Life

Fast Food Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, Ranked

We’ve all had that moment in the fast food line where we wonder: “What if I mix it up? What if, instead of ordering the same delicious fried thing that I always get, I go the healthy route and give that grilled chicken sandwich a try?” I’m sure you’ve thought that before, right? But I’m also pretty confident that you backed out and went with the tried and true because you didn’t want to take a chance and spend money on something that might end up tasting dry and flavorless when you could just order something greasy, fried, and guaranteed to be delicious.

We get it, it’s a risk. So let us do the leg work for you.

No really, we don’t mind. We’ve spent the past few months ranking fried chicken tenders, French fries, fried chicken nuggets, fried fish — just a metric f*ck ton of fried sh*t. So we could really use the palate cleanser with something grilled. Sadly, we discovered that the grilled chicken sandwich is a bit of an endangered species on a growing number of fast food menus. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Shake Shack have all ditched their grilled chicken sandwiches, despite being beloved by fast foodies looking for a healthier option. But there are a few grilled chickens still out there in the fast food universe, and we’re on a mission to try them all.

Let’s dive in and separate the good stuff from the bone-dry trash!

11. Dairy Queen — Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Dairy Queen

Calories: 390

The Sandwich:

I have a hard time understanding why Dairy Queen sells anything that isn’t soft-serve ice cream or a milkshake. There isn’t a single item from DQ’s food menu that I’ve ever enjoyed. Bad cheeseburgers, lackluster fries, and now this grilled chicken sandwich, which is probably the worst food I’ve ever eaten at Dairy Queen.

On this sandwich we have a remarkably dry piece of under-seasoned grilled chicken, a leaf of green lettuce (and I’m using ‘green’ generously here), a soggy tomato, and mayo on a dry, slightly-toasted bun. There isn’t a single part of this sandwich that works — the chicken is bad, the tomato is of the lowest quality, and the lettuce is wilted and tastes unwashed.

The Bottom Line:

The worst grilled chicken sandwich currently being sold. Avoid at all costs.

Find your nearest Dairy Queen here.

10. Subway — Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Subway

Calories: 570

The Sandwich:

Because of the customizable nature of Subway, we considered leaving this one off the list entirely. But it is one of the few grilled chicken sandwiches out there, and Subway is definitely fast food, so there is no reason not to include it. As such, this is going to be more of a review of Subway’s grilled chicken meat than the sandwich it belongs to.

Subway makes this sandwich stock with multigrain bread, veggies of your choice, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and baby spinach. All of those single ingredients are better than the chicken. Grilled chicken is one of Subway’s worst meat options — it’s dry, has a weird texture that breaks off into flakes while you chew through it, and is rubbery, whether you get your sandwich toasted or eat it cold.

It’s not pleasant to chew through. In fact, it’s so bad that you’ll have a better sandwich by actually removing the meat.

The Bottom Line:

Subway’s worst meat option, don’t take a chance on this rubbery weird chicken.

Find your nearest Subway here.

9. Sonic Drive-In — Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Sonic Drive In

Calories: 490

The Sandwich:

Sonic’s Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich looks almost identical to Dairy Queen’s chicken sandwich. It uses the same combination of lettuce, mayo, and tomato, but the grilled chicken patty is way juicier here and more substantial and the inclusion of a Brioche bun over your typical white bun adds a nice sense of butteriness to this sandwich that keeps it from feeling too dry.

I’m not loving the simple mayo sauce at the top but Sonic at least has a lot more to offer by way of customization — jalapeño slices, pickles, and even bacon are a must to take this to the next level, and you can add them free of charge. Why they aren’t a stock part of the sandwich is puzzling to me.

The Bottom Line:

Not even close to the best sandwich offered at Sonic, but if you’re looking for a low-calorie meal that doesn’t taste terrible, this is your only choice on Sonic’s entire menu. If you’re looking specifically for a grilled chicken sandwich, definitely look elsewhere.

Find your nearest Sonic here.

8. Arby’s — Roast Chicken Bacon Swiss Sandwich

Arby

Calories: 480

The Sandwich:

This sandwich comes painfully close to being delicious, but unfortunately, its weakest link is the chicken. That makes it not a great grilled chicken sandwich. Let’s talk about the good stuff — Arby’s bacon is both smokey and crispy. The use of Swiss cheese is inspired. In place of mayo Arby’s goes with honey mustard, which adds a nice dash of complexity to this sandwich.

