Did you hear about the “Chicken Sandwich Wars”? They started on August 12, 2019, when Popeye’s launched its now famous Fried Chicken Sandwich—a crispy fried chicken breast topped with pickles and mayonnaise or a spicy Cajun sauce and served on a brioche bun. This irritated Chick-Fil-A, who took to Twitter to claim its sandwich was the original. Popeye’s responded to Chick-Fil-A’s tweet, and a social media war began over just who had the best chicken sandwich. Within a week, Popeye’s had long lines of customers waiting for a taste of their Fried Chicken Sandwich, and their business exploded. It is not surprising that other fast-food chains wanted a piece of the action. If they didn’t have a fried chicken sandwich on the menu, their chefs went to work. If they already had one, the chains entering the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” upgraded their recipes, trying to outdo each other.
In May of 2020, Golden Chick introduced their Big and Golden Chicken Sandwich, which was made from a 5-ounce brined chicken breast that was hand breaded with seasoned flour and topped with pickles and their signature zing sauce. To set themselves apart, Golden Chick served their chicken breast on a house-made yeast bun.
Also in May of 2020, KFC upgraded their chicken sandwich to, get this, a double-breaded, extra-crispy fillet also topped with pickle slices and mayonnaise. They also served their chicken sandwich on a brioche bun and offered a spicy version. Fatburger introduced its Hawaiian Crispy Chicken Sandwich in July 2020, distinguishing its sandwich by serving it on a King’s Hawaiian bun and layering its hand-breaded crispy chicken with fried avocado slices, Buffalo sauce, and pickles. I might vote for this one.
Chick-fil-A began experimenting with a Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich in September 2020. This sandwich is drizzled with honey and topped with pimento cheese and pickled jalapeños and served on a toasted bun. It is still not on the menu but sounds pretty delicious. Who doesn’t love pimento cheese?
In October, Church’s introduced their Chicken Sandwich which was hand-breaded with Church’s proprietary seasoning, cooked until crispy, and served on a toasted Brioche bun that had been brushed with honey butter and topped with crunchy pickles and mayonnaise. Also that same month, Wendy’s upgraded their Classic Chicken Sandwich to a crispy chicken fillet topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles on a bun.
Zaxby’s, Burger Fi, and Fuku entered the race in October 2020, and Jack in the Box threw their hat in the ring in December of that same year. Fuku’s version was marinated in a habanero brine and served with a kimchi-infused mayonnaise. Jack in the Box touted its “mystery sauce”, while Zaxby’s advertised its “zax” or “spicy zax sauce”.
Shake Shack, Boston Market, Carl’s Jr., and Sonic entered in January 2021; and Pollo Campero, Burger King, and McDonald’s entered the following month, February 2021. Shake Shack’s version had a Korean flair, glazing their chicken with a gochujang sauce and topping it with kimchi slaw. Burger King’s version stood apart, the only one topping their sandwich with bacon. McDonald’s offered a crispy, crispy deluxe, and spicy version.
Can you believe there are that many fast-food chains making fried chicken sandwiches? It boggles the mind. You don’t have to go to a fast-food joint to enjoy a delicious fried chicken sandwich. Try my recipe. Like Golden Chick, I brine 4- to 5-ounce chicken breasts and dredge them in seasoned flour. Like Popeye’s, I serve my chicken sandwiches on a tasty brioche bun. Like Shake Shack, my recipe includes a slaw, flavored with chopped dill pickles; and like, Chick-Fil-A, I experimented with jalapeños by including them to my slaw. Every sandwich shop tops their version with dill pickles. This is optional in my recipe but why not?
Fried Chicken Sandwiches with a Dill Pickle-Jalapeño Slaw Serves 4
For the chicken breasts:
½ cup buttermilk ¼ cup dill pickle juice 2 teaspoons your favorite hot sauce 1 teaspoon garlic, minced 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon large grind black pepper 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 to 5 ounces each)
In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, pickle juice, hot sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add chicken breasts to the marinade. Pierce chicken breasts with a fork to allow marinade to absorb into the meat. Marinate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
For the slaw:
4 cups finely shredded cabbage ½ cup red onion, sliced thin into 1-inch long pieces ½ cup dill pickles, chopped 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced ¼ cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons dill pickle juice ½ teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon garlic, minced ¼ teaspoon celery seed
In a large bowl, place cabbage, red onion, dill pickle, and jalapeño and toss to combine. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, dill pickle and lemon juices, garlic, and celery seed. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the cabbage mixture and toss until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. For the breading: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground paprika ½ teaspoon dry mustard ½ teaspoon onion powder ½ teaspoon garlic powder ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon large grind black pepper In a shallow dish, combine flour, paprika, mustard, onion and garlic powders, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Remove chicken from the buttermilk mixture and dredge in the flour mixture. Vegetable oil for frying In an electric frying pan, place 1-inch vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees F. When oil sizzles, fry chicken breasts until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken breasts to paper towels to dry.
To serve: 4 brioche buns, split Butter for toasting buns Cooked chicken breasts Slaw Dill pickle slices (optional) Spread buns with butter. Heat a skillet over a medium heat. Place buns, cut side down, on hot skillet and toast until lightly browned and crisp, about 1 minute. Place chicken breast on bottom of bun. Top with slaw and sliced dill pickles.
Tips on buying chicken: Some chickens are enhanced, injected, or plumped with a solution of salt water or chicken broth. Processors are required by law to indicate the presence of an enhancer as well as its percentage. Some chickens are injected with up to 15 to 30 percent of their body weight. All the ingredients in the enhancer must also be listed on the label. Chickens can be classified as “natural” as long as the ingredients in the solution are considered “natural.”
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates