KFC and Popeyes are both chains known for their chicken.
They each have some skin in the fried-chicken sandwich race with their own versions.
I tried the spicy and regular sandwiches at each. KFC nailed the crunch, but Popeyes won on flavor.
Customers flocked to Popeyes after it debuted a fried-chicken sandwich in August 2019. Since then, multiple fast-food restaurants have entered into the chicken-sandwich wars, including KFC.
While some fast-food chains offer sandwiches with multiple toppings, both Popeyes and KFC chose to keep things simple with their menu items. They each offer a spicy and a nonspicy version of fried chicken breast between toasted buttery buns and slathered in mayo-based sauces with pickles.
Both KFC and Popeyes are brands built around chicken, so my expectations for each before tasting them were relatively high — at least they were higher than my expectations for Wendy's, Burger King's, and McDonald's sandwiches.
I started by comparing the regular fried-chicken sandwiches, both of which cost $4.
Both of these sandwiches were extremely simple and built using the same four elements, which made them easy to compare.
The buns were equally sweet and soft, and the creamy mayo complemented both flavor profiles well. Both fillets also had a flavorful sweetness to them that I appreciated.
While I was able to detect a bit of additional flavor in the KFC mayo, it was a negligible difference.
The pickles were where these two sandwiches really differed in flavor. Popeyes used slightly thicker chips than KFC, and the tangy, acidic, briny goodness offered a welcome break from the richness of the mayo, butter, and grease.
The pickles KFC used lacked that same flavor. They were simply salty and acidic, and I almost wish they were left off the sandwich. Adding more acidity to the sauce could have made up for the absence of pickles.
Then I moved on to the spicy versions, which were practically the regular sandwiches but with a boost of color and flavor from peppery sauces.
Neither sandwich seemed to have heat built into the fried fillet. Instead, all the heat came from the sauce.
Popeyes' sauce had a sweet-red-pepper-flavored heat that evenly coated my whole mouth from tongue to throat. I thought it was flavorful in a way that went beyond spice. The pickles paired really well with this sauce, in my opinion, and worked to balance out the numbing sting of hot peppers.
KFC's sandwich also had a sauce that looked to be made from red pepper, but I didn't think it was as sweet or well-rounded in flavor. The sauce was packing a ton of heat, though. Even just a tiny taste scooped up with the back of my pinky finger left my mouth with that familiar tingly feeling. So if you like that sensation, this one is worth a try.
Sadly, KFC's pickles didn't do this sandwich any favors, either.
In general, Popeyes' sandwiches were superior when it came to their flavor profiles. So if you want to go big on taste, go with Popeyes.
While the exterior of the Popeyes sandwiches gave off the impression that they'd be crunchy, I found both disappointingly soggy. The breading was squishy when I examined it between my fingers and left behind a greasy residue.
There were some bites that turned out to be crispy, but those were few and far between.
In terms of the white meat, Popeyes' was juicier than its competition, which earned this chain some points back.
If you value structure and crunchiness over flavor, then you'll want to order KFC's version.
KFC delivered on its visual promise of crunchy goodness. Each bite was audible as I chomped down on the sandwich.
The coating tasted mostly like black pepper, with just enough saltiness to not be overwhelming. But there were some bites that tasted like excess salt, which mostly happened when I got near a pickle. The flavor inconsistencies were a bit of a downfall for KFC, in my opinion.
Overall, I was impressed by the longevity of this sandwich. I tried it both fresh and after about an hour. The breading was still just as crunchy, and the bun was just as soft without becoming soggy.
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