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

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. 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!

  2. Pickle juice is an amazing idea!!! How do you think these would turn out being baked instead of fried?

    1. I’ve tried baking them–they’re okay, but not great, especially the time I fried half and baked the other half. They were just dry and flavorless by comparison.

  3. 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. Canola definitely stinks worse. I just open up the windows and hope for the best, haha!

    2. 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)

  4. 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 :).

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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! 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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 😉

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

    1. I totally bet you could and that they’d be delicious. I’d just reheat them in a high temp (probably around 425) oven until they’re hot.

  11. Yum! I tried baking homemade nuggets once and they just weren’t good. I’ll have to try this homemade fried version and see if they work out better for me!

  12. 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.

  13. 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).

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. I’ve done it before….just reheat them in a hot oven (maybe around 400?) to get the crispy back. 🙂

    2. 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!