The 2024 Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Awards: We Name The Best Of The Best

Step aside double cheeseburger, the chicken sandwich is now the king of fast food. In fact, we’re living in a golden age of chicken sandwiches — the fastest-growing chains are putting a focus on chicken, and over the past five years just about every fast food restaurant has launched a chicken sandwich hoping it will be the next big thing. Burgers had their moment, now it’s the chicken sandwich’s turn to shine, and we’re here for it.

So who makes the best? It’s a question we’ve attempted to answer repeatedly, and while we love a big ranking as much as the next person, there is something imperfect about a traditional ranked list. Why? With a traditional list, we’re forced to pick a number one and that always leaves a few options that get short-changed.

So in an effort to get even more nuanced than usual — we’ve ranked fast food burger patties, our passion knows no bounds! — we present to you the first Uproxx Chicken Sandwich Awards. This is a place where we can shout out all the very best chicken sandwiches, be it fast casual, fast food, grilled, spicy, and just for fun, we’ll even talk about which sandwich we think has the most room for improvement.

A quick explanation before we jump in: all of these chicken sandwiches are amazing, they represent the very best in fast food, so wherever you land on this list (with the exception of our last pick), you’re going to have a good experience. This is merely a way for us to celebrate and go deep on all the delicious sandwiches out there. If you want a hard ranking, you can always check out last year’s Best Fast Food Chicken Sandwich ranking here.

Okay, let’s jump in!

Best “Never Misses” Fast Food Chicken Sandwich: Chick-fil-A — Spicy Deluxe


Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

Here is what I love about this sandwich: it’s crunchy, tender and juicy, and remarkably, almost eerily consistent. Every time I order a Spicy Deluxe, the experience is essentially the same, this means every time I eat a Spicy Deluxe, it’s delicious.

The sandwich has this mild sense of heat courtesy of the heavily seasoned batter the filet is breaded in. The heat comes from a light dusting of cayenne which pairs nicely with the black pepper, garlic, paprika and onion powder. While this is a “spicy” chicken sandwich, the heat isn’t overwhelming, it’s very much designed to appeal to the widest audience possible.

So as a “spicy” sandwich, it falls short, but that doesn’t matter because the flavor combination is complex, and the filet itself is juicy enough that the sandwich doesn’t need a sauce. The full build consists of green leaf lettuce, tomato, and a slice of pepper jack cheese.

The Bottom Line:

This chicken sandwich checks all the boxes: it’s juicy, tender, crunchy, and full of flavor with a gentle kick of heat that keeps things interesting.

Best Fast-Casual Chicken Sandwich: Shake Shack — Avocado Bacon Chicken

Shake Shack

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

There are days when I think Shake Shack’s Avocado Bacon Chicken Sandwich is the best in all of fast food. And then I’ll get a sandwich that is lacking in some ways (overripened avocado, poorly cooked bacon, an underseasoned filet) and I change my mind. So the quality control here leaves something to be desired, but when it’s good, it’s f*cking great.

Let’s start with the build: we’ve got a chicken breast filet that is breaded in an airy and crispy batter topped with thin but delicious bacon, and fresh slices of avocado, and sits on a bed of thick pickles, lettuce, and buttermilk herb mayo.

One bite into this sandwich is a wonderful world of texture and flavors, the chicken and bacon keep things crispy and crunchy, while the avocado adds a fresh nutty butteriness, which pairs nicely with the earthy tang of the pickles, all held together by an herbal savory finish. Of all the chicken sandwiches in fast food, this one has the best build, easily.

Where it falls short is quality control. For whatever reason, I’ve had sandwiches that miss the mark in some small way. It’s delicious enough that I’ll take the gamble though.

The Bottom Line:

A delicious and satisfying fried chicken sandwich with a build that we’d love to see replicated at other chains. Avocado and bacon are always a winning

Best Spicy Chicken Sandwich: Dave’s Hot Chicken — Hot Chicken Slider

Dane Rivera

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

I love the Chick-fil-A Spicy Deluxe, obviously, but if you’re looking for blazing heat that sandwich falls short. If you want something truly spicy, you’ll have to hit up Dave’s Hot Chicken and grab a Chicken Slider.

