Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Chick-fil-a knock-off chicken nuggets from OUr Best Bites

There are moms out there whose kids have no idea what fast food restaurants are.

I am not one of those moms.

This isn’t a feather in my cap or something I’m bragging about, but the truth is that for us, sometimes fast food happens.

I’ve always been pretty open with the fact that I have one very unusually picky eater–if he could live on Kraft macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and cheese, he probably would (yes, I get a lot of advice, solicited and unsolicited, and no, I don’t want any right now. Thanks.) So even fast food can be a battle sometimes. But he will eat chicken nuggets, but only from places where the nuggets are just cut up pieces of chicken breast; if it’s ever been ground up and re-shaped into nugget-shaped somethings, he doesn’t want those. So I set out to make these at home. And they were juicy and salty and crispy and flavorful and a huge hit with kids and adults.

There are lots of baked variations out there, and the first time I made these, I tried baking some and frying some. And I decided that I’m just choosing a path and recommending that you fry these. They’re better. They just are. I know they’re not better FOR you, but honestly, sometimes you’ve just gotta take one for the team. I think there are ways to make a baked version tasty, but I felt like as it was, these were a little dry and flavorless and no one would eat them. So. There you have it. I’m being bossy. Fry these bad boys and call it a day.

You’re going to need 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces, buttermilk, dill pickle juice (yes, pickle juice; and those Walmart pickles are my favorites. Don’t judge.), and Tabasco sauce (which didn’t make the picture cut).


In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, combine the pickle juice, buttermilk, and about 10 dashes of Tabasco sauce. Add the chicken and seal the bag, then refrigerate it for 1-4 hours.


For the coating, you’ll need flour, baking soda, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, eggs, and panko bread crumbs.


When ready to cook, whisk together 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg whites and water (discard the yolks or use them for something else). Add the bread crumbs to a third shallow bowl. Begin heating about 2 inches of peanut oil in a heavy pot (keep an eye on it…a grease fire will ruin your day).

Place a handful of chicken pieces into the flour and toss to coat (you can also coat them all at once by combining the chicken and the flour mixture in a large Ziploc bag and shaking to coat). Roll the chicken in the egg whites, then roll to coat in the Panko.


Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. I find it works best when I use one hand to do the flour/egg part and the other hand for the bread crumbs–it kind of keeps the mess to a minimum.

Preheat oven to the lowest setting.

When the oil reaches 350 degrees, place 1/3-1/2 of the coated chicken pieces in the pan and cook, stirring gently and frequently, until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes; use an instant read thermometer to check them if you’re nervous; the nuggets should be at least 165 degrees F in the center).

Chick-fil-a knock-off chicken nuggets from OUr Best Bites

Place the cooked chicken in the heated oven (or serve, if you have hungry little monkeys hanging around the kitchen) and repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve immediately.

Chick-fil-a knock-off chicken nuggets from OUr Best Bites

Makes 6 servings.  And if you’re wondering what to dip them in- Sara is going to share her yummy dipping sauce that goes with these in an upcoming post.  Until then, ranch, ketchup, bbq sauce, and honey mustard are always faves!

Chick-fil-a knock-off chicken nuggets from OUr Best Bites

state of great taste pk


    1. I froze the left overs and sealed them with my food saver. It makes for a great quick dinner! Great recipe! My picky eater actually begs for them! Thank you for the recipe!

  1. You know what? These look great. And they’re definitely better than their mulched chicken parts cousins. Love love. And my kids will love. And about the pickle juice- I think I just heard that a certain chicken establishment uses pickle juice in their chicken and was was all, “now way, that’s so weird” and here you are, making sense of it all. Sigh. Thank you.

  2. Kate, while I’m not glad that you have an extremely picky eater, I AM glad that I’m not the only one! One of my girls is a good eater, one would live on PB&J and craisins, and the other will eat anything (has eaten homemade salsa by the spoonful). I didn’t do anything different with them. It’s just one of those things, I guess.

