Fast Food Review: Popcorn Chicken from Arby’s

When you think Arby’s, chances are you’re thinking roast beef. Likewise, if you’re thinking fast food ‘popcorn chicken,’ I’m guessing you’re either imagining KFC or Popeyes. But did you know Arby’s does fried Popcorn Chicken too?

I didn’t, at least not until I received an ad in a recent paper that came chock full of Arby’s coupons – including one for a free regular size order of Popcorn Chicken with the purchase of a fountain drink. Arby’s has been pushing a number of new menu items and concepts as of late (including a $1 Value Menu) but up until now I’ve never really given the chain much thought outside of their ubiquitous (but tasty) Roast Beef sandwiches. Nevertheless, having been on a chicken finger kick for weeks (and it being a ‘Fried Food Thursday’) I decided to scope out my local Arby’s. Let’s check out the ‘official’ designation’:

What’s better than something bite-sized, cripsy and tasty beyond belief? Popcorn chicken dipped in your choice of tangy BBQ Sauce or Sweet Honey Mustard. They’re ready to be eaten by the handful, so try some today!

I was sure glad I brought my coupon after scanning the menu board, because at $3.49 for a regular order these seemed to be a bit on the pricey side. To be fair, you’re getting significantly more chicken pieces than you would get in an order of Burger King’s Crown Shaped Tenders or McDonald’s McNuggets, and the meat definitely seemed to be of a higher quality than the stuff your getting at McDonald’s (interestingly enough, Arby’s doesn’t tout this product as all ‘white meat’). The ‘popcorn’ pieces themselves contain what I would describe as a home-style breading, which is of moderate thickness and brimming with specks of black pepper. Despite the appearance of the spice I didn’t find these especially peppery, but thought they had a nice balance between the outer crunch and the inner moistness. The meat within the pieces seemed rather plain in terms of flavor, but had a good level of saltiness and a nice hint of the corn oil it was fried in. Other than that, the predominant flavors were garlic and onion powder, which came through more in the breading than in the meat itself.

I really enjoyed the texture of the popcorn pieces, and found the relatively crunchy but not-quite-crispy exterior to have just the right amount of greasiness. Like Burger Kings’ tenders, it’s the kind of greasiness which delivers a clean-tasting flavor but doesn’t overwhelm you with a ‘heaviness.’ While the taste of the pieces is relatively plain in that it falls back on the familiar salt, cornmeal, and black pepper flavor that the breading contains, keep in mind that Arby’s offers a veritable library of sauces that should keep you happy with whatever flavor adaptation you choose. Personally, I experimented with Buffalo Sauce and BBQ, but in the end preferred good old American ketchup, which I happen to think goes well with fried anything.

While I enjoyed the popcorn chicken pieces, I did find some inconsistency as far as the breading was concerned, with one or two pieces seemingly saturated with too much oil. This made the breading a bit soggy – definitely not good eats with anything fried. Likewise, one or two of the pieces seemed to contain bits of that funky fried chicken tender consistency that you only seem to find in fast food places – you know the phenomenon I’m talking about, right?  That sort of ‘sliminess’ around the outside of the meat and interior of the breading? It wasn’t enough to make me think twice, however, and for the most part I didn’t have any question as to the fact that I was eating boneless and skinless white meat chicken – even though the Arby’s website doesn’t make mention to that assumption.

At $3.49 for a regular order I probably wouldn’t buy these on a regular basis without a coupon, but they make a decent lunch when paired with another item and are pretty tasty to boot. Given Arby’s strengths in terms of providing different options of sauces, I’d say these are a strong contender in the chicken nugget/tender

Pros: Decent portion of 8-12 popcorn “pieces.” Good crunchy breading that isn’t overly crispy or greasy. ‘Home-style’ taste of black pepper and cornmeal. Moist interior appears full of all white meat chicken. Very adaptable to multi-flavor profiles given Arby’s selection of sauces. Couldn’t beat the deal with a coupon. Only 360 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Have more protein than most fast food nuggets and/or tenders.

Cons: Some inconsistencies in frying might leave some pieces a little soggy. Interior on one or two of the pieces contained ‘sliminess’ that’s often associated with bad oil and less than impressive meat. Can be somewhat dull and average when eaten on their own. Bring a coupon.

Taste: 8.50/10
Value: 6.25/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 9.00/10
Price: $3.49

Overall GrubGrade: 8.00/10

Nutrition Facts:
Arby's Popcorn Chicken
Serving Size: 135 grams
Calories: 360
Calories from Fat: 150
Total Fat: 16 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
Trans Fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium: 980 mg
Total Carboydrates: 27 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Sugars: 0 grams
Protein: 26 grams

24 comments on “Fast Food Review: Popcorn Chicken from Arby’s

  1. Natalie says:

    This is actually my go-to item if I don’t want an Arby’s melt. They’re cheaper than the chicken sandwiches (in Anchorage anyway) and a pretty good chicken nugget. They used to come in a “shaker”, a cup with a plastic dome shaped lid with the idea that you’d pour the sauce in and shake it to coat all the pieces but they’ve switched to the fry-like carton like you pictured. Buffalo is normally my sauce of choice though the honey mustard isn’t bad.

