What Actually Makes Jollibee's Fried Chicken Taste So Good?

In 2022, a March Madness-inspired fried chicken bracket challenge sponsored by Eater found the very best fried chicken offered in the U.S. to be Jollibee's Chickenjoy, which may have come as a surprise to those of us in all 37 states (plus the District of Columbia) that do not have this chain. When and if this Philippines-based chain does come to our towns, though, it seems we're in for a treat as the chicken is known not only for its flavor but also for being really, really moist. While Jollibee really doesn't disclose much information about its chicken recipe, its website does mention a "secret marinade" that helps ensure this signature juiciness.

One Redditor, attempting to recreate Chickenjoy at home, used salt water infused with lemongrass as a brine. A TikTok copycat recipe made a more elaborate marinade, one flavored with salt, MSG, bay leaves, black peppercorns, garlic, and vinegar. Other online recipes include ingredients such as lemon juice or concentrated chicken stock. Apparently, the choice of flavorings is up to the individual cook, but brining or marinating the chicken prior to frying it seems to be an essential part of recreating Chickenjoy's deliciousness.

The gravy, too, adds a certain je ne sais quoi

Boneless fried chicken (nuggets, tenders, etc.) often comes with a dipping sauce, but bone-in chicken may be left to stand on its own. Not at Jollibee, however, as its Chickenjoy is accompanied by a side of gravy that, once again, the website fails to describe in any meaningful way. By all accounts, however, this gravy seems to be very thick and sticky, with a flavor that's somewhat on the sweet side but goes surprisingly well with the savory chicken. According to some Jollibee fans, this dip plays a significant role in Chickenjoy's deliciousness.

As to what goes into the gravy, again, no two copycat recipes seem to be alike (and, of course, Jollibee itself remains mum on the subject). Our copycat Jollibee gravy recipe is an entirely savory one, basically a standard cream gravy flavored with chicken bouillon and soy sauce, and it's best suited for those who aren't sold on sweet gravy. For a more Jollibee-like sauce, though, you may need to add some sugar (brown or white), while some copycat recipes call for additional ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, coconut milk, onions, tomato paste, and oyster sauce.

So, which one of these gravies comes closest to the true Jollibee experience? Unless you actually have a local Jollibee for comparison purposes, it's hard to know for sure. However, you can have fun experimenting with homemade versions of both the chicken and the gravy until the chain expands all over the U.S.