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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Okay.  A show of hands.  Who else threw caution to the wind and took sweet refuge in McDonalds Playland when your kids were little?

I'm admitting in the wide-open.

There was just something magical about that little, enclosed room filled with colorful plastic tubes big enough to crawl through in tiny-stockinged feet that could keep my tots occupied to no end.

Chubby little fists wrapped around a chicken nugget.  Happy meal toy being played with in the opposite hand.  Cold apple slices or thin yellow fries.  Straw poking out of a carton of chocolate milk.  And a good half hour of... look, mom!

Those days are long gone now.  Along with our time spent at Mc Donalds.  Sure, we'll still get an occasional urge, but my urges are never for McNuggets.  I've always been a Big Mac or Chicken Sandwich kind of girl.
But the kids?  They'll still choose nuggets 50% of the time.  With age, they've grown to favor whole-meat chicken strips and chunks, but I think they hold a special place inside for "formed" nuggets.  There's just got to be something about them that reminds them of toys and playgrounds.

And I'm not gonna lie.  I buy bags of frozen nuggets for nights when I just don't want to cook anything from scatch.  They're easy.  And some brands are not too shabby.  Doctor them up by bathing them in a buttery hot sauce before eating or have a line of dipping sauces at hand.  They do in a pinch.

So when I made these homemade (formed) chicken nuggets, what do think the concensus was?  "It smells like McDonalds, but it tastes WAY better."  Mission accomplished.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10-30 minutes
Keywords: fry snack entree chicken American

Ingredients (~32 nuggets)
  • 1¼ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (all white meat or mix of white & dark), cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. parsley flakes
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. onion powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten w/ a splash of water
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • ground white pepper
  • oil, for frying
Place chicken, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, and onion powder in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until you have a fine paste. Tip out into a bowl. Set aside for the moment.

Place eggs beaten with water in a pie plate. Fill another pie plate with flour and season generously with salt and white pepper.

Pinch off small portions of the chicken paste (~1" balls) and roll into balls. Roll them around in the flour. Shake off the excess and place in the egg wash; roll to coat. Lift and let excess egg fall off. Place back in the flour and roll to coat again.

Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly press each ball down to form the "nugget".

Pour about an inch and a half or two inches of oil in a deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to make a few sprinkles of flour sizzle (you'll see "ripples" in the oil), you're ready to fry.

Gently lift nuggets from parchment (use a thin spatula to help if needed). Coat in flour one more time. Let excess fall back to the pan of flour between your fingers and gently lower each nugget into the oil. Do not over-fill your pan. (Do this in batches).

Let fry until golden all around and cooked through (should register 165° F on an instant-read thermometer), flipping over halfway through cooking, ~6-8 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and repeat with remaining nuggets.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

My favorite dipping sauces are Sweet Chile Sauce and Hot Honey Mustard Sauce. To make the Hot Honey Mustard, whisk together equal parts Honeycup Uniquely Sharp Mustard and Dijon Mustard and then whisk in honey to taste.

recipe adapted from Amanda's Cookin, Soup Belly, and For the Love of Food
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Would you like to comment?

  1. I know I shouldn't like nuggets but I do...I haven't had them in years and miss them - so this makes me so very happy!

  2. How nice..I love the chicken nuggets..bookmarked the recipe ..will be made soon.

  3. Terrific post... I remember the first playlands put up when my kids were 3 or so (They are now mid twenties) and you are right... What a godsend. Terrific post


  4. Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklynJune 5, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    I can't believe I ever played in those ball bins - but I definitely spent hours of bliss in them. I've seen a lot of recipes for chicken nuggets that are homemade, but I love the fact that you've made yours actually LOOK like the chicken nuggets of Happy Meal fame. Awesome.

  5. You did it---they look exactly the same! I've never actually ground my own meat for anything, sounds like I should try. For me the draw of Mc Nuggets is all those great dipping sauces....

