Fast Food Review: New! Parmesan Chicken Sandwich from Carl’s Jr.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get too wrapped up in the burger wars. It’s not that I don’t like hamburgers, it’s just that I’ve always been more of a chicken kinda guy. Even when I was younger, I almost exclusively ordered chicken nuggets/fingers while eating at fast food places, much to the amazement of my good friend Luke, who always got a cheeseburger.

With that kind of allegiance to our fowl-feathered friends, you can imagine my excitement when Ryan introduced us to the new Carl’s Jr. Parmesan Chicken Sandwich in a food news post last week. As a bigtime fan of Italian food in addition to chicken fingers, this seemed like a must try item for me, especially considering that after years of living on the East Coast, I finally lived close enough to a Carl’s Jr. to try one.

Carl's Parmesan Chicken Sandwich

The sandwich is described as such:

The Parmesan Chicken Sandwich features a breaded chicken fillet topped with melted cheese, smothered in authentic marinara sauce, on top of a sesame seed bun.

Before I get too far into the review, I want to mention the EXTREME HARDSHIP which I went through in procuring this item. My University is about two miles from the local Carl’s Jr, and when I went to check it out last week, the restaurant was being renovated. I tried again on Tuesday, trudging the two miles in a freezing Utah morning in which a snow/hail/sleet mixture pelted me relentlessly. Thank God for the sandwich’s 570 calories and 20 grams of fat, because quite frankly I think I would have frozen to death on my walk back had this been one of those “healthy” menu items.

Carl's Jr Chicken Parm Sandwich

While the sandwich come standard with a sesame seed bun, I actually ordered it on wheat, mostly on account of my “go for whole grains” mentality. Looking back, this may have been a mistake, as the chicken to bun to sauce ratio more or less pointed in the direction of epic fail for the bun. To the sandwich’s credit, they don’t skimp on marinara sauce, with both the bottom and top of the bun getting a generous portion. The sauce itself is dominated by a sweet flavor — perhaps a little too sweet to be ‘authentic’ — but it does have flavorful seasoning and a nice Italian herb mixture mixed in. I thought it was the dominant taste in the sandwich, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As for the chicken, it started out as a nice and crispy patty. I really liked the breading and the strong flavor of black pepper. The problem was that as the sandwich sat on my plate, the patty got progressively soggier. Still, the flavor remained strong, and it served as a fine compliment to the sweet sauce.

Carl's Jr Chicken Parm

Now, onto the third component of the chicken parmesan; the cheese. Too be frank, I’m not sure what kind of cheese it is exactly. Obviously I wasn’t expecting fresh buffalo mozzarella or shaved Parmesan, but the cheese came across as only average. It did have a slight flavor (it actually tasted like processed American cheese more than anything else) and didn’t detract from the sandwich, but at the same time I felt like it didn’t add anything, which kind of defeats the purpose of chicken parmesan. It also took a long time to melt on top of my warm sandwich, an annoyance for me because of how freaking starving I was by the time I finally ordered.

Carl's Jr Chicken Parm Sandwich (open)

I got my sandwich for $2.99 as a single because of a coupon, but if you ask me it may be a little pricey for the $3.99 regular billing, especially considering the only moderate size. I think Carl’s Jr. is onto something here though, and wish more fast food restaurants would try to incorporate Italian flavor into their menu items. The meat is well seasoned and flavorful, and it works great with the sweet marinara sauce. The problems, however, are there. A more “artisan” type bun (like a Ciabatta) could really make the sandwich something special, while a higher and more authentic standard of cheese would really make this a “can’t miss” menu item. For now, I’ll consider the tasty sanwich a good start and a work in progress, but I would like to see Carl’s Jr. address some of these textural and quality issues in the near future.

Carl's Parmesan Chicken Sandwich (open)

Pros: Large, flavorful chicken patty with crisp exterior and moist interior. Does well to compliment sweet basil and tomato flavor of marinara sauce, which is plentiful. Can't really knock a classic combination of Italian food in a fast food form. Enough energy to keep me alive in this frigid Utah fall winter.

