The Best F&$king Grilled Chicken Sandwich Ever Recipe

This juicy, drippy, and indulgent chicken sandwich is surprisingly quick to make.

A grilled chicken sandwich on a small cutting board, yawning wide and so loaded it's nearly falling apart. bacon and avocado-jalapeño sauce are threatening to escape the confines of the bun; crushed potato chips are strewn in front of the sandwich.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • With alternating layers of mayonnaise, crushed potato chips, a flavorful jalapeño-avocado sauce, lettuce, and tomato, this sandwich delivers a range of textures, from crisp and crunchy to soft, tender, and juicy.
  • By pounding and quick-brining the chicken breasts, we can cook the meat evenly and allow it to stay moist on the grill.
  • Grilling bacon on the edge of the hot zone crisps it perfectly while reducing flare-ups.

There are a lot of things I could tell you about a trip I took to Colombia several years ago. I could tell you about the shootout that erupted on the street in Cali just seconds after I had stepped inside my flat. I could tell you about the bonfire-roasted wild rat I ate one night on a remote Pacific beach. I could tell you about kicking back shots of aguardiente in sweaty salsa clubs until dawn, or about the drug trafficker I got stuck drinking with one night, a guy who casually threatened to kill a cigarette vendor when she didn't have the brand he wanted (I can't tell you how relieved I was to survive that episode). But instead, I'm going to tell you about a chicken sandwich.

Chicken sandwiches, generally speaking, don't exist to excite. They're trustworthy and filling and totally vanilla, the sensible footwear of sandwiches. So you can imagine my disappointment when, after my friends from Cali suggested burgers for dinner, we arrived at a place where the only meat on the grill was chicken breast.

"So, you call these burgers even when it's chicken?" I asked, still hopeful I'd somehow overlooked the beef.

And thus I learned that in Colombia, if it's served hamburger-style on a hamburger bun, it's a hamburger. Resigned, I ordered one.

Hamburger lovers of the world, I ask you, what would it take for a chicken "burger" to pleasantly surprise you after you had your hopes set on a beef burger? What would it take to truly impress you? What would it take to blow your mind so completely that you no longer care one bit about "real" burgers? I'd like to introduce you to that sandwich, or at least, to my version of it. Call it what you want—a burger, a sandwich—it doesn't really matter. What matters is that this is arguably the best chicken sandwich in the world.

Lemme walk you through it.

The Building Blocks

For such an amazing sandwich, you'd think there'd be a lot of work involved. Not this time!

An overhead shot of all the components of the sandwich arranged on a work surface: pounded and seasoned raw chicken breast, raw bacon slices, sesame bun, tomato slices, jalapeño-avocado sauce, mayonnaise, crushed potato chips, shredded lettuce.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

This sandwich, for all its power and glory, is very, very simple, and very easy to make. The building blocks include chicken, bacon, iceberg lettuce, crushed ruffled potato chips, mayo, tomato, a green sauce, and a bun.

Step 1: Grill the Bacon and Chicken

Raw, pounded chicken breast is added to a grill grate on the hot side of a grill; sliced bacon cooks slightly off to the side.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

First, yes, there is bacon in this thing, and yes, that is partly why it's so good. It'd still be good even without the bacon, but let's be real, chicken is chicken and bacon is bacon and that's all there is to it.

To grill the chicken, I used Josh Bousel's rock-solid method. First, he quickly pounds the breasts to flatten them, which guarantees that they cook evenly. Then he brines them for 30 minutes, which helps keep them juicy despite the dry heat of the grill. You can use those 30 minutes to get other things ready, like making the green sauce and preheating your grill.

Chicken breast getting lightly charred over hot coals. Slices of bacon are off to one side of the coals getting browned and crispy.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

To grill the bacon, I borrowed Kenji's clever method, which involves flipping the thick-cut rashers right on the edge of a two-zone fire. That way, they're exposed to just enough heat to get crisp, but not so much that they blacken from flare-ups caused by excessive dripping grease.

I added one step when grilling the chicken, brushing them with an avocado-jalapeño-cilantro green sauce just a minute or two before they come off the grill. If there are any readers out there who know more about Colombian burgers than I do, I can't claim this sauce is authentic or correct. I can claim that it's really tasty. The last-minute brushing quickly cooks the sauce onto the breasts without burning it, but don't worry, we'll add some more fresh sauce later.

Step 2: Assembly

Once the chicken and bacon are cooked, all that's left is to toast the buns and assemble the sandwiches.

