Chain Restaurant Fried Chicken Ranked Worst To Best, According To Diners

bucket of fried chicken
bucket of fried chicken - Waeel Quttene/Shutterstock
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What's not to love about fried chicken? It's crispy, juicy, flavorful, and oh-so comforting. YouGov reports that fried chicken has an 82% popularity rating among consumers, with only 7% of people saying they dislike the dish. According to the website's rankings, it's the eighth most popular American food. Americans love fried chicken so much that July 6 has been declared National Fried Chicken Day. It's not surprising then that some of the most popular chain restaurants in the country are primarily focused on fried chicken.

While it's not very difficult to make fried chicken at home, it's even easier to grab a bucket or box to go from one of the many chain restaurants that sell this crave-worthy treat. But where do you go if you want the tastiest, crunchiest, most satisfying fried chicken? We scoured countless reviews to bring you the ultimate list of chain restaurant fried chicken ranked from worst to best. From classic Southern recipes to international fried chicken styles, these are the versions that score big or fail miserably according to diners.

Read more: Ranking Fast Food Fried Chicken Sandwiches From Worst To First

14. KFC's Original Recipe Fried Chicken

KFC fried chicken
KFC fried chicken - Yusra Begam/Shutterstock

Despite being one of the biggest fast food fried chicken chain in the world, Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn't get great reviews from diners. The chain got its start in the 1930s when Colonel Harland Sanders started selling his Southern-style fried chicken out of a motel in Corbin, Kentucky. The Original Recipe Fried Chicken rose to fame for its crispy coating containing Sanders' secret mix of 11 herbs and spices. While some diners have fond memories of KFC from their youth, many believe that the quality of the chicken has taken a nosedive.

When Mashed took a poll to find out which restaurant chain serves the worst fried chicken, most people surveyed chose KFC as their least favorite. One reviewer on Sitejabber wrote, "The size of the chicken pieces are 50% smaller than a few years ago. The orders are no longer filled properly ... The chicken has been overcooked and dry." Another reviewer said, "I have been eating at Kentucky Fried since 1970. The food has gone so down hill since this time, watery coleslaw, mashed potatoes with a spoon full of gravy, and horrible fried chicken. Will never eat there again!"

13. Champs' Southern-Style Fried Chicken

Champ's fried chicken
Champ's fried chicken - thechampschicken/Instagram

You may have seen Champ's Chicken in a gas station or convenience store and wondered if you should try it out. After all, the prices aren't bad; for about $8 you get two pieces of chicken with a biscuit and your choice of two sides like mac & cheese, green beans, or mashed potatoes. Plus, they have a ton of sauces to choose from, including Buffalo, honey mustard, and chipotle ranch. Just know that many diners say the chicken is pretty disappointing.

Eddy of Wichita By E.B. said in their review of Champs, "The sides were just OK. They looked as if they had been sitting out for a while and it kind of tasted that way. As for the chicken, it reminded me of a poor man's Dillon's chicken. The skin didn't have too much flavor to it and the actual chicken wasn't as tender or juicy as many other fast food places around town. Everything was just average to me." Another Yelp reviewer said, "Everything tastes like chicken, except this. It's just a flavorless meat-textured disappointment."

12. Pollo Campero's Fried Chicken

Pollo Campero fried chicken
Pollo Campero fried chicken - pollocamperosv/Instagram

When the first Pollo Campero opened in Guatemala City in 1971, it quickly rose to fame for its crispy fried chicken marinated in citrus and a blend of Latin American spices. The brand soon expanded across Guatemala and El Salvador, opening its first restaurant in the United States in 2002. Although the chain received great reviews at the start, diners are less than enthused about it today. Many Pollo Campero customers in the States comment that the chicken lacks what it once had. Others say it simply doesn't compare to the versions on offer at its Central American locations.

One Reddit user said of the chain, "When they first opened in Houston they were really awesome. Their sauces, sides, and both fried and grilled chicken were damned tasty. Then they went straight downhill on quality of ingredients and competence in the kitchen." Another diner told Remezcla, "It tastes more authentic in El Salvador. It's not just for the food. It's more the entire experience of being there, along with the customer service. It's a different experience from the US. Here in the US, it's bad quality, and it's like going to McDonald's, nothing special about it."

