Vegan chicken nuggets are meat-free nuggets that mimic the taste and texture of traditional chicken nuggets sans animals and animal byproducts.
They provide a good alternative to those who have specific food allergies or other dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating regular chicken nuggets as well as those who want to avoid animal products.
What are vegan chicken nuggets made out of?
There are many different ways to make chicken nuggets without animal products or derivatives. Common substitutes for chicken are tofu, seitan, tempeh and cauliflower. Homemade recipes may rely more heavily on tofu and vegetables like carrots, zucchini and potatoes to give vegan nuggets more “meat.” Some store-bought vegan nuggets use proprietary ingredients like soy, wheat and/or pea protein that are manufactured to taste and feel just like chicken.
What do they taste like? Are they like chicken?
Because there are many different versions of plant-based or animal-free nuggets, there is a wide range of what they taste like. The vegan and vegetarian “chicken” nuggets of yesteryear were not expected to taste just like actual chicken nuggets and most have an obvious tofu or vegetable flavor and texture.
The chicken nuggets made by companies that have focused their research and development on specifically making vegan and plant-based substitutes (not just alternatives) to meats actually taste pretty close to the real thing. These include nuggets from brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat.
Are vegan chicken nuggets healthy?
It depends on what ingredients are used. They can be healthier than traditional chicken nuggets if they aren’t deep fried and include ingredients that are suitable for you. If you suffer from food allergies, you’ll definitely want to read the back of the packaging to make sure you are not allergic to any ingredients.
Generally speaking, any food that contains vegetables is healthier than food without vegetables. So, plant-based nuggets are healthier, right? Well, again it depends on what ingredients are used and how it’s cooked. Many vegan nugget brands market themselves to be healthier than traditional nuggets (e.g. fewer calories, lower cholesterol/saturated fat, less sodium, etc.) However, you’ll have to double-check the specific Nutritional Facts of what you’re looking to buy to be sure. If you make them from scratch at home, you have full control of what vegetables go in them, Additionally, you can bake or air fry them for the healthiest option.
Are they better than real chicken nuggets?
“Better” is a subjective term. For people who don’t like the taste of meat, the nuggets that have more of a vegetable flavor would be better. However, for those looking for a direct replacement for chicken nuggets that don’t include any animal products, brands like Impossible or Beyond Meat would be preferable. Overall, vegan nuggets (when baked or air fried) are a healthier option than actual chicken nuggets.
What brands make vegan chicken nuggets?
There are many brands that make animal-free chicken nuggets. However, only a handful specialize in making them as close to the same texture and flavor as the real thing. Here are those brands:
These brands make chicken nuggets that don’t contain animal products but are not necessarily meant to taste and feel exactly like traditional nuggets.
- Alpha Foods
- Jack & Annie’s
- Trader Joe’s
Where can I get vegan chicken nuggets?
If you’re looking to buy frozen imitation chicken nuggets, you can find them at most large chain box stores, grocery stores and health food stores like Albertsons, Safeway/Vons, Smith’s, Sprouts, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Whole Foods and more.
If you want to eat at a restaurant that serves vegan chicken nuggets you can take a look at this interactive map to find places near you!
How can I make vegan chicken nuggets?
It is nearly impossible to make animal-free chicken nuggets that have the same taste and texture as real ones (you’ll have to get those from brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods or SImulate). However, if you don’t mind that your nuggets won’t taste just like the real thing, here is a simple recipe that you can follow and try at home.
air fried vegan chicken nuggets
- 1 pound tofu (drained)
- vegetable oil spray
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 cup milk alternative (soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc.)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- Himalayan sea salt (to taste)
- Preheat air fryer to 375°F and lightly spray with vegetable oil.
- Cut tofu into approx. 1-inch cubes.
- In a bowl, completely mix all marinade ingredients and completely soak tofu.
- In a separate bowl, completely mix all batter ingredients.
- In a third bowl, completely mix all coating ingredients.
- Take a few marinated tofu cubes in one hand and cover in batter mix.
- Then, cover in coating mix and remove with dry hand.
- Repeat with all tofu cubes.
- Place in air fryer and lightly spray more vegetable oil. Air fry for 15 minutes (toss midway) or until golden brown.
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Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.