  6. Oh yum! I was a chicken nuggets girl, and my sauce of choice was honey. I'm sure it was incredibly unhealthy this way. I judged those I saw who decided to forgo the dipping sauces. It's one of the things I remember about my first friend, John. To this day I remind him that I thought he was weird because he ate his nuggets without dip.

    How weird that McDonalds is filled with such nostalgia for me...

    LOVE these too, they're probably worlds better than the fast food kind too :)

  7. josé manuel martín fernándezJune 5, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    Me llevo tú receta

  8. Ahhh... the Chicken McNugget days - gone forever when I learned to make my own - out of real chicken! Imagine that! We'd all happily come over and relive our childhoods around your chicken nugget table.

  9. oh yum! those look delicious! and the chili and mustard sauces sound like the perfect "go with!" thanks for sharing!

  10. Nice chicken nuggets, sure it is better than Mac ones.

  11. Oh Heather I never made nuggets zbut. Im sure my son really would lobr these, look delicious!

  12. Totally looks like the "real" thing--only yours is REAL food!

  13. I am going to make those formed chicken nuggets too. They look fingerlicking!

  14. I'm craving a Big Mac...Thanks Heather! :) Homemade breaded and sauteed chicken chunks are amazing. And they make McDonalds and Chick-filet pressed meat nuggets laughable. I made some the other night with a buttermilk dressing as a dip. I'll be blogging about it if I can ever find time.

  15. I've never been a big McDonald's fan, but I do love chicken nuggets (I keep them in my freezer too)! These look perfect, Heather! I love the size and shape. I also love that you included the recipe for the hot honey mustard, but I'm not sure that I've seen honeycup mustard? I

  16. Oh, it's SO good. I know you'd love it. I love dipping pretzels in it, too. It's hot and sharp with sweet undertones. Here's a link to it on Amazon, though I get it at my local grocery:

  17. love this and so much better for kids

  18. And now I'm craving McDonald's! My fave was always the Filet-a-Fish, and the funny thing is that I've never checked to see if they're even on the menu at the McDonalds' in the bigger cities.

    My kiddies are going to love these chicken nuggets. :)

  19. I definitely spent a fair amount of time in the McD's playroom when I was a kid...though I can't say I'll let my future children go there. I'd be much more comfortable having them eat something homemade like these!

  20. Cathy at Wives with KnivesJune 6, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Ground chicken...very clever. My grandkids would think I was the best cook ever if I could make a nugget that tasted like McD's.

  21. Gerry @ Foodness GraciousJune 7, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    These sound very cool! I always feel guilty when I eat chicken nuggets or fingers (chicken) because they're usually always processed to the high heavens, but these look purely delishy...

  22. Danielle ImstuffedJune 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    This is awesome!!! A MUST try. Funny...I'm a Big Mac or Chicken Sandwich kind of gal too (usually the crispy chicken sandwich). I wish McDonalds had those play grounds when I was a kid. I feel kinda cheated that I've never played in a ball pit.

  23. You know, I've only seen the ball pits in a few McD's. We usually got our ball pit experience at Show Biz Pizza (when I was a kid) or ChuckECheese's (now)! ;P

  24. Judy@SavoringTodayJune 9, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    I'll bet the kids would flip over these, looks like the real thing, but has to be better made at home. Thanks for sharing on Hearth & Soul. :)

  25. My hand is definitely up! Your chicken nuggets sound so much better though, and they look really delicious. I like the addition of the onion powder in the batter as well as the oregano.

  26. Hand raised, guilty! Well, not "guilty", I don't regret it for a minute.

  27. my kiddos would love these.... I'm a big mac kinda girls and hey I buy frozen pizza (we all need a break)

  28. I just made these nuggets for my potential girlfriends son (she said his favorite food was chicken nuggets and fries), I also made homemade fries.
    Let me tell you, her son LOVED THEM!!

    Thanks for this recipe!! It helped me get one rung higher on that ladder in this courting process :)

  29. Awesome! I haven't met many kids (big or small) that don't love chicken nuggets =) Good luck! (...and thanks for the feedback)