I ordered the same meal from Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, and Whataburger, and I preferred the crispiest chicken tenders

Popeyes chick fil a and whataburger chicken tenders
I tried the same meal from Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Whataburger. Erin McDowell/Insider; lma_ss/Shutterstock; Brett Hondow/Shutterstock; NYC Russ/Shutterstock
  • I compared the same meal from Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Whataburger in terms of value and taste.
  • I ordered chicken tenders, fries, lemonade, and ranch dipping sauce from each restaurant.
  • Popeyes’ crispy chicken, sweet lemonade, and large serving of fries won me over.

My meal from Chick-fil-A came in a white sealed paper bag. I got it delivered, and it was warm when it arrived.
Chick fil a bag on blue background
Chick-fil-A bag. Erin McDowell/Insider
My Chick-fil-A meal cost $13.90, not including taxes and delivery fees. I ordered it through the Seamless app from my local restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.
I ordered a three-piece chicken tender, medium waffle fries, a medium lemonade, and garden-herb ranch sauce. The items came in a meal deal.
Chick fil a chicken tenders fries sauce cup on blue background
My meal from Chick-fil-A. Erin McDowell/Insider
As soon as I got my order, I started off with the lemonade. It was quite pulpy but tasted homemade.
A three-piece chicken tender costs $7.65 at my location when it’s not included in a meal deal.
Chick fil a chicken tenders in box on blue background
Chick-fil-A chicken tenders. Erin McDowell/Insider
When I popped open the box containing the chicken tenders, I could immediately smell the fried chicken.
Some of the chicken pieces looked slightly darker and more fried than others.
Chick fil a chicken tenders in box on blue background
Chick-fil-A chicken tenders. Erin McDowell/Insider
There were small bits of fried breading scattered on the outside, which I always love with a chicken tender.
I tried the chicken tenders on their own and with the garden-herb ranch dipping sauce.
Chick fil a chicken tender dipped in ranch sauce on blue background
Chick-fil-A chicken tender dipped in ranch sauce. Erin McDowell/Insider
The sauce clung to the tender.
The chicken tenders were nicely fried but still juicy on the inside.
Chick fil a chicken tender bitten into on blue background
Chick-fil-A chicken tender. Erin McDowell/Insider
But they weren’t as crispy as I expected. I wanted a distinct crunch when I bit into the tenders, but they didn’t deliver that. In the end, it’s largely up to personal preference.
I’m usually a big fan of Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries but was slightly let down this time around.
Chick fil a waffle fries on blue background
Chick-fil-A waffle fries. Erin McDowell/Insider
The fries I received were slightly undersalted, which I’ve never experienced at Chick-fil-A before. This was clearly because of the specific batch of fries I received and is not to say all Chick-fil-A waffle fries are underseasoned. Still, I was a tad disappointed. 
But the fries were a perfect vehicle for the ranch sauce.
Chick fil a waffle fries dipped in ranch sauce on blue background
Chick-fil-A waffle fries dipped in ranch sauce. Erin McDowell/Insider
The waffle shape allowed me to scoop the sauce, rather than simply dipping the fries in. Chick-fil-A has mastered the perfect shaped fry.

The ranch sauce was creamy and slightly tart, but I wanted a bigger serving size. By the time I reached the fries, I had practically run out of sauce.

