Popeyes Vs. Church's Chicken: Which Is Better?

When it comes to unbeatably delicious fried chicken there are a plenty of chains to choose from. Two of the largest are Popeyes and Church's Chicken. Popeyes, with its Louisiana style and Cajun spices, was founded in 1972. Church's Chicken, which started in Texas and has more of a general Southern taste profile, dates back to 1952. Both establishments serve up down-home recipes and decadent comfort food. There are buttery biscuits, ooey-gooey macaroni & cheese, sandwiches, crispy chicken tenders, and of course, the fried chicken pieces served up and dished out by both restaurants. Both fried chicken chains put their own spin on each of these items, but while there are many delicious options at both chains, there are also some flops.

Which fried chicken chain beats the other in each of these categories? Read on to see who takes the top spot and see which restaurant came out on top for each factor.

Fried chicken

No matter how good the sides are, the main attraction at every fast food chicken joint is of course the fried chicken. Unfortunately this wasn't much of a competition, as there is one pretty clear winner.

Wichita by EB said, "Church's Chicken went really heavy on the batter which made for an overly crispy skin that was nearly rock hard." Church's Chicken is good but in the quest to get the crunchiest breading, it seems Church's Chicken lost its focus on the actual chicken somewhere along the way. 

Popeyes takes this round because it consistently goes above and beyond flavor expectations. It's the crunch that sets them apart. The seemingly neverending, extreme crunch that you get when you bite into a piece of Popeyes chicken is hard to beat. Unlike Church's, the breading doesn't veer into rock-hard territory, instead acting as a nice crispy complement to succulent chicken meat. It's often imitated, but unless a competitor can figure out the proper cooking technique and spice combination, Popeyes chicken will never be duplicated. 

Chicken sandwiches

Popeyes broke the internet in 2019 when it debuted its infamous chicken sandwich. The sandwich was on every corner of the web and earned praise from far and wide. It's hard not to be swayed by its reputation, but it was important for us to remain impartial judges. 

Church's Chicken's sandwich is a piece of fried chicken atop a honey-butter brioche bun (via Church's). There are mayo and pickles for good measure, and you can order a pickled jalapeño on the side for some extra spice. While it's a good attempt, in no way does it top Popeyes chicken sandwich. Church's is just lacking in overall flavor, although the bun is really tasty. The Impulsive Buy said, "This soft, sweet pillow of delight is what sets this chicken sandwich apart from the pack."

While Church's has attempted to up the excitement by experimenting with other variations like a Texas-cut bacon chicken sandwich, nothing comes close to the magnificence created by Popeyes (via QSR).

Chicken tenders

Fried chicken has been enjoyed as a bone-in treat in the United States since the 17th century, according to Serious Eats. However, technological advancements in the poultry industry and the boom of fast-food chains like McDonald's meant that easy, boneless chicken soared in popularity in the second half of the 20th century. 

Popeyes and Church's both try their hands at boneless tenders, with one slightly more successful than the other. A Fast Food Source review of Popeyes tenders describes them as "thick and meaty" with a substantial "seasoned battered coating." A TripAdvisor reviewer had great things to say about Church's chicken tenders. "They are just as the name says — tender. They are not tough and rubbery like some other fast-food places. And I like their seasoning better, as well — delicate and not over-the-top."

But just as with bone-in fried chicken, we expect chicken tenders to deliver crunch and spice. Popeyes edges out Church's in this round because its tenders are juicy, flavorful, crispy, and downright delicious. 

French fries

As a kid, there wasn't anything better than popping a tray of crinkle-cut fries into the oven and patiently waiting for them to turn golden brown. They're nostalgia at its finest, so we did have high hopes for Church's crinkle-cut fries.

But when you have thicker fries, they can quickly go from fresh and crispy to soggy and limp. Not that Church's are soggy and limp, but they head in ghat direction pretty fast if they're not served perfectly fresh. And because they don't have a signature spice blend it's harder to hide any textural inadequacies. 

