I Tried 19 Different Frozen Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets — These Are the 2 I’ll Buy Again

published Mar 7, 2023
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various vegan nuggets on a sheet pan
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Frozen chicken nuggets are a freezer staple for many of us, whether or not there are kids under our roof. If your family adheres to a plant-based lifestyle or you simply want to keep meat-free options on hand, nuggets can be an easy choice for you too. You can serve them straight from the oven with ketchup or other dipping sauces or add them to salads, wraps, and sheet pan dinners

The options for frozen plant-based chicken nuggets have exploded in recent years. It seems like every few weeks my grocer stocks a new brand in the freezer aisle. With sophisticated branding and a wide range of price points, it is hard to know which box of chickenless nuggets are the best ones to buy. I cleared my freezer, stocked up on ketchup, and set out to taste test every frozen plant-based nugget I could find. After lots of shopping and a day of tasting, I have narrowed it down to the best two. Here’s what I found. 

How I Tested the Frozen Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets

It took visits to nine stores to procure every package of frozen plant-based chicken nuggets I could find. I focused my search on plain plant-based chicken nuggets, leaving spicy or Buffalo-flavored ones on the shelves for another time. In the end, I collected 19 varieties. 

Some brands provide a variety of preparation methods including convection oven, conventional oven, microwave, and air fryer. Baking in a conventional oven was the only preparation method consistent across all varieties, so that is how I prepared the nuggets. I sorted the brands according to the oven temperature called for: 450°F, 425°F, 400°F, and 375°F. 

I arranged the nuggets on baking sheets and noted the brands in each position so that I could taste them blind after baking. I baked several pieces of each frozen plant based chicken nugget according to the time and temperature prescribed on the package. I tasted the nuggets hot out of the oven and again after they had cooled slightly. Once all of the plant-based nuggets were baked and tasted, two clearly stood out from the rest. Here are my picks for the best frozen plant-based chicken nuggets. 

Credit: Patty Catalano

Best Overall Frozen Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets: Quorn Meatless ChiQin Nuggets

Despite the number of new brands in the plant-based meat space, the winner of this taste test goes to a decades-old brand: Quorn. Quorn’s Meatless ChiQin Nuggets are made from a fermented mycoprotein that is high in protein (26% of the daily value), a good source of fiber (14%), low in saturated fat (3%), and sustainable to produce. 

The texture of plant-based chicken often registers as spongy or bouncy, but this plant-based chicken, or chiQin, is tender and mimics the texture of traditional frozen chicken nuggets. The coating is crispy, well-seasoned, and even shows evidence of black pepper in the crust. The nuggets are uniform in shape and size, but retain a more hand-pattied appearance than others in the tasting. 

Buy: Quorn Meatless ChiQin Nuggets, $14.99 for 32 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Patty Catalano

Best Kid-Friendly Frozen Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets: Impossible Foods Chicken Nuggets Made from Plants

If your little one is on the plant-based train, then the nuggets from Impossible Foods are for you. These chicken-free nuggets have a crispy, buttery coating and savory flavor that is perfect for dipping into ketchup or honey mustard. The inside is made from plant-based soy protein that is well-seasoned, yet mild enough for growing palates that can sometimes be selective. Because texture can be a deal-breaker with kids, rest assured that these frozen bites have the classic texture that you would expect from a frozen chicken nugget. Kids of all ages may also be interested in the animal-shaped Wild Nuggies, which deliver the same flavors in fun-to-eat shapes.

Buy: Impossible Foods Chicken Nuggets Made from Plants, $7.28 from 13.5 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You’re Buying Frozen Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets, a Few Tips

  • Flip nuggets halfway through baking. Cooking instructions for several of the nugget brands I tested listed flipping the nuggets halfway through baking. I stand by this suggestion, regardless of what the packaging may say. Turning the nuggets allows for more even cooking and browning.
  • Air fry if you can. Air fryers are the best way to prepare lots of frozen foods, and plant-based nuggets are no exception. Air fry at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes, shaking halfway through or follow the package instructions specific for the plant-based nuggets you’re preparing.
  • Serve them while they’re hot! The texture of plant-based chicken best mimics the real thing when served hot. If left to cool, the nuggets take on a bouncy texture and may separate from the breading.

Did your favorite frozen plant-based chicken nuggets make the list? Share your pick in the comments below!