12 Things You Might Want To Avoid Ordering At Popeyes

If there's one thing that America's not lacking, it's restaurants that serve fried chicken. The classic fast food is available pretty much everywhere, and between KFC, Chick-fil-A, Church's Chicken, and Raising Cane's, consumers are spoiled for choice. It takes a lot for a chicken place to stand out in such a crowded market — but Popeyes manages it. From its first New Orleans-based store, opened by Alvin C. Copeland Sr. in 1972, Popeyes has become one of the major players in the fried chicken world. Nowadays, Popeyes is not only one of the main chicken restaurants in the U.S. but one of the main restaurants serving any type of food whatsoever; Technomic's Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report ranked Popeyes as the 15th-most popular chain restaurant in America in 2022 (via Restaurant Business Online).

But how does a restaurant reach such mammoth heights? Offering hard-to-beat food is certainly one way. However, nothing comes without compromise, and while Popeyes' food is beloved across the land, there are a few items on the menu that may not be all they're cracked up to be. Whether it's because of their nutritional value, their quality, or because they contain unexpected ingredients, you might not want to order everything on the Popeyes menu. And we're here to help you decide what to skip.

1. The four-piece chicken meal is super unhealthy

Sometimes, you just need a lot of chicken. Like, a lot of it. And that's where the four-piece meal from Popeyes comes to the rescue. Coming with four pieces of chicken, some fries, a biscuit, and a drink, it's a menu choice that will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. But all of that chicken adds up to a meal that's positively bursting with calories, fat, and sodium.

To put things in perspective, a chicken breast piece at Popeyes clocks in at 380 calories and 20 grams of fat alone, and the thighs are 280 calories and 21 grams of fat. And when all the elements are combined, this is a meal that delivers 1,662 calories in total. Sodium-wise, if you eat this whole meal yourself, you're consuming well over the daily recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams. While our bodies need some sodium to function correctly, eating too much of it can have a strong negative effect on our blood pressure and overall health, according to Healthline. You're far better off sharing this meal with a friend or going for a two-piece meal instead.

2. The Homestyle Mac & Cheese is high in saturated fat

Most people know that mac and cheese isn't the healthiest option on any given menu. But most people also know that the dish is an indulgence, and while the health gods may not be smiling upon you for ordering it, having it once in a while may not hurt.

It's a fine line between indulgent and plain old unhealthy, though, and Popeyes' Homestyle Mac & Cheese falls into the latter camp. A large portion of this pasta dish contains 850 calories, with 550 of those calories coming from fat alone. And within those fats are lurking an enormous proportion of saturated fats. Eating all of this mac and cheese on your lonesome will mean the consumption of 36 grams of saturated fat, almost double the amount you should have per day within a standard 2,000-calorie diet. When you consume high levels of saturated fats, they prompt a greater buildup of cholesterol in your blood vessels, which has negative knock-on effects on your heart health, per MedlinePlus.

And if you need another reason to give the mac and cheese a miss, we've got you covered. A Popeyes employee revealed on Reddit that the Homestyle Mac & Cheese was the one thing they'd never order, both because of its price and variable consistency. Between that and its nutrition, it's best to opt for something different.

3. Popeyes' Cajun fries are a hefty side

Popeyes does fries a little differently. Coated in its custom spice blend, the chain's Cajun fries deliver a little kick of flavor with each bite and, for many, are a necessary accompaniment to the fast food chain's chicken options. But if you're expecting these fries to be merciful on the nutrition front, prepare to be disappointed. Ordering Popeyes' fries in a large size places an additional 800 calories on your plate, which may be even more than the pieces of chicken or sandwich that they're accompanying.

And in addition to many of these calories coming from fat (370 of them, to be precise), a large proportion are provided by the fries' high carb count. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that they're made from potatoes, but it's still important to note that eating a large portion of Cajun fries delivers almost 100 grams of carbs. That's between a third and just under half of the entire amount of carbs you need daily, and if you're enjoying these fries as a part of a whole meal, that's a fairly significant amount.

4. Steer clear of the chicken livers

One thing that sets Popeyes apart from other fast food places is its championing of Southern staples. Its fried chicken livers are a great example of this. Only found at certain stores, Popeyes serves its fried chicken livers in a similar style to its other chicken — breaded, deep-fried, and seasoned with its signature spice blend. But what these pieces of organ meat gain in taste, they lose in nutritional value.

