We tried KFC's new chicken sandwich that's aiming to take on Chick-fil-A -- and what we found shocked us

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • KFC launched a new sandwich called the Crispy Colonel on Monday.
  • The Crispy Colonel draws inspiration from both Chick-fil-A’s iconic sandwich and more traditional fast-food chains.
  • We tried both sandwiches and were shocked by KFC’s ability to step up its sandwich game.

KFC has a new weapon against Chick-fil-A.

On Monday, KFC debuted the “Crispy Colonel”: an extra-crispy chicken sandwich with mayo and pickles. The Crispy Colonel comes in four flavours – classic, Smoky Mountain BBQ, Nashville Hot, and Georgia Gold honey mustard BBQ.

The new sandwich line up gives KFC the chance to compete with Chick-fil-A, a chain that’s increasingly dominating the US on the strength of its sandwich, as well as burger-centric fast-food chains with chicken sandwiches on the menu.

“I really believe this chicken sandwich will be differentiated and superior to anything else on the market, because of how we’re preparing it and how piping-hot fresh it’s going to be,” KFC’s CMO Andrea Zahumensky told Business Insider.

We weren’t immediately convinced of KFC’s ability to triumph over rival chicken chains. Chick-fil-A’s sandwich is a heavy-weight competitor, dominating all the taste tests Business Insider has thrown at it. So, we decided to try out the two sandwiches out for ourselves.

Here’s how KFC’s new chicken sandwich compares with Chick-fil-A’s iconic menu item.

The Crispy Colonel features a craggy chicken filet — a familiar sight for any KFC customer who has ordered the crispy chicken at the chain. The fillet is well-sized, peeking out from the bun without hulking out into a dish that more closely resembles a slab of meat than a sandwich.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The chicken is standard KFC fare, with the extra-crispy filet admirably creating a nice crunch. If you’re a fan of the 11 original herbs and spices, you’ll find that flavour replicated here. The fillet is both hearty and avoids any dryness — a common trap for fast-food fried chicken .

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

KFC also makes the right choice by eschewing the fast-food fried chicken sandwich go-to of tomato and limp lettuce in favour of Chick-fil-A’s standard pickle, as well as mayo. The pickle perfectly cuts through the crispy chicken and the light mayo holds things together without drowning the sandwich. The weakest link is the bun, which is forgettable and slightly dry.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

All-in-all, KFC makes a very nice chicken sandwich that fits in with the chain’s wider chicken offerings. But, can it measure up to Chick-fil-A’s famous sandwich? On first glance, the recipes are similar: chicken and pickle between two buttery buns.

Hollis Johnson

However, Chick-fil-A’s sandwich is more compact and lacks the defined crispiness of the Crispy Colonel. The slightly-sweet bun is a clear step up from that of KFC, and the two fillets have distinctly different flavours. While KFC’s encrusted herbs and spices pack a punch, Chick-fil-A’s salty and savoury flavours are more mellow — an almost comforting melding of more straight-forward goodness.

Hollis Johnson

So, which sandwich reigns supreme? KFC’s chicken sandwich draw both from fast-food sandwiches at chains like McDonald’s and Burger King and from Chick-fil-A for inspiration. Overall, it is a heartier sandwich — and if you are craving KFC’s specific set of spices, nothing else can compare.

Hollis Johnson

However, Chick-fil-A ultimately reigns supreme, if only because it remains the most distinctive sandwich on the market. However, we were surprised by how close the competition was. The Crispy Colonel is an impressive sandwich that shines bright amongst fast-food rivals. As KFC gets into the sandwich game, its fried chicken rivals should watch their backs.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

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