The toasted bun isn’t great, but it isn’t so dense that it’s a chore to eat (like DQs). Alas, this sandwich has the same sad tomatoes and shredded lettuce here as the other sandwiches, and then we come to the Roast Chicken.

Roast chicken is supposed to be tender and juicy, but this chicken is dry and chewy. It also comes in slices, which is a bad move for a sandwich, as you’ll constantly be messing with this thing trying to keep it together. All that effort and for chicken this lackluster? It’s not worth your time.

The Bottom Line:

Arby’s almost has a good grilled chicken sandwich on their hands, they just need to find a way to improve the chicken.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

7. Jack in the Box — Sourdough Grilled Chicken Club

Jack in the Box

Calories: 580

The Sandwich:

I’ve got bad news for you friends. I’m not sure what the cheese on this sandwich is, but it’s not Swiss cheese. Even Jack in the Box won’t call it Swiss (which means they’re not legally allowed to), instead referring to it as “Swiss-style.” Whatever that means.

To my palate, it tastes just like American cheese, and that’s a shame because this sandwich has a few great qualities and with the inclusion of real Swiss it might’ve ranked higher. I don’t love the mayo, but Jack in the Box is one of the few fast food chains that can nail sourdough bread pretty well, giving this sandwich an interesting sour aftertaste that complements the grilled chicken and offers something way less filling than your typical bun.

The chicken itself isn’t great, but it’s far from the worst grilled filet in this ranking. Unfortunately, it’s a little hit or miss, so your sandwich might come out worse than the last time you had it.

The Bottom Line:

Jack in the Box is halfway to having a really good grilled chicken sandwich, they just need a better sauce than mayo and real Swiss. We suggest getting this thing without sauce and adding your own using Jack’s BBQ, Ranch, Honey Mustard, or Frank’s Red Hot.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

6. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s — Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich

Carl

Calories: 600

The Sandwich:

If you’re looking for a place that knows how to do grilled chicken, it’s Carl’s Jr. The chicken is juicy, while still sporting a charred grilled outer, and I’ve yet to have a grilled chicken sandwich from Carl’s Jr. that suffers from that rubbery re-heated chicken quality that plagues too many of the sandwiches on this ranking, leading me to believe this is one of the more consistent and reliable choices out there.

The charbroiled breast is topped with two strips of bacon, melted Swiss (again, not real Swiss, as far as I can tell) lettuce, tomato, and mayo on top of a nutty semi-sweet honey wheat bun. All the flavors here are very complimentary and my only major complaint is the use of unimaginative mayo and the low-quality lettuce.

The Bottom Line:

A solid choice. It’s a few key ingredients away from being considered great, but I could easily substitute Carl’s Jr’s fried chicken sandwich for this baby without regretting it in the slightest.

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s here.

5. Arby’s — Roast Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Arby

Calories: 360

The Sandwich:

Earlier I said the only thing holding Arby’s sandwich back was its low-quality under-seasoned roast chicken. That’s remedied here by dousing that same grilled chicken in spicy buffalo sauce which supplies a nice kick of heat and keeps things interesting on the palate. Instead of Swiss cheese, this sandwich adds a cheesy parmesan peppercorn ranch which helps to further mask the dry chicken while still giving you a sharp cheesy bite.

This is a considerable improvement over Arby’s regular roast chicken sandwich and the Buffalo sauce isn’t over-used to the point that it defeats the purpose of grabbing grilled over fried. But it also doesn’t exactly taste light and healthy like the non-Buffalo sauced version either. That said, at just 360 calories, this is still one of the healthier and more flavorful options on Arby’s meat-filled menu.

The Bottom Line:

Arby’s roast chicken suffers from being dry and under-seasoned, the Roast Buffalo Chicken sandwich remedies that. If you’re not a fan of Buffalo sauce this sauce isn’t going to make you a convert– so if spice isn’t your thing, skip this one.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

4. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s — Santa Fe Chicken

Carl

Calories: 550

The Sandwich:

There are few sandwiches that are better by dropping bacon, but Carl’s Jr’s Santa Fe Chicken club is in every way an improvement over the Charbroiled Chicken Club, thanks to the inclusion of a very flavorful bed of green chili underneath the chicken in place of bacon. This sandwich uses the same sweet honey wheat bun but ditches the mayo for what Carl’s calls “Santa Fe Sauce,” which tastes to me like mayo with paprika, cayenne pepper, and curry powder added to it.

