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Forget McDonald’s: These Are the Best (and Worst) Frozen Chicken Nuggets

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Freezer Fun

Fast food chicken nuggets are a time-tested guilty pleasure. The only problem? They’re not great for you, and if you want them, you have to actually leave your house. Good thing there are so many frozen chicken nuggets lining the aisles of grocery stores everywhere, eh? I took a look at five different brands to taste test the best frozen chicken nuggets out there.


Prices and availability are subject to change.


Related: Fast-Food Copycat Recipes You Can Make in an Air Fryer

dino buddies chicken nuggets
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Best: Yummy Dino Buddies

$9.49 from Target

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You simply cannot shake nostalgia. Yummy Dino Buddies were a staple of my childhood diet. What is it about them that destroys the rest of the competition? The dinosaur shapes are an obvious bonus, but there's something in the golden color that Dino Buddies nuggets achieve that just surpasses all expectations. 


These things are perfect every time. They are truly my forever comfort food, and a little ranch dressing swirled with some Sriracha is highly recommended as a dip. Like everything that gives great pleasure from an oily crunch, I'd suggest an air fryer over a conventional oven. I’ll always think Dino Buddies are the best white meat chicken nuggets on the market, and there’s not much anybody can do about that.


Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Spots for Fried Chicken in Every State

just bare lightly breaded chicken breast bites
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2. Just Bare Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Bites

$15.99 at Instacart

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I can't remember the last time I fired something up out of the freezer that tasted this real. Go with me here: The chicken almost tastes a little dry, and I actually like that. I hooked these popcorn chicken-style goodies up with the air fryer for eight minutes at 350 degrees, just as the package says, and it was perfect. 


This gets you a golden crunch, a hot and steamy inside, and full chicken flavor. With odd shapes perfect for dipping in BBQ sauce, and legitimate breast meat flavors, I’ll definitely buy these again.


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daring plant chicken pieces
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3. Daring Plant Chicken Pieces

$8.09 from Instacart

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I know it’s hacky as can be to dunk on vegan food, but listen up. I have found, for the most part, that vegan meat substitutes like “chik’n” and “be’f” really don’t taste that much like the real thing. That, however, is not the point. Usually these things are fine and certainly scratch the itch, but I’ve never been that impressed with them before. Enter Daring, a plant-based chicken nugget substitute that tastes absolutely great. The breading and seasoning are perfect, though I’d make sure to keep a close eye on your air fryer here — because of the nature of the “meat,” these can be chewy, and overcooking them can be a disaster. 


It’s also important to remember that choosing plant-based meat is not always a “healthy” substitution. This is still fast food, with an ingredient list very close to that of real fried chicken. You’re here to stay green, not to cut out carbs. Real chicken? No. Incredibly tasty? Yes.

trader joes chicken nuggets
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4. Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Nuggets

The package says to heat this up in 10 to 12 minutes at 425 degrees in the oven, but I had to get them going for about 15, and even then, they weren't as golden and crispy as I could have hoped for. Another two, starting to get there. Another one, and boom, irreparably overcooked. As I screamed, "TRADER JOE'S INSTRUCTIONS BETRAYED ME AGAIN," I reread the directions and saw it was supposed to be 10 to 12 minutes per side. That makes a difference. 


The seasoning is OK — it's made with rice flour and tastes almost like panko. While these nuggets are perfectly fine, they're nothing to write home about. Long story short: Please don't let my cooking mistakes dissuade you from trying these frozen chicken nuggets for yourself. 

tyson air fried chicken nuggets
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5. Tyson Air Fried Spicy Chicken Bites

$10.39 at Target

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I'm not the most dramatic guy on the block, but I did in fact choose to spit this out rather than swallow the whole thing. I just couldn't do it. These nuggets taste the way a wet dog smells. I'm not here to be the Simon Cowell of chicken products, but wow. 


Your basic fast food nugget will defeat these Tyson chicken nuggets easily, so skip them if you can. If they're already sitting in your freezer taking up space, hit them with the ranch dressing or blue cheese treatment to, you know, drown the taste out.