Fast Food Review: Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Carl’s Jr.

Ah, the ubiquitous cheap chicken sandwich. Whether in McChicken form or Spicy Chick’n Crisp garb, what more are you than an array of sodium enhanced seasonings battered over what may or may not have once been meat from a bird? Not much, I suppose, considering you often come unadorned on a plain bun with the barest of trimmings. A little mayo to foil the heat, undoubtedly. Or some lettuce, perhaps, to keep the health police at bay. Hardly fine dining, I guess, but for a mere dollar, what would you expect? Truth be told, I find myself drawn to you at whatever fast food establishment I frequent, and even when pulled by the purest of fried chicken delights (the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich) I still can’t but gravitate to this lowly, imitation stepchild of our poultry friend.

As far as I’m concerned, Carl’s Jr.’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich is quite good, and it’s a shame it’s taken me this long to actually roundup the 99 cents to get one. I don’t make it to Carl’s enough, but when I do it’s usually for a burger, although this time I lacked the prerequisite $1.59 for the Big Hamburger with cheese. The answer came in the form of the Spicy Chicken, which I’m pretty sure they used to call the Big Chicken. Why they stopped calling it I’m not sure, but it’s a fair size for a cheap chicken sandwich.

As you can see from the photo above, I also brought a friend along – my classic favorite the Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A. Comparing the two in terms of taste is apples to oranges, but hopefully it helps you get a read on the size. The Spicy Chicken, for its part, is spicy, but not in the usual southwestern flavor profile. It’s got a strong, but not hot, kick of black pepper, garlic powder and paprika, and the chicken fillet itself isn’t bone dry on the inside or overly oily on the outside. It gets good coverage on the bun, and while it’s not thick by any means, it doesn’t get swallowed up by any over-bunnage. Unlike some other fast food chicken sandwiches, there are no “off” oil tastes (ahem, Wendy’s). My only complaint is the saltiness. You will notice that the fillet packs more than its fair share of salt, and I’d suggest trying to cut it with a packet or two of ketchup.

What’s really interesting is the bun. It’s not squishy like a CFA bun, but it has an interesting sweetness that almost borders on potato flavor, and it’s not dry or cracking either. The lettuce is whole leaf iceburg – a solid choice – while the mayo provides a decent bastion of moisture to contrast with the breading. The onions are thick and have a strong bite but aren’t overpowering. I added pickles to my sandwich, which I was pleasantly surprised to find were of very high, crinkle cut quality.

I’ve always held up Burger King’s Spicy Chick’n Crisp to be the best cheap chicken sandwich, but Carl’s Jr’s version might just be there with it. As far as value menu chicken sandwiches go you really can’t beat it, especially considering that the fillet holds its flavor even without added condiments. Not fancy, not shiny, and no, not anywhere near Chick-fil-A, it is what it sets out to be. And that, for a cheap but flavor driven college student like me, is all I can really ask.

  • Pros: Hearty black pepper kick without being too “southwesterny” in heat profile. Good sized fillet for only a buck. No off or fishy tasting oil flavor. Not overly dried out or tough. Bun has nice sweetness. Veggies are fresh. For a buck, it does the job.
  • Cons: Nothing compared to the real deal. Waiting for a fast food franchise to come up with something more innovative with a value chicken sandwich. Opportunity cost of the extra 60 cents that can buy you the Big Cheeseburger. Wow, that’s a crapload of sodium.
  • Pros: Hearty black pepper kick without being too "southwesterny" in heat profile. Good sized fillet for only a buck. No off or fishy tasting oil flavor. Not overly dried out or tough. Bun has nice sweetness. Veggies are fresh. For a buck, it does the job.

    Cons: Nothing compared to the real deal. Waiting for a fast food franchise to come up with something more innovative with a value chicken sandwich. Opportunity cost of the extra 60 cents that can buy you the Big Cheeseburger. Wow, that's a crapload of sodium.

    Taste: 8.00/10
    Value: 9.00/10
    Grubbing on-the-go: 9.00/10
    Price: .99 cents

    Overall GrubGrade: 8.25 Very good

    More Info: CarlsJr.com
    Nutrition Facts:
    Carl's Jr. Spicy Chicken Sandwich
    Calories: 420
    Total Fat: 26 g
    Saturated Fat: 5 g
    Cholesterol: 35 mg
    Sodium: 1260 mg
    Total Carbs: 37 g
    Fiber: 4 g
    Sugars: 3 g
    Protein: 12 g

8 comments on “Fast Food Review: Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Carl’s Jr.

  1. Courtney says:

    Yah, nothing beats Chick-fil-a. Have you ever tried their biscuits and sausage gravy? Its not on the menu but they make it during breakfast hours, I guess it’s one of those off menu things, It’s soooo good!

  2. Justin says:

    I got a Carl’s sandwich before a 4th of July bbq once just to get something in my stomach. I was so impressed by it that later in the evening I found a sober driver to take me back to CJs to get another one. (I’ve never been very cool.)

  3. Jenny says:

    I used to eat these all the time. Loved them.

  4. Bunny says:

    I had a hard time looking at the pictures. The last time I ate a SC from Carl’s I had a bad case of food poisoning 🙁

  5. Ryan says:

    The pic of the Carl’s next to the CFA… that says a lot. Too bad the CFA Chicken Sandwich isn’t 99 cents. Can you imagine a CFA value menu? The stuff of dreams my friend.

  6. Robert says:

    “I’ve always held up Burger King’s Spicy Chick’n Crisp to be the best cheap chicken sandwich”

    My god, in what universe is that even acceptable food, let alone the best cheap chicken sandwich? Do you like the fact that it’s half the size of the Wendy’s chicken patty, or the fact that there’s flecks of brown chicken meat in the middle?

  7. Ian says:

    This is my favorite value chicken sandwich. A little tip, ask to add jalapenos to the sandwich, it is free. It makes a simple spicy chicken sandwich an amazing sandwich!

  8. Brandon says:

    You gotta order it like this, spicy chicken on a large bun ADD ranch, yes leave the mayo. It’s the same price and makes it the best $1 sandwhich period.