The sauce is a major improvement over the mayo, it adds spice and depth, while still supplying the tang that helps to elevate a chicken sandwich when pickles aren’t included. But the real star of the show is the mild green chili. Sure, it doesn’t supply any heat but it adds a smokey note and a mild, earthy flavor on the backend that makes every bite an absolute joy.

The Bottom Line:

Carl’s Jr nails the grilled chicken sandwich by adding something that every other sandwich on this list is missing — mild green chili. It’s an easy way to make a grilled chicken sandwich pop with flavor.

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr. here.

3. Wendy’s — Grilled Asiago Ranch Club Sandwich

Wendy

Calories: 490

The Sandwich:

Any of Wendy’s chicken sandwiches can be ordered with a grilled chicken breast in place of the homestyle or spicy breading, but why would you choose anything other than the Grilled Asiago Ranch Chicken Club? It has everything you’d want in a good chicken sandwich: interesting cheese, this one uses, as the name implies, Asiago, which is nutty like Swiss but much sweeter, and pairs nicely with the garlic and onion powder-seasoned breast filet. Crispy and smokey bacon (Wendy’s has some of the best) adds a nice crunch to each bite. It’s also got a tomato that is actually juicy and tomato-flavored rather than watery like the other sandwiches on this ranking. The whole thing is topped with a flavorful ranch sauce.

The ranch sauce feels a bit like overkill, but Wendy’s doesn’t have a lot of other sauce options and we’ll take it over simple boring mayo any day. The flavors all come together really harmoniously here, nothing feels out of place or like it needs to be altered in order to make it more palatable. The only thing chicken sandwich better than the Grilled Asiago Ranch Club at Wendy’s is the spicy fried version of the same sandwich.

The Bottom Line:

If you love the fried version of this sandwich, the grilled version still delivers that same great flavor while shaving off nearly 200 calories.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

2. Chick-fil-A — Grilled Chicken Club

Chick-fil-A

Calories: 520

The Sandwich:

We’ve got to hand it to Chick-fil-A — they just know how to prepare a chicken. This boneless chicken filet is a leap up from our number three choice, the chicken is way juicier and more tender, with a slight lemon tinge to it that tastes remarkably refreshing, and has a charred flavor that actually tastes like it was grilled in the same restaurant you’re eating it in.

That shouldn’t be a selling point, but it sadly is!

The filet is surprisingly thick, which helps make this sandwich very filling despite its small size. The chicken sits atop three slices of tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, and is topped with applewood smoked bacon and colby jack cheese on a multigrain brioche bun

The cheese options are our favorite, if you’re not down with the sharp and nutty mix that is colby, you can sub it out for spicy pepper jack cheese — or American, if you’re weird. Chick-fil-A suggests you top this sandwich with their Honey Roasted BBQ sauce and we agree, it’s a great combination with the lemon-marinated flavor of the chicken, but don’t shy away from giving the Polynesian sauce a try either.

The Bottom Line:

In a whole another league than everything proceeding it in this list. By actually marinating their chicken before grilling it and giving you a nice selection of cheeses and sauce to top it with, Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken club is truly a people pleaser that won’t make you miss its fried counterpart. Unlike those grilled nuggets.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

1. The Habit — Chicken Club

Calories: 730

The Sandwich:

This is a pretty substantial chicken sandwich — you could easily split it in half and save the rest for later, or share it with another person, it’s that filling. The Habit Chicken Club features a hand-filleted and marinated chicken breast, and that attention to preparation really pays off, this chicken is juicy, tender, and perfectly seasoned, sitting atop the best green leaf lettuce of any of the chains on this list. It’s got juicy, thick-cut tomato slices and is served on grilled sourdough bread.

You could opt for a grilled ciabatta, which raises the calories by about 100, but I think the sourdough works perfectly here, it’s buttered on both sides of the bread and slightly sour, adding an interesting extra flavor into the whole sandwich and a bit of toasty crunch. This sandwich comes stock with mayo, but the Habit will give you the option of ordering it with BBQ or teriyaki sauce in addition to the mayo. I always go for the Teriyaki sauce (and skip the mayo), it adds a hint of ginger and sweetness to the sandwich that pairs so well with the grilled chicken that it’s a wonder other chains haven’t stolen that option.

Rounding out the sandwich are a few strips of bacon and something that no other sandwich on this list offers but would instantly make each one better: avocado. Avocado on a grilled chicken sandwich is so damn good — it’s a huge miss for the other brand and a huge win here.

The Bottom Line

Teriyaki sauce and avocado? This might not be the leanest sandwich on this list, but it’s the best tasting by a wide margin.

Find your nearest The Habit here.

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