Between a buttery bun sits a gargantuan chicken tender drizzled with a comeback style sauce sitting on a bed of thick and crunchy pickles, kale cabbage slaw, and cheese. The sandwich is customizable with seven different levels of heat, and we suggest starting with “Hot,” and working your way up to “Extra Hot,” or “Reaper,” if you want a sweat-inducing experience.

The flavors in this sandwich are all wonderfully harmonious, and the kale-cabbage slaw helps to tamp down the heat a bit. My only gripe here is that the chicken itself is much bigger than the bun that houses it, so you’re going to have a few bites that are just chicken. Luckily that chicken is well-seasoned, tender, and crunchy.

The Bottom Line:

Easily the hottest sandwich in all of fast food, and if you for some reason need more heat, you can always go up a few heat levels.

Best Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Smashburger — Colorado Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Smash Burger

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

While they aren’t as indulgent and decadent as their fried counterparts, don’t sleep on grilled chicken sandwiches. When done right they are delicious, and there isn’t a better one out there right now than Smashburger’s Colorado Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

The chicken filet is flattened out, which allows it to get a good char from Smashburger’s grill without drying out the meat. This results in a filet that is tender, juicy, and full of smokey flavor. On top of the filet is a layer of pepper jack and cheddar cheese, giving it a creamy, nutty, and salty element with a generous serving of grilled Anaheim chilis that help to emphasize the smokiness and add a vegetal tang to the finish.

Rounding out the build is some crispy lettuce, juicy tomato, and mayo on a toasted chipotle bun. As the sandwich comes its delicious, but if you want to take it up a notch consider adding bacon and smashed avocado to this sandwich.

The Bottom Line:

Proof that grilled sandwiches can be just as good as their fried counterparts.

Best Overall Chicken Sandwich: Popeyes — Spicy Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich


Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

If you were wondering why Popeyes didn’t take the spot in the “Best Fast Food” category, this is why. Popeyes still makes the best chicken sandwich in fast food. Believe the hype.

The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich is the spark that ignited the chicken sandwich wars, and fast food is better because of it. Since that initial launch, Popeyes has made a few tweaks and alterations, our favorite is this Bacon & Cheese version.

The filet is heavily breaded in a mix of garlic, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and other seasonings which give each bite a buttery flavor with a subtle hint of sweetness that makes each bite more addicting than the last.

Joining the filet is a slightly spicy and sweet sauce with some juicy pickles (a bit too wet), and a layer of crispy smokey bacon and Havarti cheese, which helps to emphasize the buttery quality of the filet breading.

Each bite is like heaven on Earth. It’s crunchy, tender, nuanced, and full of complementary flavors that work together to be greater than the sum of its parts. Popeyes doesn’t make the prettiest chicken sandwich in fast food, but one bite will prove that looks aren’t everything, especially when it comes to flavor.

The Bottom Line:

The greatest chicken sandwich in all of fast food. It’s perfect.

The Sandwich With The Biggest Room For Improvement: Raising Cane’s Chicken Finger Sandwich

Raising Cane's

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

I originally wanted to name this category “The Worst Chicken Sandwich,” but there isn’t much to gain in talking about something bad.

Yes, I believe we live in a golden age of chicken sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t bad ones out there. Arby’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Sonic, and yes, even McDonald’s, all make chicken sandwiches I would describe as straight-up “bad,” but no sandwich frustrates me like Raising Cane’s Chicken Finger Sandwich.

My issue is that Raising Cane’s has easily the best chicken in all of fast food. It’s fresh, breaded in-restaurant, and juicy and tender, so naturally the brand should be able to make a great chicken sandwich, and yet this one leaves a lot to be desired.

The build is bad, it consists of three chicken tenders on a single leaf of green lettuce with a double dose of Cane’s sauce on the bottom and top bun. The sandwich is good for one bite and then it falls apart. Eating this sandwich is a constant battle where you’ll be balancing and readjusting the three tenders between the bun. You’re better off ditching the bun and dipping each strip into some Cane’s sauce, which means you’re better off not ordering the sandwich in the first place and instead just getting an order of chicken tenders.

This feels like a sandwich that was added to the menu because Cane’s felt the need to compete with the likes of Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. Just imagine how good a Raising Cane’s chicken sandwich would be if it was made with a juicy freshly breaded fried chicken filet instead of three chicken tenders?

The Bottom Line:

There is potential here but a sandwich made of multiple chicken tenders rather than one filet will always be a disappointment, no matter how great the chicken is.