We haven’t seen a fried chicken and donut sandwich where we live. We don’t know why they didn’t become the next thing in New York City. But evidently, they became a trend elsewhere, as far back as 2009—and we’ve been out of the loop.
While a Fat Kreme donut burger from Fatburger dates to 2003 national publicity in 2008 made us familiar with Paula Deen’s version of it, the infamous “The Lady’s Brunch Burger,” a bacon cheeseburger with fried egg atop two Krispy Kreme donuts (and years later, we still respond: Ouch!).
So how did we “discover the fried chicken and donut/doughnut sandwich (the difference between the spellings)?
From a press release informing us of the fried chicken and donuts sandwich from Citizen Chicken in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Their specialty, the C’mon Sandwich (photo #1), is a fried chicken breast, house made “Comeback sauce,” coleslaw and bacon on two donuts.
And that’s not all. The release teased about an upcoming Vanimal Sandwich. The Vanimal “will involve chicken, donuts, and if you finish in a certain amount of time your photo goes on the wall and you win a free t-shirt.” Does this mean that the Vanimal is an animal-size portion—say, for a wolf or a mountain lion? Hmmm.
A little research turned up that: KFC sold a sandwich with fried chicken and glazed doughnuts last year.
KFC U.S. chief marketing officer Andrea Zahumensky said that “Chicken & Donuts is the newest fried chicken trend we’re bringing to all of America,” [source].
Maybe they’re bringing it all over America, but they acknowledge that they certainly didn’t invent the concept.
The company noted that it was merely introducing an existing food fad to a national audience. “The Chicken & Donuts trend has been gaining popularity, but mostly on a local level in areas like Philadelphia, San Diego and Portland.”
In 2007, California’s Chicken Charlie’s served a fried chicken patty between a sliced Krispy Kreme raspberry jelly-filled doughnut, with optional cheese and honey (Ouch #2!) [source—and this 2009 photo lineup of nine different donut sandwiches is quite an eye opener].
In 2013, The Washington Post tried the sandwich at Astro Fried Chicken & Doughnuts: a fried chicken BLT on a savory chive doughnut with fried bacon and mayonnaise [source].
Another version, from GBD in Washington, placed the fried chicken on a brioche doughnut with a layer of bacon and a maple-chicken jus.
In 2016, Eater commented on the national fried chicken and doughnut trend.
And so on and so on…more fried chicken on more donuts. Most examples we’ve seen use two glazed donuts: one on top, one on bottom. We cut the donuts in half and grilled the cut surfaces (photo #2) to cut down—a bit—on calories. It also makes the sandwich more easy to handle.
MAKE YOUR OWN FRIED CHICKEN & DONUT SANDWICH
In this recipe from The Spruce (photo #2), buttermilk fried chicken breasts are topped with cheese and served in a grilled doughnut.
It has a slice of American cheese, but we’d trade that for coleslaw and a better slice of cheese—say, Cheddar or Gruyère.
According to the Washington Post (which called the KFC sandwich “terrifying and delicious,” a Harlem cook named Joseph Wells created it in the 1930s for customers leaving Harlem clubs when it was too late for dinner, but too early for breakfast. But Miller says its roots go even deeper.
The same article notes that Ditto the KFC chicken sandwich “can be seen as a descendant of ‘The Luther,’ a sandwich styled after R&B legend Luther Vandross. According to pop-culture mythology, Vandross, who died in 2005, liked his burgers with doughnuts instead of buns.”
The article also quotes soul food historian Adrian Miller, who notes that cookbooks as far back as the late 1700s pair fried chicken paired with hot bread—a biscuit, roll pancake, or perhaps, waffle (however, no chicken-and-waffle recipe appears in cookbooks, even in the late 19th century).
Thomas Jefferson brought the first waffle iron to the U.S. in 1789 and chicken and waffles became a popular Sunday meal at Monticello. The idea just didn’t make it into the cookbooks. (the history of chicken and waffles).