Lyndsay Cordell

I Ranked The Best Fast Food Chicken Tenders in The South

In 2020 it was all about the fried chicken sandwich. Multiple fast food chains brought their fried artillery and battled it out to be the best of the best. The years have come and gone, and the hype of crispy fried chicken sandwiches has fizzled. However fried chicken, specifically chicken tenders, will never go out of style, especially in the South, where you can find the best fast food tenders only a few miles from your house.

When it comes to fried chicken from fast food restaurants, crispy chicken tenders are always my go-to order. Not only are they easier to eat than a bucket of fried chicken, but most chains also serve their chicken with a signature sauce. I also prefer chicken fingers to chicken nuggets because they are (hopefully less) processed.

fast food chicken tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

To find the best chicken tenders I knew I had to have some sort of system, otherwise, I would still be tasting chicken strips to this day. So here were the requirements:

  1.  The chicken tender must come from a fried chicken fast food restaurant. This knocked out fast food giants such as Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Arby's, and Sonic out of the competition. Sure they sell chicken tenders but they are mostly known for their burgers and french fries.
  2. All chicken tenders must be tasted plain. This isn't a competition of dipping sauces, just the chicken.

I settled on trying chicken tenders from five spots located within a 5-mile radius: Chick-fil-A, Bojangles, KFC, Zaxby's, and Popeye's. Most of these chicken chains are only available in the South (except KFC). Contenders I would have liked to try include Church's Chicken and Raising Cane's, however the closest place to get Cane's chicken is about two hours from me in Knoxville, Tenessee, and Church's chicken is over the state line in Greenville, South Carolina.

My Ranking of the Best Fast Food Chicken Tenders


KFC chicken tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

Coming in at number five is the Colonel himself. Served with a biscuit (very nice touch) these extra crispy tenders were my least favorite of the bunch. Breaded in the same secret seasoning blend as their fried chicken, these tenders were dry and underwhelming.

These tenders are usually served with KFC sauce which is a smoky and tangy honey mustard.


Popeyes Chicken Tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

When Popeyes came to town a few months ago I was ecstatic. Their fried chicken sandwich was delicious, so I expected all their other chicken items to be just as great.

While many customers love the outrageous amount of breading, I couldn't fall in love with it. Sure it was super crunchy, but the almost-sweet breading was overwhelming with the amount of chicken meat I actually got. This marinated chicken tender combo is also served with a biscuit and side, which is a welcome change to the normal side of french fries.

Popeyes are located nationwide.


Zaxby's chicken tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

Zaxby's is my husband's favorite place to stop for chicken tenders. In fact, we always stop at Zaxby's whenever we are heading out on a road trip. However, to the disappointment of my husband, Zaxby's chicken tenders only came in third.

While their chicken is packed with flavor and coated with an herby-spice, the chicken is just a vehicle for the chain's famous Zaxby sauce. Without the sauce, the chicken was as plain as their Texas toast.

Zaxby's is located in 16 states throughout the south as well as Texas and Utah.


Bojangles chicken tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

Known for their chicken biscuits, I've never thought to try Bojangles after 10 AM. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious and crispy their chicken tenders were. With a hint of mild cajun flavor, these chicken tenders were fantastic on their own or paired with the homestyle biscuit that came with the combo.

When it comes to sauces, Bojangles knows how to give them out. The sauce containers are the biggest of any fast food chain I've seen. If you like horseradish, go for the Bo Sauce.

Bojangles is located throughout the East Coast, with locations as far north as Pennsylvania.


Chick-fil-a chicken tenders

Lyndsay Cordell

Chick-Fil-A knows it's chicken, whether it is nuggets, sandwiches, or in this case, tenders. Tender (ha) with a hind of pickle flavor, the winner of the best fast food chicken tenders has to go to Chick-fil-A. Served with waffle fries and an array of sauces, Chick-fil-A's tenders are incredible on their own. And that's what put them on top.

READ MORE: Crispy and Delicious, the Best Frozen Chicken Tenders Will Make You Miss Being a Kid