Homemade Chicken Nuggets are so easy to make! These Healthy Chicken Nuggets are delicious, super crispy & so much better than fast food!
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These healthy chicken nuggets are crispy, crunchy and so tender. Plus they can be made in around 35 minutes!
Baked to perfection and made with chicken breast tenderloins and just a touch of avocado oil, these nuggets are perfect for kids and adults alike.
This is the Best Chicken Nuggets Recipe!
Pair these nuggets with your favorite dipping sauce and Healthy French Fries for a fun and nostalgic meal.
Why you’ll love these Healthy Chicken Nuggets
There is a lot to love about this chicken nugget recipe. It’s one of our favorite proteins for a healthy dinner because it’s:
- Baked Not Fried – These nuggets are lightly coated with avocado oil and baked to perfection yielding crispy nuggets without the fryer.
- Protein-Packed – Traditional chicken nuggets are not great protein sources because they are not made with a significant amount of meat. These nuggets are made with chicken breast tenderloin and contain 35 grams of protein per serving!
- Homemade on a Weeknight – No need for fast food or takeaway when you can make these nuggets in just over 30 min.
What are Chicken Nuggets made of?
For these homemade chicken nuggets you’ll need:
- chicken tenderloins
- tapioca starch
- whole wheat all purpose flour
- panko breadcrumbs
- cooking spray
You can find substitutions for all of these ingredients below in the green shaded box.
How to make Chicken Nuggets
- Spread the breadcrumbs on a sheet pan and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 2 minutes, stir, and bake for another 2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Whisk together the egg and milk. Place cut chicken nuggets in the mixture and stir until well coated. Sprinkle starch over and stir until it is no longer visible.
- In a separate bowl, mix the toasted breadcrumbs along with the whole wheat flour and the seasonings.
- Remove the chicken pieces and thoroughly coat them in the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a prepared baking rack and repeat until all are coated. Be sure to leave space between the nuggets for crispy nuggets.
- Lightly spray with cooking oil spray. Carefully flip and thoroughly coat with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20-22 minutes or until the coating is crispy.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
I did not test gluten-free modifications for this recipe, but you should be able to substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour that measures 1:1 with regular flour and gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for the whole wheat flour and panko breadcrumbs.
If you make these nuggets gluten-free, let us know how it went in the comments below!
Can I make this recipe in an air fryer?
This recipe will work in a larger air fryer that uses trays instead of baskets. The basket type might work but it may be difficult to get the nuggets to fit in a single layer and I would imagine they would stick together and lose some of the coating.
Using a larger air fryer, you should be able to place the nuggets directly on the wire rack that comes with the appliance and then cook at 400 F for about 20-22 minutes. No need to flip.
If your air fryer tends to cook things a little faster than a conventional oven, check the nuggets at around 18 minutes. It is helpful to line the bottom tray with tin foil to keep your air fryer clean.
How can I cook these nuggets without a wire baking rack?
Spray the tops with cooking oil and then bake, flipping the nuggets at around 10-15 minutes. Spray the nuggets again before returning them to the oven.
The nuggets baked on parchment paper will not be quite as pretty, but they will still get crispy and taste great.
SUBSTITUTIONS FOR CHICKEN NUGGETS
Chicken Breast Tenderloin – Chicken breast tenderloins (or chicken breast tenders) are perfect for nuggets because they are tender, already in smaller, more manageable pieces, and, generally, less expensive than chicken breast. Trim the large piece of visible tendon towards the wide end of the tenderloin because these can become chewy pieces in the nuggets. If you want to remove the entire tendon, follow the simple hack below.
To use chicken breast in this recipe, place the chicken breasts in a large resealable bag and pound the chicken to about a 1-inch thick. Then slice into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces. The rest of the recipe will remain the same.
Panko breadcrumbs – We use panko breadcrumbs in this recipe to provide the perfect crunchy coating without frying. You can use another type of breadcrumbs but expect varying crispiness.
Whole Wheat Flour – Whole wheat all-purpose flour is used to add a little fiber to these healthy nuggets. You can also use white whole wheat or regular all-purpose flour.
Avocado Oil Cooking Spray – The nuggets will not brown well without cooking spray and drizzling oil will not provide the same even coating. Avoid traditional cooking spray made with vegetable oil and propellant. Olive oil cooking spray is another option but read labels to make sure there are no funky ingredients or chemicals present. I like Chosen Foods brand avocado oil cooking spray. If using this brand, a fresh bottle works best because it sprays more evenly. Towards the end of the bottle the oil just kind of streams out instead of spraying because it does not contain propellant.
