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4 Chain Restaurants With The Absolute Best Chicken Pot Pie And 4 With The Worst

Chicken pot pie in cast iron pan
Chicken pot pie in cast iron pan - Toasted Pictures/Shutterstock

Chicken pot pie is classic American comfort food. The savory scent of it baking in the oven swells the air with a palpably ravenous anticipation, and each satisfying forkful seems to contain the entire food pyramid in a single bite. Chicken pot pie filling is typically made with chicken breast meat that's shredded (or cut into cubes) along with minced onions, carrots, and peas that are all bound together with a creamy gravy sauce. The pie is covered in dough and then baked until it's golden brown.

The problem is that the quality of chicken pot pie tends to fluctuate between restaurants. Ideally, we're hoping for a chicken pot pie with a flavorful filling that's rich with the right consistency — not too thick, but also not too thin. The chicken should be tender instead of chewy, and the crust should be flaky and buttery yet also provide some level of crispness. The vegetables in the filling should also be cooked through and soft but not totally mushy. With these basic standards in mind, I've come up with a list of four chain restaurants with the best chicken pot pie and four with the worst. These restaurants were selected through my own experiences at some, and others were chosen after reviewing the feedback of tasters ranging from local food critics to popular YouTubers. More information about methodology can be found at the end of this article.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of American Fast Food Restaurants

Best: KFC

KFC chicken pot pie
KFC chicken pot pie - KFC/Facebook

It's nearly impossible to have a conversation about chain restaurant chicken without bringing KFC into the discussion. The company is an undeniable American icon, yet other brands — hungry for more of the market and willing to ruffle some feathers — have studiously swooped in to give the headquarters of Colonel Sanders a run for its money, notably kicking off the competitive chicken sandwich wars. Inexplicably, as the battle for superiority between the buns rages on, there's an unsung hero on KFC's menu that's somehow flown under the radar of diners and remains astoundingly underrated despite its greatness: its chicken pot pie.

I've tasted the chicken pot pie at KFC and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it hits all the right marks — and does it with a reasonable price tag. On top of that, KFC's chicken pot pies are actually a great way for the kitchen to put extra orders of chicken to good use, since the company debones and shreds all of its extra chicken to make chicken pot pies. The shredded chicken is mixed with gravy, diced potatoes, peas, and carrots and then topped with a flaky, golden-brown crust. Because this pot pie is made with pieces of KFC's fried chicken, that rich fried chicken flavor infuses into the pot pie and makes it extra tasty. If you haven't tried the chicken pot pie at KFC, do yourself a favor and change that.

Worst: Boston Market

Boston Market chicken pot pie
Boston Market chicken pot pie - Boston Market/Facebook

Boston Market appears to be in bad shape these days. Having closed down at least a third of its restaurants in 2023, the company seems to be struggling and dramatically sizing down its operations. We don't mean to add insult to injury here, but truth be told, the restaurant's lackluster chicken pot pie isn't exactly doing the company any favors.

In a taste test by Timmy's Takeout, Boston Market's chicken pot pie was noted for its sizable portion of chicken and thick filling. That said, the sauce — which is the heart and soul of chicken pot pie that binds everything together — disgracefully falls flat. In fact, Timmy stated that the sauce really just tastes like milk without any seasonings whatsoever. This is a shame, because if the sauce were seasoned better and had more flavor, the chicken pot pie at Boston Market could be a serious contender here. Instead, what we're left with is bland and uninspired.

Best: Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen chicken pot pie
Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen chicken pot pie - Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen/Facebook

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen was established in 1979, and as its name suggests, the restaurant is known for cooking much of its menu from scratch. Some of Cheddar's menu items that are made in-house include honey-butter croissants, smoked barbecue ribs, hand-battered chicken tenders, and the company's famous chicken pot pie.

Because the chicken pot pies are made fresh every single day at Cheddar's, the company portions it out into batches that get baked to order in bowls. The end result is supremely fresh and flavorful, making this one of the best restaurant chain chicken pot pies around. In fact, in his review of Cheddar's, the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Joseph noted the dish's tender chicken and flaky crust. The chicken pot pies at many other chains taste pre-made and overly processed, but the pie at Cheddar's tastes about as close as you can get to homemade chicken pot pie at a restaurant. Cheddar's has also been known to feature its chicken pot pie as a weekday lunch special for a reduced price with the same generous portion, which is definitely an added bonus.

Worst: Metro Diner

Metro Diner chicken pot pie
Metro Diner chicken pot pie - Metro Diner/Facebook

Don't get us wrong: Metro Diner may not have the best chicken pot pie in the biz, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the chain is totally irredeemable. The company's breakfast sausage gravy is on point, and the sprawling menu is big enough to provide plenty of other solid options. But we're here to judge the merits (or lack thereof) of the restaurant's chicken pot pie, and the reality is that it leaves much to be desired.

