Behind the Hype: One Dollar Chicken Sandwich Challenge

Published on November 23rd, 2008

There comes a time in your life when you just gotta do what you love, and what I love are chicken sandwiches. Hence, the one dollar chick sandwich challenge extravaganza! I ran a pretty standard operation with this challenge, pitting the top fast food restaurants against each other to find out who knows their shit when it comes to cheap chicken sandwiches. In case you are wondering how I am still alive: that’s pretty easy, because for the taste test, I only took one bite of each sandwich. The rest of the testing is merely observational, but I could see how that might make you queasy as well.

I drove around town to the big fast food restaurant chains, as well as the big chicken-specific restaurants to try to get as many test subjects as possible. Take note that the following restaurant chains do not offer a one dollar chicken sandwich solution:

  • Tommy’s™ – no surprise here
  • In-N-Out – no surprises here
  • El Pollo Loco – they sell one dollar taquitos, but no sandwiches
  • Fatburger – they sell a grilled chicken sandwich, but well over budget
  • Arby’s® – very surprising here; I was emotionally hurt when I found out

The fast food chains that do offer a one dollar chicken sandwich solution that I used are pictured below. On the top row, we have (from left-to-right) Jack in the Box®, McDonald’s®, Popeyes®, and Church’s Chicken®. On the bottom row (also from left-to-right) is Burger King®, Carl’s Jr.®, Wendy’s®, and KFC. A couple things I was not aware of until I actually went to their respective websites is that Popeyes® officially has no apostrophe, and KFC is no longer called Kentucky Fried Chicken and is just KFC (similar to FedEx not being called Federal Express any more, I suppose…gotta get HIP!).

If you want to skip to a sandwich, just click on it on the image below. If you want to hear a little more background to the one dollar chicken sandwich phenomenon, or read what I did during testing, then keep scrolling!

Jack in the Box - Chicken Sandwich McDonald's - McChicken Popeyes - Chicken Biscuit Church's Chicken - Original Chicken Sandwich Burger King - Spicy CHICK'N CRISP Sandwich Carl's Jr - Spicy Chicken Sandwich Wendy's - Crispy Chicken Sandwich KFC - KFC Snacker

For those of you unfamiliar with the fast food restaurants I used in the challenge, you might be an out-of-state-r or think your shit don’t stink. In either case, this article is very much not for you. This is intended for the person that wants the best bang for their buck (literally), and either prefers chicken to beef or likes the occasional alternative to cheap hamburgers. One dollar chicken sandwiches come in handy in various facets of your life, including (but not limited to):

  • Traveling to Bum Fuck, Egypt and not being able to trust any other restaurant in sight
  • Time is of the essence, but you gotta scratch that itch in your belly
  • It’s a lazy Sunday, and you are tired of pizza or Chinese
  • Long day at the office leaving you neither the will nor the energy to cook real food
  • You just got a hankering, irregardless of circumstance

For the one dollar chicken sandwich challenge, I took several pictures of each sandwich. The first image you will see is how it comes in the original wrapper, then how it looks out of the wrapper, how it looks with the top piece of bread removed, and then a horizontal view of the chicken by itself against the width of a DVD case. I took note of the ingredients of each sandwich, and took one bite of each. Other than for Church’s Chicken®, I was able to pull the nutrition facts for each sandwich off of their respective websites. Popeyes® was the only establishment that did not offer a true one dollar solution that I tested, so I had to settled for their $1.49 option. My scoring below is based around taste, texture, any undesirable after taste(s), and the calorie-per-cent index (CPCI). Now without further ado, I present to you the Behind the Hype one dollar chicken sandwich challenge!

Jack in the Box® – Chicken Sandwich

Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich in Wrapper Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich Out of Wrapper Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich Top Bun Removed Jack in the Box Chicken Sandwich DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 145 grams 2nd Place!
  • Total calories: 400 3rd Place!
  • Total sodium: 730 milligrams
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 4.0 3rd Place!
  • DVD box comparison: slightly thinner
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, bread (no sesame), and chicken patty

This sandwich had a very bland taste; the chicken patty looks very similar to what you would get in a frozen stack of 20 from Costco, and the buns had to be taken from a high school cafeteria. There was a slight, unpleasant after taste. In general, it tasted like eating unpleasant, bland air. I’d stick to their burger offerings, or try one of their legitimate chicken offerings. You’d think with all those calories they could cram in some flavor, but I guess not.

Overall score: 5.0

McDonald’s® – McChicken®

McDonald's McChicken in Wrapper McDonald's McChicken Out of Wrapper McDonald's McChicken Top Bun Removed McDonald's McChicken DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 143 grams
  • Total calories: 360
  • Total sodium: 830 milligrams 3rd Place!
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 3.6
  • DVD box comparison: slightly thinner
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, bread (no sesame), and chicken patty

To be honest, I can’t say I thought McDonald’s® would stack up at all against this stiff competition, but they made a very strong showing in the taste test. This sandwich had a good taste, with no after effects. Eating this sandwich felt like I was eating real chicken; it had a nice texture to it, and plenty of flavor. With a slightly bigger patty, they could have easily stole first place in the overall competition.

Overall score: 6.2 3rd Place!

