We tried KFC and its biggest fried chicken competitor — and the winner is clear

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Fast Food Fried Chicken Taste Test

With 2014 US sales topping $4.2 billion, KFC is second only to Chick-fil-A in the fast-food chicken segment.

But its largest competitor, Popeyes, is closing in, coming in at number three on the fast–food chicken list at $2.4 billion in US sales.

But business aside, there's one thing that truly matters: the food.

Both chains are indisputably at the top of the fried chicken sector, but who does it best?

KFC has the advantage of time: their secret blend of herbs and spices has enjoyed 75 years worth of perfecting. Yet Popeyes' Cajun approach, be it mild or spicy, has staunch support.

And of course, one can't try fried chicken without considering the sides.

Who concocts the best coleslaw? Who breads the best biscuit? Who mashes the mightiest potatoes? We're here to find out.

For this comparison, we decided to test the following: fried chicken, chicken tenders, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, and biscuits.

Hollis Johnson

First up, KFC. How do the special herbs and spices stand up?
Hollis Johnson

The breading is pretty flavorful – not all that crispy, but peppery and savory with a slight buttery taste. You really can't beat the Colonel's recipe there. However, the chicken meat is a tad greasy.
Hollis Johnson

Same deal with the drumstick, although it's slightly crispier. The meat still has a greasy taste to it. Also, it's a little dry – not outrageously, but in a stringy sense.
Hollis Johnson

But can Popeyes do any better?
Hollis Johnson

In some aspects, maybe. Popeyes' breading is loads crispier, giving a satisfying crunch in every bite. That being said, the flavor is lacking when compared to KFC's. It's buttery, but not much else. Of note, though: this is Popeye's "Mild" variety, not their "Spicy" chicken.
Hollis Johnson

The drumstick is similarly flavored: buttery, and a little salty. Big difference in the meat, however. Popeyes chicken is juicy, and there's more meat on the bones than KFC's. It's a close call, but I'd say Popeyes' chicken is marginally better.
Hollis Johnson

KFC's chicken tenders are a sight to behold, golden and crispy. They're meaty and crunchy, but still a tad on the dry side.
Hollis Johnson

Once again, Popeyes' option is juicier and even crispier. But, be forewarned: the crispiness comes at a cost. There's a lot of breading on these, so less chicken overall. But still, that much buttery crisp combined with juicy chicken is a winning combo.
Hollis Johnson

With Popeyes taking a surprising victory in the chicken area, it's time to tackle the sides. Nothing is a more classic side to fried chicken than mashed potatoes and gravy. Unfortunately, KFC's offering is bland, simply put. The gravy adds next to nothing to the dish— it's nearly the same consistency as the potato.
Hollis Johnson

Popeye's mashed potatoes, while nothing near homemade, are better. They lean to the salty side of things, but the potato is firmer and convincingly real. The gravy has a nice, savory taste to it, although it's a very odd gray color.
Hollis Johnson

Next up: coleslaw. The slaw from KFC is incredibly sweet and watery, with little kick.
Hollis Johnson

Popeyes' coleslaw is just as sweet, but it has a slight tang to it as well that one expects from a good coleslaw. I prefer a more vinegar heavy slaw, but for what they are, I have to hand Popeyes another win.
Hollis Johnson

Of course, perhaps the most important side of all: the biscuit. KFC's biscuit is spongy and springy, and has a light, simple flavor.
Hollis Johnson

Popeyes', however, is salty, hard, and has a strange fake butter taste. KFC wins the biscuit battle, for sure. But overall, Popeyes takes the crown in this comparison; the chicken is juicier and crispier, and the sides generally taste authentic and satisfying.
Hollis Johnson

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SEE ALSO: KFC is opening a $16 all-you-can-eat buffet in Japan

PLUS: KFC founder Colonel Sanders didn't achieve his remarkable rise to success until his 60s
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