Ordering chicken tenders from a fast food restaurant is typically a very safe choice that is likely to result in a scrumptious ending. From children ordering off of the kids menu to fully grown chicken aficionados looking for their next fix, tendies are adored by people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. When chicken nuggets are too boring and fried chicken is too messy and not portable enough, chicken tenders offer the perfect middle ground. These bad boys are dippable like nuggets, while being extra flavorful like fried chicken.
Although chicken strips like you’d find at Dairy Queen, chicken fingers like the kind Raising Cane’s is famous for, and chicken tenders may all look the same, there’s actually a technical difference. Chicken tenders are made from a specific part of the bird, the pectoralis minor. If it’s made with any other cut of meat, it’s technically not a chicken tender.
Fast food chicken tenders aren’t hard to find. That said, they don’t all taste the same — not even close. In this ranking, we have listed chicken tenders, with the best tendies at the end of the list.
15. Chicken tenders from Champs Chicken
Situated in corner stores, gas stations, and other opportune locations, Champs Chicken is a convenient place to purchase fast food chicken. However, that convenience will cost you. While the prices of their chicken are reasonable, the quality is abhorrent.
Considering that Champs Chicken is the worst fast food chicken chain in America, it’s not a surprise that their chicken tenders are the worst of the worst. Right off the bat, the soggy texture of these tenders will gross you out. If you’re brave enough to sink your teeth in, you’ll find that the inside just tastes like old chicken that has lived most of its life underneath a heat lamp.
If you make the mistake of picking their chicken tenders due to your local Champs Chicken being conveniently located, just know that you’ll soon realize these deep-fried, fowl-powered abominations are more likely to end up in the trash can than in your tummy.
14. Crispy Tenders from Sonic Drive-In
Though Sonic Drive-In has a lot of tasty choices on their menu, the Crispy Tenders don’t qualify as anything other than a disappointment. What you think will be a yummy meal will quickly degrade into a full-blown nightmare.
The first issue with Sonic’s Crispy Tenders is inconsistency. From bite to bite, the texture of the tender will vary from too soft to so hard that it’ll be like you’re eating dirt with pebbles mixed in. Secondly, the breading is simply disgusting. It has a chalkiness that will annoyingly invade every nook and cranny of your mouth. If you’re ever forced to eat these fowl things, be sure you load up on dipping sauces to help you survive the ordeal.
When you’re at Sonic Drive-In, get their inexpensive corn dogs instead of these yucky tenders. The corn dogs are cheaper and taste a whole lot better. Then wash it down with Sonic’s legendary Cherry Limeade.
13. Chicken tenders from Long John Silver’s
Even if you order their fish, you are very likely to end up regretting a visit to Long John Silver’s. If you order the chicken tenders at this national seafood chain, don’t expect to be pleased with your decision. These tenders are made with the same signature batter that their fish is made with. Sadly, the oiliness that is so off-putting with many items on their menu is also a problem with this chicken.
While Long John Silver’s deserves a bit of credit for offering chicken tenders that taste completely different than anything sold by their competition in the fast food world, the uniqueness of the chicken won’t be much of a consolation prize. By the end of your first tender, you’ll realize that you might as well have gone with the seafood. While their fish is far from amazing, their Wild Alaskan Pollock is more flavorful than these peculiar chicken tenders.
12. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders from Carl’s Jr.
While the Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders available at Carl’s Jr. aren’t quite good enough to be worthy of a full-throated recommendation, there are certainly a few people who will be happy with these things. The questionable issue with these tendies is the fierce aftertaste. Everything else is fine, but the aftertaste has a very strong buttermilk flavor that is oddly sour. Although buttermilk being sour is natural, the sourness level is so high that the aftertaste may make you pucker.
If you were a fan of Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders from McDonald’s and you’re desperate for something similar, these tenders from Carl’s Jr. could fit the bill. The McDonald’s version was better but since they have vanished from their menu, you can’t get your fingers on them unless you’re capable of turning back the hands of time.
If you don’t have Carl’s Jr. near you, look for Hardee’s. Their Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders are the exact same thing.
11. Chicken Tenders from Arby’s
The most accurate word you could possibly use to describe Arby’s Chicken Tenders is meh. The texture of these tenders is fine — not great, not terrible. Flavor-wise, there’s just not much there. Take a big bite and your taste buds will tell you that there’s something amiss. While these chicken tenders don’t taste bad, they don’t taste like anything — and that’s obviously suboptimal.
Sometimes you can salvage flavorless tenders and nuggets with dipping sauces. While Arby’s has some great sauces, like the red and flavorful Arby’s Sauce and the blend of mayonnaise and horseradish that is the Horsey Sauce, none of their best sauces are appropriate for chicken tenders. Their tender-friendly sauces include Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, Tangy Barbeque Sauce, Ranch Dipping Sauce, and Buffalo Dipping Sauce. The flavor of these dipping sauces range from subpar to mediocre, so there’s simply no easy way to add the needed pizzazz to these chicken tenders.
