The Best Fried Chicken Chains Ranked By Crunch And Flavor

Fried chicken is so ubiquitous in the United States that you can find it at pretty much any restaurant in the country. Even fast food chains that don't specialize in fried chicken have it in some form on the menu. If you've landed here, though, you're looking for the best of the best. We've looked at feedback from diners at the top fried chicken chains, tried many ourselves, and ranked them from best to worst based on which ones are most likely to satisfy that craving for salty, crunchy chicken. 

According to the South Florida Reporter, Americans consume 8 billion chickens per year, which is the equivalent of 80 pounds of chicken per person. We love it at picnics, birthdays, and even the next day — leftover fried chicken has all kinds of uses. In the world of fast food, this dish is the most common option you'll find — and the most reliable too. That being said, it's easy to mess up fried chicken. Skimping on the seasoning or salt or not having the proper batter that will crisp up just right can doom a piece of fried chicken. A piece of white meat chicken can be golden brown, but if it's dry on the inside, it's hard to recommend. We took all of these factors and more into account when deciding how to rank these chains. 

Based on our own personal experiences as foodies, professional reviews by food critics and journalists, and content creator and influencer reactions, we've established the ultimate ranking of the best fried chicken chains in the country. 

12. Wingstop

Wingstop is becoming the nation's biggest wing chain, with more locations in the US than Buffalo Wild Wings as of February 2024. In our estimation, this fast food chain doesn't quite hit the same level of consistency as the aforementioned fast casual giant. We've sampled a number of the selections from Wingstop and haven't been impressed by the chicken and sauces we've tried.

The actual chicken wings are decent. They are juicy and meaty, as should be expected, but the boneless wings and sandwiches are remarkably dry, even when coated in sauces. Speaking of sauce, they aren't really remarkable at all, and many of the sweeter sauces tend to be too sweet, while the spiciest ones lack a rounded flavor and just blast you with heat. The only real standout is Wingstop's ranch dressing, which is one of the best dipping sauces in the chicken game. At the very least, you can drown your meal in herby, creamy goodness and not worry as much about the quality of the chicken.

11. Checkers

Checkers (or Rally's, depending on which state you're dining in) is a fast food chain that serves a good deal of fried chicken. That doesn't necessarily mean it's known for fried chicken, but that's not exactly a fair assessment either. Checkers isn't known for any of its food; it's known for its speed and low price. Sometimes the food is pretty decent, too. Checkers' seasoned french fries, in particular, are always perfection. The chicken, however, isn't something to write home about.

There are a few different options for chicken on the Checkers menu, including wings, tenders, chicken sandwiches, and the chain's chicken bites. These little nuggets of white meat chicken are surprisingly tender and juicy, and you'd be surprised how many you can toss back after a night out. The sandwiches and wings don't quite have the same appeal, mostly because you can get better versions at many other fast food chains that offer them. 

10. KFC

KFC changed the fast food game in America when it first opened in 1952. Currently, it is one of the largest chains in the United States, with more than 4,000 restaurants across the US. Known for its southern-style fried chicken dredged with 11 herbs and spices, as well as its enigmatic mascot based on the chain's founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, it doesn't get more classically American than KFC fried chicken. The chicken and sides were once nothing to scoff at, with creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, potato wedges (RIP), and of course, biscuits accompanying hot, crispy fried chicken. 

In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in the average quality at the KFC locations we've tried. They still have some of the best mashed potatoes and gravy in fast food, but the chicken isn't as fresh as it used to be. The flavor of the chain's signature spice mix is there, but the chicken breast is dry more often than not and the chicken tenders frequently taste like they've been sitting out for hours. The same goes for the biscuits, which are a toss up these days since you never know if you are going to get a delicious fresh one or one that's all dried out.

Regardless of what you get, eating at KFC will likely fill your fried chicken craving on a budget. Even so, there are better ways.

9. Slim Chickens

The pitch on Slim Chickens is that it's a bit like Raising Cane's expanded its menu. Hand-breaded chicken strips and Texas toast are the stars here, but options like wraps, chicken and waffles, and a hefty assortment of sauces give Slim Chickens an extra edge. There are more than 200 locations open in mostly the Southern US and adjacent states. This southern twang graces the menu in the form of fried pickles, fried okra, and potato salad.

Unfortunately, diner reviews of Slim Chickens have been less than positive as of late. One Reddit post complained about its bland wings and tenders and one commenter agreed saying the food was "not too different from chicken tenders you can get from a grocery store deli." Others came to the rescue of the chicken tenders, but even the tender defenders didn't leave fully positive reviews.

The other thing Redditors repeatedly brought up as a mark against the chain was service. Another Reddit thread has numerous complaints about it including messed up orders and absurdly long wait times. One frequent diner in the thread said, "They have only ever gotten my order totally correct once."