  2. Justin says:

    I have been enjoying these off and on for years, but I got the same coupon the other day so I went and ate some for the first time in months. They are without question my favorite fast food popcorn chicken, and pretty much the only one I will eat regularly. (I think they are more expensive than anyone else’s, though.)

  3. maxchain says:

    I used to get these back in the day when they had ’em as Popcorn Chicken Shakers! The container had a clear lid, and you’d pour Honey Mustard (or some less tasty sauce) in and give the thing a shake. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go back to plain ol’ dipping after being able to get an even coat of sauce on ’em. Maybe with a coupon.

  4. Adam Bomb says:

    I’ve had these a few times over the years, but they always seem like nothing but a shadow of what the amazing Arby’s chicken fingers were when they existed.

    I can still clearly remember the time I went into Arby’s to order my usual chicken fingers, and was informed that they were no longer available. That’s one of the few times I’ve gotten really pissed in a restaurant. Then, as if it weren’t bad enough that they ditched my favorite item, they also got rid of the homestyle fries. Two of my absolute favorite fast food items EVER. I know that the popcorn chicken is pretty much the same thing as the chicken fingers, but in smaller pieces. But it’s just not the same. I’m going to go cry myself to sleep now.

  5. Ryan says:

    @ maxchain … Yeah me too. It was pretty convenient to stick in your vehicle cup-holder. I honestly never did the actual dumping sauce and shaking though. I just liked that it came in a cup. Perfect snacking while driving around.

  6. Crusader says:

    I can feel my arteries hardening just looking at these. What is about deep-fried foods and you people? You realize ya’ll eating yourself to an early grave right?

  7. Adam Bomb says:

    I am happily (and knowingly) eating myself into an early grave, Crusader. An early death for me is certain. A delicious and fattening early death, lol. Aren’t there more appropriate websites for you to be visiting. Maybe one where all the people that are better than us GrubGraders hang out together and sniff each other’s farts (that surely smell like roses)?

    Here’s an idea. I’ll stay over here and eat whatever the hell I want since I’m an adult. And you stay over there and eat whatever the hell you want, since you’re not my dad. This seems like an ideal situation for everyone.

    • Ryan says:

      @ Adam Bomb … Hahahahahaha. Early candidate for “Comment of the Year 2010”. Well said.

    • Crusader says:

      And yet I’ll have to pay for your health care costs. So it’s not just YOUR business!

      • Adam says:

        Thanks for assuming you know all about me, Crusader. I guess the fact that I can produce pristine medical records that show that I am a perfectly healthy, young adult male mean nothing to you. God forbid I should enjoy 2.5 grams of saturated fat a day which fit into a calorie scheme that is in and of itself less than adequate for my daily caloric needs anyway.

        These things have as much saturated fat as a 100 calorie pack. Take a chill pill, dude. Haven’t you ever heard of eating 80/20?

  8. Deanna says:

    Have you tried the Arby’s Roastburgers? They’re incredibly tasty, and one of the healthier fast food items you can find. I particularly like the All-American, although they also have one with cheese and bacon and one with blue cheese. If you haven’t tried them, the Roastburgers are basically dressed like a hamburger, but use the Arby’s roast beef instead of a ground beef patty. I would’ve thought roast beef would’ve been strange with mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and pickles; but turns out it’s really great!

  9. Adam Bomb says:

    Deanna: I’ve not tried the roastburgers, as several friends have given them a serious thumbs down. They said that the seasoning on the roast beef tastes like chemicals. They’re still on my “maybe” list, though.

  10. Name required says:

    Arby’s is the one thing fast food that I can never eat again, and that says a lot out of someone who eats way too much of it already, who can down 2 Baconators and still want a 10-piece nuggets. Out of the 4 times I’ve been to them (4 different locations as well) I’ve ended up with massive nausea and a sickening chemical feel from their food. Even the “healthiest” seeming choice, the chicken-salad-apple-nut sandwich made me nearly repulsed with the mounds of mayo, and followed with the expected sickening gut-wrenching.

    Which makes me sad seeing a review and opinions of some very tasty looking chicken tenders. Alas, I’ll never try it and only admire the closest thing to a philly cheesesteak (and saying that about their melts just emphasizes how far away I am) I will ever come to. Fool me twice, shame on, wait…fool me four times…I’m just not trying any more.

    I hate and admire Arby’s so much… 🙂

  11. Charlotte says:

    I’ve always loved these things but I had no idea they took the chicken fingers off the menu! After Dairy Queens, they were the best chicken fingers in fast food. That’s sad. These are good though, if expensive.

    • Adam Bomb says:

      Yeah, they took the chicken fingers off the menu a few years back. I was told at the store in my city that they were being phased out of all stores at that time. The loss of their chicken fingers, along with the disappearance of their homestyle fries, are two of the most traumatic food-related events in my entire life 😉

  12. ChrisLad says:

    I never think to get anything except roast beef at Arby’s but these look very good. They look like Chick-Fil-A’s nuggets to an extent. If they’re anything near that good, I’ll be sure to pick some up next time I’m at Arby’s.

  13. Yum Yucky says:

    those look gooood. we almost went to Arby’s for lunch today. but then we didn’t. dang-it!

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