10. Express Tenders from Chicken Express
Chicken Express is a chicken-centric fast food joint that has been in business since 1988. This place originally launched in Texas and most of their 250-plus locations are in the Lone Star State, primarily in the eastern half of the state. At first, they only offered delivery. These days, you can get your food delivered, dine inside the restaurant, or simply use the drive-thru window.
The chicken tenders at Chicken Express are called, appropriately enough, Express Tenders. As their name suggests, these tenders are made quickly. When you receive them, they will still be piping hot. While the quality won’t blow you away, the consistency from tender to tender is satisfying. If you loved your last piece of chicken, you’ll love your next piece. These things are crispy and the chicken is moist.
While the quality isn’t through the roof, you can make up for that with quantity. If you’re feeding a hungry group of people, their 30 Express Tenders family meal is just what the poultry-loving doctor ordered. Beyond the plethora of tenders, you get two large sides and 16 glorious ounces of their yummy gravy.
9. Chicken Supremes from Bojangles’
Ordering chicken tenders at Bojangles’ isn’t as simple as it sounds. If you go into this endeavor unprepared, you could very well end up disappointed.
When you look for tenders on their menu, you don’t want to make the mistake of ordering their Homestyle Tenders. These things are painfully plain. In fact, they might even be more boring than Arby’s yawn-worthy offering. The tenders you want are called Chicken Supremes. That’s an odd name for chicken tenders but that’s what you’re up against when you go to Bojangles’.
While the Homestyle Tenders are bland, the Chicken Supremes have enough spice to catch your attention and their never-frozen chicken is extremely juicy. Don’t worry, even if you have a cowardly palate and you don’t like spicy foods at all, you should be okay with these tendies. On a scale of one to ten, with one being mild and ten being super spicy, these bad boys are about a three. If you’re scared of the spiciness, just order Mountain Dew Southern Shock, a soda that is exclusively sold at Bojangles’ that will help cool your mouth if things get too heated.
8. Texas Tenders from Church’s Chicken
Church’s Chicken is home to three above average options for chicken tenders. The first option is their spicy Texas Tenders. To compare, these tenders are spicier and more flavorful than the Chicken Supremes by Bojangles’. Church’s Chicken also sells original Texas Tenders, which are also a good choice. While they have a mild amount of spice, your taste buds won’t be bored by the flavor. Both the breading and the chicken are packed with tastiness.
The third kind of chicken tenders at Church’s Chicken can be difficult to find. They’re called Honey-Butter Biscuit Tenders and, not surprisingly, they’re really good. Church’s has amazing biscuits that are supercharged with honey butter. These tenders are made with the batter of those biscuits and the result is as good as it sounds.
When it comes time to choose which tenders to stuff inside of your face, you really can’t go wrong. If your sweet tooth is acting up, pick the Honey-Butter Biscuit Tenders if they’re available. If they’re not available, go with the original or spicy Texas Tenders depending on your level of bravery — and then just get a few biscuits on the side.
7. Original Chicken Tenders from Culver’s
When selecting a fast food destination, Culver’s is always a wise pick. It’s the best chain burger restaurant you can find anywhere in the United States. Everything from the Original ButterBurger to their top of the line onion rings is outstanding. As expected, their Original Chicken Tenders are quite tasty — but they won’t knock your socks off.
The best part of these tendies is the chicken. It’s amazingly juicy and overflowing with flavor. Culver’s also has a delectable array of dipping sauces including honey mustard, ranch, and barbecue. The attribute that will underwhelm you is the breading. Compared to other chicken tenders, their breading is minimalistic and doesn’t add much to the overall flavor.
If the flavor of the chicken is the number one thing you look for in tenders, go ahead and purchase these bad boys. Otherwise, if you want the total package, you’re better off ordering a burger with a side of onion rings from Culver’s and looking for tendies elsewhere.
6. Golden Tenders from Golden Chick
Golden Chick might not be a well-known fast food chain, but they have a long and storied history with chicken tenders. After opening their first location in Texas in 1967, they introduced Golden Tenders less than two decades later in 1985. Fast-forward more than 35 years and these tenders taste exactly the same as they did when they were first added to their menu. There’s been no slippage in quality at all over that time.
If you adore chicken tenders that are uber crispy and blessed with a ton of breading, you will worship what you can find at Golden Chick. The only slight issue is that their chicken is just average when it comes to being juicy and moist.
Though Golden Chick has a lot of experience with chicken tenders, they aren’t the inventors. Puritan Backroom, a restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, claims to have invented the chicken tender in 1974.
