12 Frozen Chicken Nugget Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

Stocking the perfect freezer is an art; keeping a stash of emergency meats, sweet treats, frozen vegetables, and dinner-time indulgences makes the trials of adulthood slightly more bearable. But none of us are grown-up enough to deny our childhood favorite — the chicken nugget. Soft chicken breast lightly breaded, the chicken nugget represents a bygone era of our youth that still shines its beacon into our cravings during nostalgic moments.

Finding our ideal nugget in an ever-expanding freezer section can be as baffling as most adults of our daily duties like paying our bills or picking up dry cleaning. For our purposes, we looked solely into the realm of the chicken nugget — chicken tenders and popcorn chicken, though beloved, are for another article, as we sought out only brands that specifically labeled their breaded chicken products as nuggets. In our journey, we encountered the best and worst grocery stores offer as far as chicken nuggets go, and dipped and dunked our way into finding the best of the best in the freezer aisle so you take home only the best.

12. Earth Best Chicken Nuggets

Any smaller, and Earth's Best Chicken Nuggets would have to call themselves popcorn chicken because the small and too-uniform nuggets are so tiny you can fit a half dozen easily in your hand. Even the nuggets' online presence suggests using the nuggets as a topping to a salad or pasta, most likely due to their diminutive size.

Along with being substantially more petit than other nuggets, the breading also sports a darker, deeper brown color suggesting a crispier crust surrounding the nugget. However, the breading tastes nearly identical to other, more visually inviting chicken nuggets, and the darker casing, if anything, simply points to the brand's intention of making a product that can be easily incorporated into other dishes to entice children.

But we suspect that the presence of these little nuggets in pasta would only startle their consumer, since their flavoring is bleak at best. Within one bite of Earth's Best Chicken Nuggets, our stomach was churning for relief from these foul little globs of meat. Obviously, we all know that a nugget isn't a naturally occurring cut of meat, but when we indulge in the chicken fritter of our childhood, we expect an approximation of the animal it derives from. Instead, we're given nasty, little balls of nuggets that wreak of flavor powders the moment they're torn open and beg to be covered in ranch or ketchup to disguise their taste.

11. Tyson Air Fried Perfectly Crisp Chicken Breast Nuggets

Tyson, a brand not known for its quality meat, appears to be attempting to catch the gaze of those searching for healthy upgrades to classic comfort foods. With its air-fried chicken nuggets, Tyson promised "pure crispy perfection," according to the packaging, and they do in fact come out of the bag with a startling amount of chunky breading. Also nearly twice the size of the average nugget we've found, Tyson lives up to its association as a grocery store giant and produces economy-sized resealable bags of nuggets, intended for a multi-child family.

In case you didn't know, Tyson manufactures McDonald's chicken nuggets. Probably because of that connection, the largeness and shape of Tyson's nuggets look similar to McDonald's. The comparison to the McDonald's nuggets ends with the visuals, as Tyson's Air-Fried Nuggets are both dry on the outside with a thick breading that hides their overly processed and strange-tasting meat. Smacking of freezer burn and something that both smells and tastes sharp and unnatural, the meat leaves an off-putting aftertaste in your mouth. Though the meat inside resembles the way we expect chicken breast to break apart, its overall flavor presents as sour and left us needing to brush our teeth and reset before tasting any more nuggets. Though we were excited to hunt down a bag of Tyson's Halloween chicken nuggets, we decided to pass once we tasted its air-fried version.

10. Signature Select Chicken Nuggets

Safeway's entry into the canon of nuggets comes in a 3-pound bag fit to feed an army of hungry children and is also at such an affordable price point we were skeptical of the quality of the meat. The Safeway Signature Select Chicken Nuggets do what the grocery chain's brand does best — not reinvent the wheel, but attempt to create approximations of well-known brand names at lower costs without disrupting consumer expectations. The Select nuggets fall in line with the overall look and feel of what you think of a standard chicken nugget. Very lightly breaded and mid-size, Signature Select Nuggets are the middle-of-the-road option we expected them to be and nothing more.

Both squishy and dry, the lack of breading does nothing to help Safeway's chicken nugget instead the moisture from the inner-layer leaks through to its outer shell. Plus even when following the package instructions to a tee, the end result is sad, flimsy nuggets that at first bite taste acceptable but after a couple of chews settle into your tongue and taste almost ripe. The meat itself reminds us of deli meat that's been bound with meat glue and smells not unlike a pungent bag of pet treats.

9. Yummy Dino Nuggets

Clearly marketed to a middle-school age group, even as an adult, Yummmy Dino Buddies' cuteness cannot be denied. With seven nearly indecipherable dinosaur species (tyrannosaurus rex, pterodactyl, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops, parasaurolophus, and one other that left us stumped), these chicken breast nuggets are fried and baked before they land in your freezer. On the market since '98, the cartoonish packaging featuring animated, anthropomorphized dinosaurs feels like a throwback to a pre-Paw Patrol era of marketing to children.

