If you’re a picky eater, then chicken nuggets, strips, fingers, or tenders are probably a go-to for you at restaurants. Regardless, they’re a staple in most fast-food chains, and for good reason. Who doesn’t love crispy, bite-sized fried chicken? With that said, some chicken nuggets are just better than others so here are the top 10 fast-food chicken nuggets ranked from worst to best.
10. Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites
Let’s kick things off with Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites. Most people don’t go to Shake Shack for their value prices, but depending on where you’re located, six nuggets will cost you anywhere from a little over four US dollars to a little over six, plus tax. You can get them as a six count or a ten count with the choice of either BBQ sauce or honey mustard – which seems pretty limited as far as sauces go. The nuggets are a good size for dipping and aren’t completely uniform, making them feel a little more homemade. They are pretty flaky however, which can be nice for the breaded layer, but these little bites tend to break apart as they’re dipped – the ultimate tragedy. The batter basically just falls apart after the first bite, making it a pretty unenjoyable experience. Even the adequate flavour couldn’t save these nuggets. There’s quite a bit of grease and by the time you get around to eating your last nuggets, they’ve become soggy and generally lose their appeal. The breaded coating falling off is the biggest deal breaker with these nuggets, and for this reason, we’re out.
9. Sonic’s Jumbo Popcorn Chicken
With over 1.5 million combinations of flavors available from slushes, coffees, and milkshakes, Sonic is known for its wide selection of beverages. The set-up of their drive-thrus is also pretty cool. You can park under an awning in the shade, order your food, and have a carhop bring it to you. It’s definitely a trip to the past, and we’ve got to give out bonus points for that. Their jumbo popcorn chicken is advertised as juicy, all-white meat with the choice of Buttermilk Ranch, Honey Mustard or Hickory BBQ dipping sauce. Alas, the jumbo nuggets’ name may be a little deceiving. They are, in fact, not very jumbo at all. They are actually very typically sized for chicken nuggets and there is sometimes a disproportionate meat to batter ratio. Their seasoning is also nothing to write home about and a few reviews claim that the chicken is dry. On the bright side, the nuggets aren’t super greasy, so you won’t be left with a ton of residue. It is also worth noting that one customer said half of their order was much better than the other half. What’s up with that? Maybe it just depends on the freshness of the batch. Either way, Sonic’s mediocrity is going to land them near the bottom in rankings, but we do appreciate their charm!
8. Burger King Chicken Nuggets
One might have the urge to call these imitation McNuggets. Burger King’s nuggets look very similar in size, shape and even color to the ones from McDonald’s. The lack of originality is going to cost them some points here. However, the chicken is quite dense and white, and the seasoning is alright. While the flavor is fine, they are also almost too moist and a little oily. The batter has a nice crisp to it, but it has been noted that the chicken has a bit of a weird texture. Burger King makes some great burgers and their chicken tenders were also great while they were around, but in terms of nuggets, these ones just miss the mark compared to others on the list. With that said, the price point is unbeatable. In certain states, you can get ten nuggets for a little over a dollar. If there’s one thing that saves these nuggets, it’s BK’s unbeatable deals. Who ever said there is shame in settling for the cheap nuggets lied. (Alright, no one said that, but we’re letting you know that it’s ok, there’s no shame.) Overall, for the price, Burger King has some decent, if somewhat unoriginal, chicken nuggets.
7. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets
We recognize that ranking the staple that is McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets so low on the list is bound to cause some uproar, but hear us out. Their simplicity is why they’re one of the most popular chicken nuggets out there, but simplicity can also just be… well, boring. These nuggets are uniform in shape and size, which makes them very satisfying in appearance, and they taste pretty good. However, the seasoning is relatively average – there’s nothing super exciting going on. The decisive shortcoming of these nuggets is that they’re just a little too soft. While the coating is even and crispy, it’s too thin, especially when dipping. The meat ends up feeling a bit squishy rather than tender in texture, sort of like tofu, and the coating isn’t thick enough to save it. In fact, you can easily peel off the breading from the chicken, which is the tell-tale mark of a fake nugget. Admittedly, we’re all aware of how processed chicken nuggets are in general, but no one wants to see evidence of it, much less taste it. With that said, these are some classic nuggets that bring back all the nostalgia of being a kid.
6. Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets
Weirdly enough, Wendy’s regular chicken nuggets are pretty different from their spicy chicken nuggets. Their texture is a little different, overall they’re less moist and the exterior coating is a little floury. The meat is under-seasoned while the coating is over-seasoned. Despite this, they taste more like real chicken than McDonald’s nuggets, which is why they find themselves higher on this list. Wendy’s nuggets have a good meat to coating ratio and the texture of the batter has a nice thickness, as well as a good crispiness. They’re just a little lacklustrer when compared to Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets. If you’re not a fan of the heat, however, these are still some great nuggets. Of course, dipping sauces are a crucial part of eating chicken nuggets, so let’s go over Wendy’s options. The brand prides itself on using real spices like garlic, chili and onion powders, paprika, ground turmeric, and other pantry ingredients you would use at home. For example, they use Dijon mustard in their Creamy Sriracha sauce and pineapple juice concentrate in their Sweet & Sour sauce. Most of their sauces are pretty classic chicken nugget dipping options, but Wendy’s claims to strive to create a unique experience when it comes to their flavors. So, while they do have BBQ and Honey Mustard sauces, they also have their own signature sauce called Side of S’Awesome. It’s described as a blend of ranch dressing, smoky barbeque, hot sauce, a little honey mustard and a splash of Worcestershire. It really is the ultimate chicken nugget sauce, combining nearly every flavor one might want to dip their nugget in. We’ve gotta give it to them, a Side of S’Awesome does sound awesome.
5. Jack in the Box Chicken Nuggets
Next up we’ve got Jack in the Box. They’ve been around since 1951, so they’ve had lots of practice to get this right; however, they didn’t introduce chicken nuggets to their menu until 2012. To put it bluntly, these are some good nuggets. They are perfectly golden brown and crispy, and uniform in shape and size for all of those who care about the aesthetic look of their nuggets. Where McDonald’s fails in the homemade taste, Jack in the Box gets it right. Their meat actually tastes like chicken and it’s well seasoned. It also has a good texture, it’s not too soft or rubbery, it’s just tender and delicious. They’ve also got some sauce options that other fast food chains don’t offer, if you’re looking to mix things up as far as dipping goes. Some notable ones include: Tartar dipping sauce, Chipotle sauce, Mayo-Onion, Teriyaki, Zesty Marinara, Sweet Chili, and Buttermilk House dipping sauce among others. These classic nuggets are a go-to and we like that they think out of the box when it comes to sauces. Get it? Out of the box! Anyways, like we said before, these are some really good nuggets.
4. KFC Popcorn Chicken
Colonel Sanders has got to be considered the great grandfather of fast food chicken meals. If you’re going to claim to specialize in fried chicken, you have to be high on the list. Sorry, we don’t make the rules. (Actually, we do.) Founded in 1952, their original product was pressure-fried chicken seasoned with Sanders’ secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Among the many chicken pieces they offer, Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t actually have any meals labeled “nuggets”. They have tenders, which would be an unfair comparison, and “popcorn chicken”. Unlike Sonic’s Jumbo Popcorn Chicken (which are more comparable to typical nugget size), KFC’s popcorn chicken is actually closer in size to real popcorn. If you’re looking for the ultimate crunch in a nugget, this popcorn chicken just might be your new favorite. Because they’re so small, the coating is pretty thick compared to standard chicken nuggets, giving a satisfying crunch with every bite. These little guys retain the texture of traditional chicken, while still being moist and tasty. In terms of downfalls, they are pretty salty and get oily once they get cool, so eat them warm and in smaller helpings. This is the distinctive KFC flavor you love in bite-sized form. Yum!
3. Popeyes Chicken Nuggets
Popeyes is best known for their amazing chicken sandwich with spicy mayo, but we also love them for their deep-fried seafood. If you like popcorn chicken, chances are you’ll love their popcorn shrimp. Whether its whole breast chicken or seafood, their meat is marinated in a unique blend of Louisiana seasonings and served crispy in their authentic southern style breading. So, if you like chicken nuggets with good crispiness to them, Popeyes is a great option. The breading is thick around the chicken breast (sort of like popcorn chicken), giving these nuggets an awesome texture. The meat itself is well-portioned and delightedly juicy. They’re lightly seasoned which can be neither here nor there, depending on how salty you like your nuggets. One thing is for sure, it means you can’t go wrong with dipping for the added flavor. Speaking of dipping, Popeyes has its own range of signature sauces: Bayou Buffalo, Barbeque, Sweet Heat, Mardi Gras Mustard, Buttermilk Ranch, and Blackened Ranch. If Popeyes nuggets aren’t available in your location, they do serve boneless chicken wings in some places, or you can always opt for the crispy chicken tenders.
2. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets
These are an absolute must have, as far as chicken nuggets go. If the Twitter hype is anything to go by, Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets are where it’s at. They were removed from the menu in 2017 due to a lack of demand, but customers spent the next two years asking for the menu item to be brought back. In fact, there was even an online petition started to stop the discontinuation of the chicken nuggets that got over 10,000 signatures. Finally, in May of 2019, Wendy’s tweeted out saying that if their tweet got 2 million likes, they would bring back their spicy nuggets. Sure enough, the tweet received 2.1 million likes and the rest is history. To celebrate, Wendy’s gave away 2 million spicy chicken nuggets through DoorDash to celebrate the return of the menu item. These are a fan-favorite for sure, and there’s no questioning why. The spiciness is moderate, which is a good middle-ground for most people. For those who don’t like spice or aren’t used to it, these nuggets will likely be too hot. For those who enjoy the heat, these taste phenomenal, but don’t go in expecting them to be Carolina Reaper hot. If you’re a fan of spice, though, you’ll probably find the strength of the heat perfect. Just like their classic counterpart, the coating of the nuggets is crispy and salty (the perfect combo). Their interior is, as always, tender and juicy. The heat packs a punch, adding a fun spin on an otherwise commonplace nugget. If you relish in the eye-watering and burning sensation at the back of your throat, these will be a go-to snack for you. And, if the heat is ever too much, it can always be dialled down with their Buttermilk Ranch sauce.
1. Chick-fil-A Nuggets
Alright, the one you’ve all been waiting for. The highest-ranked spot goes to, drum roll please, Chick-fil-A! These guys chicken is top tier. There’s just something about Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets that makes them taste authentic, like they weren’t frozen in a bag. Plus, they’ve got the best sauces. Let’s break it down. Chick-fil-A describes their nuggets as “bite-sized pieces of boneless chicken breast, seasoned to perfection, freshly breaded and pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil”. Maybe it’s the peanut oil that gives them their incredible flavor or their marinade which has been speculated to be pickle juice (not sure how to feel about that one). Regardless, these nuggets are nearly perfect in shape and size, and aren’t flat or uniform in shape, so they feel even more homemade. They are available in quite a few sizes: 4, 6, 8 or 12-piece, and even a 30-piece. Next, let’s go over the dipping sauces. Chick-fil-A has its own branded sauce which is described as having notes of honey mustard and a smoky tang. Honey mustard is pretty standard as far as sauces go and we appreciate that they chose to stick with a classic for their own sauce. However, they do also have a standard Honey Mustard Sauce, as well as Barbeque and Garden Herb Ranch Sauce with savory garlic, onion and herb flavors. These are the three most common nugget dipping sauces and Chick-fil-A executes them excellently. Nevertheless, no nugget has gotten very far on this list without a little originality. This fast-food chain has some other noteworthy dipping options. First, is Polynesian Sauce which is a sweet and sour sauce with a strong, tangy flavor. Next, we’ve got two classic hot sauces: the Zesty Buffalo Sauce and the Sriracha Sauce, with the latter being the sweeter of the two. Finally, they have Honey Roasted BBQ which is an interesting spin on ordinary barbeque sauce. They also have a multitude of fun dressings if you order something that calls for one. And, if you’re not into all the breading that typical chicken nuggets are coated in, Chick-fil-A also has a grilled chicken nugget option which are essentially bite-sized pieces of tasty grilled chicken. Their Honey Roasted BBQ sauce is specially made for their grilled chicken, so if you’ve been wanting a spin on the classic chicken nugget, Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Nugget might be just what the chef ordered.