8. Raising Cane's

Raising Cane's is a fried chicken chain that differentiates itself by only serving chicken fingers, otherwise known as chicken tenders. These chicken fingers aren't any old piece of meat. In an interview with Mashed, Raising Cane's co-founder Todd Graves said, "Our chicken fingers are the highest quality. It's breast tenderloins — it's not cut strips. It's the breast tenderloins that come underneath the chicken breast." The meat is brined for 24 hours to ensure it's incredibly juicy and subsequently cooked to order. As a result, Raising Cane's knows all its customers are receiving fresh, flavorful fried chicken.

Aside from its chicken fingers, Raising Cane's is known for its sauce, which boasts a creamy and tangy taste. Unsurprisingly, this dipping sauce pairs perfectly with the brand's chicken fingers as well as Raising Cane's iconic crinkle cut fries. The brand is also known for its Texas toast side. This soft, pillowy bread is flavored with garlic.

Due to its limited menu, not everybody likes Raising Cane's, decrying the lack of choice, and, in some instances, less than ample seasoning. To put it simply, the fried chicken served at Raising Cane's cannot compete with the best fried chicken chains.

Both Mashed and Today Meal are owned and operated by Alb Media.

7. Church's Texas Chicken

Despite only servicing the southern half of the country, Church's Texas Chicken is a massive operation. There are 787 locations currently operating in the US, serving up an even more affordable fried chicken option than rivals Popeyes and KFC. The word on whether or not it's actually better than those chains is mixed, so we think it belongs somewhere between them.

Church's Texas Chicken serves two types of fried chicken — original and spicy — as well as a smokehouse chicken. The chain also has some unique side offerings, like fried okra, but the one standout on the menu is the honey butter biscuit. Diner reviews were generally positive, with one Reddit user saying, "their biscuits are particularly good, and their spicy chicken, to my taste buds, is almost as good as Popeyes and Bojangles."

In 2020, Church's Texas Chicken added a chicken sandwich to its menu as a revamped competitor in the chicken sandwich wars that Popeye's kicked off that year. It was a well-regarded attempt, landing at No. 3 on Uproxx's list of the best chicken sandwiches of 2022, where they called it "just as good as Popeyes chicken sandwich with half the hype."

6. Bojangles

The chain's official full name is Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits, which gives you an idea of exactly what to order there. Th chain's fried chicken pieces and wings are some of the best in the business, rivaling Popeyes and KFC; the other items on the menu have had mixed reviews. 

The Southern chicken chain's chicken biscuit sandwich has a lot of hype behind it, but we've found what the customer gets doesn't always live up to the legend. When compared to the biscuit sandwiches from Chick-fil-A and Krystal, it didn't live up according to one Business Insider reviewer. The Bojangles biscuit was pale and her least favorite of the three, while the chicken was also dry and "when paired with the dry biscuit, [it] was difficult to eat."

When the chain rolled out a new chicken sandwich as its entrant in the chicken sandwich wars back in 2021, it was met with praise. A reviewer at the Fayettevile Observer loved it and said that compared to Popeyes, "If Bojangles released a version topped with pimento cheese, this wouldn't even be a contest." 

5. BonChon

You're getting something special at Bonchon. Not Kentucky fried chicken, but Korean fried chicken. This South Korean chicken chain came to the US in 2006 when it debuted in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It has since expanded to more than 100 locations nationwide.

The name of the restaurant refers to the side dishes commonly served with Korean barbecue, typically including pickled daikon radish, which comes with every order at Bonchon. The menu also includes kimchi and other acidic bonchon to cut the rich fried chicken for an attempt at balance you rarely see at an American fried chicken chain. Each piece of fried chicken comes tossed in your choice of three sauces: soy garlic, spicy, Korean BBQ. All three are, in our experience, equally delicious. While spice fans will love the other two, there is something irresistible about the sweet and salty interplay of the soy garlic that we can't get enough of. The chicken itself has an excellent crisp that holds up to the sauce and has a moist interior. 

Just be mindful that Bonchon can be a bit pricey. At locations near us in New York City, an order of 10 wings, or six wings and three drumsticks, will run you around $20, so keep that in mind when comparing the quality to these other chains.

4. Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A is one of the biggest fried chicken chains in the United States, boasting a market share of 45.5% in 2023. The chicken served at Chick-fil-A is known to be tender, moist, and flavorful. This is largely thanks to the meat being sourced from small birds. In an interview with Eat This, Not That!, David Farmer, a senior member of the brand's executive team, said, "We don't like bigger birds. We like the texture that comes from the smaller bird. We want the tenderness of that meat."

