Three years ago Popeyes dropped its now infamous chicken sandwich and single-handedly changed the landscape of fast food. It sounds, frankly, ridiculous, but once Popeyes introduced the fast food-eating public to a truly delicious chicken sandwich, every single fast food restaurant that didn’t already have a great chicken sandwich tried to capture some of that magic. Now, three years later the chicken sandwich is as much a staple on fast food menus as the cheeseburger.
But strangely, Popeyes dropped a chicken sandwich, and then kind of dipped out. And while they were never the innovation factory that is Taco Bell, it still felt a little odd.
Fast food needs to innovate, constantly — sometimes that’s to a menu’s detriment. At times, that means your favorite chain restaurant dropping beloved items or re-formulating recipes that don’t need to be messed with. So it’s at least a little strange that Popeyes dropped what is easily the most famous chicken sandwich in all of fast food and then just didn’t do a whole lot with it afterward. Popeyes did link up with Megan Thee Stallion for a slightly sweet and spicy remix of the recipe, and it was delicious, but aside from that, the sandwich has remained unchanged since it was first released in 2019. Until today.
The new Blackened Chicken Sandwich is the most radical change-up of the sandwich to date. It’s not heavily breaded and fried in Popeyes’ usual batter but instead marinated in blackened seasoning, fried semi-naked, and served on the same toasted brioche bun with your choice of mayo or spicy mayo and crispy pickles. It’s not a complete reinvention, but it is decidedly different than the original. We’re a little salty that Popeyes still hasn’t made a version of this sandwich that is breaded in its spicy batter (spicy mayo doesn’t deliver the heat) but we always welcome change.
So is the Blackened Chicken Sandwich any good? Let’s find out!
Blackened Chicken Sandwich (Spicy)
The new Blackened Chicken Sandwich is available in both classic form (with mayo) and spicy (with spicy mayo) and for this review, I opted for the spicy version. Not because I think Popeyes’ spicily sauced sandwiches are superior, but because I thought the blackened seasoning would pair better with a bit more heat. In retrospect, I think I was right. Popeyes’ blackened seasoning features a blend of black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, oregano, onion powder, and some kind of chili powder. It’s very flavorful and tastes incredibly similar to whatever seasoning is used on Popeyes’ battered Cajun fries.
It begins with an earthy cracked pepper flavor before shifting into the more complex and spicy flavors of garlic, onion, and chili powder, with a dark-smokey finish. The spicy mayo adds a savory and slightly sweet component to the dish bringing just a touch of heat to the aftertaste. Not enough heat to make you sweat, but enough that it tantalizes the tastebuds.
The texture of the chicken is pretty interesting. Blackened chicken is grilled but in this case after marinating this chicken filet for a sufficient amount of time, Popeyes batters it and throws it in the frier. It has a crispy exterior that adds a nice little crunch to every bite. Once you break through the slightly dry exterior, the chicken inside is tender and juicy. It’s a lot drier overall than the OG version, but it’s still very satisfying and not dry enough for it to be a noticeable issue — that could be because Popeyes double-sauced the bun, but I’m pretty sure the marinade had a hand in that too.
What surprised me the most about the sandwich was just how small the filet is. Popeyes OG chicken sandwich is big, In this sandwich, I was often left hoping for a more substantial bite. Maybe I got a less-than-ideal filet, but either way, I found the sandwich to be incredibly enjoyable and bursting with flavor. On certain days when I feel like a less food-coma-inducing meal, I might say it’s even better than the original.
The Bottom Line:
Popeyes finally took a chance with a major revamp of their chicken sandwich and it has paid off. This is delicious, bursting with flavor, and definitely worthy of a pick-up the next time you’re craving Popeyes.
Find your nearest Popeyes here.