29 Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches—Ranked!
At first glance, health-conscious folks may think that picking up a chicken sandwich from a fast food joint is a safe bet. After all, poultry is known to be leaner than the mystery beef served in those double-stacked hamburgers. However, just because chicken holds a stellar reputation as the low-calorie, low-fat option on your dinner table, it doesn't mean a chicken sandwich is your best option when dining out or zipping through the drive-thru. You think you'd be able to rely on this star protein, but once it's injected with solutions of chemicals, preservatives, and additives and then coated, breaded, and deep-fried, many of these chicken sandwiches can set you back just as badly as a burger and fries.
The good news is that there are still a fair number of smart picks that can help you keep your diet on track. That's why we here at Eat This, Not That! scanned through all the nutrition data from the nation's most popular fast food joints to separate chicken sandwich friends from some waistline foes. Don't want to curb your commitment to eating out? At least make sure you always avoid these worst menu options at 76 popular restaurants!
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Category: Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken sandwiches were ranked primarily on calories, sodium, and fat. (Because chicken is a fairly lean protein, any extra fat is likely from globs of high-calorie sauces.) Any ranking ties were broken by taking a closer look at the ingredients.
From Worst to Best…
Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich
With two strips of thick bacon and melted Swiss, Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich easily takes the cake as the worst fast-food grilled chicken sandwich. This grilled chicken 'wich boasts higher calorie and fat (look at that saturated fat content!) numbers than any other grilled chicken sandwich on our list. What brings it over the edge? Carl's Jr. adds two servings of full-fat mayo to its sandwich. If the joint had just stuck to a single swipe, its chicken sandwich would've been a better choice than our next-to-worst option.
Zaxby's Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Not much better than our worst option, Zaxby's sammy has the highest amount of sodium and sugar. Turn your sandwich into a meal with a side of Crinkle fries, and you'll only do more dietary damage to your waistline in the form of 370 extra calories and 16 grams of fat.
Sonic Classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Even though the description reads "light mayo," the nutritionals don't appear to agree. With a whopping 22 grams of fat, we're bound to think that Sonic smeared an extra helping of mayo on the Brioche. It doesn't get much better: The sandwich also boasts high sodium levels, so eating it will just add to the list of habits that make you sick and fat.
Burger King Grilled Chicken Sandwich
In theory, you'd think you can't go wrong with a white meat chicken fillet with veggies, but the burger joint smears honey mustard on the bun, cranking up the sugar content. Axe the spread in order to cut fat and 110 excess calories from your meal. You can always add a bit of mustard if the bun seems too dry for you.
McDonald's Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
McDonald's keeps the fat content low by dressing their grilled chicken sandwich in a vinaigrette rather than a sloppy mayo. It's just too bad the sodium level climbs up to 1,120 milligrams while the sugar remains high as well.
Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken Sandwich
DQ's grilled chicken sandwich isn't as bad as they come. However, we wish the sodium content was a bit lower.
Wendy's Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Wendy's Grilled Chicken Sandwich comes complete with smoky honey mustard, whereas other fast food joints serve theirs with mayo. Unfortunately, to compensate for that sweet taste you're used to in the bun, Wendy's adds sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup to this sandwich bread. Bummer for those who are trying to cut back on sugar. That being said, the extra protein you'll consume in Wendy's offering can help slow your digestion of these sugars and keep you from experiencing spikes in blood sugar.
The #1 Best Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Is the… Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Served on a toasted multigrain bun, Chick-fil-A's protein-packed, low-calorie sandwich is one of your best bets in the fast food world and at Chick-fil-A. Note: Although Chick-fil-A serves the sandwich with Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce, it doesn't include it in the nutritional information. If you want to keep this sandwich as the best healthiest option, eat it sauceless or ask for the honey mustard or the BBQ sauce instead. Each will only add 45 calories, no more than 10 grams of sugar, and up to 190 mg sodium, whereas the Chick-fil-A sauce packs on a hefty 140 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 6 grams of sugar.
Category: Fried Chicken
Drowned and deep-fried in inflammatory oils, we docked sandwiches that were high in fat, calories, sodium, and carbs. Points were awarded to those sandwiches higher in protein.
From Worst to Best…
Popeyes Chicken Tender Po'Boy, Blackened
Who would have thought that just two chicken tenders, some mayo, lettuce, and tomato on a roll could rack up just 570 milligrams of sodium shy of your entire day's recommended intake of the blood-pressure-raising nutrient? This button-busting sandwich takes the lead for sandwich highest in trans fat—an artery-clogging fat that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke and is required by the FDA to be removed from your food.
Carl's Jr. Big Chicken Fillet Sandwich
Although we have to commend Carl's Jr./Hardee's for switching over to artificial preservative- and additive-free chicken breasts in June of 2016, that doesn't mean that this sandwich is significantly better for you. (Especially because the breast fillet is still injected with a "natural flavor"-based solution of sodium, extra soy protein to bump up the protein content, and sodium phosphates—an additive whose high intake has been linked to higher rates of chronic kidney disease and weak bones, a study in Diabetes Spectrum reveals.) That's not even mentioning the sky-high calorie, fat, and sodium contents this sandwich boasts.
