The Sandwich. That's what Popeye's calls the chicken sandwich they added to the menu in 2019. It's a bold statement that says this dish is so good, we don't need to give it a fancy name, and you don't need any other sandwiches because this one is THE one! Most people who have tried Popeye's chicken sandwich will probably agree that it's one of the best fried chicken sandwiches out there. It's way crispier than other fast food chains that offer fried chicken sandwiches, like Wendy's or McDonald's. It has more flavor than Chick-fil-A, and it narrowly beats out KFC's famous fried chicken when it comes to overall texture and taste.
The buttermilk-brined chicken is juicy on its own, and the generous layer of mayonnaise on the top and bottom bun ensures that no bite will be dry. Add in a flour dredge that uses baking powder to create extra crisp, and you have a winner. Thanks to our copycat recipe, you won't ever have to wait through the drive-though again to get this fantastic sandwich!
What Makes Popeye's Chicken Sandwich So Special?
Popeyes chicken sandwich is better than the competition because it's packed full of flavor and features a super crunchy coating while staying nice and juicy inside. How do they pull it off? It's all in the ingredients.
For starters, we will say it was hard to get an ingredients list from Popeye's. They only list the calories and allergens on their website (egg, milk, wheat, soy, and MSG). Digging a little deeper, we found some old ingredients lists floating around, but they're from before the chicken sandwich. Luckily, someone from the Food Babe blog persistently contacted Popeyes until they sent the ingredients of the chicken sandwich!
We learned that the sandwich is served on a brioche bun toasted in margarine (although we used butter to toast ours because that's what we had on hand) with mayonnaise and pickles. The chicken is boneless skinless chicken breast filets marinated in a batter that includes a ton of ingredients, including buttermilk, egg, salt, and MSG. Finally, it's breaded in a flour mixed with a leavener (baking powder) and "seasonings including dried garlic and dried onion." We did a taste test to identify what the remaining seasonings were, and came up with white pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
Popeye's fries their chicken in beef tallow, but that's difficult to find for most home cooks. So we chose to use a neutral frying oil instead, like canola or peanut oil.
How to Make Popeye's Chicken Sandwich Spicy
You have two options when ordering Popeye's chicken sandwich: classic or spicy. The difference between the two is in the spread. The classic sandwich uses regular mayonnaise, and that's the way we like to make it at home. The chicken already has plenty of spices, so we don't always feel the need to make it spicier!
If you want to spice up your life, simply add a few ingredients to the mayonnaise before slathering it on the toasted bun. In an interview with Thrillist, Popeyes Vice President of Culinary Innovation and Head Chef, Amy Alarcon, revealed that the spicy mayonnaise contains the same spices used for the chicken. After a few taste tests, we put together a copycat recipe that gets you pretty close to the original.
Simply mix together 1/4 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, and a pinch of salt. You can add additional cayenne if you like things really spicy. If you think it's missing something, add a splash of vinegar or hot sauce, and that tang will bring it all together.
Popeye?s Chicken Sandwich
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg beaten
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon MSG
- neutral oil, for frying like canola or peanut oil
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 4 brioche buns
- 4 tablespoons salted butter softened
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (see above for instructions to make spicy mayonnaise)
- 12 to 16 dill pickle slices
- Prepare the chicken breasts by cutting them in half horizontally to create two chicken cutlets per breast.
- In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, salt, and MSG and whisk until it?s well mixed. Add the chicken to the brine and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for up to four hours.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat about 3 inches of oil to 350°F. If you're using an electric tabletop fryer, fill the unit to its MAX line.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, white pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and shake off any excess liquid. Transfer the chicken to the flour bowl and press each piece firmly into the flour mixture, ensuring flour adheres to all sides. Dunk the chicken back into the brine before returning it to the flour mixture, again pressing firmly into the flour.
- Carefully place the chicken into the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is browned on all sides. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 165°F. Remove the chicken to a paper-towel lined plate to catch any extra grease.
- While the chicken is cooking, lightly toast the buns in butter until they?re golden brown.
- Coat the bottom and top buns with 1/2 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Add two to four pickles to the bottom bun and top it with the fried chicken. Serve immediately.
READ MORE: Where You Can Find the Last Popeyes Buffet