    These chicken nuggets look great and are going on the August menu!

  3. Yesterday my 2 year old ate a pb & honey sandwich with a cheese stick for lunch and Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner. No joke.

  4. I just wanted to send you some love through the world wide web regarding your picky eater and the meanies out there that think they need to comment on it in a not nice way. YOU ARE A GREAT MOM!!! Be proud sister!

  5. I feel strongly that Chick-fil-a chicken has a hint of celery seed, so I’d probably add a generous pinch of that as well. Looks delicious! Thank you!

  6. Remember when we didn’t have to stress so much about food and what we can admit out loud that we willingly feed our children? Those were the good ol’ preservative filled days… and we all survived somehow! 🙂

    I can’t get over how great all of your breaded items look. This is an area where I always fail! Yours are always even coated and professional looking, mine look like I turned the job over to my four year old. Might need to whip up some chicken nuggets to practice!

  7. Just want to tell all you moms with picky eaters out there that your kids will survive. Until the age of 17 I practically lived on PB and honey, cereal (lots and lots of cereal), hamburgers (with ketchup only please), rice, and baked potatoes (no sour cream please). I think I also occasionally would eat a carrot and an apple slice smothered in peanut butter. My husband still thinks I’m picky, but I’ll eat any vegetable now, most fruits, and I’m willing to try pretty much anything. I still don’t love seafood, olives and eggs (and I hate pickles), but that’s a pretty short list. And I’m now a very healthy adult with good blood pressure, low cholesterol and good metabolism (and a few cavities, but who’s counting).

  8. These nuggets look good! One thing I think everyone will eat. I have 3 kids, one eats everything, one eats most things and the other eats almost nothing. He’s 18 now and still hates everything, unless it’s fast foods. Wont eat any veggies and very few fruits. I think he was a “supertaster” as he always thought everything was TOO salty, sweet, sour, spicy etc. It doesn’t help to fight it. Just keep offering and hope they get better as they get older.

  9. These sound delicious! Have you ever trying frying up a batch and flash-freezing them? I wonder if they’d taste ok being baked.

  10. Hey, at least he make the “good choice” of non-weird parts chicken nuggets right? I love the “fast food happens” Yes. Yes it does. Thank you for being a regular person 😉

  11. My kids are the same! The 6 year old would eat most anything, the 4 year old is the bird by just pecking at her food, and the two year old is semi-picky, she wont do Pb&j, but will eat spicy foods and rice & beans. Lol! Chicken nuggets are everyone’s favorite though, and I already have chicken out for supper! Thanks!

  12. Is there any oil other than peanut oil that you’d recommend? I know you chose it because it is yummy and has a high smoke point, but we have peanut and tree nut allergies in the house. And yes, I can google for oils with high smoke point, but I’m trying to figure out if you (or anyone else out there who has experience) have a preference for frying besides peanut oil. I think my own picky eater (just the mac and cheese, please, no pb for her :)) would love this. Thanks!

    1. Grapeseed oil and canola are both good options. The downsides are that grapeseed is expensive and can be hard to find and canola can take on a fishy flavor at very high temps, so if you use it, just make sure it is a new bottle and keep an eye/nose on it; if it starts to smell fishy, your food will taste a little fishy, but that might not bother you. 🙂

    2. I have a daughter who is deathly allergic to peanuts and treenuts, but peanut oil is ok for us to use. Something about the protein not being in the oil. The one time I fried anything, I stuck with canola, but we visit restaurants (especially Chik-fil-a, because their shakes are nut-safe) that use peanut oil with no problem. I know all allergies are different, but you could ask your doctor if you could use peanut oil?