How you assemble this sandwich is critical because you want to make sure it's saucy and juicy enough. A good beef burger, in my book, has to have enough fat flowing from the patty that it runs down my hands, over my wrists, and at least attempts a journey along my forearms. I expect no less with this sandwich. But chicken breast, even when perfectly cooked, isn't the kind of meat that's prone to dripping juices, so it needs some help from lots and lots of mayo and sauce. To achieve that, I added the mayo in two layers, one on the top bun and one on the bottom, plus an extra dose of the green sauce. That's going to give us plenty of delicious, messy drips.

Half of a toasted bun being slathered in a generous quantity of mayonnaise.
Layers of mayo and sauce provide all the juiciness this sandwich needs.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The other critical component is the crumbled potato chips. I went with ruffled because they're thicker and sturdier than regular chips, so they'd offer lots of crunch even when broken into small pieces and coated in sauce. And it's the crunch that we want—it's all about adding texture to an otherwise very soft, wet sandwich.

Author's hand layering crushed potato chips on top of the mayonnaise-laden bun.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Crushed ruffled potato chips add lots of salty crunch.

Author's hand adding shredded lettuce to the sandwich.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Shredded iceberg lettuce is cool and fresh.

Author rests adds as grilled chicken breast brushed with green sauce to the sandwich.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The grilled chicken breast, glistening with the green sauce, is next.

Author lays several pieces of grilled bacon on the chicken breast.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Bacon is bacon, 'nuff said.

Author balances a thick slice of tomato on top of the bacon slices and applies green sauce to it.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Tomato adds another fresh flavor and lots of its own juice; another spoonful of spicy green sauce amps up the drip factor and adds even more bold flavor.

Author shellacs the remaining bun with more mayonnaise.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The top bun gets even more mayo. Slather it on!

Author sprinkles the mayo-covered top bun with more crushed potato chips.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

One more sprinkling of potato chips and you can close the sandwich.

Author holds the assembled sandwich with both hands in front of the camera.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Just try not to make a mess...

April 2014

Recipe Facts

4.4

(12)

Active: 60 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, tender removed, 6 to 8 ounces each

  • 2 quarts cold water

  • Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 1/4 cup (55g) sugar (if making a wet brine)

  • 1/4 small avocado, diced (about 1/3 cup)

  • 1/2 large jalapeño, roughly chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems (from about 6 sprigs)

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 slices thick cut bacon, halved

  • 4 soft white sesame burger buns, split

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 cup crushed ruffled potato chips

  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

  • Four (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato

Directions

  1. Place 1 chicken breast in a resealable plastic bag or between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, rolling pin, or small skillet, pound chicken breast into an even thickness about 3/4-inches in height. Repeat with remaining 3 breasts.

  2. If making a wet brine, dissolve 1/3 cup (80g) kosher salt and the 1/4 cup (55g) sugar in a medium bowl in 2 quarts (1.9L) water. Place chicken breasts in brine and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If making a dry brine, set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and arrange chicken breasts on it. Sprinkle generously all over with salt on both sides, then refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, combine avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, water, and lime juice in blender and purée until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Season green sauce with salt.

  4. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Alternatively, set all the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Remove chicken breasts from brine, pat dry with paper towels, season to taste with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

  5. Place bacon in between hot and cool sides of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until surface of bacon is bubbling but not yet crisp and browned, about 15 minutes total.

    Slices of bacon being grilled on a charcoal grill.
  6. While bacon cooks, place chicken over hot side of grill and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and, using a pastry brush or spoon, brush a coating of green sauce all over top side of chicken. Continue to cook until second side is browned. Flip chicken and cook until green sauce is just cooked, about 1 minute. Brush more green sauce on second side of chicken, flip once more, and cook until chicken registers 150°F (66°C) (or 160°F (71°C) if you really want to stick to FDA guidelines) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of breast. If chicken browns too much before it registers 150°F, move to cool side of grill, cover, and let cook until chicken reaches temperature. Remove chicken from grill, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

    Brushing green sauce on chicken breasts being grilled on a charcoal griller.
  7. Place bun halves on hot side of grill, cut-sides down, and cook until lightly toasted.

  8. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on cut side of each bun half. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of crushed potato chips on the mayonnaise. On each bottom bun, add 1/4 cup lettuce, followed by 1 chicken breast, 3 bacon pieces, 1 tomato slice, and 1 tablespoon green sauce. Close sandwiches and serve right away.

    Closing the sandwich. The bottom bun has been layered with mayonnaise, grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, green sauce. The top bun is spread with more mayonnaise and crushed potato chip.

Special Equipment

Grill, chimney starter

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1081 Calories
70g Fat
44g Carbs
67g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 1081
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 70g 89%
Saturated Fat 11g 57%
Cholesterol 180mg 60%
Sodium 1691mg 74%
Total Carbohydrate 44g 16%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 67g
Vitamin C 28mg 140%
Calcium 155mg 12%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 1185mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)