Here's How Much Chick-Fil-A's Grilled Chicken Sandwich Has Changed Over The Years

Some recipes are better untouched and passed down from generation to generation without a single change or substitution. Heirloom dishes like your great-grandmother's apple pie are just as comforting and nostalgic as flipping through an old photo album — they're all little treasures that provide a shared experience.

But in the world of fast food, innovation is often the key to keeping customers interested and satisfied — and as such, our quick service favorites often get the occasional update or improvement. Such is the case with Chick-fil-A's Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which has evolved quite a bit over the years.

Surprisingly this popular item has been on the Chick-fil-A menu since 1989, according to The Chicken Wire, the Atlanta-based chain's blog. And it really was a product born of its time: In the late 1980s, two impactful medical reports were published that identified fat as the biggest threat to Americans' health (and the reason for our expanding waistlines), according to PBS. As a result, consumers and food producers jumped on the low-fat craze. Thus, lower-fat versions of our favorite foods, like the classic Chick-fil-A chicken breast sandwich (meant to be a healthier take on a burger), were born.

The special chicken sandwich recipe has really changed over the years

When the Grilled Chicken Sandwich debuted in 1989, it was 22 years after S. Truett Cathy opened his first officially branded Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967, according to the official website

Adds The Chicken Wire, Cathy had the brilliant idea to marinate the healthier sandwich in pickle juice and a blend of seasonings. The simple sandwich was then topped with two pickles and served on a white bun. In that same year, Chick-fil-A also debuted a deluxe version of the Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which added iceberg lettuce and tomatoes.

The evolution continued from there. By 1993, Chick-fil-A developed the Grilled Chicken Club, featuring lettuce, tomato, American cheese, mayonnaise or Dijon honey mustard, and bacon.

Yet in 2014, Chick-fil-A's Grilled Chicken Sandwich was reinvented again, this time with the help of technology; namely, a grill designed to give the chicken breast "backyard flavor." According to Eat This, Not That!, Chick-fil-A's patented hydraulic grill cooks both sides of the meat at the same time, putting just the right amount of pressure on so that it imparts grill marks but doesn't press out the juices. A honey roasted barbecue sauce accompanying the sandwich was another change made that year.  

In 2017, Chick-fil-A began offering gluten-free buns for all of its sandwiches, and in 2019, they debuted a new marinade, meant to help capture even more of that "backyard-grilled" flavor, says The Chicken Wire. As of today, in 2021, Chick-fil-A recently debuted a limited-time Grilled Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich. YouTube reviewer Food Central TV likes this hot version of the classic — but we're here for all the iterations.