Fast Food Spicy Chicken Sandwiches Ranked From Worst To Best

The fast food chicken sandwich war has gotten a bit crowded and, shall we say, heated, recently. Wendy's may have started it all back in 1996 when they introduced their long-standing spicy chicken sandwich, but now the competition is quite fierce. Flash forward to 2021, and nearly every fast food chain throughout the country is in the game — sparking heated arguments from passionate poultry lovers. Who doesn't remember when the world just about lost its mind when Popeye's released their own chicken sandwich in the summer of 2019, as CNN reports, causing long lines and selling out of their stock at locations throughout the country? We are America, and we love our chicken.

The competition quickly took notice, inspiring many fast food restaurants to up their game. Thus enters the spicy chicken sandwich. It's got all the deliciousness of a regular chicken sandwich with the added kick of a little heat, courtesy of either crunchy, peppery breading or a creamy sauce. 

There are a lot of factors that go into ranking a chicken sandwich. Is the chicken juicy? Is the breading crunchy? Do the toppings complement the flavor of the chicken? How about the level of spice? Well, we're here to answer all of them for you. Join us on this sodium and spice-soaked adventure for our list of fast food spicy chicken sandwiches ranked from worst to best.

Jack In The Box Spicy Cluck Sandwich

Okay, so Jack in the Box may have a less than stellar reputation. We're just not sure that we can put trust in a place that tops their tacos with American cheese. They are, however, wildly inexpensive and the late-night dream of many a college kid short on cash. 

In 2020, Jack in the Box decided to up their game in the chicken department. Their past chicken sandwich wasn't exactly anything to write home about, with its sad and soggy, barely crispy coating. And so, as Brand Eating reports, they introduced the new Cluck Sandwich with great fanfare. They even enlisted songstress Becky G for an ad campaign where they urged fans to create a new version of the chicken dance (via Reel 360).

The new Cluck Sandwich, available in regular or spicy, features a crispy fried chicken breast on a brioche bun topped with two pickles and a mayonnaise-based mystery sauce. While the chicken is juicy, the only flavor coming from both the chicken and breading is salt. Vastly under-seasoned — minus the sodium attack, anyway — the only thing providing any real flavor is the mayo-based sauce with hints of mustard and brown sugar. Meanwhile, the pickle slices are so tiny they go undetected. It's a disappointing entry in the fast food spicy chicken contest.

Bojangles' Cajun Filet Sandwich

If you live in the Southeast, you are likely more than familiar with Bojangles'. This regional fast food chain is known for its Cajun-inspired meals, like fried chicken, buttery biscuits, and sweet tea. It's only fitting that a chain known for their chicken, got in on the action. Bojangles' entry into this epic battle is their Cajun Filet Sandwich. Their chicken breast filet is cajun-spiced with their signature seasoning and served on a buttered bun with a piece of lettuce, slice of tomato, and mayo.

Ultimately, this sandwich lacks any real "wow" factor. The chicken is juicy and the flavor from the seasoning is nice, but it's not good enough to have us running back. Our major problem with this one? The bun. It is too big, with a bun-to-chicken ratio of 3:1. It totally overpowers the entire sandwich. Sorry, Bojangles', but this one frankly did not butter our biscuits.

Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Sorry, friends. There's no easy way to say this so we'll just get right to the point. The Popeyes chicken sandwich lived nowhere near to the level of hype associated with it. The sheer pandemonium has left us baffled. When Popeye's launched the sandwich in 2019, it resulted in hours-long lines just for a chance at a bite, according to Reuters.

Was the sandwich worth it? According to Mass Live, the spicy version is much like the original chicken sandwich, only battered and breaded in a buttermilk coating created specifically for this menu item. It's then topped with pickles and loaded onto a brioche bun. The spicy version sees the addition of spicy mayonnaise.

We were gravely disappointed. While this one had a nice crunch, it severely lacked any flavor and tasted like a standard greasy subpar fried chicken sandwich. We will give it to the spicy mayo because it did add a welcome bit of heat, but it was still overpowered by greasy chicken. The only redeeming part was the buttery bun, yet the flavor of grease still lingered in our mouths for hours. Hard pass.

Arby's Buttermilk Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

So, for all your spicy chicken sandwich purists out there, know that we included Arby's buffalo chicken sandwich above others because it does have some true heat to it and is therefore worthy of the title of spicy chicken sandwich. In 2016, QSR magazine reports, Arby's introduced the Buttermilk Buffalo Chicken Slider. This became so popular that Arby's eventually rolled out a full sandwich version of the treat. Both remain on the menu today.

