Mar 21, 2022

Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Rather than supporting a homophobic, albeit tasty, fast food chain, make these chicken nuggets and tangy dipping sauce at home.

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This is my dad’s recipe for homemade crispy chicken nuggets. My dad started making this recipe years ago when my younger cousins would come to visit New Jersey in the summer. Now he continues to make them anytime we need to feed a crowd – and they’re always a hit.  

Unlike many fast-food restaurants that use ground chicken (like McDonald’s chicken nuggets), this recipe is made with chicken breasts for crispy, flakey nuggets (like Chick-Fil-a chicken nuggets). First brining the chicken in saltwater seasoned with Worcestershire keeps it moist and tender as it fries. The chicken is coated in panko and flour breading while frothy egg whites help it to adhere to the nuggets. Serve with the sauce recipe included below or with other dipping sauces like ranch.

Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Key Ingredients in This Recipe 

  • Chicken breasts – I use lean white chicken breasts for my chicken nuggets. Letting them sit in the brine helps to seal in the moisture and keep them tender as they fry. 
  • Worcestershire – This fermented condiment adds a lot of concentrated flavor to the brine – a little goes a long way. Worcestershire is made from a mix of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract and chili pepper.
  • Panko – Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs and because they absorb less oil, they make a great crust on fried foods like these chicken nuggets. I crush the panko breadcrumbs so it’s a finer texture so it evenly coats the chicken and combine it with flour, spices, salt and pepper.
  • Baking soda – Baking soda is an alkaline and it helps to create little air bubbles and make the chicken crispier. It gives these nuggets their signature crunch. 
  • Egg whites – Tossing the chicken in egg whites before dredging it in the flour and panko mixture helps the coating to adhere. 

How to Make Homemade Crispy Chicken Nuggets

Step 1: Cut the chicken
Step 1: Cut the chicken

Cut the chicken into 2” (5cm) pieces.

Step 2: Brine the chicken
Step 2: Brine the chicken

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups of cold water, 1½ tablespoons of the salt and Worcestershire until the salt dissolves. Add the chicken to the brine then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 3: Prep the dredge for the fried chicken nuggets
Step 3: Prep the dredge for the fried chicken nuggets

In one mixing bowl combine the flour, panko bread crumbs, remaining salt, onion powder, black pepper, garlic powder and baking soda. Then, in another mixing bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy.

Step 4: Dry the chicken and heat oil
Step 4: Dry the chicken and heat oil

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a large cast iron pan or Dutch oven (it should be enough oil to reach 1” (2.5cm) up the side of the pot or pan). Heat oil to 350ºF (180ºC).

Step 5: Fry the chicken 
Step 5: Fry the chicken 

Working in batches, add chicken pieces to the egg whites, turning to coat. Then toss the chicken in the breadcrumb and flour mixture until evenly covered. Shake off any excess breading, then fry in the oil, turning occasionally until golden brown all over, about 4 minutes total.

Step 6: Drain the crispy chicken nuggets and serve | Homemade Crispy Chicken Nuggets
Step 6: Drain the crispy chicken nuggets and serve

Remove the chicken to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

What’s in The Sauce?

This tangy copycat Chick-fil-A honey mustard sauce is made by combining a few simple condiments. 

  • Mayonnaise
  • Honey
  • BBQ sauce 
  • Mustard 
  • Lemon juice 

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe 

How to Make Chicken Nuggets in an Air Fryer 

Coat the chicken in the dredge as instructed in the recipe below. Add chicken nuggets to the basket of the air fryer. Cook at 400ºF (200ºC) for 7 minutes then flip and cook until crispy, about an additional 7 minutes. 

How to Make Baked Chicken Nuggets

Heat oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Follow the instructions for coating the chicken in the dredge below. Arrange the chicken nuggets in an even single layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Spray the chicken evenly with a vegetable oil cooking spray. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes total.

How to Reheat Chicken Nuggets 

If reheating the chicken nuggets from the refrigerator, I recommend microwaving them on a plate for 20 to 30 seconds, then arranging them in an even single layer on a baking sheet. Broil on high until crispy, flipping halfway through, about 3 minutes total. The cooking time can vary based on the broiler so keep and eye on the chicken.

If reheating the chicken nuggets from frozen (and already cooked), heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) and arrange the nuggets in an even single layer. Bake until the chicken is crispy, flipping half way through cooking, about 20 minutes total. 

How to Make Crispy Chicken Nuggets

Troubleshooting Fried Chicken

  • The chicken is too dark on the outside but raw inside. Your oil is too hot! Check the temperature of your oil with a thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer then add the end of a wooden stick into the oil. If small bubbles form around the wood then the oil is ready to fry. But if it is bubbling hard then the oil is too hot. The crust of the chicken will fry too fast and the inside won’t cook through. This can also happen if you cook the chicken directly from the fridge. The meat is too cold still and won’t cook evenly. 
  • The chicken is oily and takes forever to cook. Your oil is too cold. Take breaks in between batches so the oil can come back to the desired temperature. Every time food is added to hot oil the temperature decreases drastically. Allowing time for it to heat back up again results in an even fry among batches. This could also happen if you are overcrowding the pan when you cook.
Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this crispy chicken nugget recipe, I recommend checking out these other chicken recipes:

Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce

Crispy Chicken Nuggets with Tangy Dipping Sauce
Print Pin
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the chicken nuggets:

  • pounds large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 medium chicken breasts)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Vegetable oil, as needed, for frying

Instructions:

For the sauce:

  • Add the ingredients for the sauce in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce can be made up to 1 week in advance.

For the chicken nuggets:

  • Cut the chicken into 2” (5cm) pieces.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups of cold water, 1½ tablespoons of the salt and Worcestershire until the salt dissolves. Add the chicken to the brine then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • In one mixing bowl combine the flour, breadcrumbs, remaining salt, onion powder, pepper, garlic powder and baking soda. In another mixing bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Add enough oil to reach 1” (2.5cm) up the side of a large cast iron pan or Dutch oven. Heat oil to 350ºF (180ºC).
  • Working in batches, add chicken pieces to the egg whites, turning to coat. Then toss the chicken in the breadcrumb and flour mixture until evenly covered. Shake off any excess breading, then fry in the oil, turning occasionally until golden brown all over, about 4 minutes total.
  • Remove the chicken to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

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