Every Popeyes menu item, ranked worst to best

Once called Chicken on the Run, what we know today as Popeyes was opened in 1972 by Alvin C. Copeland Sr., serving up spicy New Orleans-style spicy fried chicken. By 1985 he would be opening his 500th restaurant in Landover, Maryland, a far ways a way from Louisiana. He went through a few name changes, from Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken to Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, (with other names sprinkles in there, too) before settling on Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. However, what remained constant was the crispy fried chicken. 

The recipes for Popeyes' signature chicken and other offerings are so important and vital to the success of the restaurant, that after Copeland died, they had to buy them from his family. For a whopping 43 million dollars. That's some expensive chicken. It's served them well, however. Popeyes has never been more popular, and with lines out the door for their chicken sandwich, you know their food is good.

But what's the best food from Popeyes? Not everything they're serving up is as good as the next menu item — in fact, there are quite a few items you should probably just skip. This is our ranking of Popeyes food, from worst to best.

16. Popeyes Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice is a defining dish of New Orleans. They love their kidney beans. One of the first real recipes on how to make kidney beans appeared in The Picayune's Creole Cook Book that came about at the turn of the 19th century. So it makes sense for Popeyes to have a red bean and rice dish. But just because they have it, doesn't mean it's good.

When even the restaurant's description for this side is more or less just the name of the dish, you know it's not going to be very exciting. Sure, Popeyes Red Beans and Rice is unique when it comes to fast food sides, but there's nothing to write home about here. The rice is seasoned, like mostly everything at Popeyes is, and then is mixed with red beans that have a smokey flavor. Cool? The smokey flavor comes from liquid smoke, not actual slow cooking, and the rice is always cooked well, but it's just rice — nothing special.

15. Popeyes Cajun Rice

Maybe rice shouldn't be a fast food thing. Especially when it comes off as more of a novelty menu item than anything else. Dirty rice, which is what Popeyes' Cajun Rice emulates, is a dish with a deep, rich, yet also dark history in Louisiana. Typically made from the discarded organ meats of the chicken and rice, dirty rice was a slave dish that was both filling and tasted good, but still paled to what was being served in the main house of plantations. Still, over decades it became more of a staple dish for the poor, and is now considered one of Louisiana's most authentic dishes.

And then there's Popeyes' version. The chain relies on its Cajun spices and flavor to carry their version of dirty rice, but it falls short of the real thing. The rice is fine, but it's not that flavorful on its own. It does contain some meat in its Cajun meat sauce, including ground chicken gizzards, but a lot of it is preservatives. If you want dirty rice, treat it right and make it yourself.

14. Popeyes Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

The only thing worth eating in this side dish from Popeyes is the Cajun Gravy. That stuff is tasty. The mashed potatoes, however, are meh at best. They're mashed potatoes. There's nothing about them that makes them stand out or be memorable at all (unlike what they serve at another chicken place). That gravy however, we wish Popeyes would bottle it separate and sell. Alas, asking for extra gravy often results in not so great customer experiences, making us more apt to suffer through our gravy-less potatoes. Some people feel the gravy is a bit too oily for their taste, but it all comes down to gravy preferences.

The gravy is made with smoked pork, as well as ground beef, bell peppers, and turkey. Meanwhile the mashed potatoes are heavy on the butter and milk, but they also contain shortening, which can give them an odd sort of texture. You can get better mashed potatoes elsewhere, is what we're saying.

13. Popeyes Coleslaw

If you're going to Popeyes to get your greens, you're doing it wrong. That said, coleslaw is delicious and can be quite refreshing when you need to cut through all the fried goodness. Popeyes bills their coleslaw as a "cool, crisp, and tangy treat," and while it isn't bad, we must admit it's a touch lacking when it comes to the realm of coleslaw. 

There is some uniqueness to the typical cabbage and carrots meets mayonnaise when it comes to the coleslaw at Popeyes however. The addition of pickles sets it apart and does add a nice tang to each bite. The lemon juice enhances that, while the small addition of paprika and turmeric gives it some color and a touch more flavor.

We don't hate the coleslaw from Popeyes... but we do know that we can get a much better bowl of this crisp and refreshing side dish if we head down the road to KFC. And for that reason, it's pretty far to the bottom of this list.

12. Popeyes Green Beans

Ok, hear us out. We know what you're thinking. Who goes to Popeyes and gets green beans? Smart people do. Because these green beans with turkey bacon are delicious. They're easily the best side offered at Popeyes, bar the biscuits. With a creamy gravy mixed in, and added bacon, this is definitely one of the most nutritious items on the menu. While you're unlikely to go to Popeyes to be healthy, it's at least good to know it's an option, right? While there's nothing astounding happening with Popeyes' green beans, if you like the vegetable, you're probably going to enjoy this version.

