I ordered chicken tenders from 8 fast-food chains and the best were from a small chain
I tried chicken tenders from Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, Raising Cane's, KFC, Bojangles, Zaxby's, and Cook Out.
Popeyes' and KFC's chicken tenders were similar in their crispy texture and flavor.
Raising Cane's impressed me with its crispy-yet-juicy tenders and delicious signature sauce.
Of all the chicken tenders I tried, the ones from Whataburger didn't completely wow me.
A three-piece chicken tender cost only $4.44 at Whataburger at the location I visited in Austin, Texas.
The chicken tenders were large and perfectly fried.
I thought the tenders could only be described as "classic" — they weren't anything out-of-the-box, but I enjoyed them.
The meat inside was juicy, but I thought the fried coating could have had a bit more crunch.
The chicken tenders tasted good on their own, as well as with ranch dipping sauce. They weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, I did think the other tenders were slightly crispier and had just the slightest hint of more flavor in the batter.
Regardless, for less than $5, I'd definitely order these again.
I also ordered chicken tenders from Cook Out, a regional chain I visited in South Carolina.
The three-piece "snack" cost $4.39, not including tax.
The chicken tenders were crispy on the outside.
They were also a good size. The price was also a great deal for the generous portion I received.
However, there wasn't an abundance of chicken meat inside.
These were undeniably classic chicken tenders, similar to the ones from Whataburger, but they were a touch too fried for my liking. However, I thought they were well-seasoned and had a lot of peppery flavor.
Chick-fil-A's chicken tenders were good ... but I really just use them as a vehicle for the chain's Chick-fil-A sauce.
A three-piece chicken tender costs $7.65 at my nearest location when it's not included in a meal deal.
Some of the chicken pieces looked slightly darker and more fried than others.
There were small bits of fried breading scattered on the outside, which I always love with a chicken tender.
The chicken tenders were nicely fried but still juicy on the inside.
However, they weren't quite as crispy as I expected. I wanted a distinct crunch when I bit into the tenders, but they didn't deliver that. In the end, it's largely up to personal preference.
When I dipped them in the chain's signature Chick-fil-A sauce, the experience was nothing short of mouthwatering. However, the actual chicken tenders were just alright — it was the sauce that took them over the edge.
KFC's chicken tenders landed towards the middle of the pack.
On the day I tried these, I ordered a five-piece tender meal for $12.95, excluding taxes and fees. However, a four-piece tender meal, which comes with a side, sauce, and a drink, costs $10.55, excluding taxes and fees.
The tenders were crispy on the outside, but I thought they were slightly on the smaller side when compared to the others I tried.
However, they did have bits of fried breading clinging to the outside that I knew would make for a nice texture.
The chicken tenders were flavorful and contained a fair amount of white meat chicken.
However, the slightly smaller size meant they didn't come out on top when compared to the last two chains I tried.
My fourth-favorite chicken tenders came from Popeyes.
A three-piece-tender combo came to $12.40, before taxes and fees. The meal deal included a large serving of fries, a drink, and a biscuit, as well as a choice from a variety of different dipping sauces.
The chicken tenders from Popeyes were crispy, flaky, and crunchy.
I really liked the crunchy outside of the chicken tenders from Popeyes.
The meat inside was flaky and moist as well.
I also thought the batter was quite flavorful — I could taste hints of seasoning and buttermilk, although they weren't quite as buttery-tasting as the Chick-fil-A tenders.
I thought the chicken tenders from Bojangles were flavorful and super crispy.
A four-piece chicken tenders combo came with fries, a medium drink, and a biscuit. It cost me $6.29, excluding taxes and fees.
I thought the chicken tenders were a good size.
The texture and flavor of the breading made them taste like a cross between the chicken tenders from Chick-fil-A and Cook Out.
The breading was peppery, just the right thickness, and perfectly encapsulated the juicy white chicken meat inside.
I also thought the price was fair considering how much food I received. The chicken tenders paired perfectly with honey mustard but were also tasty on their own. Overall, I would definitely order these again.
My second-favorite chicken tenders came from Zaxby's.
A five-piece chicken tenders combo came with fries, a small drink, coleslaw, and a piece of Texas toast. I also asked for a side of honey mustard and Zaxby's famous Zax sauce. My meal cost $9.89, excluding taxes and fees.
The chicken tenders' breading was very similar to Chick-fil-A's in its consistency, flavor, and texture, but I thought these chicken tenders had more chicken meat.
The breading was perfectly crispy and super flavorful, with a slight sweetness.
The chicken tenders held their own without sauce but were really taken to the next level when dipped in the tangy Zax sauce.
Zax sauce tastes similar to Cane's sauce, but I found it to be just ever-so-slightly less flavorful, and creamy. I also thought that it didn't have the same kick.
However, the chicken tenders really impressed me. They were a good size, extremely flavorful, and addictingly delicious. I found myself craving even more than the five chicken tenders I was given, which is rare for me.
In the end, it was a really tough call on whether I preferred Zaxby's or Raising Cane's chicken tenders.
But my favorite chicken tenders came from Raising Cane's.
My six-piece meal came to $14.27, including tax, but a three-finger combo that comes with three chicken fingers, fries, Cane's sauce, Texas toast, and a regular drink costs $6.38 excluding tax and any additions or swaps.
Raising Cane's was one of the smaller chains I tried — they have around 617 locations in 33 states, compared to 314 Cook Out locations, 944 Zaxby's locations, and 790 Bojangles restaurants.
The chicken tenders were super crispy.
The chicken tenders were also thick. After biting in, I could actually see the strips of white chicken underneath, which, in my experience, you don't always find with fast-food chicken tenders.
The chicken tenders were super crispy and juicy on the inside — I had to give them the win.
I tried the tenders on their own and with the Cane's sauce. On their own, the tenders were simply everything one could ask for — thick, juicy, and crispy on the outside.
However, the chain is famous for its chicken-complementing sauce, and after biting in, I could definitely see why. It had a slight kick to it, was super creamy, and surprisingly tangy. It paired perfectly with the chicken and was unlike any other sauce I've ever tried.
In the end, Raising Cane's took home the win for me with the chain's near-perfect chicken tenders and fair prices.
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