5. Extra Crispy Tenders from KFC
Like Church’s Chicken, you can find three types of chicken tenders at KFC if you look hard enough. But unlike Church’s, there’s only one type of tender that KFC sells that you should buy.
Nashville Hot Tenders are one of the two types of tendies you should avoid. These things have a reddish glow that makes you think you’re in for a fun and spicy time — but that’s just not the case. Instead, Nashville Hot tenders taste mostly like paprika with a dash of cayenne pepper. You’ll be disgusted beginning from your first bite.
The other type of chicken tenders from KFC to avoid is their Original Recipe Tenders. In theory, these things sound like they’d be scrumptious. In reality, they’re a mushy mess that fall apart in your hands.
The type of tender to order at KFC is their Extra Crispy Tenders. While the chicken in the middle is only average, the breading is spectacular. If you order these bad boys to just pick off and eat the breading, no one should think you’re crazy.
4. Cajun Tenders from Krispy Krunchy Chicken
The chicken tenders at Krispy Krunchy Chicken should make both Champs Chicken and Bojangles’ jealous. Like Champs Chicken, Krispy Krunchy Chicken is typically located inside of corner stores. But while Champs Chicken tenders are garbage, Krispy Krunchy Chicken tenders are delicious.
Bojangles’ is known for their Cajun seasoning but it’s Krispy Krunchy Chicken that has mastered using Cajun seasoning when making chicken tenders. Their tenders, appropriately named Cajun Tenders, have a Cajun goodness that you will appreciate to the depths of your soul. Each bite unleashes another round of Cajun-flavored fireworks. If you’re sensitive to spicy food, you might want to eat these bad boys with a tall glass of milk.
You won’t be stunned to learn that Krispy Krunchy Chicken was founded in Louisiana, as only a real Louisianan would be able master Cajun food to these levels. Today, this fast food chain has more than 2,500 locations across 47 states.
3. Crispy Tenders from Wingstop
While Wingstop has a limited menu, the one thing you can find on their menu besides wings, sides, drinks, dips, and desserts is chicken tenders. As you would expect from this restaurant, their tendies are amazeballs. The exterior is crunchy and the interior explodes with juices.
Interestingly, the process of ordering wings and the Crispy Tenders at Wingstop is the same. After picking tenders, you then have to pick your flavor. The options range from the super duper spicy Atomic to the sweet and delightful Hawaiian. Other favorite flavors include Garlic Parmesan, Lemon Pepper, and Louisiana Rub. While you can order the tenders plain, don’t do that unless you want everyone to know that you’re a square.
As good as these tenders taste, the reality of the matter is that their wings are even better. That said, if you’re on the go and you need a boneless feast from Wingstop, their chicken tenders are clearly up for the job.
2. Chick-n-Strips from Chick-fil-A
If chicken tenders aren’t crispy and crunchy, they’re usually repulsive. The one major exception to that rule is Chick-n-Strips. These masterful tenders by Chick-fil-A are relatively soft but mind-blowingly delicious. Like other chicken items on their menu, Chick-n-Strips are pressure cooked inside of a vat of peanut oil. When that magical process is done, the resulting chicken tenders are so good that there’s no way you could eat just one. Doing so would be torture.
The major strength of Chick-n-Strips is freshness. Put one of these tenders in your mouth and you’d swear that the chicken must have been clucking just a few minutes prior. The only thing to keep in mind is that you should eat these bad boys while they’re still hot. If you let them cool off, much of the magic will have been lost forever.
Another plus in favor of Chick-n-Strips is that Chick-fil-A has an unparalleled assortment of dipping sauces. From their Polynesian Sauce to their signature Chick-fil-A Sauce and everything in between, you literally can’t make a bad choice.
1. Handcrafted Tenders from Popeyes
Popeyes is the top fast food chicken chain in the country, so it only makes sense that they would have the best fast food chicken tenders. And, honestly, when it comes to having the top tendies in all the land, it’s not even a competitive race. Popeyes has three varieties of their Handcrafted Tenders and all three are marvelous examples of culinary artistry.
First, their mild tenders are anything but dull. The breading alone is so good that you’ll be happy with your purchase before your teeth even reach the chicken. Then, when you do reach the meat, you’re met with juiciness so unrelenting that you may want to wear a bib.
To heighten the intensity, choose the spicy Handcrafted Tenders. These things are oh-so spicy yet oh-so scrumptious. Most fast food chains are scared to turn up the heat, but Popeyes does just that. Beyond the spiciness of these tenders, the depth of the flavors is what you’ll ultimately be attracted to.
Finally, the third type that Popeyes offers is blackened tenders. These tendies are unbelievably flavorful and have an aroma that will steal your heart. Dip them in Popeyes Blackened Ranch and you will be in chicken tender heaven with a grin that extends from ear to ear.