The Best Chicken Nuggets, According to a Picky and Opinionated 11-Year-Old|Recipes Spots

  • on November 6, 2023
The Best Chicken Nuggets, According to a Picky and Opinionated 11-Year-Old

Boy eating Trader Joe's chicken nuggets with ketchup
Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

My nephew, Sam, is a chicken nugget connoisseur. He’s a picky eater (much to my sister’s chagrin) and nuggets—a classic American kid food—are a longtime favorite. When I asked him how many brands he’s tried, he replied with a sigh, “Oh, where do I begin? I’ve tried so many kinds.” Not only is Sam a picky eater, he’s got opinions.

That’s why when Sam declared he had a favorite chicken nugget, I listened. I knew years of R&D went into this decision. The answer was honestly surprising: Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets. 

Hands over a green plate with Trader Joe's chicken nuggets and ketchup
Simply Recipes / Sarah Crowder

Why Sam Loves Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

It’s worth noting that this kid is decidedly not gluten-free. I once saw him house half a baguette in the backseat of my car. It was like a wood chipper went off in there. So I was naturally curious why he thought TJ’s gluten-free nuggets were the best of the best.

“They perfectly match the flavor and the crunchiness,” Sam replied and said that other chicken nuggets he’s tried don’t taste like much while these are savory and chicken-y. He also pointed out that the chicken inside is very tender. 

When I asked Sam if he ever eats other brands, he said occasionally, but often it’s just because they’re out of his favorite TJ’s variety. My sister added, “There was a really awful time in the recent past when Trader Joe’s didn’t have them for a couple of months.”

Luckily they were in stock at my local store, so I picked up a bag to try them for myself. 

Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets
Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph

Tips for Preparing Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

When I asked my sister how they prepare their favorite nuggets, she rattled off the package instructions verbatim by memory. This is how often my nephew inhales these things. She said she often makes them in the toaster oven, and she has a handy tip: arrange them by size. “They’re all different sizes. I position them strategically in the toaster oven so the small ones are by the door (and don’t get burnt up).”

I baked the chicken nuggets in the oven per the instructions: 425°F for 10 minutes, flip, then 10 minutes more. The nuggets are made of actual pieces of chicken breast and are raw before cooking, so they must be cooked through all the way. They would most likely be excellent in the air fryer, but I didn’t test it myself.

The nuggets are tender, even juicy. I can confirm they are all sorts of different shapes and sizes, but it adds to their charm. The breading is a bit thick, but it does get nice and crispy and has good flavor. All-in-all, a solid frozen nugget.

How To Serve Sam’s Favorite Chicken Nuggets

Sam’s favorite way to eat these crispy, tender nuggets depends on his mood: “If I’m feeling kind of generic, I eat them as they are. If I’m feeling kind of punk, I dip them in barbecue sauce. And if I’m feeling really crazy I feed them to Leia (the dog) under the table.” Lucky Leia.

I have to agree with Sam that barbecue sauce is an excellent dipping sauce, as is sweet chili sauce and sweet and spicy mustard. I enjoyed tossing these onto a salad as the crispy protein, too. 

Since these chicken nuggets passed my nephew’s stringent tests, chances are you and your kids will like them, too.

Chicken nugget dipped in a small bowl of ketchup
Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph
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