While eating well over 100 plant-based “chicken” nuggets in the name of journalism, I could not help but ponder the very nature of nuggets, chickened and un-chickened alike. Plant-based meat exists to be a dead ringer for meat products, right? So in theory, a plant-based chicken nugget should taste just like chicken. The only problem is, I can’t think of a single chicken nugget that remotely resembles chicken in its natural state.
Nugget meat doesn’t shred like chicken breast does. Nor does it share any commonalities with ground chicken, which would impart a texture more akin to a burger or sausage patty. Nugget innards are essentially a molded meat paste enriched with a seasoned broth that moistens the meat and makes it taste like poultry.
When plants are processed beyond all recognition, the result isn’t all that different from meat that’s been processed beyond all recognition. Even when they fall short of being perfect clones, most plant-based nuggets are as good, if not better, than their chicken-based counterparts. As the vegetarian stuff becomes a better and better doppelgänger, there is less reason than ever for chickens to be involved at all.
To determine the best nuggets on the market, I prepared ten different brands of plant-based “chicken” nuggets by cooking them in an air fryer, then sampled each one in a blind taste test. They were first tasted plain, after which I tried them with a variety of dipping sauces:
- Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ
- Simon’s Secret Sauce (which is mustard-based)
- Buffalo sauce
- Sweet and sour sauce
What follows is an overview of 10 different products, including tasting notes, price, and ingredients. Hopefully it helps you find the chick’n of your dreams.