The chain is known for its chicken sandwiches, which are available as soon as Chick-fil-A starts serving lunch. The company was the first fried chicken chain to serve a boneless chicken sandwich and customers still love that signature dish, celebrating both its texture and flavor. Customers also enjoy pairing their fried chicken with Chick-fil-A's trademark sauce, which is made from a mixture of honey mustard, ranch dressing, and barbecue sauce. Some people have even called it the greatest sauce in all of fast food.

Chick-fil-A is also known for its responsible sourcing: It only serves breast meat that's free from fillers, artificial preservatives, and steroids. However, the company recently abandoned its policy of exclusively serving chicken that's free from all antibiotics. Instead, Chick-fil-A now serves chicken that doesn't contain antibiotics important to human medicine. While unlikely to affect the quality or taste of the chicken itself, this decision has left a sour taste in the mouths of many regular customers.

3. Jollibee

Jollibee is American fried chicken by way of Filipino cuisine. The result can be glorious, strange, or, oftentimes, a tempting combination of the two. Although, when it comes to just its fried chicken, Jollibee ranks very favorably among diners. The chain has 1,500 restaurants across the world, but just over 70 locations in North America.

There are some divisive oddities on the Jollibee menu. The Chickenjoy meal comes with a side of gravy for dipping, which might seem odd to some Americans. Once you try it, though, you'll realize the error of your gravy-less ways. One of the chain's signature side dishes, Jolly Spaghetti, has a harder taste to acquire. These noodles are loaded with a sickly sweet ketchup-based sauce and chunks of various meat products. It's weird and not our favorite, but if we're focusing on the chicken, there isn't much trash to talk.

YouTube reviewer UA Eats tried the Filipino chain for the first time and called it "one of the better fast food restaurants" he's tried, with praise given to the chicken sandwich and spicy chicken especially. A Business Insider reviewer also enjoyed the flavor, crunch, and spice level of the chicken. But for her, the sides really shined. She loved the adobo rice and thought the mashed potatoes were "creamy and buttery perfection."

2. Gus's Fried Chicken

Gus's World-Famous Fried Chicken has the potential to one day live up to its name. This isn't just another fried chicken fast food joint; it's an institution. For a chain with just 40 locations across 14 states in the South and Southwest, you will be shocked at the quality of the food. A positive Infatuation review of the Chicago location said, in regards to the cayenne-spiced chicken, "there's no denying it's good."

Gus's keeps it simple and traditional by sticking to fried chicken and sides. Excellence comes only from perfection, so you are only getting one style of fried chicken here. Thankfully, it's got a kick and is loaded with a nice hit of cayenne spice. There is a dark golden brown color to the outer layer that you just won't see anywhere else on this list. In one TikTok review, the creator showed off just how juicy the inside of the chicken is, contrasting with the crispy skin for a perfect bite every time. He loved the fried chicken thigh and called the barbecue-baked beans "killer."

Gus's is comfort food done quick, but not without love. How could it not be No. 1?

1. Popeye's

Popeye's is a fried chicken chain that's been open since the 1970s. For as long as most people can remember, it's been one of the best places to get fried chicken in the United States. It's so good, in fact, that it often ranks among — and above — fried chicken served at high-end restaurants, and is consistently celebrated by chefs like Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, and Ashley Christensen.

A huge part of Popeye's appeal is its chicken's crust, which practically shatters when bitten. In an interview with Vice Munchies, food writer J. Kenji López-Alt said, "They have the crust down perfect. The right level of craggliness. Very salty. High surface area. They get crispy all over. There aren't any soggy spots." Former Popeye's CEO Cheryl Bachelder has explained that the brand's egg and flour batter is to thank for the chicken's unrivaled texture, while extra seasonings in the coating give Popeye's chicken an added boost of flavor. Notably, Popeye's fried chicken also reheats well.

Perhaps Popeye's crowning success was the fried chicken sandwich it released in 2019. This product consistently sold out at locations across the U.S. and was known for being tender, juicy, and flavorful. In order to produce fried chicken of this caliber, Popeye's makes a point of using the meat of small chickens, as this meat is more tender and flavorful. What's more, the brand utilizes a strong marinade that heavily flavors the chicken, resulting in a delectable eating experience that's hard to beat.


The order of the fried chicken chains on this list was influenced by the quality of the chicken served by each brand. Flavor and texture were considered with particular care. Chains that serve flavorful fried chicken complete with a crisp, crunchy crust ranked higher than those that offer bland products encrusted in soft, soggy coatings. We also took into account the quality of signature sauces and sides, prioritizing those chains with options that complement the fried chicken well. 

Personal experience and diner feedback were both considered. This included professional reviews by food critics and journalists, as well as content creator and influencer reactions. We also took into account praise and critiques from commenters on Reddit and ratings on aggregate sites like RestaurantGuru and Influenster.