Popeyes® – Chicken Biscuit

Popeyes Chicken Biscuit in Wrapper Popeyes Chicken Biscuit Out of Wrapper Popeyes Chicken Biscuit Top Half Biscuit Removed Popeyes Chicken Biscuit DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 102 grams
  • Total calories: 350
  • Total sodium: 930 milligrams 2nd Place!
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 2.35
  • DVD box comparison: thicker 2nd Place!
  • Ingredients: biscuit, and crispy (slightly) chicken strip

Easily one of the tastiest, but hands down the greasiest sandwich in the field. A distinct tangy taste to the chicken, and the unique choice of biscuit versus bread would have put this sandwich over-the-top, if not for the mounds of grease and oil. You could distinctly see the grease through the wrapper; I just can’t stand the taste or feeling that grease gives me, even though it is supposed to tell my brain how good it is. This was the smallest sandwich I challenged.

Overall score: 6.0

Church’s Chicken® – Original Chicken Sandwich

Church's Chicken Original Chicken Sandwich in Wrapper Church's Chicken Original Chicken Sandwich Out of Wrapper Church's Chicken Original Chicken Sandwich Top Bun Removed Church's Chicken Original Chicken Sandwich DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: N/A
  • Total calories: N/A
  • Total sodium: N/A
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): N/A
  • DVD box comparison: about the same thickness
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, sesame bread, and chicken patty

Just looking at this sandwich makes you wonder how they could turn a profit on it at just one dollar. The patty was actually larger than the bun, and they use legitimate buns too. There was just enough mayo to help, but not overpower the chicken. Here they focus on the flavor of the chicken, and it shows. For being my first experience with Church’s Chicken, I would happily go back.

Note* – I chose the original flavor, but they also offer Spicy, Buffalo (using Frank’s Redhot sauce), and Honey BBQ.

Overall score: 7.5 1st Place!

Burger King® – Spicy CHICK’N CRISP™ Sandwich

Burger King Spicy CHICK'N CRISP Sandwich in Wrapper Burger King Spicy CHICK'N CRISP Sandwich Out of Wrapper Burger King Spicy CHICK'N CRISP Sandwich Top Bun Removed Burger King Spicy CHICK'N CRISP Sandwich DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 135 grams
  • Total calories: 450 2nd Place!
  • Total sodium: 810 milligrams
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 4.5 2nd Place!
  • DVD box comparison: slightly thinner
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, sesame bread, and chicken patty

I guess having it your way does not go for taste as well. This sandwich sucked. It was extremely bland – I’m talking 0% flavor – and most certainly was not spicy as the name suggests. Nothing more to say – stick to the Whopper.

Overall score: 4.5

Carl’s Jr.® – Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich in Wrapper Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich Out of Wrapper Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich Top Bun Removed Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 213 grams 1st Place!
  • Total calories: 560 1st Place!
  • Total sodium: 1,480 milligrams 1st Place!
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 5.6 1st Place!
  • DVD box comparison: slightly thicker 3rd Place!
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, sesame bread, and chicken patty

Carl’s does not skimp on their one dollar spicy chicken sandwich. I received my sandwich in their smallest bag, as would be expected since it is just one item, and the thing could not fit comfortable while horizontal; it had to stand vertically otherwise the bag would bulge. This was the biggest sandwich of them all, and is a great value (if you don’t mind the ridiculous amount of calories and sodium). This sandwich is tasty, with the best lettuce / chicken combination (ergo, not too much lettuce, and not too little – just right). It does have a slightly spicy taste – I could say it is the spiciest of the field (which it is), but that might put the wrong idea in your head; in the grand scheme of things, this does not come close to legitimately being “spicy” but it is the spiciest of this field. It loses to Church’s due to taste, but it makes a very strong showing.

Overall score: 7.0 2nd Place!

Wendy’s® – Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich in Wrapper Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Out of Wrapper Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich Top Bun Removed Wendy's Crispy Chicken Sandwich DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 142 grams
  • Total calories: 330
  • Total sodium: 670 milligrams
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 3.3
  • DVD box comparison: slightly thinner
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, mayonnaise, bread (no sesame), and chicken patty

Wendy’s® loses out only due to size. It is a pretty small sandwich compared to the offerings from Church’s, Carl’s, and even McDonald’s. That being said, this would probably be the closest thing to just ripping off some chicken breast from a whole chicken out of the grocery store, and putting it between two pieces of bread. You do not get that commercial taste; it is a very tasty sandwich, and is the one where you could taste the chicken the most.

Overall score: 6.5

KFC – KFC Snacker™

KFC KFC Snacker in Wrapper KFC KFC Snacker Out of Wrapper KFC KFC Snacker Top Bun Removed KFC KFC Snacker DVD Case Comparison
  • Total serving size: 113 grams
  • Total calories: 270
  • Total sodium: 610 milligrams
  • Calorie-Per-Cent Index (CPCI): 2.7
  • DVD box comparison: considerably thicker 1st Place!
  • Ingredients: Lettuce, Cesar dressing, sesame bread, and crispy (very slightly) chicken strip

Yuck. The Cesar dressing was not a welcome surprise. This sandwich had a bad after taste, and just a nasty taste all around. On top of how bad it tastes, it was also the second smallest behind Popeyes®. The only good thing about this sandwich was that I only had to take one bite. Yuck.

Overall score: 4.0

It was not easy crowning Church’s Chicken with the highly-coveted crown of best one dollar chicken sandwich because of stiff competition from Carl’s Jr., but it was well-deserved. I look forward to trying out Church’s Honey BBQ version of this sandwich.

If there is anything you learned today, it should be that not all fast food restaurants are created equal, and that for leading such a busy life, I sure do have a lot of time on my hands. Look for more restaurant challenges on Behind the Hype, as I plan on putting together more in the future. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me with ideas for future challenges. Thanks!

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