It’s no secret that Popeyes makes the best fried chicken sandwich in the fast food galaxy. In the two years since Popeyes dropped their new sandwich, we’ve seen just about every chain try to swipe at that crown — reformulating recipes and expanding their menus in an attempt to satiate our undying appetite for the perfect bird between bread. Even monster brands are shook. Burger King ditched their old chicken sandwich for something new and the mighty McDonald’s launched not just one new chicken sandwich but three!
In addition to the title of best fried chicken sandwich in the game, Popeyes has the best sides of any chicken joint, and their bone-in chicken offerings, available in both mild and spicy formulations, are also fast food’s best.
Having said that, the Popeyes Chicken Tender is in need of some serious work. For a place with a sandwich so good, there is no excuse for having lackluster tenders. Clearly, this was something Popeyes wanted to remedy with the announcement of a new chicken nugget. Unfortunately, this fix doesn’t quite work.
Check our full review below:
Popeyes Chicken Nuggets
I don’t know if any single fast food item will ever have as much hype as that original sandwich drop. It’s a fast food anomaly. Yet I kept seeing article after article declaring that these new nuggets were “hotly” or “highly” anticipated. The Takeout ran a piece titled “Will Popeyes’ new chicken nuggets cause a ruckus?” Nope. For whatever reason, the media is really working hard to hype up these nuggets (no doubt a result of all the traffic they got from writing about the original sandwich), but when I arrived at my local Popeyes on drop day to order an 8-count meal, there wasn’t even a line in the drive-thru.
Back in 2019, when I covered the sandwich drop, I waited in a line and was still eating my sandwich at a table when the management came out to announce that they had sold out for the day. It was a wild scene. So I half-feared I was already too late. That I’d roll up to the drive-thru only to be told they were sold out. That wasn’t the case.
In fact, when I pulled up to Popeyes I was actually asked to wait in front of the restaurant because they had to fry up some nuggets fresh. In my opinion, getting your fast food fried fresh leads to the best experience, so I was hyped. But it was clear that the nuggets didn’t hold a fraction of the popularity the sandwich did on day one, or else they’d have them ready and waiting.
Like the tenders, the Popeyes nuggets suffer from being haphazardly battered. Some pieces are so overly battered that fried hollow tendrils of batter twist off of the nuggets, giving you empty bites of fried batter. On other spots of the nugget are so under-battered you can see the white meat lurking beneath.
It’s clear that there isn’t a lot of attention to detail when it comes to battering the chicken unlike what you’d find at places like Chick-fil-A or Carl’s Jr, where they hand-bread. Aside from presentation, that shouldn’t really matter — at the end of the day, all the matters is the flavor, right? And this is still Popeyes batter we’re dealing with, so we know it’s going to have that delicious mix of garlic powder, salt, and pepper. But when it’s uneven you also get uneven bites and a generally uneven experience.
Of course, a chicken nugget is more than just its batter. But Popeyes suffers there, too. The chicken used in the nuggets is the same as the tenders — oddly chunky with a weird flakey consistency that breaks apart when you chew through it.
This weird cube-y chicken ruins the experience for me. In the photo above, you can see its chunky quality. I didn’t rip this nugget apart with my fingers or cut it with a knife, I bit into it and a chunk broke off in a near-perfect straight line. If the sight of that chicken is off-putting to you (don’t zoom in), I hate to inform you that the same experience is repeated in the mouth, and it makes for a disturbing mouthfeel where you can actually feel layers of the chicken breaking off from larger chunks as you chew through.
This isn’t something that can be remedied by dipping your chicken deep into some sauce, either. Yes, it will enhance the experience but nothing is going to fix that chewy texture. The decision to only offer this nugget in the mild recipe is another disappointment. Spicy nuggets always trump non-spicy. C’mon, Popeyes, that’s obvious.
The Bottom Line
Thanks to the chunky and chewy texture, you’re better off just sticking with the tenders (get ’em spicy!) or getting a sandwich — which is why you have Popeyes on the brain in the first place. Easily the worst Popeyes chicken product.