The green beans and (that tasty gravy they're swimming in) do contain pork, chicken, and turkey, so that smokey meaty flavor you get from these beans isn't fake. That said, this definitley isn't a vegetarian dish — just in case the chunks of bacon didn't give that away. 

11. Popeyes Cinnamon Apple Pie

Popeyes is no stranger to desserts. They have a rotating stock based on seasons, holidays, and what-have-you. From banana pudding parfait to Mardi Gras cheesecake, each of these offerings has had its highs and lows. That said, the reigning king of Popeyes desserts is easily the cinnamon apple pie. It has all the best parts of apple pie in a perfect pocket. The crust is warm and crispy and doused in cinnamon sugar, while the inside is a not-to-sweet apple filling with even more cinnamon. It's a cinnamon explosion that is perfectly satisfying, especially on a cool day.

If you're not a cinnamon fan, chances are you probably won't be thrilled with Popeyes version of the quintessential American dessert. There are a lot of fast food apple pies out there, and everyone has a different opinion on the best one. But if you trust us, it's this one.

10. Popeyes Biscuits

Many people will say that you cannot go to Popeyes and not get a biscuit. It's kind of the law. First introduced in 1983, the buttermilk biscuits have become a staple of the Popeyes menu ever since. They're buttery, flaky and crumbly, soft and delicate, and can fit into your mouth in one go if you're really dedicated to it. Some people eat them plain, others make a chicken sandwich with them, while others wait until they're drenched with gravy, red beans, and whatever other sides they have on hand.

People love these biscuits so much there are hundreds of copycat recipes online, but why bother when they actually came out with a mix for you to make them at home? How nice of them. Sometimes Popeyes even has fun with their biscuits, like making them heart-shaped for National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. Yes, that's a real thing. Biscuits are important, people.

9. Popeyes Blackened Tenders

You may not immediately realize these are available on the menu, as the default for Popeyes tenders is the fried version, but you can ask for your three-, five-, or 10-piece tenders to come as blackened. Typically associated with Cajun cooking, blackened chicken (or any meat really) basically means that it's cooked to replicate the taste of a charcoal grill without actually being cooked on charcoal. The trick is in the seasoning and technique.

Popeyes' Blackened Tenders are particularly popular with the Keto crowd. What makes them ketogenic friendly (and generally low-carb) is that the chicken is tossed in Popeyes Cajun seasoning and then fried without any of the breading. This mimics the traditional blackening technique of covered meat in spices and then cooking on a hot pan. Popeyes just substitutes its fryer for the skillet, meaning it makes for a relatively healthy meal at a fast food chain. That is, if you skip the sauce. If you're not doing keto and just want some nice smokey delicious chicken tenders, you'll love these as well!

8. Popeyes Boneless Wings

You may be thinking this is heresy, eating boneless wings, but wait until you've popped a few of these bad boys in your mouth until you complain. Not quite a nugget, but not quite an actual wing, Popeyes boneless wings are delicious, crispy morsels of breast meat perfect for sauce dipping and snacking. Popeyes Boneless Wings came about after the 2017 chicken wing shortage, and were originally a limited edition deal, but have been back a few times since then and as of November 2019, they're a permanent menu item. Since then they've had multiple iterations from smokehouse, to honey mustard, and Cajun sparkle. Sometimes they even come with tater tots. Tater tots!

What makes these boneless bites so good is that they're just as juicy and crispy as the tenders and signature chicken, but they're bite-sized and are prime for dipping. Popeyes' range of sauces, including BBQ, hot and spicy, honey mustard, smokey ranch, and more.

7. Popeyes Cajun Fries

You know how when you go to fast food place and order a meal, the fries are just the side you order because, well, that's what they have? Popeyes has a wide selection of sides, but we'd still choose their fries any day of the week. Move over boring old fried potatoes, there's something better out in Louisiana. 

Popeyes' Cajun Fries are a must with any meal from the fast food giant. Made with their special seasoning, these fries are as flavorful as they are spicy. It just adds more pizzazz to your meal, while also being an entirely respectable snack on its own. Sometimes Popeyes' Cajun Fries get a bit of a makeover as well, like the time they were loaded up with cheddar cheese, bacon, and gravy.

One drawback is that they lose their crisp awfully fast. If you don't made slightly soggy fries, then no harm, no foul, but most of us get a bit bummed when our crispy fried potatoes are no longer crispy.

6. Popeyes Mild Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders aren't just for kids you know. These all-white breast meat strips of chickeny goodness are crispy and delightful for all ages. The tenders get their own special seasoning, meaning they have a slightly different flavor profile from the signature chicken's blend. These are the mild version, however, so don't worry if you can't pack on the spice. There's another chicken tender for that.

