Frozen chicken nuggets aren’t just desperate kid dinners in our house. Our whole family enjoys the occasional nuggets-and-fries night as much as we love a dressed-up nugget salad or nuggets and coleslaw wrapped inside a soft tortilla. I’d even argue that everyone—not just parents—should keep frozen chicken nuggets on hand for quick weeknight dinners. They’re delicious, nostalgic, and can be satisfying in both texture and flavor.
Recently our grocery store switched out the brands of chicken nuggets they carry, introducing some new-to-me brands and phasing out others. This got me questioning the ones I had been buying for the last few years. Were they really the best? What are the best frozen chicken nuggets on the market for busy home cooks these days?
To find out for myself, I set off to buy every brand of frozen chicken nuggets I could get my hands on, 12 brands total. After taste-testing them with my family, I can say without a question that one brand surpasses them all in taste, ease, and pure enjoyment.
How I Chose the Frozen Chicken Nuggets To Try
Set on trying as many brands of frozen nuggets as I could, I asked a few trusted friends (some parents and some not) for their recommendations. For the purpose of this test, I decided to focus on nuggets or bites widely available at nationwide grocery store chains. I visited Target, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s in my nugget quest.
I didn’t discern between nuggets or bite-shaped but excluded popcorn chicken and strips. My food editor might disagree with me here, but both popcorn chicken and chicken strips have more breading and their shape is less appealing to my younger taste-testers.
The 12 Frozen Chicken Nuggets Contenders
- 365 Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets
- Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets
- Just Bare Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Bites
- Banquet Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Bell & Evans Frozen Chicken Nuggets
- Good & Gather Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Foster Farms Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Ian’s Gluten Free Frozen Chicken Nuggets
- Perdue Simply Smart Organics Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Smart Chicken Panko-Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Trader Joe’s Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets
- Tyson Fully Cooked Chicken Nuggets
How We Taste-Tested the Chicken Nuggets
I cooked roughly a half dozen nuggets from each brand according to their package directions—all of them in the oven. I also tested each brand in the air fryer as a number of them included instructions for crisping their nuggets this way. Then my family taste-tested each nugget without any sauces and only some fresh chopped veggies for palate cleansing (my effort to count this taste test as a meal).
The tasting wasn’t truly blind because I had to keep track of the brands and cooking methods. However, I didn’t take notice of which brands were gluten-free or air-chilled, or mentioned to anyone how long they took to cook or whether they used only breast meat pieces. The taste-testers were my 11-year-old, eight-year-old, 38-year-old partner, and me.
The Only Chicken Nuggets I’m Buying Again
After testing a dozen chicken nugget brands, both oven-cooked and air-fried, my family’s favorite remains Just Bare Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Bites. The breading is not too thick and well seasoned, and the chicken is tender and juicy. While they get decently crisp in the oven, air-fried Just Bare’s bites rival homemade nuggets. I should note that Just Bare has the highest price per ounce of any of the other brands we tested. At Kroger, a 24-ounce bag is $12.99.
Perdue’s Simply Smart Organics Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets were our runner-up—still crispy but the chicken texture isn’t quite as tender as Just Bare.
For the fast food nugget lovers or those whose picky eaters prefer the tenderness of “breast patty in nugget form,” we all really loved the new-to-us brand Smart Chicken Panko-Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets. The breading is well seasoned and crisped up incredibly well in the air fryer.
Overall, we found the air-fried nuggets outperformed the oven-baked test batches. The nuggets were overall crispier and many cooked in less time than conventional baking.