I ordered chicken tenders from 6 fast-food chains and the best were from the smallest chain

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  • I tried chicken tenders from Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, Raising Cane’s, KFC, and Cook Out.

  • Popeyes’ and KFC’s chicken tenders were similar in their crispy texture and flavor.

  • Raising Cane’s impressed me with its crispy-yet-juicy tenders and delicious signature sauce.

Of all the chicken tenders I tried, the ones from Whataburger didn’t completely wow me.

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Whataburger chicken tenders.Erin McDowell/Insider

A three-piece chicken tender cost only $4.44 at Whataburger at the location I visited in Austin, Texas.

The chicken tenders were large and perfectly fried.

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Whataburger chicken tender with ranch sauce in the background.Erin McDowell/Insider

I thought the tenders could only be described as “classic” — they weren’t anything out-of-the-box, but I enjoyed them.

The meat inside was juicy, but I thought the fried coating could have had a bit more crunch.

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Whataburger chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

The chicken tenders tasted good on their own, as well as with ranch dipping sauce. They weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, I did think the other tenders were slightly crispier and had just the slightest hint of more flavor in the batter.

Regardless, for less than $5, I’d definitely order these again.

I also ordered chicken tenders from Cook Out, a regional chain I visited in South Carolina.

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Cook Out chicken tenders.Erin McDowell/Insider

The three-piece “snack” cost $4.39, not including tax.

The chicken tenders were crispy on the outside.

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Cook Out chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

They were also a good size. The price was also a great deal for the generous portion I received.

However, there wasn’t an abundance of chicken meat inside.

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Cook Out chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

These were undeniably classic chicken tenders, similar to the ones from Whataburger, but they were a touch too fried for my liking. However, I thought they were well-seasoned and had a lot of peppery flavor.

Chick-fil-A’s chicken tenders were good … but I really just use them as a vehicle for the chain’s Chick-fil-A sauce.

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Chick-fil-A chicken tenders in a box.Erin McDowell/Insider

A three-piece chicken tender costs $7.65 at my nearest location when it’s not included in a meal deal.

Some of the chicken pieces looked slightly darker and more fried than others.

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Chick-fil-A chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

There were small bits of fried breading scattered on the outside, which I always love with a chicken tender.

The chicken tenders were nicely fried but still juicy on the inside.

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Chick-fil-A chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

However, they weren’t quite as crispy as I expected. I wanted a distinct crunch when I bit into the tenders, but they didn’t deliver that. In the end, it’s largely up to personal preference.

When I dipped them in the chain’s signature Chick-fil-A sauce, the experience was nothing short of mouthwatering. However, the actual chicken tenders were just alright — it was the sauce that took them over the edge.

KFC’s chicken tenders landed towards the middle of the pack.

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KFC chicken tenders.Erin McDowell/Insider

On the day I tried these, I ordered a five-piece tender meal for $12.95, excluding taxes and fees. However, a four-piece tender meal, which comes with a side, sauce, and a drink, costs $10.55, excluding taxes and fees.

The tenders were crispy on the outside, but I thought they were slightly on the smaller side when compared to the others I tried.

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KFC chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

However, they did have bits of fried breading clinging to the outside that I knew would make for a nice texture.

The chicken tenders were flavorful and contained a fair amount of white meat chicken.

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KFC chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

However, the slightly smaller size meant they didn’t come out on top when compared to the last two chains I tried.

My second-favorite chicken tenders came from Popeyes.

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Popeyes box with fries, chicken tenders, and a biscuit.Erin McDowell/Insider

A three-piece-tender combo came to $12.40, before taxes and fees. The meal deal included a large serving of fries, a drink, and a biscuit, as well as a choice from a variety of different dipping sauces.

The chicken tenders from Popeyes were crispy, flaky, and crunchy.

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Popeyes chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

I really liked the crunchy outside of the chicken tenders from Popeyes.

The meat inside was flaky and moist as well.

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Popeyes chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

I also thought the batter was quite flavorful — I could taste hints of seasoning and buttermilk, although they weren’t quite as buttery-tasting as the Chick-fil-A tenders.

But my favorite chicken tenders came from Raising Cane’s.

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Raising Cane’s box of chicken tenders, fries, toast, and sauces.Erin McDowell/Insider

My six-piece meal came to $14.27, including tax, but a three-finger combo that comes with three chicken fingers, fries, Cane’s sauce, Texas toast, and a regular drink costs $6.38 excluding tax and any additions or swaps.

Raising Cane’s was the smallest chain I tried — they have 600 locations in 31 states.

The chicken tenders were super crispy.

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Raising Cane’s chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

The chicken tenders were also thick. After biting in, I could actually see the strips of white chicken underneath, which, in my experience, you don’t always find with fast-food chicken tenders.

The chicken tenders were super crispy and juicy on the inside — I had to give them the win.

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Raising Cane’s chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

I tried the tenders on their own and with the Cane’s sauce. On their own, the tenders were simply everything one could ask for — thick, juicy, and crispy on the outside.

However, the chain is famous for its chicken-complementing sauce, and after biting in, I could definitely see why. It had a slight kick to it, was super creamy, and surprisingly tangy. It paired perfectly with the chicken and was unlike any other sauce I’ve ever tried.

In the end, Raising Cane’s took home the win for me with the chain’s near-perfect chicken tenders and fair prices.

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