This may catch you off guard, but the regular chicken tenders are actually the lowest in fat of Popeyes fried chicken offerings. At only about 148 calories per strip, that's not too shabby. Well, for fast food anyhow. Throughout the years there have been many iterations of the chicken tenders, including a version fried in waffle batter

One of the best parts of eating tenders is dipping them in sauce. The options at Popeyes are plentiful, what with six Signature Sauces including: Bayou Buffalo, Barbeque, Sweet Heat, Mardi Gras Mustard, Buttermilk Ranch, and Blackened Ranch. So many sauces, so little time.

5. Popeyes Handcrafted Spicy Tenders

If you're a chicken tender lover, but still want that New Orleans-style spice, never fear, the Handcrafted Spicy Tenders are here. These also get their own special seasoning, including some cayenne to pack in the heat. It's that extra layer of spice that makes the spicy tenders just a bit better than the original chicken tenders. After all, most people come to Popeyes for the flavorful chicken. Treat yourself. 

If they end up being a touch too spicy, you can always cool your mouth down with one of the many dipping sauces that Popeyes has. The ones that pair best with the spicy tenders would be Buttermilk Ranch and Blackened Ranch, if you want a bit of smoke in there as well. Like the mild chicken tenders, the spicy version has had a few cousins on the menu here and there. This includes the Hot Honey Crunch Chicken Tenders.

4. Popeyes Voodoo Tenders

Popeyes comes out with limited edition offerings all the time, but most of them pass on without any real fan base. These Voodoo Chicken Tenders though? We would fight for these. Not only do you get three or five of Popeyes delicious chicken tenders with each order, but they pack a major flavor punch with their drizzling of ghost pepper, garlic, fried green onions. Add in that Voodoo Sauce and it's spicy, sweet, and salty is everything you need in your mouth (and life). 

They're not for everyone,though. Ghost peppers are typically over 1 million on the Scoville scale for spiciness (that's up to 400 times hotter than a jalapeno by the way), and while you won't be biting right into one, these tenders do pack a punch. The sweetness of the sugar and pineapple in the sauce balances it out though, so don't be afraid to try these if you haven't yet (and if they're still available).

3. Popeyes Popcorn Shrimp

You may not think of getting a seafood dish at a place known for their fried chicken above all else. However, you'd be making a mistake. Popeyes does seafood well. Especially when it comes to their shrimp items. The popcorn shrimp are tender, juicy, and perfectly spiced while also have that trademark crunch when you bite into them. Popeyes' Butterfly Shrimp are incredible, but sadly they're a limited edition summer item that really needs to be on the regular menu all year round. Please, Popeyes?

A big drawback is that you can't get the popcorn shrimp a la carte anymore. When they first came out you could buy them separately. However, these days they're only available in a meal deal. However, if you've got someone who wants your sides while you inhale these delicious morsels, you've got a great deal. Also, sometimes the popcorn shrimp come in fun shapes.

2. Popeyes Signature Chicken

Ah, the classic. The chicken that started it all. Popeyes Signature Chicken is great. There's just something about the smell of the spices and grease that gets the blood flowing and the stomach growling, isn't there? Ever since the "Love That Chicken" tagline originated in 1980, people have been singing the praises of Popeyes Signature Chicken. Regardless of whether you're a wing person, a breast person, or a drumstick person, you'll love the crunch of their famous batter. Popeyes marinates their chicken for 12 hours, which is rather noteworthy for a fast food chain. It just goes to show that they don't skimp on quality here. The result is that the chicken is juicy and moist. No dry fried chicken to be found here!

Popeyes also requires that anyone who supplies chicken to them adhere to the animal guidelines from the National Chicken Council. As the company isn't directly involved in raising the chickens they use, they do regular audits of their suppliers and their methods.

1. Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Could it have been anything else? There's a reason Popeye's Chicken Sandwich sold out nationwide for months. There's a reason outlets have gone nuts over its announced return. It's amazing. People have even been killed over it. Originally, Popeye's produced and budgeted enough chicken sandwiches to last through the end of September from its August 12 release, but it went through them twice as fast because everyone wanted a bite. There's plenty of opinions about where the Popeye's chicken sandwich ranks among its competitors, most notoriously against Chick-fil-A's. One bite and there's really no question. Popeye's reigns supreme. It's just that good, people.

Perfectly fried and with crisp buttermilk batter, it's hugged between two buttery brioche buns and the just right amount of mayonnaise and pickles. The spicy version has cayenne thrown into the mix as well. While the original  release of the sandwich caused a social media meltdown over a rush to get it, some customers believe the second release isn't as good, nor as large in size, as the first. Having sampled many since it's return, we can't say that we agree. It's just as good as the first time around. In fact, we'll probably eat even more.