You can now enjoy Chick-fil-a Nuggets anytime you want with this simple copycat recipe! Chicken nuggets are brined in a pickle juice and egg wash, tossed in a seasoned breadcrumb coating, and then lightly pan-fried in peanut oil. Serve them up with a side of homemade Chick-fil-a sauce and enjoy the classic taste of your favorite fast food restaurant’s nuggets that are made a bit healthier at home!
For some strange reason my craving for Chick-fil-a nuggets always seems to hit on a Sunday.
Either we’re heading home and going through the airport, out and about running errands, or sometimes even crewing a 265-mile canoe race.
After running into this predicament one too many times, I knew I had to fix it.
And the solution? To make my own homemade chick-fil-a nuggets recipe.
But boy was it going to be a tall order!!
Not only for myself, but EVERYONE I know has had Chick-fil-a nuggets and LOVED them.
So I set to work. Testing not just one batch. And not two. But 4 DIFFERENT batches of chicken nuggets to see which one would come out the best. (Check out the photo below to see!!)
One with an egg and pickle juice wash, another with more breadcrumbs than flour, one lightly fried in peanut oil, and even an Air Fryer variation.
After weeks of testing and tasting a TON of nuggets, I can assure you that THIS is the chick-fil-a nuggets recipe you’ve been looking for… along with that addicting Chick-fil-a sauce, too, of course! (More on that later!)
The simple ingredients you need to make this copycat Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets recipe include:
- Chicken. About 1 ½-pounds of white meat from boneless skinless chicken breasts is ideal. You can use a little less, but you may have extra breading left. Thigh meat will also work, but will have a totally different flavor.
- Dill pickle juice. This is the secret ingredient that makes Chick-fil-a nuggets what they are! The acidic solution helps to break down the tough fibers in the meat and makes the nuggets so incredibly tender. Also, it gives them a unique taste and a good bite of saltiness!
- Eggs. These get whisked together with the pickle juice and help to make the coating stick to the chicken.
- Flour. Select either all purpose flour or a gluten-free 1-to-1 blend. Avoid whole wheat flour since it will affect the finished taste of the recipe.
- Breadcrumbs. It is super important to get a regular/plain type, or a gluten-free brand such as Aleia’s. Panko style is too thick, and seasoned crumbs will change the taste.
- Sugar. Include just a hint of powdered sugar. The sweet pairs with the tangy from the pickle juice and is a match of flavors made in heaven!
- Seasonings. A simple blend of garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper is all you need. You can throw in a bit of cayenne pepper if you want to make them spicy.
- Oil. Peanut oil, not just any type of oil, is the OTHER secret ingredient that gives the nuggets their signature taste. Opt for organic, if possible. If you or your loved ones are allergic, avocado oil is another great high smoke point oil that can be used, but the flavor will not taste quite the same as the classic.
How to Make Chick-fil-a Nuggets
The basic steps for making chicken nuggets are simple to follow. Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts.
Cut the Chicken
Use a sharp knife to slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. You want to try for about 1-inch squares.
It is important that they are all a similar size so they cook up evenly.
Brine in Pickle Juice
In a large bowl combine pickle juice, milk, and eggs with a whisk. Add in the chicken and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
You can also marinate it for a few hours or even up to overnight. But do note, the longer the chicken sits in the juice, the more salt it will absorb. Be sure to adjust the amount of salt you use in the breadcrumb coating if you marinate on the longer side.
Toss in Crumbs
Whisk together flour, breadcrumbs, powdered sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in a separate large bowl.
Pick up a few pieces of chicken with tongs and allow any excess marinade to drain off. Place the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture and toss them around until all of the pieces are well coated. Repeat until all of the chicken is coated. You may have more breadcrumbs than you need.
It is important to only do a few pieces of chicken at a time so you don’t end up with an eggy mess in the breadcrumb coating. Another way to avoid this is to divide the bowl of breadcrumb coating into two separate bowls so you can have some clean crumbs towards the end of coating.
Pan-Fry in Skillet
Cooking these nuggets in the skillet will give you the most authentic Chick-fil-a flavor. While it is a bit healthier since we’re not using as much oil, it is not the healthiest option. If you’d like that, please see below for the Air Fryer Instructions.
Pour the peanut oil into a large skillet over medium heat. You want just enough so that it coats the bottom of the skillet. Once the oil is sizzling-hot, shake off any excess coating from each nugget and place half of them in a single layer in the pan.
Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and crispy. Halfway through, flip the chicken using a spatula, and not tongs, so the coating doesn’t rub off.
Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel lined plate. Drizzle in an additional tablespoon or two of oil and repeat the process using the remaining chicken nuggets.