Popeyes french fries on the other hand are thin enough to hold up to frying and keep their shape, plus they're finished with a wonderful blend of Cajun spices that separates them from other fast-food fries. Insanely Good Recipes said, "They have the perfect crunch on the outside and are packed with flavor. Plus, that Cajun seasoning gives every bite the perfect little kick."

Because of those reasons — flavor, integrity, and texture — Popeyes is the clear winner for the french fry round.

Biscuits

This was probably one of the closest categories because buttery bread is almost always delicious. Popeyes' classic biscuits are more traditional buttermilk-style biscuits. They're good, but Church's has the biscuit to top all biscuits. 

The exterior is hard, almost crunchy. It's the perfect casing to hide a moist interior. They're not the biggest biscuits but they are perfectly sized to accompany a chicken meal, especially if you have a few. Popeyes gives a honey packet with its biscuits in case you want to drizzle some honey on it at home, but Church's one-ups Popeyes and glazes each biscuit in a honey butter topping when they're fresh out of the oven (via Church's).

One Reddit commenter noted, "The biscuits are life-changing ... sometimes I go to Church's *just* to get the biscuits because they bring me comfort and joy". Church's is the clear winner this round for its delicious and unique take on the biscuit formula.

Macaroni & cheese

We'll be the first to admit that macaroni & cheese enjoyment very much boils down to personal preference. Do you like a runnier, gooier macaroni & cheese? Or do you want to be able to cut into a more solid macaroni & cheese that is almost loaf-like? It probably depends on what you grew up eating. 

This category can really go either way, especially since both Popeyes and Church's deliver formidable macaroni & cheeses. Church's definitely delivers cheesiness, which is probably the most important component. But there's zero solidity to Church's. It's not as runny as it looks but it just comes a little too close to Kraft macaroni & cheese to claim the top spot. Bachelor on the Cheap said, "Based on appearance I was expecting overcooked noodles and a gummy texture, but I thankfully didn't get that. The cheddar flavor was there, noodles were firm, overall, a good mac & cheese side." It's tasty, yes, but is it mind-blowing? Hardly.

Popeyes brings a little more of a solid texture along with good cheese flavor. There are no crunchy edges here but it feels more homecooked than Church's. For that reason, Popeyes edges out Church's in the macaroni & cheese category.

Coleslaw

May you never underestimate the power of coleslaw. It can sometimes be a runny, cold limp side dish, but if done right, it's going to bring the crunch and acid that will help to cleanse your palate after that bite of salty and greasy chicken. So this category may not be the most thrilling, but it's definitely a crucial one for serious fried chicken eaters. 

Popeyes coleslaw is not bad, but it's very mediocre, especially considering how good the chain's chicken is. It's like they didn't feel the need to put as much effort into the coleslaw because they could rely on the popularity and perfection of their chicken.

Church's comes to the rescue with a tangy, creamy, cooling little portion of coleslaw that is just darn good. As one Redditor puts it, "Church's coleslaw is cleaner with more focus on just the crisp cabbage." The obvious winner is Church's.

Mashed potatoes

Fast-food mashed potatoes are for the go big or go home crew. What better way to wash down a portion of fried chicken than with mashed potatoes? With so much flavor (hopefully) in the fried chicken, fast-food chains shouldn't be able to get away with serving up bland mashed potatoes, and yet, that's what usually happens. The spuds get drowned out by the chicken and quickly become forgettable. That is unfortunately what happens with Church's mashed potatoes. 

They are straightforward mashed potatoes with brown gravy. There is not much flavor in either the potatoes or the gravy. And while Popeyes isn't much better, it does get extra points for serving a brown gravy seasoned with Cajun spices on top of their mashed potatoes. 

Neither brand's mashed potatoes will win best of the year but there is one that is more flavorful and interesting than the other, and that is Popeyes.

The other sides

One of these chicken chains keeps it pretty traditional with its side dish offerings and the other decided to switch it up and bit and bring some excitement. Popeyes keeps things pretty simple with its side dish offerings of fries, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, coleslaw, and biscuits, which we've already covered. The only other side they offer is rice and beans (via Popeyes).