11. Cracker Barrel's Southern Fried Chicken

Cracker Barrel Southern fried chicken
Cracker Barrel Southern fried chicken - crackerbarrel/Instagram

Cracker Barrel is another chain that's been around for over 50 years. The menu features comfort food favorites like all-day breakfast, burgers, and fried chicken. The Southern Fried Chicken meal includes four pieces of bone-in fried chicken drizzled with honey and served with biscuits and your choice of two sides. Although it doesn't get the scathing reviews that some other chain restaurant fried chicken does, many diners find it pretty mediocre.

On a Quora thread about Cracker Barrel's fried chicken, one diner said, "Too salty, and when biting into a leg the breading came off like a sleeve. Are they serving frozen BANQUET brand?" Another commenter on the same thread said, "I don't know what it was but I don't think it was real chicken. I've never eaten anything that tasted like that. It was slimy and the texture was artificial. It's hard to describe but it was soft and too uniform."

10. Jollibee's Chickenjoy

Jollibee Chickenjoy
Jollibee Chickenjoy - seoulking_202340/Instagram

Filipino chain Jollibee is easily recognizable for its bright red signs featuring a cheerful bumblebee in a chef's hat. According to the official Jollibee website, it is the fastest growing Asian restaurant chain in the world with over 1,300 locations worldwide. One of the most popular menu items is the fried chicken, which contains a secret marinade and is hand-breaded before being deep-fried. Jollibee calls the dish Chickenjoy, but diners seem to have mixed reviews about just how much joy it brings.

Some reviewers say the chicken is juicy and the breading is nice and crisp, while others say it's dry and overcooked. Fast food reviewer Sweatpants Joe Eats said, " As far as the flavor goes, it's nothing to write home about. It's not the best fried chicken I've ever had. It's not the worst. As far as the taste goes, I don't even think it's as good as Popeye's or KFC. I think it's pretty average ... I mean don't get me wrong, it's not bad." According to him, stop in if you're near a Jollibee's and hungry for fried chicken, but don't go out of your way.

9. Church's Texas Chicken's Original Fried Chicken

Church's fried chicken
Church's fried chicken - foodieeemate/Instagram

When George W. Church opened the first Church's Fried Chicken across from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, in 1952, he probably never imagined his restaurants would one day span the globe. According to QSR, there are over 1,500 Church's Texas Chicken and Texas Chicken restaurants in 23 countries across North America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia. As the name suggests, the focus is on Texas-style fried chicken, which features bold spices like cayenne, paprika, and cumin.

Diners are divided on Church's fried chicken, with some loving the flavor and others remarking on the heavy breading. Food reviewer Daym Drops commented on the breading's doughiness, indicating that it contained a ton of flour. However, he found the meat to be succulent, describing it as "magnificent" and added, "Church's Chicken ... Once you get past the skin, the chicken is a win."

8. Bojangles' Fried Chicken

Bojangles' fried chicken
Bojangles' fried chicken - bojangles/Instagram

Bojangles is one of several chicken restaurants that are taking over the United States. The first restaurant opened in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1977, and there are now roughly 800 branches across the country. Some things that set the chain apart from its competitors include using fresh (not frozen) chicken, hand-breading each piece, and incorporating Cajun spices that add an extra kick of flavor. The bone-in chicken is one of the most popular Bojangles' menu items, although it often gets outshined by the famous biscuits.

Bojangles has a solid fan following, and many diners have positive things to say about the fried chicken. One Reddit user commented, "The cajun spice in their chicken is the perfect amount of salt and heat IMO. More kick and flavorful than McD's or Wendy's spicy chicken, but not overwhelming the chicken with heat and vinegar flavor as sometimes happens with buffalo or Nashville hot chicken." Another user said, "The chicken is a half notch above Popeye's and KFC. The biscuits and the sweet tea are the differentiators."