Burger King Crispy Chicken Sandwich
The difference between the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the chicken used in the Original sandwich below is that 18 percent of the crispy chicken fillet is actually a water and seasoning solution made with MSG and inflammatory omega-6-laden soybean oil. The description of the sandwich is correct in saying this piece of watered-down chicken is "generously breaded." It's that breading that sops up 41 grams of fat and 670 calories.
Burger King Original Chicken Sandwich
Despite appearing bigger than the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, BK's Original Chicken Sandwich is actually smaller. It's nearly identical in nutrition, but we awarded it a place ahead of its sister sandwich because it contains more protein and a tiny bit less belly-bloating fat and sugar.
McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
You'll get the same amount of protein as the sandwiches above from McDonald's offering but with fewer calories. But we're still disappointed this sandwich has over 1,000 milligrams of sodium and somehow manages to pack in 11 grams of sugar.
Arby's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Even though Arby's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken sandwich has significantly less fat—11 fewer grams of fat, 5 of which are saturated—and fewer calories than our pick below, we had to deduct some points from the fast-food joint's offering due to their heavy hand in the preservative and chemical department. The chicken is injected with artificial flavors, the bun is glazed with a shine agent, artificial colors red 40, yellow 5 and 6 are used, and the sandwich is packed with unpronounceable preservatives like propylparaben and sodium benzoate. Pass.
Shake Shack Chick'n Shack
Props go to Shake Shake for using all-natural (meaning no hormones and no antibiotics are used) cage-free chicken and real buttermilk (rather than buttermilk powder and dried cane syrup used in the sandwich above). Our only issue is that this extra crispy chicken breast strip is drowned in frying fats. And with a buttermilk herb mayo, the calorie and fat counts soar.
Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich
We'd bet Jack couldn't even make it out of the box if he was only feasting on this high-fat, low-protein sandwich.
Sonic Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich
That Brioche bun sure looks good, but it only means more simple carbs for your body to break down quickly and spike a fat-storing insulin response.
Dairy Queen Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Lower in carbs, sugar, and calories than the pick above it, DQ delivers a decent crispy chicken fillet. Bet you didn't see that one coming!
Wendy's Homestyle Chicken Sandwich
This Wendy's sandwich doesn't earn the same amount of praise from us compared to their crispy chicken offering. That's because the breading is made with hydrogenated oils along with double the amount of sodium. So much for being "lightly seasoned." Still, we'd rather you eat this compared to the picks above it—albeit, just with another glass of water…or perhaps one of these detox waters?
Burger King Crispy Chicken Jr.
A double layer of mayonnaise means nearly double the fat in the King's crispy chicken sandwich compared to our top pick.
Sonic Crispy Tender Sandwich
Two little chicken strips pack a big protein punch in this reasonably-portioned chicken sandwich from Sonic.
KFC Chicken Littles
Made with freshly-breaded tenders, pickles, and a touch of mayo on a sweet bun, KFC's little chicken sandwiches are perfectly portioned and low in calories, carbs, and sodium. Unfortunately, we had to dock these Chicken Littles for appearing a little too healthy. Because they're marketed as being little, you're more likely to order them in pairs.
We love that the McChicken contains fewer calories than most sandwiches on this list. However, it snagged the number three spot because it contains more fat, calories, and a gram more of sugar than our top pick.
Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich
We love the care that Chick-fil-A takes to make each of their sandwiches from scratch. Each chicken breast is seasoned, dipped into a protein-rich milk and egg wash, hand-breaded, then added to a pressure cooker to be fried in 100% refined peanut oil: a vegetable oil that is lower in inflammatory omega-6s than traditional fryer oils. They miss the ball when it comes to the sodium content, which set this sandwich to our #2 slot.
And the #1 Crispy Chicken Sandwich Is… Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Wendy's edged out its competitors by creating a tender, breaded chicken patty that's lower in saturated fat, carbs, and sugar. Topped with crisp lettuce and a touch of mayo, Wendy's Crispy Chicken sandwich should be your go-to.
Category: Spicy Chicken
The only real difference between spicy chicken sandwiches and original chicken sandwiches is some extra seasoning. Even so, we figured we'd separate the category to keep with our efforts of comparing like-to-like. These sandwiches were judged on the same criteria as above.
From Worst to Best…
Jack in the Box Jack's Spicy Chicken
Jack in the Box's spicy chicken sandwich is the worst spicy offering because it boasts the highest amount of fat (including LDL-spiking saturated fat). Plus, it packs in 160 more calories than our #1 spicy chicken sandwich.
Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Even though spicy foods are known to speed up your metabolism, eating this sandwich doesn't qualify. The high levels of refined carbs are anything but metabolism-boosting.
Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Because Chick-fil-A uses all-natural chicken and the sandwiches are cooked in a better-for-you oil like peanut oil, we awarded them points. Unfortunately, despite being low in fat and high in protein, the sodium levels were too high to take our top spot.
The #1 Best Spicy Chicken Sandwich Is… Burger King Spicy Crispy Chicken Jr.
Even with a layer of creamy spicy sauce, Burger King's Spicy Crispy Chicken Jr. sandwich isn't a terrible choice. It's low in calories, carbs, and sodium, and the only reason it's low in protein is that BK doesn't inject their chicken with soy protein isolate. If you're looking to save even more calories, leave off the 90-calorie sauce and don't feel guilty about indulging in a small order of fries.