11 Discontinued Fast Food Chicken Items We Wish Were Brought Back

While burgers may be synonymous with fast food, they just don't boast the same cult following that fast-food chicken garners. Fans and aficionados rave over Raising Cane's chicken strips and the iconic Cane's sauce. Hordes of people line up at Chick-fil-A for the latest chicken meals and, again, dipping sauce. When chains like McDonald's and Wendy's come out with their takes on spicy chicken nuggets, people go wild, leaving some wondering which is better. Some have even claimed the existence of fast-food chicken wars, as chains struggle to keep up with demand by releasing bigger and better chicken sandwiches and other items in the hopes they might have the next big fast-food chicken hit.

It's not like all of the above are just social media-driven hype, either. According to IBIS World, the fast-food chicken franchise market clocks in at around $55 billion in revenue for 2022, with nearly 10% growth just this year.

Unfortunately, while you have no shortage of fast-food chicken to choose from when you're hungry, the continuously-rotating door of items means that those chicken faves may not be around forever; they're here one day and gone the next. Just about everyone can fondly recall a particular meal or fast-food order that's long past — and here are 11 of the favorites.

1. McDonald's Chicken Selects

The OG Chicken Selects from McDonald's debuted in 2002. Fans enjoyed the delicious chicken tenders, which were covered in a thick breading that paired perfectly with a Coke, for more than a decade before McDonald's removed the Selects from its menu in 2013 (via CNBC). The Selects made a brief reappearance in 2015, which raised fans' excitement on social media, but the return was short-lived.

Fans needed to wait two long years before they found another chicken strip on the McDonald's menu. The chain regrouped and reintroduced a new take on chicken strips in 2017 with the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. A McDonald's spokesperson told USA Today that the new Buttermilk Crispy Tenders were based on the recipe that had made the chain's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich popular. However, as Business Insider later detailed, the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders were just one of a handful of items to be removed from the McDonald's menu in 2020, citing pandemic-related issues.

2. Taco Bell's Naked Chicken Chalupa

In 2017, Taco Bell ditched its tortilla for fried chicken, releasing the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Unlike a typical chalupa, which is wrapped in a tortilla and filled with beef and some veggies, the Naked Chicken Chalupa featured a spicy, fried chicken shell filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sauce. According to a release from the brand at the time, execs hoped the Naked Chicken Chalupa would perform much the same as the wildly popular Doritos Locos Taco had.

At first, this was the case. USA Today reported that the Naked Chicken Chalupa's release resulted in an increase in profits, with Taco Bell selling 25 million of them relatively quickly. Still, that early profitability wasn't enough to save it from the chopping block. The very same year, Taco Bell began removing the item from its menus. However, some theorized that the chain might bring the popular menu item back on occasion, as a limited-time release, or even reinvent the chalupa using an extra-spicy, fried breading to get in on the spicy chicken fast-food trend (via Thrillist).

3. KFC's Cheetos Sandwich

KFC was the first true fried chicken chain to take the world by storm. It continues to change up the idea of what fast-food chicken is or can be, with menu items like the limited-time Double Down sandwich, which was two pieces of fried chicken with a bacon sandwich in the middle, and the Beyond Fried Chicken plant-based offering. KFC is no stranger to brand collaborations, either. In September 2022, the brand teamed with Ruffles to release an Original Recipe chicken-flavored potato chip.

However, not all of KFC's inventive ideas are a hit — or sometimes, even if they are a hit, they don't perform well enough to make the chain's permanent menu. Such was the case with its Cheetos-encrusted sandwich in 2019. As Food Network reported, the menu item was basically a crispy chicken filet made with a Cheetos-based sauce. Then, the filet was served atop a bun and layered with mayonnaise and more Cheetos.

4. Burger King's Ch'King Sandwich

The Burger King menu currently features a few staple chicken-based items, such as the long-standing and elongated Original Chicken Sandwich, chicken nuggets, and chicken fries. However, Burger King has offered a long line of chicken items over the decades, and one stands out from the pack.

