I tried the fried-chicken sandwiches from KFC and Popeyes, and one gives you more flavor for your money

Popeyes and KFC fried chicken sandwich taste test
I compared KFC and Popeyes’ fried-chicken sandwiches. Rachel Askinasi/Insider
  • KFC and Popeyes are both chains known for their chicken.
  • They each have some skin in the fried-chicken sandwich race with their own versions.
  • I tried the spicy and regular chicken sandwiches at each chain. While KFC nailed the crunch, Popeyes won on flavor.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Customers flocked to Popeyes after it debuted a fried-chicken sandwich in August 2019. Since then, multiple fast-food restaurants have entered into the chicken sandwich wars, including KFC.
Popeyes and KFC fried chicken sandwich
Popeyes and KFC both have distinct packaging. Rachel Askinasi/Insider
KFC joined the race in January 2021.

While some fast-food chains offer sandwiches with multiple toppings, both Popeyes and KFC chose to keep things simple with their menu items. They each offer a spicy and a non-spicy version of fried-chicken breast between toasted, buttery buns, slathered in mayo-based sauces with pickles. 

Both KFC and Popeyes are brands built around chicken, so my expectations for each before tasting them were relatively high — at least they were higher than my expectations for Wendy’s, Burger King, or McDonald’s sandwiches

I started by comparing the regular fried-chicken sandwiches, both of which cost $US3.99 ($AU6).
Popeyes kfc sandwiches
Fried-chicken sandwiches from Popeyes (left) and KFC (right). Rachel Askinasi/Insider
Both of these sandwiches were extremely simple and were built using the same four elements, which made them easy to compare. 

The buns were equally sweet and soft, and the creamy mayo complemented both flavor profiles well. Both fillets also had a flavorful sweetness to them that I appreciated. 

Though I was able to detect a bit of additional flavor in the KFC mayo, it was a negligible difference.

Pickles are where these two sandwiches really differed in flavor. Popeyes used slightly thicker chips than KFC, and the tangy, acidic, briny goodness offered a welcome break from the richness of the mayo, butter, and greasy fry.

The pickles KFC used seemed to lack that same flavor. They were simply salty and acidic, and I almost wish they were left off the sandwich. Adding more acidity to the sauce could have made up for the absence of pickles. 

Then I moved on to the spicy versions, which were practically the regular sandwiches, just with a boost of color and flavor from peppery sauces.
KFC and Popeyes fried chicken sandwiches
Spicy fried-chicken sandwiches from Popeyes (left) and KFC (right). Rachel Askinasi/Insider
Neither sandwich seemed to have heat built into the fried fillet. Instead, all of the heat came from the sauce. 

Popeyes’ sauce had a sweet-red-pepper-flavored heat that evenly coated my whole mouth from tongue to throat. I thought it was flavorful in a way that went beyond spice. The pickles paired really well with this sauce, in my opinion, and worked to balance out the numbing sting of hot peppers.

KFC’s sandwich also had a sauce that looked to be made from red pepper, but I didn’t think it was as sweet or as well-rounded in flavor. The sauce was packing a ton of heat, though. Even just a tiny taste scooped up with the back of my pinky finger left my mouth coated in that familiar tingly feeling. So if you like that sensation, this one is worth a try. 

Sadly, KFC’s pickles didn’t do this sandwich any favors, either. 

In general, Popeyes’ sandwiches were superior when it came to their flavor profiles. So if you want to go big on taste, go with Popeyes.
Popeyes
Popeyes offers two versions of its fried-chicken sandwich. Rachel Askinasi/Insider
While the exterior of the Popeyes sandwiches gave off the impression that they’d be crunchy, I found both to be disappointingly soggy. The breading was squishy when I examined it between my fingers and left behind a greasy residue.

There were some bites that turned out to be crispy, but those were few and far between. 

In terms of the actual white meat, Popeyes was juicier than its competition, which earned this chain some points back. 

If you value structure and crunchiness over flavor, then you’ll want to order KFC’s version.
KFC
KFC also offers two versions of its fried-chicken sandwich. Rachel Askinasi/Insider
KFC delivered on its visual promise of crunchy goodness. Each bite was audible as I chomped down on the sandwich.

The coating in itself tasted mostly like black pepper, with just enough saltiness to not be overwhelming. However, there were some bites that tasted like excess salt, which mostly happened when I got near a pickle. The flavor inconsistencies were a bit of a downfall for KFC, in my opinion.

Overall, I was impressed by the longevity of this sandwich. I tried it both fresh and after around an hour. The breading was still just as crunchy and the bun was just as soft without becoming soggy.