We tried spicy-chicken sandwiches from every major fast-food chain - and the winner is obvious

Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Deluxe SandwichHollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • The chicken sandwich has made a resurgence in the fast-food industry in the last few years - and now it's time for spicy chicken sandwiches.
  • We tried versions from several major chains: Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy's.
  • While the entire group had decent chicken, the quality of the sandwiches varied greatly.

The fast-food chicken sandwich is enjoying a golden age - and now the heat is rising.

Burger King recently launched a spicy version of its revamped chicken sandwich, hoping to compete with the titans of spicy chicken sandwiches: Chick-fil-A and Wendy's.

Spicy-chicken sandwiches are unique beasts. They need enough heat to make things interesting, without burning out the taste buds of customers at large. Plus, the chicken still has to be held to the same standard as its non-spicy brethren - it doesn't matter how spicy the chicken is if it's bone dry and stringy.

With this in mind, we compared the spicy sandwiches of the three major chains to see who makes the best:

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Let's start with Burger King's new sandwich. It certainly looks good, and the smell is peppery and golden fried.

Let's start with Burger King's new sandwich. It certainly looks good, and the smell is peppery and golden fried.

The chicken looks heavily breaded, and it's a rather discomforting orange hue. The sandwich necessities are lackluster at best — the tomato slice is mealy and pale, and the iceberg lettuce is wilted and sparse.

The chicken looks heavily breaded, and it's a rather discomforting orange hue. The sandwich necessities are lackluster at best — the tomato slice is mealy and pale, and the iceberg lettuce is wilted and sparse.

It's definitely not crispy, but there is a solid spiciness to it. The heat is surprisingly strong and sharp, with a lingering needling that’s similar to the vinegary heat of buffalo sauce. The tomato and lettuce add a cooling balance, but let the sandwich down in terms of quality.

It's definitely not crispy, but there is a solid spiciness to it. The heat is surprisingly strong and sharp, with a lingering needling that’s similar to the vinegary heat of buffalo sauce. The tomato and lettuce add a cooling balance, but let the sandwich down in terms of quality.

Heat level: 6/10

Wendy's spicy-chicken sandwich is a fast-food favorite, and typically, Wendy's chicken is nothing to scoff at.

Wendy's spicy-chicken sandwich is a fast-food favorite, and typically, Wendy's chicken is nothing to scoff at.

The chicken patty seems a little on the thin side but looks like it has a crispier, more robust breading than Burger King's. Yet the story is the same when it comes to the anemic tomato and globs of mayo.

The chicken patty seems a little on the thin side but looks like it has a crispier, more robust breading than Burger King's. Yet the story is the same when it comes to the anemic tomato and globs of mayo.

It's another solidly spicy sandwich that’s undercut by lackluster quality. The chicken itself is good — crispy, albeit thin, with a strong heat that's more peppery than caustic. But the oomph just isn't there.

It's another solidly spicy sandwich that’s undercut by lackluster quality. The chicken itself is good — crispy, albeit thin, with a strong heat that's more peppery than caustic. But the oomph just isn't there.

Heat level: 5/10

And then ... there's Chick-fil-A. We know the chicken-centric chain makes good chicken — otherwise it wouldn't be half as successful as it is. Chick-fil-A has two spicy sandwiches, but we're starting with the classic spicy sandwich first.

And then ... there's Chick-fil-A. We know the chicken-centric chain makes good chicken — otherwise it wouldn't be half as successful as it is. Chick-fil-A has two spicy sandwiches, but we're starting with the classic spicy sandwich first.

With just a chicken patty, pickles, and a bun, there's not much to it — but the simplicity (and lack of mayonnaise) is refreshing. The chicken itself isn't crispy in the slightest, but it's a very thick fillet.

With just a chicken patty, pickles, and a bun, there's not much to it — but the simplicity (and lack of mayonnaise) is refreshing. The chicken itself isn't crispy in the slightest, but it's a very thick fillet.

The sandwich has a satisfying, albeit low, heat with just enough room to slow burn with minimal distraction. It's more towards the peppery side of heat than acidic. It's just plain good — although not spicy enough for those looking for a fiery challenge.

The sandwich has a satisfying, albeit low, heat with just enough room to slow burn with minimal distraction. It's more towards the peppery side of heat than acidic. It's just plain good — although not spicy enough for those looking for a fiery challenge.

Heat level: 4/10

And just when you think the classic spicy sandwich is good, there's the deluxe version. This one has cheese and veggies added for some dramatic flair.

And just when you think the classic spicy sandwich is good, there's the deluxe version. This one has cheese and veggies added for some dramatic flair.

A spicy pepper jack cheese slice blankets the chicken breast fillet, which is roughly the same as the classic spicy one.

A spicy pepper jack cheese slice blankets the chicken breast fillet, which is roughly the same as the classic spicy one.

The chicken is, of course, fantastic. It has the same spiciness as the other sandwich, but the pepper jack cheese adds a bit more pizzazz and bite to the whole thing. Plus, the tomato and lettuce are vibrant and fresh — especially in contrast to the others.

The chicken is, of course, fantastic. It has the same spiciness as the other sandwich, but the pepper jack cheese adds a bit more pizzazz and bite to the whole thing. Plus, the tomato and lettuce are vibrant and fresh — especially in contrast to the others.

Heat level: 5/10

So who comes out on top? It's fairly obvious at the end of it all. Chick-fil-A does chicken and nothing else, so it has a leg up on every other chain. It's almost unfair to compare Chick-fil-A chicken to the rest — but, fast food is fast food. If the other burger chains ever want to take it on, they have some serious work ahead of them.

So who comes out on top? It's fairly obvious at the end of it all. Chick-fil-A does chicken and nothing else, so it has a leg up on every other chain. It's almost unfair to compare Chick-fil-A chicken to the rest — but, fast food is fast food. If the other burger chains ever want to take it on, they have some serious work ahead of them.
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