In 2021, Burger King released a "new and improved" chicken sandwich christened the Ch'King, made with extra-crispy breading, pickles, and sauce (via Thrillist). The sandwich was immediately met with high praise, even winning Thrillist's Fasties Best Chicken Sandwich award for 2022 — and then just a year after it released, the Ch'King sandwiches were replaced. The BK Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwiches took their place and came in more varieties, such as a barbecue-topped version and a bacon and Swiss option (via Chew Boom). But people were enraged at the Ch'King sandwich's disappearance from menus, taking to Twitter to say things like, "Ch-King Is the only reason I've been [to] a Burger King in the past 15 years anyway. And then you go and discontinue it. That thing was better than Popeye's chicken sandwich. Way to make another bad move!"

5. KFC's Double Down Dog

The KFC Double Down Dog was another one of the chain's short-lived experiments, but one that received a lot of attention. Similar to the limited-time Double Down sandwich, the Double Down dog made good (maybe?) use of its breaded chicken filets, acting as a stand-in for what would normally be a bun, per People magazine. In this case, the fried chicken replaced your standard hot dog bun to create the Double Down Dog.

But for those who glimpsed the Double Down Dog on social media and were dying to try it (the reviews were mixed, as HuffPost reported), there was some bad news. KFC only sold this menu item in its Philippines locations and only for a limited time — but locations were selling out of the menu item left and right. 

Maybe this is one item that needs to make a return stateside? It would be right at home with other, similar Double Dog menu items that have been introduced in international locales, such as South Korea's Zinger Double Down King, which featured two fried chicken filets standing in for a bun to hold a burger and bacon, or South Korea's Zinger Double Down Maxx, which was like a breakfast version of the Double Down, with bacon, hash browns, and cheese (via People).

6. Taco Bell's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco

While some fast-food chains like KFC and Taco Bell swap their bread (or, in Taco Bell's case, tortillas) out for chicken, Taco Bell went a different route for its Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. Basically, the brand created a chicken sandwich in taco form, even changing up the tortilla to give it a more robust, bread-like structure.

The menu item premiered in September 2021, per Thrillist, and featured a jalapeno buttermilk-marinated slice of chicken with a tortilla chip breading. It was fried and added to the fluffier, tortilla-shaped bread before being topped with chipotle sauce and more jalapenos. As Thrillist later reported, though, the menu item was phased out later in 2021, much to the despair of fans who took to Reddit with comments like, "I still lay awake at night thinking about chicken sandwich tacos." While some Taco Bell fans think the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco is no more, hope is still strong that the menu item will make a limited-time return.

7. Burger King's Crispy Pretzel Chicken Fries

Burger King's chicken fries have been a coming-and-going staple on the chain's menu for years now. Originally released in 2005, they stuck around until 2012, growing quite the following before being discontinued and then brought back in 2014 (via Time magazine). However, while Burger King had a clear winner with its original Chicken Fries, that didn't mean the chain wasn't going to play around with its successful formula, just because it could.

In 2018, Burger King released its Crispy Pretzel Chicken Fries, a reiteration of the original Chicken Fries, but this time with a pretzel breading. The fries were a limited-time offering and were available alongside a variety of sauces. But this was hardly the first time that Burger King played around with new variations on the beloved Chicken Fry. In 2016, Burger King released Cheetos Chicken Fries, and, before that, in 2015, Burger King introduced Fiery Chicken Fries (via CNN).

8. Chick-fil-A's Chicken Salad

Arguably, Chick-fil-A boasts one of the most passionate fanbases out of the myriad chicken fast-food chains throughout the country. However, even with its relatively small menu and its tendency to stick to what works best — with no shocking collabs or questionable menu items introduced in the style of Taco Bell or KFC — Chick-fil-A has still said goodbye to a handful of menu items over its life.

