Carl’s Jr. new chicken sandwich – joins the top tier

Carl’s Jr. (or Hardee’s if you live on the East coast) entrant in the fried chicken sandwich wars launched a couple weeks back with little fanfare. Compared to the hype and noise from the likes of McDonald’s and BK’s new releases, it was downright timid. Of their all new hand-breaded sandwich the brand describes the menu item as follows:

Premium, all-white chicken fillet, hand dipped in buttermilk, lightly breaded and fried to a golden brown, deli pickle and mayonnaise served on a potato bun.

and at our local store it retails for $5.99. That certainly puts it at the top of the list in terms of price. The likes of Popeyes and KFC retail here for $3.99. Is that extra two bucks worth it? Does it even compete on its own merits? First some pictures – then the review.

First impressions start with the packaging and Carl’s haven’t emulated the likes of Popeyes with the foil bag approach. This one comes in a standard cardboard box with a sticker slapped on top. It makes you wonder how much research and dev went into this one – as if the chain don’t expect it to stay around for all that long?

Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich box
Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich box
Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich in wrapper
Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich in wrapper
Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich
Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich side view
Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich side view
Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich close up
Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Sandwich close up

The sandwich has an impressively plump piece of chicken, this one has some weigh to it. The exterior is coated in a generously thick and pleasing crispy batter, ala Popeyes. The batter stays crisp long after purchase and gives plenty of crunchy bang for the buck. It never strays too greasy of heavy either. A definite solid effort. One of the best out there.

Past the coating the interior is identifiably real chicken. There’s a solid savory taste that will keep you coming back for more. There’s a fast-food worthy saltiness to the chicken, but nothing that strays excessively so like Zaxby’s effort.

The chicken is for sure the star of the show, after that, it feels like the sandwich was thrown together in an afternoon. The bun is instantly forgettable and indeed, mine had been impressively paper-thin squished in parts. The pickles too will win zero awards. No one comes close to Popeyes barrel-aged pickles.

Given the meek launch, this is a surprisingly good sandwich. It’s absolutely a top tier effort for in the overall list of best chicken sandwiches, and I wasn’t expecting that. At $5.99 the pricing keeps it well away from true greatness; but if your only option is a Carl’s or Hardee’s and you’re in the mood for a fried chicken sandwich – this one is definitely worth your time.

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Hi there, I'm Stuart, nice to meet you. I'm a food writer of more than 15+ years experience writing about food and drink in all its forms, fine dining through the to the grocery store. I've also got a secret obsession with fast food too. You can find my writing at places like Gastronomic SLC, Visit Salt Lake, The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Stories, Utah Now Online and many others.