There’s a lot of fast food out there, and a lot of that fast food is based around one thing primarily: sandwiches. Hamburgers, primarily, but the realm of the sandwich isn’t limited to just beef patties. Oh no, for every good hamburger there is a good chicken sandwich standing right behind it. Chicken is the unsung hero of the fast food world, propping up big beefy burgers with humble nuggets and sandwiches.
It’s these sandwiches that we’re concerned about today. Virtually every fast food restaurant has a value menu nowadays, and the centerpiece of those value menus tends to be chicken sandwiches. Being a cheaper meat than beef, chicken sandwiches are the workhorses of any poor fast food lover’s diet where you can get an easy 4-6 sandwiches for the price of a single main menu item.
But what is the best when it comes to these value menu chicken sandwiches? With each major fast food restaurant providing a variation on the subject, it’s down to a four-way free-for-all challenge to determine this. After the jump, you’ll get to claim your tickets for the Fast Food Faceoff of the century: Eggware.XYZ’s Ultimate Chicken Sandwich Showdown!
For this challenge, we collected four value menu chicken sandwiches from four of the most major fast food restaurants in our area. These four were McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell.
Although three of these are standard competitors in the world of hamburgers, Taco Bell is the clear outlier. First off, they do not offer a standard “chicken sandwich”: for the purposes of this competition, their dollar menu contained a Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla which we thought would be a fair entry. No, a quesadilla isn’t a sandwich by any culinary (or even legal standards), but fast food chicken is fast food chicken. Besides, Arby’s was too expensive to qualify.
Our surprising entrant aside, the other three contestants were about the same in qualities and quantities.
CHALLENGER ONE: Taco Bell’s Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla
The first up to the plate was the black sheep of the gang, the Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla. It was pretty small, only being a single mini tortilla folded in half, but it looked promisingly plump in the middle. It was wrapped in tin foil, which kept it perfectly warm to the moment we were ready to eat.
The tortilla was grilled, giving it a pleasant browning, but this added no appreciable crunch or flavor once we started eating. The innards of the quesadilla were chewy, gooey, and cheesy: this thing is loaded not just with a 3 cheese blend, but chipotle sauce on top. The chipotle sauce was the real star of the show, adding pleasant heat and flavor to the whole kit. Unfortunately, the chicken itself was practically unnoticeable. Delivered in thin shreds, the chicken was completely flavorless and chewy – and dry, despite being completely soaked in sauce and cheese.
OUR VERDICT: 4/5
So far, so good. This was cheesy, creamy, and extremely flavorful. We liked the huge quantity of sauce, and the tortilla was deliciously soft. This may not be a sandwich, but it’s not even really a quesadilla: it’s like a soft shell taco. The dark horse entry pulls ahead!
CHALLENGER TWO: Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Wendy’s is proud to proclaim just how ‘fresh’ their food is, and even their value menu chicken sandwiches proudly proclaim “100% ALL-WHITE MEAT CHICKEN”. Of course, that kind of bravado comes with a price: this was the most expensive competitor, clocking in at $1.09. The sandwich fit into our hands a little too comfortably, definitely smaller than the average chicken sandwich we’ve seen.
Our first bite: Ugh. Instead of shredded lettuce, like most other fast food sandwiches, Wendy’s serves their Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a whole leaf of lettuce on top. You’d think that would make for a better product, but it’s absolutely horrible. The lettuce is like a wet rag, and the fibrous stem being left in makes the texture even more unpleasant. It’s not crisp, it’s not flavorful, it’s not even cold: a lukewarm scrap of greens does not a good sandwich make. To add insult to injury, the chicken wasn’t good either. The chicken was dry, flavorless, and unfortunately underspiced. You guys can season your 100% all-white meat chicken, you know? The only saving grace for this sandwich was a healthy dollop of mayonnaise which helped to counteract the dryness.
OUR VERDICT: 1/5
Sorry, Wendy. Your dad wanted to feed America only the highest quality of sandwiches, and we really doubt this flavorless sandwich was part of his dream. So much for fresh food, if it’s served in such an awful package.
CHALLENGER THREE: McDonald’s McChicken
The McChicken is one of the definitive “Mc” items on the McDonalds menu, much like its younger brother the McNuggets or rarely-seen cousin the McRib. The McChicken was the largest of the three sandwiches we ate, needing both hands to hold comfortably, but was also the thinnest.
Once again, we must take issue with lettuce. The top of the chicken patty was covered with a paltry sprinkle of shredded lettuce, but this paltry sprinkle of wet, watery lettuce was almost enough to ruin our enjoyment of the sandwich. Although we could at least easily peel the huge lettuce leaf off of our Wendy’s sandwich, the shreds of lettuce were almost impossible to remove totally – especially considering that an equally tiny dollop of mayo on the top bun somehow managed to glue them in place.
As for the chicken itself, it was better than Wendy’s (which is an insult in itself to the credibility of both brands), but still not very good. At least they spiced this patty well with a heavy flavor of black pepper. The patty was still rather dry, and we could’ve used a little more mayo to give that patty some more moisture.
OUR VERDICT: 2/5
Well-spiced chicken and tangy mayo could mean a winner, but horrible shreds of lettuce and a dry patty really clamp irons around this one’s ankles.
CHALLENGER FOUR: Burger King’s Crispy Chicken Jr.
We normally really dislike Burger King, and we’ll admit we don’t normally eat there much. In the past, Burger King’s chicken sandwiches were overpriced and never delivered enough chickeny goodness. However, with Burger King’s menu revamp in 2012, a new dollar menu chicken sandwich was added. We figured it was an excellent contender in our battle. Sized about the same as the McDonalds one, but a little taller, our hopes were somewhat lukewarm.
However, these hopes were quickly exceeded. This sandwich was super flavorful and super juicy. We mean “juices dribbling down your chin” juicy. The chicken was just the right amount of salty and spiced, while still retaining the flavor of chicken. The bun was studded with sesame seeds, adding flavor and texture, and was also toasted! They also provided a very hearty quantity of mayo on both buns, making this sandwich a huge flavor and moisture bomb. The only real downside was, of course, the lettuce. Shredded into large chunks instead of thin strips like McDonald’s, it added a lot more crunch but even less flavor.
OUR VERDICT: 5/5
This is one of the best chicken sandwiches we’ve ever eaten. The absolute last thing we would’ve expected was a delightful fast food experience from Burger King, but here we are, with them easily taking home top verdicts from us. Juicy, flavorful chicken combined with super tangy mayo made for an amazing sandwich. Having the only sesame seed bun was a nice bonus, too.
THE WINNER: BURGER KING!
SECOND PLACE: TACO BELL
THIRD PLACE: MCDONALDS
FOURTH PLACE: WENDY’S
What an upset! Burger King was not our first choice to win this competition, but managed to effortlessly take home the gold with an ultra-juicy sandwich. Taco Bell made a good effort with their cheesy quesadilla, but a lack of chicken taste just wasn’t enough to pull through past silver. In bronze, we have McDonalds where surprisingly spicy chicken was held back by awful lettuce. Finally, Wendy’s had almost nothing really going for it, and was sent home mournfully.
Overall, we definitely recommend getting Burger King’s Crispy Chicken Jr. above all else, but Taco Bell’s Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla makes for great variety if you like cheese. Get the McChicken only if you’re desperate and really like the flavor of black pepper, and try to outright avoid Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich.
And although this is personal preference, we highly suggest you do not order any of these with lettuce! Seriously, they are all MUCH better without watery, chewy lettuce to detract from the mood. The rankings don’t change without lettuce, but if you only have a Wendy’s in your area, this can make the difference between “inedible” and “palpable”.