Cons: Patty and sauce combination overwhelms helpless bun. Very messy. Needs a fancy Italian bun, like Ciabatta. Cheese could be more authentic. Need to synthesize timing of melted cheese to non-soggy chickeness.

Taste: 8.50/10
Value: 6.50/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.25/10
Price: $3.99

Overall GrubGrade: 7.75/10

More Info: CarlsJr.com
Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 262 g
Calories: 570
Calories from Fat: 180
Total Fat: 20 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 50 mg
Sodium: 1810 mg
Carbs: 63 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sugars: 9 g
Protein: 34 g

25 comments on “Fast Food Review: New! Parmesan Chicken Sandwich from Carl’s Jr.

  1. Adam Bomb says:

    Good review, but should you really mention the bun’s shortcomings as a “con” when you opted for a different bun? Just a thought. I don’t know if the sesame seed bun would hold up any better or not…

    Regarding the sauce being too sweet, that seems to be a very common theme with restaurant marinara! They’re always loaded up with sugar :(

  2. Awe I wanted this to be good. I really did! Oh well. I guess my mom was wrong on this count, that the best things are the messiest. :P

  3. Chaz says:

    @ Erin Brooks … It is good…7.75 = Good :D Yeah this sandwich looks like a handful…have some napkins ready.

    Nice review Adam… Your idea of incorporating a ciabatta roll is great. I just think the price would be raised if that happened. Although ciabatta is becoming very common now…but moreso in the Panera type fast-casual places. Wouldn’t hurt to have the option though.

  4. SkippyMom says:

    Trainwreck on a bun. The cheese not melting in the first few pics leads me to believe that the sauce isn’t too hot either.

    And the fact that the cheese had no flavor? You’re right – why call it Parmesan then? Whatev.

    I hate, hate, hate sweet tomato sauce [oh, sorry “marinara”] I don’t know why Prego was one of the best sellers in the US as it is one of the sweetest ones out there. Guess the American public loves it’s high frucose corn syrup and Carl’s panders to it.

    Sorry – great review! With everything you detailed I will definitely avoid it if I ever find myself at Carl’s.

  5. Adam says:

    Skippy, lay off HFCS, for me, please :) I actually thought the sauce was the best part, although I do enjoy more “grown up” Marinara sauce flavors other than the sweet tomato and basil flavor this seemed to be.

    On the bun issue: I think Chick-Fil-A spoiled me. I was expecting a bigger honey wheat kinda bun (my favorite kind), and the website showed that for the BBQ Chicken.

    I want to give Carls Jr props on this. When most places are trying to sell bigger, “natural” burgers, they are branching out into new terriroty with the whole Italian based concept. I like it, I just think they have some kinks to work out.

  6. Adam Bomb says:

    Of course Carl’s (and Prego) is going to pander to the sweet-loving crowd. If that’s what is popular, why wouldn’t they? I’m sure they tested more than one type of sauce, and the one on the sandwich was the winner. It just makes good business sense to sell what most customers are going to enjoy.

  7. Danny Boy says:

    How does this compare to the Burger King Italian chicken sandwich? The ones by me seem to offer it irregularly, but I’ve never pulled the trigger and ordered it.

  8. Jesse says:

    I just can’t get into the whole chicken parm concept. Just too messy, and marinara and fried chicken just isn’t an appealing taste. (Now if you put that fried chicken on a waffle we have a different story). This one looks particularly gross. In fact, I think everything on the Carl’s Jr. menu is pretty gross.

  9. Adam says:

    Danny Boy, Not sure, never seen it on my local BK menu (but it’s been awhile). Is that a standard menu item?