For this particular spicy chicken sandwich, a chicken breast filet is marinated in buttermilk, then coated and fried in sweet buttermilk breading. This process made for a super juicy, tender, and crispy chicken filet. The buffalo sauce is delicious, too, and has just the right amount of mild heat. The problem with this one is the addition of peppercorn sauce. Delicious on its own, it made the chicken soggy in no time. The bun and shredded lettuce could do little to save this messy sandwich, which requires a small mountain of napkins to get through relatively cleanly.

Cook Out Spicy Chicken

The primarily Southeast fast food chain Cook Out is basically a fast food lover's dream. After perusing the rather large menu, you'll have to pick from over 40 flavors of milkshakes and hushpuppies to quesadillas and even North Carolina-style barbecue. In addition to several varieties of grilled chicken breast sandwiches, they also have a crispy spicy chicken breast sandwich that debuted in 2019 (via Charleston City Paper). This version of a spicy chicken fast food sandwich is topped with lettuce and tomato and served on a soft, pillowy bun.

This wasn't a mind-blowing sandwich by any means, but we must say that Cook Out's version is still an all-around solid chicken sandwich. While we didn't detect a ton of heat from the breading, the sandwich featured a pretty average-sized piece of juicy chicken on top of a classic, unobtrusive bun. Everything was well balanced and proportioned and was pretty well-seasoned. We think pairing it with some sort of sauce would really make this sandwich great. Luckily, they've got plenty of options, like buffalo, BBQ, and even Polynesian sauce to amp up their perfectly respectable sandwich entry into the fast food chicken sandwich wars.

Wendy's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Since the dawn of time (or actually the 1990s), when you thought of the fast food chicken sandwich, you surely thought of Wendy's. While the taste and flavor will always carry a hint of nostalgia for us, unfortunately, with all the competition there is now, we're sad to say it's obsolete. According to QSR magazine, Wendy's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich features a marinated chicken that's then breaded in a pepper-forward coating and completed with a piece of lettuce and tomato.

Sorry, old friend, but this one just isn't remarkable. While we enjoy the peppery coating on the chicken, too many times we've been let down with a lukewarm chicken filet, one sad piece of lettuce, and a lackluster, flavorless tomato. The familiarity factor has this one maybe a bit higher on the list than it should be, honestly, but let's let it be for nostalgia's sake, shall we? We think we'll stick with a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and Frosty on our next visit. Dave, we think it's time for an upgrade.

Culver's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Founded in 1984, Culver's has pretty much dominated the Southeast and Midwest since then. They now operate over 700 restaurants in 25 states, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the chain has a menu that sets them apart. In addition to Butterburgers, their Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is both marinated and breaded with a unique four-pepper combination of spices and topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. It's all served on a grilled bun. This began as a limited offering in 2018 that proved to be so popular it eventually found its way as a permanent menu addition.

This reminded us of a McChicken sandwich, but way bigger, fresher, and just all-around better. We got an actual kick from this sandwich, but it is definitely the most peppery one on our list. The pickles did a nice job of cooling the heat from the breading, which was itself plenty crispy but not too thick. The bun is grilled but we found it tends to fall apart in literally one bite.

Chick-fil-A Grilled Spicy Chicken Deluxe

You were probably wondering when Chick-fil-A would make its appearance on its list. It's no wonder that, when cravings hit, you're left to sit in your car in a drive-thru line that often runs through the entire parking lot and down the road. Chick-fil-A does chicken pretty darn well. 

The chain's Grilled Spicy Chicken Deluxe features a chicken breast that is marinated in a blend of peppers and then grilled. It's topped with a piece of lettuce, tomato, Colby jack cheese, and served on a toasted multigrain brioche bun with a side of cilantro lime sauce.

What we love about this one is that the spice is more like a coating on the chicken rather than a sauce, helping keep things neat and tidy. It's genuinely spicy, too, which is why we love the fact that it is served with cool cilantro sauce. We're always down for some cheese, especially when it's Colby jack, but feel that between the sauce and flavor of chicken you don't even really need the cheese. This is all around a solid spicy chicken sandwich that leaves us satisfied without weighing us down with a heavy breading.