Tapioca Starch – The tapioca starch is used to help the coating adhere to the chicken and helps seal in the moisture. Other types of starch should work just fine (i.e. cornstarch, arrowroot starch or potato starch).
Milk – This can be any plain unsweetened milk that comes in a carton. Cow’s milk, unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened oat milk will all do.
Serving Homemade Chicken Nuggets
You can serve these nuggets with any of your favorite side dishes. We love them with:
- Crispy Sweet Potato Fries (pictured above)
- Healthy Baked French Fries
- Avocado Ranch Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Healthy Mac and Cheese
- Lemon Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
- Crispy Roasted Potatoes
- With your favorite dip – ketchup or honey mustard (recipe below)
How To Remove the Tendon from Chicken Breast Tenderloins
If the tendon in chicken tenderloins is off-putting for you, you can remove it easily using a paper towel and a fork.
To do so, grab the tendon with a paper towel and then straddle the tendon with the fork. Pull the tendon towards you and push down with the fork, and it should remove easily.
This method will give you more odd-shaped pieces but eliminates the tendon and only takes a few minutes.
Homemade Chicken Nugget Recipe FAQs
These homemade nuggets have a panko breadcrumb breading.
These nuggets can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. They contain 35 grams of protein per serving and get really crispy without frying!
There can be a couple of reasons your nuggets are soggy: they are undercooked, the pan was overcrowded, or they sat too long on a moist surface.
Chicken Nugget Recipe storage
Storing: These chicken nuggets will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an airtight container
How to make chicken nuggets at home and freeze? : You can freeze this recipe for up to 3 months. We like these containers for freezing!
If you need more freezer friendly recipes check out our Fill Your Freezer Ebook with 22 easy freezer meals!
How to reheat Homemade Chicken Nuggets:
Air Fryer: These nuggets reheated using an air fryer or oven are almost as good as when they are fresh.
Microwaving: Microwaving them will not provide the same crispiness.
Oven: To reheat, place on a wire rack as you did when initially cooking and reheat at 400 F for about 5-7 minutes (because the chicken is already cooked you just want them to get warm and crispy again). You can opt to spray them with cooking spray again before putting them in the oven, but this is not essential.
Best Chicken Nugget Recipe
Chicken Nugget Ingredients
- 2 lbs chicken tenderloins
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons milk or milk alternative
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- ½ cup whole wheat all-purpose flour 60 g
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs toasted (60 g)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- avocado oil cooking spray I used Chosen Foods
For the Chicken Nuggets:
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Spread the panko breadcrumbs evenly across a large sheet pan in a single layer and spray lightly with avocado oil cooking spray. Bake for 2 minutes, then stir breadcrumbs and bake for another 2 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Watch carefully because they can burn easily. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl to cool.
- Keep the oven preheated and line a sheet pan with tin foil or parchment paper (optional but makes for easy clean up) and then fit with a wire baking rack and set aside. If you do not have a rack to fit your pan, you can also bake the nuggets directly on parchment paper (see post for further instructions).
- Begin cutting the chicken tenderloins into quarters (or about 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces). Trim any large visible pieces of white tendon and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Place chicken in the bowl and stir until well coated. Sprinkle starch over the chicken and stir until it is no longer visible, and the chicken is fully coated with the thick starchy mixture.
- In a separate bowl, mix the toasted breadcrumbs along with the whole wheat flour and the seasonings.
- Using tongs, remove the chicken pieces and dip them in the breadcrumb mixture making sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Place on the baking rack and repeat until all the chicken is coated. Leave a little space between each piece of chicken to ensure it will cook evenly. If your pan is not large enough, you can work in batches or use an additional pan.
- Lightly spray the nuggets with cooking oil spray and then flip using tongs, taking care to not remove the panko coating while flipping. Thoroughly coat the side that will be facing up with cooking spray. Place chicken in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes or until the coating is crispy and golden brown and the chicken is cooked through (reaching an internal temperature of 165 F).
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days.
For the Sauce:
- Mix ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth
- Taste the sauce and feel free to adjust the sweetness by adding a little more honey, add a little more mayo to make it creamier, or a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick. Double or triple the recipe as needed.