Popeyes launches a Blackened Chicken Sandwich that took 4 years to perfect

The chain is primed to reignite the chicken sandwich wars by challenging competitors to “copy this.”
blackened chicken sandwich
Popeyes is debuting a new chicken sandwich, challenging competitors to "copy this."/Photo courtesy of Popeyes.\\\\\\\\\

Popeyes debuted its newest menu item today—a breading-free Blackened Chicken Sandwich that links back to the chain’s Louisiana roots.

With the nationwide launch, Popeyes is inviting competitors to “copy this” by listing out the sandwich ingredients for the public to see. The challenge is a bit of a jab at the hordes of operators that introduced fried chicken sandwiches after the unprecedented success of Popeyes’ version—the first out of the gate in 2019.

Miami-based Popeyes is largely credited with starting the so-called chicken sandwich wars that have continued for several years.

The chain's newest entrant on the battlefield is one that took four years to perfect, said Amy Alarcon, head of culinary innovation at Popeyes.

“I call it the ‘Goldilocks Project’ because it took seven different iterations to get it right,” she said. “First, the filet was too small, then we couldn’t drive enough flavor into the chicken. The goal was to seal the exterior with the spices but keep the juices inside.”  

The winner finally emerged. Popeyes’ Blackened Chicken Sandwich features a whole chicken breast that is marinated for 12 hours, just like the brand’s fried chicken sandwich. Then it’s coated with Cajun and Creole seasonings, including three kinds of pepper (black, white and red), cumin, garlic, onions and paprika for color.

The R&D team also had to tackle the blackening cooking technique, which originated with celebrated Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme. The trick is to seal in the seasonings and spices so they flavor the chicken but also develop a browned or blackened crust around the breast filet during the cooking process.

The perfected blackened chicken breast is layered on a warm, toasted brioche bun and topped with classic or spicy mayonnaise and crunchy barrel-cured pickles. The sandwich sells for $4.99.

“It’s not a Nashville hot chicken experience,” Alarcon stressed. Rather, it’s a taste experience reflective of New Orleans’ culinary legacy.

When ordering the this sandwich on the Popeyes app or website, Rewards members will receive 200 bonus points, good for free regular fries on their next order.

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