      “The FDA exempts highly refined peanut oil from being labeled as an allergen. Studies show that most individuals with peanut allergy can safely eat peanut oil (but not cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil – sometimes represented as gourmet oils). If you are allergic to peanuts, ask your doctor whether or not you should avoid peanut oil.” http://www.foodallergy.org/allergens/peanut-allergy

      1. thanks, amber. when i asked, her allergist told that i am lucky that restaurants are now telling customers they use peanut oil at all, and i shouldn’t bank on them telling me how it is processed. we have avoided chik-fil-a for that very reason, but it sounds like they are using the refined type. i’m so glad to know about their shakes! i suppose i’d be able to check the label if i were buying it myself, though…that’s a great idea. thanks! 🙂

  13. Pickle juice is a problem. NOBODY in my family likes pickles so I would never have them in my pantry. We pull them out of burgers, leave them untouched when served with sandwiches. So – an alternative that we might have in the pantry? I am assuming it’s the acidity that’s needed to keep the chicken moist, but can you taste it afterwards? Would some kind of non-pickle infused vinegar work. I don’t want to have chicken tasting of vinegar though.

  14. I may finally get to make something for my two picky eaters that they will actually eat. Usually it is cereal or yogurt for dinner.

  15. These look awesome, thanks! I have a kid just like that except he won’t even eat chick-fil-a. Not that we don’t keep trying :).

  16. These look amazing! My ONLY beef with frying things at home is the smell – it seems to permeate every thing from our clothes to the walls and make mt house smelly for days! Do you have any tips for frying without stinking up the house? I guess I’ve only ever tried it with canola oil and not peanut so maybe that might have something to do with it.

    1. Simmer a pot of vinegar and water on the stove for an hour or so (or less if you don’t have time). Maybe around 2 cups water and 1/2 cup vingar (apple cider or white). It always works! (We use it for that burned toast/popcorn/sticky overflow spots in the oven too)

  17. We love these chicken nuggets. Ours are slightly different but the pickle juice and buttermilk make such a crazy good marinade. I’m excited to try using panko crumbs. I have one of those picky eaters too (pb&j, yogurt and bananas only please) and these are usually a hit with her. I hope the sauce is similar to Chick-fil-A sauce because it’s my favorite and I have no idea how to replicate it!

  18. I am laying in bed and now starving for these chicken nuggets! Thank you for that. What is your opinion on using a deep fryer? Or do you think the stove top is better?

  19. I just want to say two things:
    1. Thank you for keeping it real. Seriously, fast food happens. It’s okay. Thank you.
    2. This recipe looks not only delicious but pretty dang easy. Thank you for sharing! My picky eater doesn’t eat meat still (he’s 2.5) but the rest of us will enjoy these. 🙂

  20. These look scrumptious! Yes, thank you ladies for being real moms! I’m sure that these nuggets are still better for you than the ones at fast food places. Just one question that I haven’t seen asked yet… why pickle juice? (I love dill pickles and it is a great way to use some of the juice.) Is it a flavor thing or is there some other culinary magic at work? Thanks again!

  21. Just a quick question. I have a child with peanut & tree nut allergies. (We can never eat at that particular fast food joint, you were talking about with her.) Do you think regular vegatable oil would yield the same results as the peanut oil?

  22. At least your picky eaters will eat chicken nuggets!! Mine won’t eat them in any form, he won’t even eat french fries. Who dosn’t eat french fries?!! His only fruit OR vegetable is the occassional banana, his only protein is from yogurt and sometimes pepperoni slices or bacon, oh, and do you count ice cream?(super healthy!). He devours cereal, pancakes, waffles, french toast, donuts and I would be exstatic if I could get him to eat PB&J, but no, lunch is PB on graham crackers, every single day. Argh!! My other two eat way better!! I thought #2 was picky until I had #3. Someday . . . .

  23. Thought this recipe would be a good compromise for my normal eating 5 year old and my picky 2 year old who only wants “chicky nuggets” and “Mac cheese!” They loved it for dinner! But, he was over it by lunch the next day 🙁 he insisted I cook him frozen nuggets. So needless to say, children are crazy! We will be making these again and he can eat his frozen ones!

