Popeye's Vs KFC's Chicken Sandwich: Which Reigns Supreme?

KFC and Popeye's. Popeye's and KFC. Simply put, no other restaurant in the fast food fried chicken game can measure up to the "Louisiana fast!" franchise or the purveyor of the Bluegrass State's most famous culinary export (i.e., Kentucky fried chicken). Of course, while it's common sense to say these two titans of deep-fried poultry are in a class unto themselves — fried chicken-wise, that is — that classification begs the question: which one makes the superior fried chicken sandwich?

Now, given Popeye's fried chicken sandwich has essentially become a piece of modern Americana since its stupefyingly successful 2019 debut, some readers may presume a contest between it and KFC's chicken sandwich is no contest at all. But with more than 25,000 locations worldwide as of January 2024, it's clear the fried chicken chain founded by Colonel Sanders is more than capable of producing a chicken sandwich worthy of taking the crown from Popeye's.

As a leading authority on all matters of the 'tum — like Dev (Aziz Ansari) on "Master of None" — we decided to determine whether KFC or Popeye's makes the better chicken sammy. After conducting a head-to-head taste test of fried chicken sandwiches from both fast food chains (regular and spicy) and analyzing a litany of factors, including flavor, nutrition, and combo meal options, we can say definitively which is better than the other. Keep reading to discover which fried chicken sandwich reigned supreme in the battle between Popeye's and KFC.

Which chicken filet is bigger?

Since we weren't able to find any accurate first-hand sources regarding the exact weight and measurements of each chain's fried chicken sandwich filet, we were forced to rely on the eye test. Now, we'll admit a straightforward visual assessment may not be the greatest (or most effective) method of comparison, given both KFC and Popeye's appear to individually prepare and hand bread each filet. In other words? There's some expected variation in the size of each chicken filet from sandwich to sandwich — even within an individual restaurant.

Still, with no other option for awarding this category beyond eyeballing the two fried poultry filets side-by-side, we plowed ahead dutifully. Based on appearance alone, Popeye's seems to offer the larger chicken filet. It wasn't by much, but both the regular and spicy chicken sandwiches from Popeye's came with slightly bigger patties than KFC, so it takes this first point.

Winner: Popeye's

Which chicken filet has better breading?

Which is more important to a successful fried chicken sandwich breading: the overall flavor profile or the breading's crunchiness (and subsequent ability to remain crisp over time)? It's the latter, folks — at least when it comes to KFC versus Popeye's. After all, each restaurant's breading contains a top-drawer combination of complementary spices and seasoning. More than that, each chain's fried chicken sandwich provides just a hint of oily goodness without the overwhelming greasiness that often accompanies a deep-fried food item.

Given the breading from both Popeye's and KFC tasted phenomenal, we mainly focused on how well each sandwich's crispy outer layer held up over time. In that sense, Popeye's chicken sandwich provided the expected textural contrast both immediately and several hours later. Conversely, KFC's breading became a bit of a soggy mess within 30 minutes of purchase.

Since that internal crunch is crucial to one's enjoyment of a fried chicken sandwich, Popeye's takes the breading belt.

Winner: Popeye's

Which chicken filet is better-tasting?

Just as the breading from both KFC and Popeye's was undeniably delicious, we can't pretend we didn't drastically enjoy the taste of each chicken filet offered by these two companies. Still, we're very clearly forced (by our own self-mandated rules) to declare one chicken filet as better tasting than the other. And seeing how the star ingredient of Popeye's chicken sandwich provided a much more satisfactory mouthfeel than its KFC counterpart, it edged out the Kentucky-originating restaurant in this category, as well.

The chicken filet from Popeye's was a tender yet toothsome delight with every bite from start to finish. The KFC filet, meanwhile, seemingly fell apart in our mouth at times while chewing, with certain mouthfuls devolving into a borderline mush (a problem exacerbated by the excessive amount of mayonnaise slathered on the KFC sandwich we sampled).

We don't want to imply the KFC chicken filet wasn't tasty by any means. But it also couldn't compete with the overall flavor profile and eating experience offered by Popeye's.

Winner: Popeye's

How do the toppings compare?

No other category in this chicken sandwich competition was as straightforward to assess and decide as the toppings. After all, each fried chicken franchise tops its signature sandwich with a smattering of mayo and a couple of pickle slices. In that regard, whether Popeye's or KFC has better toppings is as simple as deciding which restaurant serves the tastier mayo and pickles.

Now, if we're being perfectly honest? Any actual differences in the flavor profiles of the toppings were moot — meaning we didn't necessarily find either restaurant's mayonnaise or pickles to be better than the other. However, not unlike the less-secure physical makeup of KFC's chicken filet, its supposedly thick pickle slices appeared to disintegrate in a flood of mayo. On the contrary, the pickles on Popeye's chicken sandwich remained crisp and sturdy (just like the chicken itself) while containing a far more reasonable amount of mayonnaise than KFC's sandwich (i.e., it had much less).

Perhaps the aggressive amount of the globby white condiment found on KFC's sandwich could be chalked up to the store or employee that assembled it. But we can only compare the two products based on what we experienced, so Popeye's takes yet another category.

Winner: Popeye's

Which bun is best?

Let's address the obvious before proceeding: At this point in our chicken sandwich comparison, it seems as though KFC is in danger of being utterly trampled by the vastly superior Popeye's (which isn't surprising given the incredible popularity of its chicken sandwich). In fact, on that note? The better bun between these two poultry-centric sammies belongs to Popeye's, as well.