McDonald's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

We were really surprised by this one, as our past experiences with McDonald's and chicken have been less than stellar. After all, their nuggets and McChicken sandwich alike have been nothing to write home about. And so enters the new McDonald's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Launched in early 2021, according to Men's Health, this menu item is simple and straightforward. A crispy and fried chicken breast is topped with pickles and served on a toasted and buttered potato roll, slathered with a mayo-based pepper sauce.

This was pretty close to a knockout. It was overall a very well executed chicken sandwich and we actually detected a welcome level of spice from the sauce. Moreover, it was evident that the chicken was freshly prepared. We enjoyed the new bun that they created just for this sandwich as it made for the perfect toppings to bun ratio. For this sandwich, they also introduced new crinkle-cut pickles that we found to be perfectly crunchy. Well done, McDonald's!

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco

Full disclosure: this take on the spicy chicken sandwich was a real shocker, but proved to be intriguing. According to Today, Taco Bell is currently testing its Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco, available in both regular and spicy versions. Is it a taco? Is it a sandwich? Well, it's both. The regular version features a piece of crispy chicken and chipotle sauce stuffed into a mini folded flatbread. The spicy version sees the addition of sliced jalapeños. So how does Taco Bell stack up against the competition?

Their entry in the chicken sandwich war is actually pretty legit. First off, the chicken tender is a piece of all-white chicken meat that's marinated in jalapeño buttermilk, and, wow, does that make a difference. The chicken is super juicy and the fried breading offered a nice crunch. The chipotle sauce was legit and worked well with the generous helping of jalapeño slices. The flatbread is super soft and fresh making the perfect carrier for the combo without breaking apart. 

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco is rather small, making it perhaps more of a snack than a full sandwich. If you're looking for a meal you could grab two of these and a side of pinto beans. Taco Bell's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos are expected to make a full nationwide rollout later this year.

Burger King Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

This was another surprise for us. While we'll always have a little nostalgia feel for the classic, oblong chicken sandwich (and for real, how good was the chicken parm version?), Burger King wowed us seriously with their new Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Introduced in early 2021, according to Burger Beast, the sandwich features chicken coated in spicy breading served with lettuce, tomato, and creamy mayonnaise.

It arrives on a potato bun, a nice, flavorful change from many of our other contenders and their rather lackluster buns. The chicken is generously sized and super juicy with a nice, crunchy breading that makes for an enjoyable texture. It was genuinely spicy but we'd say it is more reminiscent of the flavors of Nashville-style hot chicken than your standard spicy chicken sandwich. The flavors all worked together in perfect harmony, making this a true standout in the fast food war of spicy chicken sandwiches. 

Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich

We meet again, Chick-fil-A. This time, it's with the sandwich that started it all, their classic Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich. It's not flashy by any means, but it doesn't need it, as the sandwich featured here is straightforward and pretty darn excellent.

To make the sandwich, a boneless chicken breast is seasoned and then breaded in a blend of peppers before it's fried in 100% refined peanut oil, their secret to the perfect bird (via The Chicken Wire). It's served on a toasted bun with nothing more than a few dill pickle chips and whatever sauce you decide to add yourself. Simple as it is, this sandwich is full of flavor and needs nothing other than the briny pickles to tie it together perfectly with the soft buttery bun. 

While we love Chick-fil-A's unique selection of house-made sauces, this sandwich requires none of them. Paired with their signature waffle fries, it's the pinnacle of fast food meals. 

Zaxby's Signature Sandwich

Zaxby's is a fast food meets fast-casual chain known for their chicken wings and chicken fingers. They also entered the spicy chicken sandwich ring with the 2021 nationwide release of their Zaxby's Signature Sandwich. The double hand-breaded white chicken breast comes topped with sliced pickle chips and your choice of classic Zax sauce or a Spicy Zax sauce served on a toasted split-top bun. We obviously went with the Spicy Zax sauce which features a blend of jalapeño and red cayenne. So, what makes this one worthy of our top slot?

Quite frankly and simply put, this was full-service, sit-down restaurant quality. Who knew gourmet and Zaxby's would ever be in the same sentence? We'll start with the bun. It's buttery, soft, and basically everything you want as your vehicle of chicken. The chicken is rather large and perfectly juicy with tons of flavor. It's perfectly complemented by a crunchy and flavorful breading that is not at all greasy. The Spicy Zax sauce was so delicious that we even added more. This, dear friends, is poultry perfection, plain and simple.