If we were going purely off of variety, Church's would win this round. In addition to the aforementioned sides, they serve jalapeño cheese bombers, fried okra, pickled jalapeños, and corn. Right off the bat, Church's side options sound more exciting, but add in the fact that the sides are also super delicious and it's clear who's the winner. Crispy okra, sweet corn and gooey jalapeño cheese bombers are a lovely way to add interest to a fried chicken meal. Kudos go to Church's this round.

Price

Keep in mind that prices at these chains may vary by location, and these prices are what we found in our local area. The a la carte chicken sandwich is $3.99 at both Church's and Popeyes, but it seems that's where the pricing similarities end. An original sandwich combo with medium fries and a drink is $6.99 at Church's, but at Popeyes, it's $6.29.

A medium combo at Popeyes of one leg, breast, and thigh, one biscuit, a drink, and a side is $9.69. The same combo at Church's is $6.99. A three-piece medium tenders combo at Popeyes is $9.29, while it's $6.99 at Church's.  

A large mac & cheese is $5.59 at Popeyes, but at Chuch's it'll only cost you $4.29. Eight pieces of mixed chicken at Church's with one side and four biscuits will cost $13.99, while at Popeyes it's $23.

Overall, Popeyes does seem to charge more for its chicken and sides. Perhaps they can justify it by using quality ingredients. But for those looking for delicious chicken on a budget, head to Church's, because they win the price round hands down.

Restaurant access

There are over 2,500 Popeyes across 49 States and territories. These locations are spread over more than 1,000 cities (via ScrapeHero)

In contrast, there are less than 1,000 Church's Chicken locations in the United States that are in just under 400 cities across 28 different states and territories (via ScrapeHero). Over 40% of Church's locations are in Texas so if you're anywhere besides Texas, you'll have a slightly harder time tracking one down. Also, a number of states don't have any Church's Chicken locations, including most of New England and the upper Midwest.

Both Church's and Popeyes offer delivery on their websites so if you're within a certain radius of a shop, you should have no issues ordering for either delivery or pickup. Church's even lets you check out as a guest, which is super convenient for those who don't want to give their personal information or create an account. We love Church's ordering options, but for the simple fact that you're much more likely to stumble across one, Popeyes wins the restaurant access category.

Number of menu options

The Popeyes menu and Church's menu both have a similar number of items. Each has fried chicken pieces, tenders, sandwiches, sides of mac & cheese, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and french fries. However, Popeyes also has nuggets and some seafood options like a cajun flounder sandwich and popcorn shrimp meal that Church's doesn't offer.

Church's excels in its unique sides like fried okra, corn, jalapeño bombers, while Popeyes only has rice and beans as a unique side. It's the desserts, however, that are the tiebreaker. Church's has two desserts, while Popeyes has four desserts. Church's has apple pie and iced honey butter biscuits, while Popeyes offers a few more dessert options — cheesecake pie, beignets, apple pie, and cookies.

This more extensive dessert list makes Popeyes' total number of menu items slightly higher than Church's. If you have pickier eaters or want more options, Popeyes is the your best bet and also the winner of the menu options round.

Final verdict

Church's was victorious in the following categories: biscuits, coleslaw, other sides, and price. Popeyes won the chicken, chicken sandwich, chicken tenders, fries, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, restaurant access, and number of menu options categories. 

It's no surprise that you won't be disappointed at either chain. Both Church's and Popeyes are safe bets for fried chicken and an interesting assortment of sides. While Popeyes was the winner here, many of the categories were close, so this was far from an easy decision.

Although we have major love for Church's Chicken and its unique contribution to the fast-food fried chicken ecosystem, Popeyes is more widely available and has a bigger menu. Perhaps it was the unique blend of Cajun spices that put this fried chicken chain on the map. Or maybe it's just the chicken's signature crunch. But whatever it is, Popeyes can't be beat for flavor and top-notch fried chicken.