I ate spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Wendy’s, and Popeyes’ was majorly disappointing

Chick-fil-A's spicy chicken sandwich is basically perfect.

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Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken sandwich is basically perfect.
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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

You know what’s better than a chicken sandwich? A spicy chicken sandwich.

In the face of uproar over a new chicken sandwich from Popeyes, I could no longer stomach the obviously superior version of the fried-chicken sandwich being left out of the national conversation.

Yes, Popeyes has a new chicken sandwich that costs $4 nationwide and has been selling out. Yes, it’s a very good sandwich that’s crispy, hot, and salty, hitting all the right notes. But it comes in two versions! Classic AND spicy.

Read more: I tried chicken sandwiches from 8 major chains, and Popeyes’ was a major standout for several reasons

I will not sit idly by as this information is suppressed by the mainstream media. Something has to be done. More chicken MUST be eaten.

That’s why I decided to pit Popeyes’ new spicy chicken sandwich against two from Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A.

Turns out, Popeyes can’t really keep up with the original.


The spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s is something of a legend in this category — a precursor of today’s sandwiches. It came in a foil wrapper like a burger, which was not an encouraging first sign. It was $5.79 in New York.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Unwrapping it, I clearly saw that the sandwich had changed from my youth. Gone was the normal hamburger bun, replaced with a shiny brioche that plays like a fancy, upscale sandwich.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

But this sandwich is not fancy. It was dressed with the limpest of green lettuce, an anemic tomato, and absolute gobs of mayo.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

On the other hand, Wendy’s chicken’s spiciness was immediately apparent. The orange tint in the breading gave it away.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

One bite, and my suspicions were confirmed. The chicken was definitely spicy, but a little dry, as if it had been defrosted recently. The sweet bun was nice.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

But man, those accouterments were a total letdown. Just soggy and sad. They made for a balanced sandwich, sure, but they also didn’t hold up at all.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Wendy’s may be a first mover in the spicy-chicken-sandwich category, but it hasn’t kept up with the times. And it shows. This was a fuddy-duddy of a chicken sandwich dressed to look hip and cool. It isn’t.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Popeyes’ new sandwich has caused something of a sensation since it was released this month. It comes in both classic and spicy versions, so it naturally lends itself to this taste test. It was $4 in NYC.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Coming out of its foil sheath, it was … familiar. Huh? This looked exactly like the classic sandwich.

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Business Insider/Dennis Green

Turns out, the only difference between the two sandwiches is the smear of mayo. On the classic sandwich it’s regular, while on the spicy one it’s a “Cajun spread.”

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Business Insider/Dennis Green

The primary flavor of the sandwich was hot oil. But that’s not to say it didn’t taste good. The sandwich was great — a greasy triumph of crispy fried chicken paired with a sweet brioche bun, tart pickles, and a mayo-based sauce.

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Dennis Green/Business Insider

Unfortunately, as for the spice, there was none. Since the spice is in the sauce and not the breading, the spiciness of the sandwich is entirely the creator’s will. This example definitely left me wanting, and I would go so far as to call it not spicy.

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Dennis Green/Business Insider

Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken sandwich comes in its own foil pouch to differentiate it from the normal chicken sandwich: Instead of white, it’s red, like fire. It cost $5.39 in NYC.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

It was immediately apparent that this was no mere chicken sandwich. The red-orange hue of the chicken was just a hint of what was in store.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The chicken seemed fresh and juicy, and the heft of the sandwich was not insignificant.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Oh yeah. That’s the stuff. The chicken was juicy and tasted freshly cooked. The spice was there — an undercurrent that never dominated but complemented the fatty chicken, briny pickle, and soft (non-brioche) bun.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Overall, the spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A hit all the right notes. It was fresh but not too heavy, unlike some of its decadent competitors.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Wendy’s may have the history, but it hasn’t kept up. Popeyes had a good go at it for its recent foray. But for my money, I’m going to Chick-fil-A every time.

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Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Irene Jiang contributed reporting and photography to this article.