7. Hattie B's Nashville Hot Chicken

Hattie B's Nashville Hot Chicken
Hattie B's Nashville Hot Chicken - hattiebs/Instagram

We love a good spice-laden, mouth-searing Nashville hot chicken. Hattie B's is one of the most popular hot chicken spots with line-ups often going out the doors at its various locations. The chicken gets plenty of positive reviews from diners, but many locals consider it somewhat of a tourist trap. One Reddit user said, "It's GREAT ... if you don't live in Nashville, have never had hot chicken, are here for a day, and like waiting in lines." Many locals believe there are equally good or better spots, including Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, the spot where the Nashville hot chicken origin story began.

If you don't mind queuing up for your hot chicken, Hattie B's offers a unique twist on the dish. Chef John Lasater told Food Republic that he wanted to focus more on the balance of flavors rather than just the insane levels of heat while creating the spice blend. The chicken is marinated in spices like cayenne and paprika, then breaded, deep-fried, and served with pickles on top of white bread. It's worth trying, but you may have to take a road trip to get it because there are only a handful of locations in just a few states.

6. Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken's Fried Chicken

Lee's Famous fried chicken
Lee's Famous fried chicken - leesfamouschick/Instagram

Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken is named after Lee Cummings, KFC's Colonel Sanders' nephew. The fried chicken recipes may be similar, but it looks like Lee's is giving KFC a run for its money. One TripAdvisor reviewer commented, "If you ate at a particular Kentucky Chicken establishment you remember. There is a smell, a taste, and a feel that you can't get now ... you can at Lee's! Fried chicken, mashed potato, coleslaw, and a biscuit for under $7!" Another reviewer said, "Forget the Colonel ...This is the real deal ... very good fried chicken."

The honey dipping is what makes Lee's Famous Recipe chicken so special. The chain only uses fresh chicken that's dipped in honey before being hand-breaded with a blend of herbs and spices. The chicken is then cooked in a pressure cooker to create a crispy skin while keeping the meat inside tender and juicy. The heat also helps lock in the tasty flavors. So while the chicken may be reminiscent of KFC's, the hint of honey gives it a unique taste profile.

5. Bonchon's Korean Fried Chicken

Bonchon fried chicken
Bonchon fried chicken - bonchonchicken/Instagram

Bonchon is one of those regional fried chicken chains that we wish were everywhere, but as of the time of writing, there are just over 130 locations in 25 states. The Korean fried chicken chain originated in Busan, South Korea, and made its debut in New York City in 2006. Many diners instantly fell in love with the delicious double-fried chicken lightly brushed with the chain's signature sauces. The restaurant also serves tasty starters and sides with a Korean twist, like bulgogi fries and kimchi coleslaw.

Bonchon gets a lot of hype online. Reviewers comment on the size of the drumsticks, the light and crispy batter, and the flavorful sauces. A reviewer on DC Review said, "Bonchon's chicken looks beautiful, and tastes even better. It's easy to distinguish between the two flavors, but impossible to decide which is better. I fell in love with the Soy Garlic; but the heat from the Hot & Spicy is to die for." Another reviewer on Yelp said, "Although the wings look 'wet', they are crispy! The crunch surprises you, but it's the flavor that leaves you with a memory."

4. Krispy Krunchy's Hand-Breaded Fried Chicken

Krispy Krunchy fried chicken
Krispy Krunchy fried chicken - krispykrunchychicken/Instagram

Krispy Krunchy is another chain that can be found in gas stations and convenience stores. However, it ranks much higher than Champs thanks to its juicy, flavorful fried chicken. Established in Louisiana in 1989, the chain now has over 2,800 locations in 47 states. Each uses fresh chicken marinated in spices and hand-breaded twice before being fried until golden. Reviewers often comment on how pleasantly surprised they were with the quality and taste of the chicken.

