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Are chicken thighs better for chicken sandwiches?

Chicken sandwiches have become increasingly popular over the past few years. From classic fried chicken sandwiches to trendy grilled chicken sandwiches, there are many options to choose from. When making chicken sandwiches at home, one of the most basic decisions is choosing between chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages when used as the protein in a chicken sandwich.

Nutritional Differences Between Chicken Breasts and Thighs

The main nutritional differences between chicken breasts and thighs are:

  • Chicken breasts are lower in fat and calories – A 3 oz chicken breast contains around 110 calories and 1.5 g of fat, while a 3 oz chicken thigh contains around 140 calories and 5 g of fat.
  • Chicken thighs are higher in saturated fat – Chicken thighs contain around 1.5 g of saturated fat per 3 oz serving, while chicken breasts only have around 0.5 g.
  • Chicken thighs contain more iron and zinc – Thighs contain almost double the amount of iron and zinc compared to chicken breasts.
  • Chicken breasts contain more protein – Breasts contain around 24 g of protein per 3 oz serving, while thighs have around 18 g.

In summary, chicken thighs contain more fat, iron, and zinc while chicken breasts are lower in calories and contain more protein. When choosing between the two for sandwiches, nutritional priorities may sway the decision.

Calorie Differences in Sandwiches

The calorie differences between chicken thigh and chicken breast sandwiches can be significant:

Sandwich Type Chicken Thigh Calories Chicken Breast Calories
Fried chicken sandwich 530 450
Grilled chicken sandwich 390 320

As shown in the table, fried chicken thigh sandwiches contain around 80 more calories than fried chicken breast sandwiches. For grilled chicken sandwiches, the difference is around 70 calories.

The extra calories in the thigh-based sandwiches come from the higher fat content in chicken thighs. If limiting calorie intake is a priority, chicken breast sandwiches would be the better choice.

Flavor Differences

Chicken thighs and chicken breasts have slightly different flavors when cooked:

  • Chicken thighs tend to have more fat, connective tissue, and dark meat. This gives thigh meat a richer, more moist and tender texture.
  • The higher fat content in thighs keeps them juicier when cooked. Chicken breasts can dry out more easily.
  • Thighs have a slightly stronger “chicken” and savory taste. Breasts have a milder flavor.
  • When breaded and fried, thighs develop a crispy crust while still staying juicy inside. Breasts can become tough if overcooked.

The richer flavor and texture of thighs may give them an advantage when used in chicken sandwiches, especially fried chicken sandwiches. The juicier thigh meat can stand up better to the breading and frying process.

Cost Differences Between Chicken Thighs and Breasts

Chicken thighs are generally more economical to purchase than chicken breasts. Based on current retail costs:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost around $4.50 per pound.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cost roughly $3.00 per pound.

The price difference comes out to around $1.50 per pound less for chicken thighs. For homemade chicken sandwiches, this can lead to noticeable savings, especially when cooking large batches for meal prepping.

Ease of Use in Sandwiches

There are some handling differences between chicken thighs and breasts when constructing sandwiches:

  • Chicken breasts are easier to bread and fry evenly since they have a uniform thickness and shape.
  • Thighs have an irregular shape which can lead to uneven cooking when frying or grilling.
  • Breasts are simpler to slice or dice for sandwich fillings.
  • Deboning thighs can be trickier and time consuming compared to boneless chicken breasts.

For sandwich makers looking to save time and effort, boneless skinless chicken breasts require less prep work. Their uniform size and shape makes them easier to cook consistently as well.

Appearance in Sandwiches

Appearance may also factor into the chicken breast vs thigh decision:

  • Chicken breasts look symmetrical and uniform in sandwiches. Thighs have a more irregular shape.
  • Sliced or diced breasts are neater looking as a sandwich filling ingredient.
  • Thighs can sometimes have small bones that are tricky to remove. Breasts are reliably boneless.
  • When battered and fried, breasts form a nice even coating. The irregular thighs can look less tidy.

For sandwiches being prepared for potlucks, parties, or selling, chicken breasts provide a more uniform, neater looking package. Their regular proportions give a consistent finished appearance.

Preparation and Cooking Time

Preparing chicken thighs takes more time compared to chicken breasts:

  • Thighs usually need to be trimmed of excess fat and skin. Breasts come ready to cook.
  • Deboning thighs adds 10-15 minutes of labor. Breasts are sold boneless.
  • The uneven thickness of thighs means they require closer monitoring when pan frying or grilling to avoid under or overcooking.

For sandwich makers short on time, the convenience and speed of boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be an advantage. Thighs require more hands on prep time before cooking.

Nutritional Needs

The higher protein content of chicken breast can better serve sandwiches for certain diet needs:

  • Breasts are recommended for high protein, low carb/keto, or low fat diets based on their nutrition stats.
  • The lower calories in chicken breast sandwiches fits better into a weight loss meal plan.
  • For low sodium diets, chicken breast allows you to control the sodium content added during cooking or in condiments.

Chicken thighs can fit less naturally into specialized diet plans due to their higher fat and calorie amounts. Chicken breasts give more control over nutrition when customizing sandwiches.

Kid Friendly Sandwiches

A few factors make chicken breasts a better choice for kid-friendly sandwiches:

  • Chicken breasts are a reliably lean protein. Kids need protein for growth but often eat too much fat.
  • Their milder flavor and tender texture make them appealing to kids’ palates.
  • Uniform breaded chicken breasts are easier for small hands to pick up and eat.
  • With lower fat and calories, breasts allow for sides like fries or dipping sauces without too many calories.

The lower calorie, milder tasting chicken breasts tend to be more kid approved. Their shape and texture also work better in sandwiches for little hands and mouths.

Homemade vs. Restaurant Chicken Sandwiches

There are some points to consider when using thigh or breast meat for homemade versus restaurant-style chicken sandwiches:

  • Restaurants typically use thigh meat because the richness stands up well to heavy battering and frying.
  • At home, breasts are easier to cook consistently since you can’t deep fry them like a restaurant.
  • Thighs work well in homemade sandwiches if cooked gently using methods like baking, grilling, or pan frying.
  • For homemade fried chicken sandwiches, chicken breasts are a better choice for even cooking.

The juicier thigh meat used by restaurants achieves that signature flavor. But for home kitchens, chicken breasts can actually be a better choice for achieving optimal texture and taste.


While both chicken thighs and breasts have their merits for sandwich making, the characteristics of chicken breasts make them a slightly better choice in several cases including:

  • Wanting lower calorie and lower fat
  • Seeking an easier cooking and prep experience
  • Needing neatly shaped, presentable sandwiches
  • Accommodating specialized diets or kid-friendly needs

Chicken thighs do excel when it comes to flavor and juiciness. Their rich taste and tender texture when cooked make them an optimal choice for certain homemade sandwiches cooked gently or enjoyed fresh off the grill. But for an all-around easy, healthy, and convenient chicken sandwich, boneless skinless chicken breasts take the edge.

Whether choosing thighs or breasts, homemade chicken sandwiches are a versatile and protein-packed option for meals or cookouts. Pick your favorite chicken part, bread, condiments, and recipes to enjoy creating and customizing these sandwiches to satisfy your tastes.