In 2017, the chain discontinued its fan-favorite chicken salad, telling Today Food that the decision was "difficult" but that Chick-fil-A was turning its attention to "new tastes and fresh flavors." Customers were not happy, though, and still weren't even years after the initial announcement. In 2020, one customer tweeted, "Why did you discontinue your chicken salad sandwich?? It's all I could think about today, and then I drove over to Chick Fil A and they gaslit me that they ever even existed. They did exist, and they were great."

If it's any consolation, there are many copycat Chick-fil-A chicken salad recipes online. So, even if you can't grab one at the restaurant, you can still make one at home.

9. Wendy's Chicken Tenders

In terms of fast-food chicken, Wendy's may be best known for its spicy chicken nuggets that took the world by storm. However, the chain has offered a variety of other chicken items that, while favorited by some, weren't favorited by enough customers to warrant a permanent add to the menu. Such is the case with Wendy's chicken tenders.

The chicken tenders, which were essentially a larger version of the brand's popular chicken nuggets with a thinner breading than McDonald's chicken tenders, were introduced in 2017 in conjunction with Wendy's S'Awesome Sauce (via Brand Eating). However, while the tenders were discontinued in 2019, the sauce stuck around until 2021, at which point it was discontinued as well. Redditors noticed its disappearance from menus around the same time that Wendy's discontinued its Creamy Sriracha Sauce in favor of a new Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce, per Entrepreneur.

So, why were the chicken tenders axed? According to Brand Eating, the reasons include low sales and the long prep time required to get the tenders out of the kitchen and into customers' waiting hands.

10. Jack in the Box's Spicy Chicken Strips

Jack in the Box is yet another chain to release chicken strips to fanfare, only to remove those chicken strips later ... and then bring them back again ... and then remove them again ... and so on and so forth. The strips were first introduced in 2019 and made with 100% white meat, coated in a crispy batter, and served with seven dipping sauce options (via Bustle). 

The strips were only available for a limited time, but then Jack in the Box announced their return in 2020 on Twitter to fans' approval. Again, though, the return was short-lived and the strips were removed, only to return for their third life in late summer 2022. In an August 2022 release, the brand announced that the strips would be back in all their spicy glory, but now with two new sauces: Jack's Good Good Sauce and Spicy Good Good Sauce.

But, with as much fan love that these strips get — as one Twitter user posted, "Jack in the Box spicy chicken strips with sriracha and ranch is like a spicy heaven in my mouth," — why keep up with all this back and forth? Make the spicy chicken strips a permanent menu item!

11. Popeye's Chicken Po'Boy

Popeye's has been a major player in the fast-food chicken sandwich wars, earning top marks for its chicken sandwiches over the last few years. However, there was another chicken sandwich on the Popeye's menu nearly two decades ago. Today's chicken sandwiches' predecessor was the Popeye's Chicken Po'Boy, first appearing in 2003; however, as The New Yorker notes, the po'boy was quickly forgotten once the new sandwiches made their mark on the hungry public.

The Popeye's Chicken Po'Boy was made up of two chicken tenders placed side by side on a sub-style roll and topped with mayo, pickles, and lettuce. But while Business Insider proclaimed Popeye's new chicken sandwiches superior and the older po'boy just "some chicken tenders slapped on a bun," some fans beg the question: Why can't we have both? One Twitter user posted, "Yeah Popeye's chicken sandwich is good and all, but the po' boy didn't have to die for this." Another Twitter poster said, "What I'm going to say might hurt some feelings, but it needs to be said. Popeye's Chicken Po'boy sandwich was better than their chicken sandwich." Still, others claimed that the only big difference between the po'boy and the new chicken sandwiches was the bread.

Regardless of differences, though, one thing became clear soon after Popeye's new chicken sandwiches hit the limelight in 2019: the chicken po'boy could stand to make a reappearance.