Of course, while we found the Cajun-spiced fried chicken chain's bun to be a step above the one housing KFC's chicken sandwich, we have to admit its margin of victory in this category was razor-thin. The main reason Popeye's bun trumped KFC's was the long-term sturdiness it provided the sandwich.

Just as the breading, chicken, and toppings all remained in peak form after some time, Popeye's bun stayed solid (but not stale) even several hours after buying it. KFC's bun remained intact, as well, but also became a bit squishy in places in the process. So Popeye's continues its streak of dominance.

Winner: Popeye's

Which chicken sandwich is less nutritionally-detrimental?

Finally, this is an area where KFC can shine and outdo its opponent! Of course, despite our irrational excitement over KFC's ability to take a category in this contest, it's a bit of a hollow victory. We chose to describe the winner of this category as less nutritionally detrimental (rather than healthier) for a reason, after all — because there really is no such thing as a healthy fried chicken sandwich. Still, a quick gander at the nutritional information provided by each company reveals KFC as the clear winner (so to speak) of this respective category.

While Popeye's chicken sandwich rings in with a whopping 700 calories, 42 grams of fat, and 1765 milligrams of sodium (plus 8 grams of added sugar), KFC only has 650 calories, 35 grams of fat, and 1260 milligrams of sodium. Furthermore, KFC's offering only contains 6 grams of sugar alongside a hearty 34 grams of protein — compared to the comparatively paltry 28 grams of protein in Popeye's sandwich.

Winner: KFC

Which chicken sandwich is more affordable?

We've never been shy about our opposition ties in any sort of competitive endeavor — even when that appears to be the most logical course of action. In that sense, while an a la carte fried chicken sandwich from both KFC and Popeye's cost us $5.49 (at a pair of locations in the Greater Lowell area of Massachusetts), we're not willing to call this one a push and simply move on.

After all, a bit more digging reveals a disparity in the price of chicken sandwich combo meals between the two restaurants. A chicken sandwich, drink, and a small side from Popeye's costs $9.99, while KFC only charges $8.99 for the same order of food — meaning KFC's chicken sandwich deserves a point for affordability.

One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that this price disparity may differ depending on where or how you purchase a chicken sandwich (from either restaurant). But we'd predict KFC remains the victor when it comes to price points, no matter the location.

Winner: KFC

Which restaurant offers the better spicy chicken sandwich?

Having eaten our fair share of Popeye's fried chicken sandwiches since its release in the late 2010s, we'd have to admit we've always preferred its spicy sandwich to the classic version. Now, we weren't entirely sure beforehand whether KFC's spicy chicken sandwich could measure up to its own original sandwich variety — to say nothing of its ability to compete with Popeye's top-notch spicier option. But we can say with absolute certainty that KFC's spicy sandwich was a delightful alternative to the occasionally bland, mayo-focused classic version.

Still, if it isn't obvious by now? Popeye's has virtually perfected every single aspect of its chicken sandwich, whether spicy or regular. And even though we greatly enjoyed KFC's spicy chicken sandwich, well ... it couldn't edge out the mind-blowingly flavorful spicy sandwich option from Popeye's. So, while we immensely enjoyed the spicy chicken sandwich from both fast-food fried chicken restaurants, we simply felt Popeye's sold us a slightly better one than KFC.

Winner: Popeye's

Which restaurant has the better combo meal choices?

Whether or not KFC or Popeye's offers the better combo meal choices likely boils down to each person's individual preference. After all, do you prefer the Cajun fries sold by Popeye's to the somewhat generic variety produced by KFC (bring back potato wedges!)? Do you find the uniform (and seemingly mass-produced) composition of Popeye's yellow-tinted coleslaw more appealing than the whiter, less-consistently chopped cabbage in KFC's coleslaw?

Beyond those two classic sides, there are several additional options from each restaurant, such as mac and cheese or mashed potatoes with gravy. And while we'd say we generally prefer the fries from Popeye's, we've always felt KFC's other side options (AKA combo meal choices) taste vastly better than those offered by Popeye's.

Perhaps others would give more weight to fries (given it's a fast food combo meal and all). But we can't deny the validity of the remaining side choices, so KFC earns one more point.

Winner: KFC

Verdict: Popeye's remains the fried chicken sandwich GOAT

Was it ever really in doubt that Popeye's would emerge victorious? Perhaps if we were judging each fast-food giant on its overall menu — rather than solely comparing chicken sandwiches — KFC would have fared better. But after several years atop the fast-food chicken sandwich mountain, Popeye's hasn't faltered, and the quality, flavor, and appearance of its famed chicken sandwich hasn't diminished in the slightest.

KFC's chicken sandwich was a formidable foe, to be sure; in fact, we could imagine it besting several other chicken sandwiches on the market with relative ease. Yet Popeye's chicken sandwich has more than earned its GOAT status, and its near-flawless chicken sandwich (classic or spicy) was simply too fantastic for KFC to overcome. Additionally, we couldn't shake the feeling that KFC simply mirrored (copied?) the chicken sandwich composition of Popeye's famous product when introducing its own version.

While we're not accusing KFC of culinary plagiarism by any means, this fact seems to further illustrate the supremacy of Popeye's chicken sandwich (no company would willingly mimic an unsuccessful product, after all). Quite frankly, then, even if we disregarded the total tally, Popeye's chicken sandwich easily reigns supreme over KFC's chicken sandwich.

Overall winner: Popeye's