Last week, our deep dive into the world of plant-based “chicken” nuggets got us thinking about the nature of a nugget. The nugget is merely a protein vehicle for additional flavor, is it not? Just as it’s strange to consider eating an entire serving of french fries that remain and unadorned, it’s hard to imagine ordering a 6-piece McNugget and foregoing any sort of dipping sauce on the side as you consume them.
But just what kind of sauce is the best kind to accompany all that chickeny flavor? That’s where opinions may differ wildly. And it sounds exactly like the sort of argument we thrive on.
If you have favorites that aren’t represented in the list below, by all means, scream your heart out about them in the comments.
I, The Takeout’s resident philistine, am here to sing the praises of grade-school-friendly condiments. Hear me out: Nuggets are beloved for their simplicity, for that perfect marriage between the crispy, fried exterior and the interior composed of squishy, fatty chicken mess. A nugget is a flawless product, one that deserves a flawless condiment counterpart—which is where my signature rapid-fire ketchup/ranch combo method comes into play. Of course, you can enjoy your nuggets with one sauce or the other, but I think they’re more powerful together in this circumstance. Ketchup and ranch dressing both contribute a welcome tang to the humble nugget, with vegetal splendor on one end and creamy zest on the other. To make the most of the combo, follow my lead:
1. Hold your nugget vertically, assuming that it’s not perfectly circular. If it is perfectly circular, ask yourself: why am I consuming a perfectly circular nugget when there are so many delightfully oblong, ridged nuggets just waiting to delight my senses?
2. Quickly dunk one end of the nugget into a puddle of cold ketchup, right outta the fridge.
3. Flip your hand, dunking the other end of the nugget into a puddle of cold ranch dressing.
4. Admire your nugget, which should look like an inverted Polish flag. Long may she reign!
—Lillian Stone, staff writer
If we’re talking about McDonald’s McNuggets, I always default to McDonald’s barbecue sauce. It’s what I ate growing up, and it’s my platonic ideal of nugget dipping sauces. Are there better sauces out there? Probably. But the sweet barbecue sauce reminds me of being a kid, and fortunately, I have happy memories. There are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, the limited-time-only BTS dipping sauces at McDonald’s were great.
However, if I go to a place known for a signature dipping sauce that accompanies the chicken nuggets, like White Castle’s Zesty Zing Sauce for chicken rings (which, face it, are nuggets), I always opt for those. Signature sauces exist for a reason, you know? Like Raising Cane’s tender dipping sauce. These condiments have been designed to be more interesting than honey mustard or ketchup by default. So I put trust in the fast food overlords and go with their grand design. —Dennis Lee, staff writer
When I think of dipping, I think about all the flavors of hot sauce I can try. Dousing a meal willy nilly with Tabasco isn’t always the way to go, both for taste and digestion reasons, but to drag a single chicken nugget through a smear of the stuff helps get that fix without overdoing it. The nugget breading helps temper the most fiery burn, and there’s always the option to mix in a little ranch need be.
There’s an endless list of hot sauces to try at home, but when hitting up a drive-thru I like to go for McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Sauce or the Wendy’s Creamy Sriracha. And you better believe I can’t wait to get my hands on the Megan Thee Stallion’s Hottie Sauce at Popeyes for my dipping pleasure. —Brianna Wellen, associate editor
One of the perks of being a food writer is that every so often, my mailman will show up at my front door with a stack of padded envelopes full of random complimentary sauces. I don’t actually use bottled sauces all that much (I prefer to make my own), but I still like knowing the sauce industry is thinking of me.
A few weeks ago I received a bottle of Simon’s Secret Sauce, which describes itself as “a delicious tangy sauce that goes with just about everything,” and lists brown mustard, lemon juice, a ton of spices and seasonings, and not one, but two types of relish among its ingredients. Also mentioned twice on the label is the claim that it’s “so good you can drink it!” Impressed by Simon’s moxie, I had no choice but to take a swig straight from the bottle, and holy macaroni, was it good. It has way too much vinegary tang to be swigged, so I recommend either sipping it, or using it for nuggets. You know, like a sauce. —Allison Robicelli, staff writer