According to food critic Jon Palmer Claridge, writing for Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, the chicken pot pie at Metro Diner tastes like it's made with an unsavory union of canned soup and instant pancake mix. If you're really craving chicken pot pie and happen to find yourself at a Metro Diner, there are certainly worse fates to suffer, but this place's chicken pot pie doesn't really seem to be of a high enough caliber that's worth going out of your way for. If chicken is what you're in the mood for, you're better off ordering Metro Diner's fried chicken sandwich.

Best: Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel chicken pot pie
Cracker Barrel chicken pot pie - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

As a restaurant chain that's cherished for its classic comfort food, Cracker Barrel almost has an imperative cultural obligation to churn out a tasty chicken pot pie. The old-timey vibe that saturates every fiber of Cracker Barrel's being makes it feel like chicken pot pie is irrevocably entwined to the company's culinary destiny. Fortunately, this is a case where expectations and execution fortuitously align.

Made with slowly simmered chicken along with potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, and celery, Cracker Barrel's chicken pot pie filling is stirred with a creamy sauce and then topped with a baked pastry crust. Having tried the chicken pot pie myself, I would say that the portion feels fair, with plenty of meat and vegetables. The only thing I'd ding this chicken pot pie for is a slight lack of seasoning — which is a surprising criticism for a restaurant that's not exactly known for holding back on the salt. That said, the chicken pot pie at Cracker Barrel is still ultimately satisfying — especially for a chain restaurant.

Worst: Jason's Deli

Jason's Deli chicken pot pie soup
Jason's Deli chicken pot pie soup - Jason's Deli/Facebook

Jason's Deli is a chain that's mostly known for its specialty sandwiches. One feature of the menu that makes it unique is the fact that it serves muffalettas — a regional sandwich from New Orleans that's seldom seen at other chain restaurants. Even though Jason's Deli doesn't offer chicken pot pie in the traditional sense, it still serves chicken pot pie soup — and because the restaurant specifically uses the term "chicken pot pie" to describe it, I feel it falls into an admissible realm that's worthy of critique.

On the plus side, the soup is available as a cup. It's nice to have a smaller portion of what's normally such a gut-busting dish. The problem here is that after tasting it, I have to admit that it falls short of the rich flavor and texture that I've come to expect from chicken pot pie, so it's ultimately disappointing. The concept of capturing the essence of chicken pot pie in soup form is a good one, but the execution and recipe should be tweaked a bit. The chicken and veggies should be heartier, and the pastry dough topping should be more flaky and less chewy.

Best: Lazy Dog

Lazy Dog chicken pot pie
Lazy Dog chicken pot pie - Lazy Dog Restaurants/Facebook

Lazy Dog may not be quite as prevalent as some of the other chains on this list, but the company has a few dozen locations scattered across the country, with more in development. What's cool about this restaurant is how pet-friendly it is — dog-lovers will also be pleased to see that the patio welcomes pooches, and a pup section of the menu offers special bowls of grilled hamburger or grilled chicken mixed with brown rice and veggies for its visiting woofers. Aside from the restaurant's compassion for dogs, its menu for humans has a nostalgic and charming affinity for classic American TV dinners that are served in aluminum trays. Lazy Dog offers a variety of TV dinners made from scratch, including BBQ meatloaf, cheese enchiladas, and chicken pot pie.

Lazy Dog's chicken pot pie is made with slow-roasted chicken breast and seasonal vegetables and then baked in a pie crust and topped with chopped herbs. The chicken pot pie has been stated by reviewers to be exceptionally hearty and filling, and the restaurant also sells frozen trays of it if you'd like to bake it at home. When hunger strikes and you're looking for some fresh chicken pot pie, it's hard to beat Lazy Dog's version of it.

Worst: Potbelly

Potbelly chicken pot pie soup
Potbelly chicken pot pie soup - Potbelly Sandwich Works/Facebook

Similar to Jason's Deli, Potbelly is known for its sandwiches and also features a chicken pot pie soup. The main issue here according to reviewers is that Potbelly can be a little stingy with the pot pie crust that it sprinkles on top. Because the texture of this soup largely depends on the crust, it ends up taking on a homogenous consistency when there aren't enough crumbs to provide some textural contrast.

The chicken inside of Potbelly's chicken pot pie is a bit mushy from being completely submerged in the soup's broth, to the point that it practically dissolves in the mouth. Of course, tenderness is a good thing, but there's a difference between tender and gelatinous, and the chicken here straddles that line like a tightrope. Perhaps if the chicken were cut into heartier chunks instead of sliced into tiny pieces, it would be more resistant to liquified obliteration. Bottom line: The chicken pot pie soup is nothing to write home about, and you're better off sticking to the sandwiches at Potbelly.

Methodology

Chicken pot pies on cooling racks
Chicken pot pies on cooling racks - Diane Labombarbe/Getty Images

The chicken pot pie dishes in this article were judged based on overall flavor, texture, freshness of ingredients, and cost. The selections for this list came from a combination of opinions based on the author's personal dining experiences, food reviews from publications such as Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and taste tests conducted by diners of popular YouTube channels like Timmy's Takeout.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.