From tenders to wings, sandwiches, and drumsticks, finding cheap fast food fried chicken should be simple and ultimately rewarding as you bite into that perfectly-breaded, piping hot chicken for the first time. After scouring the internet for your benefit (which made us starving, might we add), here’s a roundup of the best fast food chicken places that give you the best bang for your buck.
Where to Get the Best Fast Food Chicken
Popeyes has the ultimate comeback story. They’ve always had a solid legacy as one of the best places to get fried chicken, but when they released their chicken sandwich last year and practically broke the internet – we knew history had been made. Popeyes’ has a reputation for authentic, New Orleans-inspired chicken and has been around since 1972. The Bonafide Chicken is the money-maker, but they even offer mildly spiced, spicy, and blackened chicken (batter free, but still loaded with the famous Popeyes flavor). Popeyes’ biscuits and sides make them the number one choice for many, serving classic Louisiana options like red beans and rice, as well as mashed potatoes and cajun gravy.
One “downside” to Popeyes is that their fried chicken is slightly more expensive than other places like KFC. But you get what you pay for. When your chicken is marinated for at least 12 hours and then hand-battered and hand-breaded, you can expect a darn-good piece of meat.
For a while, KFC was the frontrunner in the fast food chicken realm – and while they still dominate compared to most competitors, we’ve found that the majority of younger folks have loyalties to Popeyes. Of course, we still had to include KFC in second place for their long-reigning success. Famous for their Original Recipe chicken, KFC is always touting their “secret recipe,” consisting of 11 unknown (but freaking delicious) spices and herbs. You know the kind that pair so well with cold, crunchy coleslaw and piping-hot mashed potatoes and gravy.
The Chick-Fil-A empire can play with the big dogs like KFC and Popeyes, even if they don’t sell traditional fried chicken (though, we wish they did). Famous for their signature sandwiches, tenders, and nuggets, Chick-Fil-A’s seasoned, breaded chicken is nothing short of perfection. And though there’s an ongoing battle between the franchise and Popeyes’ (Twitter users love to feud about their chicken sandwiches), we’ll always have heart eyes for Chick-Fil-A.
If you’ve got wings on the brain, Wingstop is the way to go. This fast food chicken chain serves both traditional (bone-in) chicken wings, as well as boneless, lathered in your favorite sauce or dry rub. From Mango Habanero to Lemon Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Cajun, Mild, and Hickory Smoked BBQ, there’s something for every flavor profile. If you’re in the mood for more of a classic fried chicken flavor, get your wings “plain” and pair them with a side like Louisiana VooDoo Fries or Cajun Fried Corn.
Church’s Chicken lives by the motto, “Life is too short to skimp on chicken,” and we can’t say we disagree. This fast food chicken chain offers crispy and flavorful chicken meals, from traditional to spicy breading to hand-tossed boneless wings available in three different sauces. They also have a whole range of classic-flavored fried chicken offers including tender strips and chicken sandwiches.
The famous chicken and biscuits franchise, Bojangles’ is another fried chicken chain that’s based in the southeast United States. Similar to Popeyes, they specialize in Cajun-style spicy fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, as well as sides (or Fixin’s, as Bojangles’ calls them) like Dirty Rice, Cajun Pintos, grits, and mashed potatoes and gravy. And while Bojangles’ serves some of the best fast food fried chicken, most of the country doesn’t live within driving distance of a Bojangles’ location because they are primarily located in southern states and the east coast.
Lees Famous Recipe Chicken
Lees is another fried chicken joint that flies way under the radar. They serve three kinds of classic chicken: Famous recipe, which is honey-dipped and hand-breaded; Spicy Chicken, which is marinated and hand-breaded twice; and Oven Roast Gluten Free Chicken, a healthy alternative that is lightly marinated and oven roasted.
Fried chicken isn’t for everyone. Boston Market takes a different approach with their rotisserie-style chicken. It still packs the same savory flavor and crispy skin that you’ll find in fried chicken, but isn’t battered or fried. Instead, it’s slow-roasted and hand-carved. You can enjoy a half chicken with sides or a three-piece dark meat meal, as well as rotisserie chicken sandwiches and pot pies.
Side note: Boston Market is quite popular for their family meals, as well as holiday dishes, so keep them bookmarked for your next gathering!
Consider yourself blessed if you have a Raising Cane’s down the street for your home. With only 420 locations around the country, this fast food fried chicken joint is hard to come by. While they don’t serve traditional fried chicken, Raising Cane’s is most famous for its delicious tenders, which pair extraordinarily well with the Texas toast, coleslaw, crinkle-cut fries, Cane’s sauce, and a drink.
El Pollo Loco
El Pollo Loco is one of the top places for gettin a juicy, delicious piece of chicken. Rather than fried, their chicken is marinated and fire-grilled, giving it a unique, smokey flavor. The chicken chain is all about serving fresh food and touts that their chicken is never-frozen, and their salsa and guac are made from scratch (two things we can get down with). Customers can enjoy the fire-grilled chicken on its own with sides or in tacos, tostadas, burritos, bowls, and salads.
With more than 600 locations, Zaxby’s is another crowd favorite for satisfying fried chicken meals. The fast food chicken chain is predominantly in the southeastern United States, and they are best known for their Chicken Finger Plate which comes complete with Texas toast, Zax Sauce, Crinkle Fries, and coleslaw. Zaxby’s also sells wings, sandwiches, and salads – all centered around their fried chicken.
If you haven’t heard of Champ’s Chicken before, you probably don’t live in or near the midwest. It’s a smaller franchise, but a total hidden gem for those who live close one. Specializing in classic comfort food, Champ’s Chicken is best known for their fried chicken on a stick, or ChampStix. You can order an original or try one coated in one of Champ’s signature sauces. The fried chicken joint also serves delicious chicken tenders and dippers, as well as sides like potato wedges, hushpuppies, fried shrimp, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy.
Jollibee is a lesser known Filipino fried chicken chain, but it’s making waves in the areas of the US that are lucky enough to have one. In fact, our friends at Thrillist ranked Jollibee’s fried chicken the number one thing to eat on the menu, calling it “f**king delicious” and “hot and perfectly battered, with a crunchy exterior and juicy interior.” The fried chicken even comes with gravy, which is a refreshing – not to mention delicious – change from the other fried chicken joints on our list.
Need more options? We’ve also got a list of the best chicken tenders and nuggets, as well as the best chicken sandwich – ranked from best to worst.