Unlike other, less festively formed nuggets, the instructions on the box ask their audience to flip the nuggets over halfway through their 12-minute bake time, resulting in a pleasant golden brown tone to the little tenders which was promising until we bit into their flesh.

Resembling something closer to a sponge than meat, the interior of Yummy Dino Buddies Nuggets brings back memories of elementary school lunches — and not in a nostalgic way. With the breading leaving your fingers crumby with cornmeal and a distracting texture that left us wondering why the meat feels so springy, the overall flavor of the nuggets isn't off-putting as much as it is artificial. The Yummy Dino Bites seem to want to taste almost like nothingness, probably so picky eaters under 10 years of age gravitate to their admittedly cute construction. Nothing more than a product to woo nephews and nieces into thinking you're the cool aunt or uncle, these nuggets are otherwise pointless, underwhelming, and not deserving of their dinosaur shape.

8. Kroger Chicken Nuggets

Immediately striking because of their hot orange color, the Kroger Chicken Nuggets nearly look like a Cheeto invention right out of the bag. Once baked, the nuggets soften to a burnt amber hue, though flecks of their previous tone remain present in their breading. We were hoping the reddish shade would indicate a slight spice or kick to the breading seasoning, but instead it only indicated a visual difference to its peers in the chicken nugget market.

In no way close to the experience of eating chicken, we have to admit that the Kroger Chicken nugget isn't unpleasant. It tastes like the universal idea of a chicken nugget. They're lackluster, clearly cheaply made, overly processed, and texturally confounding; but that's sort of what we assume we'll get when we sign up to eat chicken nuggets. Mostly a vehicle for our chosen condiment (honey mustard), the Kroger Nugget is admittedly superior to Safeway's grocery store-sanctioned nugget and in no way offended our taste buds at the time we were eating them. Though, afterward, they left our tongue coated with a sour film that reminded us of a late-night convenience store.

7. Mr. Fowler's Chicken Nuggets

Like we're sure they expect most shoppers to, we were fooled by the re-packaging of Kroger's Mr. Fowler's Chicken Nuggets. What we hoped to be an independent chicken nugget company was actually just a sly rebrand of the Kroger label sold in conjunction with their more blatant Kroger brand. Under the guise of Mr. Fowler, Kroger repurposes the exact same nuggets using the fictional Mrs. Fowler to sell its subpar nuggets.

Indistinguishable from the shape, color, and feel of Kroger Chicken Nuggets, Mr. Fowler's brand nuggets are also shockingly orange and carry the same flavor and ingredient list as the grocery store version.

And though we know the nuggets themselves are identical to the Kroger brand nuggets, the rouse of Mr. Fowler had us assuming these nuggets (also sold in a 3-pound bag) were going to be somewhat more gourmet. What we got was the same, middling but passable nugget Kroger's sells at its affiliates everywhere, complete with the dismaying, bitter aftertaste.

6. Pilgrim's Chicken Nuggets

A C-student all around, the Pilgrim's Chicken Nugget is as unimpressive as it is forgettable. Shaped as traditional, somewhat random nuggets, the breading is no match for the overly saturated insides. The all-white meat appears flat and dry in appearance but contains a moistening substance that leaves the nuggets with a wet mouthfeel.

The brand itself dates back to 1946 — when we suspect blandness was a widespread problem amongst American taste — and this Texas-based brand seems true to its roots. Reliant on affordability (only around $9 for a 24-ounce bag) Pilgrim's nuggets wreak of mediocrity and had us questioning our affinity for the chicken snack. We could only take one measly bite because, as the morsel reached our mouth, a strange aroma akin to sweaty shoes, reached our nose, and we had to stop chewing.

We didn't expect this run-of-the-mill brand to knock our socks off, but we expected at least something akin to school lunches or a dive-bar snack. Instead, we got something slightly worse than both examples above.

5. Kidfresh White Meat Chicken Nuggets

Kidfresh, an empire founded on appealing to the often finicky tastes of children, boasts nuggets comprised of all-white meat raised without antibiotics and then blended with pureed cauliflower and onion before being breaded with whole grain.

Shaped in a traditional rough mound of meat, Kidfresh products can be found at higher-end grocery stores like Whole Foods Market or the Pacific Northwest's New Seasons, and cater to its customer's penchant for natural, less-processed foods.

Right out of the oven, the breading baked to bronze look fairly promising. Texturally, they have a bouncy, springy sensation, and their coating leaves your fingers slightly greasy. However, though we were skeptical of their augmentation with cauliflower, the texture of the meat inside looked and felt no less meaty than most other nuggets. In fact, maybe the addition of the pale vegetable provided an amount of heartiness to Kidfresh's White Meat Chicken Nuggets without getting in the way of the chicken flavor.