    Jesse,
    Yea, the one thing I will say is the fried chicken breast filet was more of what I’d expect on a ‘southern’ style sandwich. I liked the black pepper, but it lacked the lighter breading you’d find on a pan-fired breast you’d find in the “real” dish. Still, I don’t want to knock this thing too much. It’s a nice change of pace ;)

  10. Bryan says:

    This might be a weird idea, but I got the idea of buying Banquet’s Chicken Parmigian TV Dinners and putting the chicken between 2 Orowheat Sandwich Thin buns. I have no idea of the calories or price but I feel like trying it for fun.

    And thanks for blogging this sandwich. I am planning to try it myself as I like chicken parmesan.

  11. Yum Yucky says:

    OH darn. I want to try it anyways. But Carl doesn’t live around here.

  12. Heather says:

    I love chicken parmesan. I Buy Weaver Italian flavored chicken breast patties, my favorite jar of spaghetti sauce, and either provolone cheese or an Italian blend of shredded cheese. I put the sauce and the cheese on the patty and bake as directed. I usually have this as a main course with parmesan noodles on the side. It is a very quick and simple meal.

  13. Mmm…yummy. They use to serve this up during the lunch in high school….I would eat these in the corner of the cafeteria…by myself and watch the cheerleaders eat their salads. To this day the combo of fried chicken with the tart tomato sauce satisfies.

  14. Bunny says:

    It looks good but the cheese isn’t melted :(

  15. wibia says:

    bummer, this looked like a good one. You need pull apart stringy cheese on here and i agree with the bun idea. However, Hardee’s has the best chicken fillet so I imagine if they went back to the drawing board, they would have a great sanwich.

  16. Adam says:

    Notice how the cheese eventually melts though (bottom photo). Problem is, by that time the patty is kinda soggy.

  17. Danny Boy says:

    It’s not a standard item on the BK menu, but they usually bring it out once or twice a year. I’ve seen it in Chicago and Wisconsin where I spend most of my time. The concept is the same as the Carl’s Jr. one although they use mozzarella instead of Parmesan.

    Usually they pair it with the “American” chicken sandwich which was basically the original chicken sandwich with a slice of American cheese.

  18. Haz says:

    I looked up this review on my cellphone before walking into a Carl’s Jr and buying the burger – I must say it is quite accurate!

  19. Patrick says:

    I just got one, and I must say, I thought it was delicious! Better than the Buffalo Whatachik’n sandwich, imo, but not as good as the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich

  20. Bryan says:

    Ok, yesterday I’ve tried my own homemade Parmesan Chicken sandwich using store-bought hamburger buns and the parmesan chicken patty from one of those Banquet TV dinners(also comes with Marinara sauce). I don’t know exactly how it compares to the one from Carl’s Jr since I’ve never had one, but I must say it was pretty delicious. Also, you got your sides of macaroni and broccoli that the TV dinner came with so you’re good to go. Just add cheese to the burger if you want.

  21. Parm Guy says:

    Carls Jr should stop the anti Italian-American advertising for this sandwich. It’s disgraceful. And I’m not eating it until it does.

  22. Chris Lad says:

    Very interesting sandwich. The chicken patty looks very good. Seems very pricey. Your right about the Chick-Fil-A buns being awesome. I always get their wheat buns.

  23. Parm Guy says:

    Not buying it. Ad campaign offended my peeps. Italian-Americans aren’t all garbagemen and mobsters.

  24. Azko says:

    The sandwich wasn’t all too great carls jr. needs to step it up. Ill stick to In-N-Out burgers in California.

  25. Shannon says:

    I’m glad to see that I am not the only person who has gone
    to great lengths for food. When I had a reservation for the spicy
    chicken sandwich at ChickFilA, I was cash strapped and feeling a
    little guilty about eating a fried chicken sandwich. So I decided
    to walk there. Walking at my leisurely pace and following traffic
    rules, it took about an hour. As usual this review is good and
    thorough. I probably will never try this sandwich though as I would
    rather eat chicken parmesan without the bun.