Fast food reviewer Nik Metcalf said on TikTok, "I used to work at KFC, so I know Kentucky Fried Chicken and I'm biased towards KFC. Overall, this is better than KFC. I can't believe it. I literally can't believe it. It's from a gas station! What the hell is going on? My mind is blown. This is like a nine out of 10. It's that good." In an article for SFGATE, Stuart Schuffman was equally satisfied and wrote, "The outside has the perfect level of crunchiness while the inside stays juicy, soft and flavorful. It has more character than KFC and less spiciness than Popeye's."

3. TKK Fried Chicken's Spicy Crispy Fried Chicken

TKK Fried Chicken
TKK Fried Chicken - tkkfriedchicken/Instagram

If you're getting bored of the same old Southern-style chicken, you may want to give Taiwanese fried chicken a try. TKK is somewhat of a newcomer to the fried chicken scene in the States, but the Taiwanese chain has been around since 1974. In 2018, the company opened its first U.S. branch in New York City and has been growing nationwide ever since. According to many diners, the star on the menu is the Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken.

The signature spicy chicken is breaded with a single layer of seasoning and then fried in soybean oil. You can order it in various spice levels and formats, including a quarter chicken, half chicken, or a combo with a piece of chicken and a kwa kwa bao (sticky rice with shiitake mushrooms wrapped in chicken skin and deep-fried). The chicken gets rave reviews from numerous diners. One reviewer on Yelp said, "The chicken breast is way better than your average fast food chicken, full of spice, not dry, extra crispy, not too fatty."

2. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Gus's Fried Chicken
Gus's Fried Chicken - mskay_marie/Instagram

Many people believe Gus's Fried Chicken is some of the absolute best fried chicken you'll find in the South. As Gus's website explains, it all started when Napoleon "Na" Vanderbilt and his wife Maggie started selling spicy fried chicken at a local tavern in Mason, Tennessee. People loved the crispy, flavorful chicken so much that they encouraged the couple to open a restaurant. With a little help from the community, the first restaurant opened its doors in 1973. You can still visit the original location today, or try one of the many branches around the country.

Food bloggers, professional reviewers, and ordinary diners generally agree that the chicken really is something special. Zarah Parker wrote for The Leader, "Gus's dark meat chicken might be the best I've ever had. It was juicy and tender. The breading made that perfect crunch sound when I bit into it ... The spice level of Gus's golden brown pieces is mild. It's touted as spicy chicken, but it's a soft spiciness. It doesn't burn your throat. It springs off your tongue in the most pleasant way." We're sold.

1. Popeyes Signature Fried Chicken

Popeye's fried chicken
Popeye's fried chicken - popeyes/Instagram

Popeye's chicken sandwich may have caused the chain to go viral, but the signature bone-in chicken scores big with diners as well. When Mashed took a poll of which fast food restaurant serves the best fried chicken, Popeye's came out on top. People can't seem to get enough of the signature chicken that's marinated for 12 hours in a mix of Louisiana style spices, then battered and deep-fried until golden. Many say the combo of the spicy marinade, crispy batter, and juicy meat is what makes Popeye's chicken so delicious.

Popeye's is so good that many diners don't mind paying a bit more to get their fix. As one reviewer on Influenster said, "This is my family's favorite fried chicken ever. The coat is very crispy and flavorful, and the inside is tender and juicy. The price is quite high, but it won't stop my family from repurchasing again and again." Although prices vary depending on the state you're in, you can expect to pay roughly $13 for a two-piece combo meal as of March 2024. That's slightly higher than some other chains, but many believe it's worth every penny.


fried chicken on a plate
fried chicken on a plate - Tytut888/Shutterstock

Our ranking for the best and worst chain restaurant fried chicken is based on diner reviews. We looked at what customers were saying on sites like Reddit and Yelp, as well as food blogs and fast food reviews on TikTok and YouTube. We only looked at restaurants that serve traditional fried chicken, meaning bone-in, breaded, and deep-fried.

We took note of what customers had to say about the seasoning, crunch factor, and freshness of the chicken, as well as the value for money. Overall, we wanted to find out if the chicken was worth a visit or even a road trip. These are the chains that fried chicken lovers say serve the very best and worst versions of this iconic dish.

Read the original article on Mashed