Our main complaint with the nuggets is that, texturally, we'd enjoy them more as the center of a chicken sandwich. More patty-like than nuggety, the heavy breading encases the meaty insides so completely it distracts from the chicken middle of the nugget and leaves us wishing we were enjoying them as the focal point of a full sandwich with lettuce, a creamy condiment, and a toasted bun.

4. Perdue Chicken Breast Nuggets

We were understandably a little weary when we baked off our Perdue Chicken Nuggets, due to the recent controversy regarding its frozen foods. Earlier this year, the company admitted to releasing products with traces of plastic inside items with chicken as its main ingredient, including the classic nugget.

Much flatter than any other nugget we sampled (aside from the ones shaped like dinosaurs) Perdue's nuggets don't try to look puffed up or expertly battered. Rather, they're honest in their presentation and look like tiny slabs of chicken covered in breading. After a short time in the oven, Perdue nuggets do not boast a strong aroma and are instead pleasantly bland and distinctly better than most other nuggets you can find in the freezer aisle.

With breading that doesn't take over the nugget but still crisps up, and meat that looks, tastes, and feels like meat in your mouth, our qualms about the brand quickly dissipated. No, the nuggets don't contain any spices or seasonings other than salt and pepper, and they yearn for a ramekin of any sort of dipping sauce since the nuggets lack any notable characteristics, but after tasting so many rank nuggets, their tameness was a welcome change.

3. Jurassic World Dominion Dino-Shaped Nuggets

Though we'd like to pretend we're above being swayed by shrewd cobranding, we confess our eyes lit up when we stumbled across the Jurassic Park and John Soule's Food collaboration nugget. Shaped as dinosaurs, these all-white meat nuggets would be tasty even without the prehistoric gimmick.

Even the dinosaur cutouts are more convincing than the originator of the dinosaur shape, Yummy Dino-Nuggets, as we were able to more easily assign a species of dinosaur to each of the bite-sized fritters. Certainly engaging with a consumer still in grade school, Jurassic Dino-Shaped Nuggets are careful not to include spice, or any other ingredient potentially offensive to a child, while still pleasing the most basic of cravings from a parent.

The exterior breading bakes into a light crunchy coating, despite the relative thinness of the layer of crust. Inside, the nugget is soft without caving too easily by the pressure of teeth, and the meat isn't overly fluffy or artificially moistened. Even though the Jurassic Park franchise has perhaps overstayed its welcome in the latest interactions of the action movies, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets are undeniably alluring, and, in their shape alone, lay bare the contrived notion of nuggets more generally.

2. Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

Smaller than nearly all the nuggets we've encountered, Applegate's submission to the chicken nugget game is also more visually yellow-hued than most other nuggets' brownish tint. Perhaps due to Applegate's commitment to keeping gluten out of its nuggets, the breading reads visually as pale. Coated in rice flour as opposed to whole grains, these tiny nuggets also sport flecks of black pepper visible to the naked eye and look promising when compared to its competitors, which rarely include seasoning besides salt.

Even while baking, the aroma from the oven smelled closer to a home-cooked meal than a freezer-born T.V. dinner. Unfortunately, the gluten-free breading has a slightly soggy texture to the nugget's exterior, but the meat interior overcomes what could've been a disgrace. With a ratio of meat to breading that clearly believes in the chicken Applegate sources, these nuggets also chew and taste like chicken breast, unlike the chicken mixture inside most nuggets.

Seasoned with garlic, onion, turmeric, paprika. and celery seed, these nuggets taste less bland and suggest they're aiming at a more adult crowd than the average chicken nugget. The Applegate brand succeeds in submitting a nugget that doesn't taste like processed foods. More like a late-night snack for a grown-up with an otherwise empty fridge than a quick snack for a pre-teen with picky tastes, Applegate's nuggets are worth the slightly more expensive price than its competitors and are worthy of keeping on hand.

1. Ian's Breaded Chicken Nuggets

Resembling little thumb-sized footballs, Ian's Chicken Nuggets are uniform little ovals that are easily discernible from the other, oblong-shaped nuggets on the market. Notable also because of their thickness (nearly the same size around as they are thick), Ian's Chicken Nuggets, right out of the box feel like a sleepover side dish and less like a family's easy meal of the week.

Though their breading remains without gluten, the outer layer of the nugget is pleasing and doesn't crumble into your fingertips like most of the other entries into the nugget market. Out of the box, they appear golden and a little paler than most nuggets, but Ian's Chicken Nuggets bake off into a pleasing golden color and even smell inviting. Fully cooked and in your hands, the nuggets remind us of jalapeño poppers in their bite-sized portion and roundness. Biting into the chicken fritters, we were happily surprised at their convincing texture. These are the only nuggets we can easily find a definite chicken flavor and don't need a staggering among of ketchup or other sauce to cover up the strangeness of eating a globule-shaped meat snack. Again, slightly more costly than a grocery store's brand, or any of the nuggets that come in an economy-sized bag, the little box of Ian's Chicken Nuggets are the nuggets you should be craving.