Jollibee: The Filipino Fried Chicken Chain That's (Sorry) Better Than KFC

Move over KFC, there's a new chicken chain in town!

high angle looking at a plate of golden brown, crispy fried chicken
Photo: Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Remember the chicken sandwich wars a few years ago between Popeye's and Chick-fil-A? It was a sight for hungry eyes as people across the country flocked (pun intended) to Popeye's to try its new crispy chicken sandwich and compare it to the once-lone wolf in the chicken sandwich category. Well there might be a new contender for the best fast food fried chicken, and this contestant hails from the Philippines.

Coming for the fried chicken throne and challenging the Kentucky Fried Chickens, Popeyes, and Bojangles of the world, Jollibee is the biggest fast food chain in the Philippines. And, after a recent visit to the chain's brand new Manhattan location, it makes total sense. Let's just say the American chains have some serious competition.

What's on the Jollibee Menu?

Jollibee is essentially a fried chicken chain that serves up buckets upon buckets of fried chicken. The unique part of its menu, though, is the side dishes that accompany the chicken. Jollibee's sides stray from the typical with dishes like spaghetti, rice, and palabok (a traditional Filipino noodle dish with shrimp, pork, and egg). The chain also offers more traditional American options including chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, fries, mashed potatoes, and peach hand pies.

The most important offering on its menu, however, is the gravy. Jollibee's gravy is served with any order of chicken, and naturally, you are supposed to dip the chicken in the gravy. And let me tell you: this gravy is the best thing to ever happen to fried chicken. After my first dripping, messy bite, I was assured that Jollibee knows exactly what it's doing.

Fried Chicken and Spaghetti?

In some Black households, fried chicken served with spaghetti is not uncommon. In fact the pairing is a crowd favorite at celebrations like cookouts, baby showers, and even birthdays. Another common pairing is fried fish and spaghetti (maybe Jollibee will consider expanding their menu!).

Before anyone questions this pairing, think about the once-frowned upon chicken and waffles, which has since turned into a huge culinary phenomenon. Plus, the acidity of tomato sauce actually pairs quite well with the greasiness of the chicken—ever heard of chicken parmesan?

How does Jollibee Compare to Other Fast Food Chains?

When it comes to the chicken, you can definitely tell it was inspired by KFC. It has a softer breading, that's not shatteringly crispy like Popeyes' chicken. However, there's purportedly a "secret marinade" that the chicken bathes in before frying that adds major flavor. Additionally, Jollibee has perfected any ounce of inconsistency in the frying process that KFC possesses. If you—like me—have been disappointed with oily-approaching-soggy chicken at KFC, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Jollibee's slightly sweet spaghetti is nothing to write home about; It resembles the spaghetti you'd get in a school cafeteria. I didn't expect much from fast food spaghetti, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately in the U.S. locations, at least for the time being, palabok is not offered as a side.

The number one menu item that sets the chain apart from anyone else is its gravy. The gravy arrives as a bowl of piping hot, velvety, flavorful, hazelnut-colored goodness. Imagine that perfect gravy you love on a plate of poutine, add the Jollibee logo, and you've got it. Make sure you dip every piece of chicken you have in that bucket into the gravy. If you don't partake in this mandatory process, sorry but your Jollibee outing has officially been disqualified.

The Bottom Line

Jollibee definitely has a stake in the fried chicken market, and we hope that the chain continues to expand. That perfect gravy is their ticket to stardom, and I would not be shocked if KFC introduces a gravy dipping sauce to their menu soon. Maybe that "secret marinade" they use on the chicken is in the gravy, too. Imagine that!

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