderOn the left is Popeyes’ biscuit, and on the right is KFC’s.

KFC’s lacked any taste or fluff.

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It’s easy to say with certainty that in our taste test, KFC came in dead last when compared with its two competitors.

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One of the more minor, but equally annoying, grievances against KFC is its poorly designed take-out boxes that are awkwardly narrow for reaching into.

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The situation is actually similar with Chick-fil-A’s packaging — we had to fight over each other to grab the chicken nuggets from their small box.

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We weren’t too thrilled about that.

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Popeyes, on the other hand, delivered all of its food in a wide box, allowing for all of our hands to pull from it at once.

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There’s a lot to be said about a sharing-friendly take-out container.

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But on-point packaging design aside, Popeyes is not the winner of this taste test.

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That title belongs to Chick-fil-A.

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But that in no way diminishes Popeye’s downright superb fried-chicken quality.

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The crisp, the breading, the texture, and the taste — Popeyes nails it every time.

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But what Chick-fil-A does to single itself out is take each of its menu items and make it entirely its own.

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From its chicken sandwich to its chicken nuggets and chicken strips, Chick-fil-A isn’t the only fast-food restaurant with these items on the menu, but it crafts them in such a way that its competitors don’t stand a chance against.

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Its colourful variety of dipping sauces plays a big role in that.

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We got one of each available sauce for this taste test: the original Chick-fil-A, the Polynesian, the honey mustard, the garden herb ranch, the zesty Buffalo, the barbecue, and the Sriracha.

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The sauces were so much fun to mix and match with our food that we abandoned our goal of dipping only Chick-fil-A’s nuggets into them and started using them with KFC’s and Popeyes’ dishes.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

We tried the spicy Cajun fries from Popeyes with the Polynesian sauce …

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… Popeyes’ exquisitely breaded chicken tenders with the zesty Buffalo sauce …

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… and we even slathered a good dollop on one of KFC’s Chicken Littles. We could not be stopped.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Part of the fun of going to Chick-fil-A is experimenting with all of its different sauces, and double, triple, or even quadruple dipping to see what flavours can arise out of the various combinations.

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That’s not to say KFC and Popeyes don’t have good sauces.

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But, again, Chick-fil-A just dominates in that department like it does in every other one.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderWe would highly recommend dipping Popeye’s Chicken Po’ Boy in Chick-fil-A’s sauce.

So it’s easy to see why the chain has gone from a regional favourite to a nationally ranked chain with a cult following in recent years.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider

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