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).

chickennuggets1

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.

chickennuggets2

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.

chickennuggets3

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.

chickennuggets5

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

woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
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.

Read More

Join The Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Questions & Reviews

  1. 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.)

  2. 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!

  3. 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

    1. We went through that phase, too. I just starting calling all meats ‘proteins’
      Yep, that is a protein sweetie!

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

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

  9. 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..

  10. 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. 😀

  11. 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!

  12. 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! “

  13. Just saw this recipe for the 1st time & was wondering if the dipping sauce recipe mentioned was ever published?

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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 . . . .

  17. 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?

  18. 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!

  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. 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?