An order of fried chicken livers weighs in at a huge 1,190 calories, the majority of which are provided by their fat content. It should be pointed out that this isn't necessarily a result of Popeyes adding in additional fat, as organ meat is generally pretty fatty anyway. But regardless of where the fat originates from, it's in plentiful supply here.

The saturated fat level of Popeyes' fried chicken livers is also through the roof, with a portion providing approximately 170% of your daily recommended limit. While consuming some fats is necessary to keep your body functioning healthily, research shows that when eaten in higher quantities, saturated fats can be negatively impactful on your heart, brain, and liver health, per Everyday Health

5. Your kid's meal could be full of sodium

We all want our kids to eat healthily. But if you're sitting in a fast food restaurant, it's not exactly fair to give them an apple while you bite into a juicy chicken sandwich. And so Popeyes, like virtually all fast food chains, caters to kids with a selection of meals tailored toward them. But look out for what's really inside those pieces of chicken.

Take a Popeyes chicken tender, for example. Just one kids' meal tender contains a lip-smacking 610 milligrams of sodium. That's enough to have grown adults reaching for a glass of water, but giving your child that amount of sodium in a relatively small piece of food is probably not a great idea. Children and young people can be affected by high sodium levels in the same way that adults can, and this can contribute to higher blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if your kid is having that chicken tender alongside fries or a biscuit, that's even more sodium. 

If your child is under 8, try to limit their sodium intake to around 1,500 milligrams per day. If they're younger, they'll need even less per day, with 1,200 milligrams being the highest amount safe for under-3s. Unfortunately, they may be far better off eating somewhere other than Popeyes.

6. If you're a vegetarian, you might want to steer clear of the Red Beans & Rice

Trying to find appropriate vegetarian options at a chicken restaurant can seem like a pretty futile exercise, but even the most meat-filled eateries usually have a few things that vegetarians can enjoy. And at first glance, the Red Beans & Rice looks like a pretty good option at Popeyes. Surely with a name like that, it's just ... beans and rice. Right?

Alas, that's not quite the case, according to a past Popeyes employee. When asked what was in the red beans and rice, the worker stated: "I don't recall all the exact ingredients but there is lard and/or meat in them. Contrary to what some workers are instructed to say they are NOT vegetarian-friendly" (via Reddit). This is pretty useful intel as Popeyes' website doesn't say anything about whether the red beans and rice has meat in it or not. If you're in doubt, it's worth asking the server at your local branch about the nutritional information of the Red Beans & Rice. But it may also be worth just ordering something else entirely.

7. Its chicken sandwiches are a big meal

Of all the things that Popeyes is known for, its chicken sandwiches might be the most prominent. Coming in both a classic and spicy style, these sandwiches throw a breaded chicken breast into a brioche bun and adorn it with pickle and mayo for a burger that people can't get enough of.

But you might be surprised at how calorific this seemingly simple sandwich is. Despite being fairly innocent-looking, the classic and spicy sandwiches both contain 700 calories per serving. When compared to some other unhealthy fast food favorites, like the Texas Double Whopper from Burger King, which has over 1,800 calories per sandwich, Popeyes' offering may not seem that bad. But it still takes up a large proportion of the recommended daily calorie intake, which is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men. While you of course need enough calories daily to function effectively, it's easy to consume more calories than you realize, such as from this seemingly unassuming sandwich.

8. The egg and sausage biscuit is a monster breakfast

It's a well-worn saying: "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." And while that may not be strictly true, it's certainly important to fuel your activities and kick-start the day with some good nutrition. Where you might not find that nutrition, though, is in certain items on the Popeyes breakfast menu. One of the worst offenders is the Egg & Sausage Biscuit. With 22 grams of saturated fat, this biscuit could provide your entire daily recommended saturated fat allowance in just a few bites. The biscuit also contains only a single gram of fiber, which your bowel movements and blood sugar definitely won't thank you for (via the Mayo Clinic).