-OR- Cook in Air Fryer
Preheat a 6-quart air fryer to 380°F. Prepare the grate by greasing it with peanut oil.
Arrange the nuggets in a single layer in the basket. Brush the nuggets with more peanut oil and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the chicken over, coat with more peanut oil, and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
You can also spray the nuggets with non-stick cooking spray instead of peanut oil for even less fat.
Serve with Chick-fil-a Sauce
Chick-fil-a nuggets wouldn’t be complete without that special sauce!
Make the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together with a whisk. Allow it to rest in the refrigerator for an hour before serving for the best results.
The recipe you’ll find below is already dairy-free as written. Here are some adjustments and substitutions you can make to help it fit your other dietary requirements:
- Gluten-free – Select gluten-free breadcrumbs such as Aleia’s, as well as a gluten-free 1-to-1 blend flour.
- Lower-fat – Cook in an air fryer with non-stick cooking spray instead of peanut oil.
- Lower-sugar – Leave out the powdered sugar.
Meal Prep and Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: Cut the chicken and mix up the breadcrumb mixture. Keep the chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator and the breadcrumbs at room temperature.
- To Store: Seal in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
- To Freeze: Place in a freezer-safe airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Reheat: Heat in an air fryer or oven set to 350°F until warm for the crispiest results.
Yes, they do! This technique makes the chicken incredibly tender and juicy, much like brining your Thanksgiving turkey.
The nuggets are coated with breadcrumbs mixed with spices, sugar, salt, flour, and MSG. That’s why making them at home is so much healthier for you!
A 5-piece order of nuggets contains 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and 17 grams of protein. The frying process and breading ingredients results in a higher fat and sodium content. By making your own at home you can use healthier ingredients and better cooking methods.
Brine chicken in pickle juice anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. After 24 hours the chicken will start to break down to an unappealing texture.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Similar in size. Cut the chicken into uniform pieces so they cook at the same rate.
- Give it an hour. If you have the time, let the chicken marinate in pickle juice for at least an hour for the most authentic Chick-fil-a flavor.
- Use tongs. This allows the excess marinade to drain from the chicken and makes it easier to shake off the extra coating before cooking.
- Go nuts. Frying the chicken in peanut oil results in the best taste.
- Serve with sauce. Make sure to pair these nuggets with the classic dip for the full experience!
More Restaurant Copycat Recipes
Stay home and make these healthier versions of your restaurant favorites:
Chick-fil-A Nuggets Recipe
You can now enjoy Chick-fil-a Nuggets anytime you want with this simple copycat recipe! Serve them up with a side of homemade Chick-fil-a sauce and enjoy the classic taste of your favorite fast food restaurant's nuggets that are made a bit healthier.
For the Nuggets:
- 1 ½ lbs. chicken breasts cut into bite-sized cubes
- ½ cup pickle juice
- ¼ cup milk regular or plant-based
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup flour or a gluten-free 1-to-1 blend
- ½ cup breadcrumbs plain
- 1-2 Tbsp. powdered sugar optional
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. paprika
- ¼ cup peanut oil or avocado oil
For the Dipping Sauce:
- ⅔ cup mayonnaise
- 3 Tbsp. barbecue sauce regular
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. mustard yellow or Dijon
- ¼ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. salt to taste
Whisk together pickle juice, milk, and eggs in a large bowl. Add cut chicken and toss to completely coat. Marinate for 30 minutes or up to overnight. (The chicken will get even more pickle flavor the longer it marinates. It will also absorb more salt, so be sure to adjust how much you add to the breadcrumb coating.)
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, breadcrumbs, powdered sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
Using tongs, add a few of the marinated chicken pieces to the breadcrumb coating. Be sure to let any excess marinade drain off of the chicken before adding it in. Toss until the pieces are well coated. Repeat this process with the remainder of the chicken. (You may end up with some breadcrumb coating left.)
Add 3 tablespoons of peanut oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once sizzling, shake off any excess coating from each nugget and place half of them in a single layer.
Cook for 3-5 minutes, flipping once the chicken becomes crispy and lightly golden. Remove the cooked chicken and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Add the additional tablespoon of oil and cook the remaining chicken nuggets.
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until smooth and well combined.
Serve immediately with Chick-fil-a nuggets or refrigerate for an hour for the best flavor. Enjoy!
How to Cook in the Air Fryer:
Preheat a 6-quart air fryer to 380 degrees. Brush the grate with peanut oil and place the nuggets in a single layer. Brush the exposed surfaces of the nuggets with more peanut oil and cook for 8 minutes. Flip the chicken over halfway through cooking and brush the other side of the nuggets with more peanut oil.