My meal from Popeyes arrived in a large sealed brown bag. Inside was my box of food.
Popeyes box on blue background
Popeyes box. Erin McDowell/Insider
I ordered a handcrafted three-piece-tender combo. It came to $12.40 before taxes and fees.
The box was heaving with Cajun fries, the three chicken tenders, and a biscuit.
Popeyes box of cajun fries chicken tenders biscuit on blue background
Popeyes box with Cajun fries, chicken tenders, and a biscuit. Erin McDowell/Insider
I thought the serving size was very generous, especially for being slightly cheaper than the meal from Chick-fil-A.
I dug around the fries and plucked out a crispy chicken tender.
Popeyes chicken tender on blue background
Popeyes chicken tender. Erin McDowell/Insider
Right away, I saw how different the tender’s texture was from the Chick-fil-A tenders. It was crispy, flaky, and crunchy.
The tub of ranch sauce from Popeyes was deeper than Chick-fil-A’s, making it perfect for tender dipping.
Popeyes chicken tender dipped in ranch sauce on blue background
Popeyes chicken tender dipped in ranch sauce. Erin McDowell/Insider
The sauce clung tightly to the crispy tenders.
I really liked the crunchy outside of the chicken tenders from Popeyes.
Popeyes chicken tender on blue background
Popeyes chicken tender. Erin McDowell/Insider
But I was surprised by the lack of distinct flavor. I thought the chicken tenders from Chick-fil-A packed more of a buttery, savory flavor than the Popeyes ones.
Next, I tried the Cajun fries.
Popeyes cajun fries in box
Popeyes Cajun fries. Erin McDowell/Insider
When they’re not included in the combo, a regular-size order of Popeyes’ Cajun fries costs $3.20 at my local restaurant.
The fries were crispy on the outside, with tons of spicy flavor.
Popeyes cajun fry dipped in ranch sauce on blue background
Popeyes Cajun fries dipped in ranch sauce. Erin McDowell/Insider
In terms of seasoning, these fries easily beat out the Chick-fil-A waffle fries, at least in my opinion. The sauce added to the fries’ flavor, but I still preferred the waffle-fry shape for dipping.
While visiting Austin, Texas, I ordered the same meal from Whataburger.
Whataburger bag
The Whataburger bag. Erin McDowell/Insider
My order came to $8.57 before taxes and fees, making it the least expensive meal.
I ordered a Whatachick’n Strips three-piece, a small french fry, and a medium lemonade.
Whataburger chicken tenders fries ranch sauce and lemonade
My meal from Whataburger. Erin McDowell/Insider
Unlike the other chains, Whataburger doesn’t have its own signature lemonade. I tried the Minute Maid Zero Sugar Lemonade and thought it was light, but it didn’t taste as sweet or homemade as the other chains’ lemonade.
A three-piece chicken tender costs $4.44 at Whataburger, which I thought was a great deal.
Whataburger chicken tenders
Whataburger chicken tenders. Erin McDowell/Insider
The chicken tenders were large and perfectly fried.
I ordered ranch dipping sauce from Whataburger, and I loved the container it came in.
Whataburger chicken tender dipped in ranch
Whataburger chicken tender dipped in ranch. Erin McDowell/Insider
It came in a large tub that was perfect for dipping.
The ranch sauce perfectly coated the tenders.
Whataburger chicken tender dipped in ranch
Whataburger chicken tender dipped in ranch. Erin McDowell/Insider
I thought the tenders could only be described as “classic” — they weren’t anything out-of-the-box, but I enjoyed them. The meat inside was juicy, but I thought the fried coating outside could have had a bit more crunch.

The ranch sauce was creamy and tangy. It was my favorite in terms of flavor out of the three chains I tried, and I also liked the tub shape the most.

Next, I tried the fries.
Whataburger fries
Whataburger fries. Erin McDowell/Insider
I thought they were well-salted and crispy. They were actually among some of the best fries I’ve tried at a fast-food joint, and they only cost $1.99 before tax. However, in my opinion, they didn’t have as much flavor as the Cajun fries.
If I had any complaints, it would be that I wanted more.
Whataburger fries
Whataburger fries. Erin McDowell/Insider
I thought the serving size was a little small, but that could obviously be because I ordered a small.
While I ordered the same menu items from all three chains, the meals were quite different in terms of flavor and value. Popeyes was the winner for me.
Popeyes box of cajun fries chicken tenders biscuit ranch sauce lemonade on blue background
Popeyes box of food, buttermilk-ranch sauce, and lemonade. Erin McDowell/Insider
I really enjoyed Popeyes’ crispy chicken tenders, the serving size of well-seasoned fries was undeniably huge, and the lemonade was very refreshing.

However, I preferred the ranch from Whataburger and the container that made for easier dipping. I also liked the fact that Whataburger was cheaper, although I got more food from Popeyes.

In the end, Popeyes came out on top for me.