It's also important to consider that this breakfast item contains 690 calories. This makes it not only the most calorie-heavy choice on the Popeyes' breakfast menu but may also make it an overly calorific option for breakfast itself. Senior Principal Dietitian Christine Ong of Singapore's KK Women and Children's Hospital suggests opting for a breakfast choice that's between 300 and 400 calories (via HealthXchange). While this range may not be exactly right for everyone, it's probably worth looking for a more nutritious option to start your day than Popeyes' Egg & Sausage Biscuit.

9. Just three chicken tenders will deliver a hit of carbs

Chicken tenders are an all-time classic, and at Popeyes, they're one of the star offerings. Depending on how hungry you are, you can grab as few as three or as many as 16 tenders at a time, with tenders also available on the kids' menu.

It's easy to assume that the tenders, made with lean white meat, are one of the healthier things you can order at Popeyes. But before you do, you might want to consider what else is in them. This protein-led meal contains a surprising amount of carbs, with three chicken tenders containing 29 grams of carbohydrates. These carbs, which come from the breading on the chicken, can be problematic if you're trying to keep your carb count low, and especially if you're following something like the keto diet, which requires you to limit your carb intake significantly.

And the bad news doesn't stop there. Popeyes' chicken tenders have a fairly hefty amount of saturated fat, with 9 grams per three tenders. Eating lots of saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol levels, boosting your risk of heart-related conditions, per the National Health Service. Other items on the Popeyes menu have worse nutritional profiles, but don't be fooled into thinking that these chicken tenders are innocent.

10. Any spicy options might have been sitting out for a while

Amongst fast food places, Popeyes stands tall as somewhere where you can get a little spice. Whether it's chicken tenders, fish sandwiches, or fried chicken, whatever you're after, Popeyes has both a classic and a spicy version. But if you're hankering for some heat, it might be worth knowing how Popeyes employees treat the spicy food. "Spicy doesn't sell as well as mild, so it just sits there for longer than the 30 min," a Popeyes employee divulged in a thread on Reddit. According to the employee, that food is allowed to languish for an indeterminate length of time — essentially, until someone gets around to checking it, or a customer complains about it.

Now, we don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the best system for keeping food fresh, and it poses more problems than just you getting slightly substandard food. When food sits out, particularly at warm temperatures, it's more susceptible to bacteria and has the potential to become harmful or poisonous, according to the Mayo Clinic. This could, of course, just be the way things were done in this specific employee's store, but if in doubt, ask the restaurant manager about the freshness of the food before ordering.

11. Its biscuits are packed with salt

For a lot of people, fried chicken just isn't complete without a biscuit on the side. And Southern-style biscuits are one of Popeyes' flagship offerings, coming with a range of its meals or available to order as an independent side. But what makes its fluffy, buttery biscuits taste so darn good? Unfortunately, the salt levels in the product have something to do with it.

A single biscuit from Popeyes contains 440 milligrams of sodium. Although that may not seem like a lot, it's almost a fifth of your daily recommended value for the mineral. Just a couple of these alongside your fried chicken could tip your sodium intake over the edge. And when you pack away too much sodium, your blood becomes more voluminous due to water being drawn into it. This increases your blood pressure, and your subsequent risk of a host of ailments, like kidney disease and blindness, per the FDA.

As well as large amounts of salt making Popeyes biscuits taste good, the fat content in these baked morsels is also pretty high, with 6 grams of saturated fat per serving. Split your biscuit with your buddy, or skip it entirely.

12. Its sweet tea is sugar-filled

No fast food meal is complete without a drink to wash it all down. And at Popeyes, it's no surprise that all of the standard soda options like Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and Dr. Pepper are offered. But alongside that, Popeyes also has its own sweet tea blend on the menu. But what creates the sweetness in that sweet tea? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a copious amount of added sugar — 45 grams per serving, to be exact. That's way over the suggested limit for added sugars that you should be having a day, in just 22 ounces of liquid.

Granted, Popeyes' sweet tea is lower in sugar than lots of its other soda options. But that level of sweetness is still worrying, as routinely consuming high amounts of added sugars may raise the risk of liver and cardiovascular conditions, as well as increase inflammation throughout your body, according to Harvard Health Publishing. You may be far better off ordering another drink from the Popeyes menu. The chain's unsweetened tea is a good alternative to limit sugar intake, with no added sugar.