  24. If you pulse the chicken chunks in a blender and grind to a slurry, then mix with an egg and a small amount of potato flakes and press into the coating mixture, you can fool a 3-year-old into thinking they are eating “real” chicken nuggets. True story. They come out with the same spongy texture that McD’s nuggets have, and aren’t full of unidentifiable ingredients. I even ate a few. Also VERY freezable. Pop into the oven, and heat until crisp!

  25. I have been makingthese for years and my picky eaters gobble them up. I actually dont usethe pickle juice at all and they come out fine. My kids call it “Crunchy Chicken! “

  26. Thanks for the yummy recipe. We made these for dinner last night. We ate Chick-fil-a the night before and they gave us so many dipping sauces I wanted more. We made these homemade puppies and they were so much better AND cheaper!

  27. These were delicious! I’ve been looking for a good chicken nugget recipe for some time amd my search stops now! I’m not a fan of pickles but the juice paired really well with the combo of spices.
    Yum. 😀

  28. These nuggets look sooo good! I’m making them tonight. Already got them marinating in the fridge 🙂 will let you know how it turns out..

  29. I love these and so do my picky eaters. I recently learned about air fryers. Have either of you ever used one of these?

  30. I LOVE this recipe – it’s the only one I’ve EVER found that my entire family will eat. However, because I am making it once a week, I am suddenly finding several jars of sad, skinny, dehydrated dill pickles in my refrigerator, with no place to go! Is there a replacement ingredient for the pickle juice? Or is there a wonderful recipe that uses TONS of dill pickles simmering in your mind? Thanks for the help!

  31. Thank you! I make nuggets for my picky 3-1/2 yr old (rhough I make big batches to last a few days for all of us to snack on…I hate the smell of “fry” in the house!) He has gotten so bad in the past year that he eats only PB on his sandwich, no jelly or other condiment. Velveeta Shells & Cheese, but only the microwavable cups. In the past two months, he’s given up pizza b/c he says he doesn’t like the sauce…which is crap, b/c he won’t even eat sauceless cheese pizza. My only saving grace is that he loves fruit, colby cheese sticks, yogurt, chicken nuggets and steamed broccoli (and don’t even think about putting cheese on it.) He loves McD’s nuggets and refuses ChickFilA. Ugh. I’m so tired of advice after surviving my 6-1/2 yr old being picky (which she is finally gerowing out of!) that I tend to be rude when people give it now. My kids are obviously healthy, not oberweight, very active kids. I don’t need advice. Pediatrician says he’s healthy and don’t worry about it. I mean, YOU are a food blogger, you are obviously a good, well-rounded cook as well. Now I don’t feel so bad. 🙂 I love your blog…and I know I’ve sent some new followers to your page the past few weeks. (It was the cinnamon rolls that did it!) Keep cookin, Mama! And thank you!

  32. I’ve just started making my own chicken nuggets. I cost them with crushed cinnamon toast crunch. Weird,I know but they’re actually pretty good. I can’t wait to try this one. I’ve noticed that most recipes use panko bread crumbs, such I’ve never used. Why specifically those? I find it interesting that the people who have 3 kids say one eats everything, one east most things, and the other is really picky. Same thing in my house. 🙂

  33. OH MY GOSH! Thank you so much for posting this! As I read this, I seriously felt like I wrote it! This is the ONLY way I can get my daughter to eat any protein! I’m so happy to have this recipe!

  34. We are gonna give this a try…helps us to mix it up a little and use chicken aside from always baking…..since out 2 year old loves chicken , we pretty much call all meats that hit her plate chicken for now and it passes her inspection process….she loves Chick Fila nuggets so I am hoping these will match and save us some $$$ and the rare fast food trip!!!
    Thanks again

  35. My kids love chicken nuggets, they ask for it every time we go to KFC. Gonna try your version, they looks far better. Thank you for the recipe!

  36. This recipe is six years old and I just fried up 10 lbs of chicken strips using your recipe. Two gallon bags of 25 strips are in the freezer and the rest will be greedily devoured on the next few days. This has truly stood the test of time. (My kids are out of the house these days and I totally texted them a picture of our pyramid of delicious to make them a little homesick.)

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