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What are Chicken Nuggets?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chicken nuggets are a breaded and fried chicken finger food that comes in many different forms and preparations. Most commonly, they come in an unidentified shape that is roughly circular or rectangular. The original McDonalds® Chicken McNuggets were created in 1979 and have risen to significant popularity in subsequent years. These nuggets are composed of minced chicken, and other fillers and ingredients. Even though McDonalds® nuggets boast having all white meat chicken, only about 50% of each McDonald's nugget is chicken. The rest either coats the nuggets or is used to help keep them together as integral pieces.

In most fast food restaurants, chicken nuggets are breaded and freshly fried to order. Other restaurants may also purchase pre-breaded varieties to drop in the deep fryer. Nuggets are also offered for sale in retail stores and can come in baked or fried varieties. While more healthful, the baked varieties may contain extra oils and fillers that may not make them as healthy as one would think. A popular food among children, nuggets are also offered in a variety of appealing shapes, including shapes resembling dinosaurs.

There aren’t many recipes to make chicken nuggets from scratch, although they can be found. This is likely because mincing the chicken would be relatively laborious. An easier, and slightly healthier option is to use small pieces of white chicken meat. Alternatively, chicken tenders can be used.

One advantage of making chicken nuggets at home is that they can be made much more healthfully, with less or no salt and fillers. Coat tenders or strips with egg or milk and then roll them in breadcrumbs. Repeating the process a second time will make for crispier strips even if they are baked instead of fried. Alternatively, homemade chicken strips can be deep-fried. Frying them in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oil will help reduce their fat content.

While a tasty treat or meal, one should be aware of the nutritional content of chicken nuggets. Most restaurant-prepared chicken nuggets contain high levels of salt and fat. As long as these are just an occasional treat, it’s not likely they will much impact an otherwise healthy diet.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On May 09, 2014

@Pippinwhite -- I've had a tasty meal or two from a gas station hot bar myself. What really got under my skin about chicken nuggets is these "let do" parents who wouldn't teach their children how to eat a variety of foods at restaurants. No, they would stop and get the kids a Happy Meal before they went to a restaurant because the kids wouldn't eat anything but chicken nuggets and mom and dad weren't up to the challenge of insisting they try new things. They took the line of least resistance.

I remember seeing a mom at a Chinese buffet, trying to get her child to eat the sweet and sour chicken by telling her it was chicken nuggets, straight from the home of the Golden Arches. They were just misshapen, so they couldn't sell them. Kid was having none of it.

My mom would have taken me to the bathroom and instructed me that I was either going to find something to eat on the buffet without complaint, or I would get a glass of water at the restaurant and a PB&J sandwich when I got home, that she wasn't cooking another meal. And that if I gave her any lip about it, I would be immediately taken to the car and punishment would ensue.

Just don't get me started about kids who only eat chicken nuggets, fries and plain hamburgers "cut in half." Sigh.

By Pippinwhite — On May 09, 2014

We've been eating these in the South for way longer than 1979, only we never called them "nuggets." We call them "chicken fingers."

There's no question homemade nuggets -- or chicken fingers -- are more healthful. They also taste much better. Well, I take that back. I've had some chicken fingers from gas station delis that were awfully good. And at least they were fried in peanut oil or something that actually exists in nature!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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