Chicken can be served in many forms, and KFC has always embraced that fact, now more than ever before. Per a press release sent to The Takeout, the fried chicken chain has announced the debut of its “first-ever” Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets. The only thing is, we’ve certainly encountered nuggets at KFC before.
The new offering is only available in select restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a limited time. Something about this announcement gives me a sense of deja vu. That could be due to the fact that rival chicken chain Popeyes recently added nuggets to the menu after a nearly 40-year nugget hiatus. But it could also be that our own trip to KFC at the beginning of this year involved a product very similar to nuggets—if not in name, then in overall shape and purpose.
Per the press release, the KFC nuggets are “Made with 100 percent white meat and hand-breaded with KFC’s unique Original Recipe of 11 Herbs and Spices.” The new nuggets, the release goes on to say, can be enjoyed as an appetizer, snack, or side, and come in 8-, 12-, and 36-piece orders.
“Our Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets offer a new way to enjoy our distinctive 11 Herbs & Spices,” said Nick Chavez, KFC’s U.S. chief marketing officer. The only way to know for sure if these nuggets are in fact a “new” way to enjoy KFC’s tried-and-true recipe blend is to examine the chain’s previous bite-sized chicken menu items.
KFC might be touting its nuggets as a new item, but it is no stranger to small-format offerings; the chain has served tenders, Beyond Fried Chicken, and popcorn chicken in addition to the new menu item. However, not every nugget is chicken, and not every small piece of chicken can be considered a nugget.
As we’ve explained before, the biggest difference between chicken nuggets and chicken tenders is that nuggets are formed, whereas chicken tenders are a piece of the chicken breaded and prepared whole. In other words, a tender is an actual cut of chicken while a nugget can be made several different ways, so long as a certain percentage of it is poultry and not other meat or binders.
When it comes to its Beyond Fried Chicken, KFC was careful not to use the word “nugget” at all throughout its description of the product. However, as is evident in our review of the Beyond Fried Chicken, the plant-based bites resemble exactly what most would call a chicken nugget, perhaps slightly bigger than a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget and slightly flatter and more patty-like than a Popeyes nugget.
Additionally, press materials described the Beyond product as “packed with delicious flavor and the juicy satisfaction that you’d expect from KFC’s iconic fried chicken.” This sounds a lot like what KFC is promising its new nuggets will deliver: “Each juicy nugget is bursting with so much flavor it doesn’t require dipping,” the press release says.
Confusingly, on the KFC website, the brand’s beloved popcorn chicken is labeled “Popcorn Nuggets.” (The nutritional information doesn’t specify whether the popcorn chicken is made from 100% white meat, as the new nuggets claim.) Given all of this similarity to products past and present, the new nugget offering feels a bit less novel.
I suppose these nuggets could find a zesty, delicious way to differentiate themselves, but until the new menu item expands nationwide and more detail is provided about its ingredients, my taste buds simply don’t have enough to get excited about.