We Tested a Whole Bunch of Frozen Chicken Nuggets and These Are the Three Bags You Should Buy

You will never guess the winner of this taste test.

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February 12, 2020


Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

If you've walked down the frozen food aisle of your grocery store lately, you've probably seen more than a dozen different varieties of chicken nuggets, from classic plain to chile-lime. There are also lots of plant-based options on those store shelves. It's overwhelming.

Whether you're a toddler or a full-fledged grown-up, we all have opinions about what makes a great chicken nugget. My personal favorite is McDonald's chicken nuggets — how do they get the breading like that?! But, I digress.

To level the playing field, for this taste test we factored in three things when deciding on the best store-bought frozen chicken nuggets: crispiness of breading, juiciness of chicken, and overall taste. We only considered fully cooked frozen chicken nuggets in classic or kid-friendly shapes (like dinos), made of 100% chicken or a combination of chicken and plants, which could be cooked in the oven or microwave. This ruled out popcorn chicken, chicken "bites" of any kind, tenders and patties, and chicken nuggets designed for the air fryer. We also ruled out 100% plant-based chicken nuggets for this test.

We cooked 12 varieties of chicken nuggets in a toaster oven, full-size oven and microwave, according to package instructions. We cooked six nuggets at a time and evaluated them based on the parameters listed above. More than 200 chicken nuggets later, these are the three varieties we love the most.

The overall best chicken nuggets are fairly new to the marketplace. In 2019, Perdue released a line of frozen chicken products called Perdue Plus: frozen chicken nuggets, tenders and patties made with a combination of ground chicken and veggies (each serving contains a 1/4 cup of chickpeas and cauliflower). We found these nuggets to be the most flavorful of any frozen chicken nugget. When made in the toaster oven or full-size oven, their crunchy breading that gets a bit crusty at the edges. The meat stays juicy and the texture was appealing — not at all mushy or vegetable-like. Were it not for the packaging, we would never hae known that each serving contained the 1/4 cup of "hidden" veggies, and would have assumed Perdue just found some really flavorful chicken for their excellent new nugget line.

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When it comes to crunchy breading, these Perdue Panko nuggets won out. Of all the 100%-chicken nugget varieties (without added veggies or flavors), these nuggets had decent chicken flavor and the crispiest breading when made in the oven or toaster oven. We love the dino shape for the ultimate nod back to childhood lunches.

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As far as nostalgia goes, Target's house-brand Archer Farms took the title of the most-classic chicken nuggets in our minds. The breading is thin, but maintains its crunch and doesn't get too soggy too fast. While the chicken isn't very flavorful, it did maintain a decently juicy texture, and didn't dry out like some of the other varieties. These are ideal for a mid-afternoon snack served with plenty of ketchup on the side.

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