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The Best Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets, Ranked By Taste

Nearly every fast-food joint serves them in some form, but which nuggets are the tastiest of all?

Despite being a childhood favorite, chicken nuggets are often a go-to fast food order for on-the-go adults, too. Chicken is packed with protein and the nugget's breading makes for the perfect handheld, poppable bite when you're in a hurry—providing satiation and convenience all in one.

The contrasting textures of the juicy chicken and the crunchy breading make nuggets more complex than they seem, giving them an almost addictive quality. HubPages notes that nearly every fast-food chain has some iteration of chicken nuggets on its menu, and the freezer aisles of grocery stores have rows dedicated to the quick meal. (Confession: I almost always have some stored in my freezer at any given moment).

This convenience factor, great taste, plus high levels of protein, all come together to explain why chicken nuggets are so popular. According to Statista, 5% of consumers eat chicken nuggets daily, while a whopping 30% eat them once a month. But when the craving strikes and your freezer is empty, what chain should you stop by to pick up a serving of those crave-able bites? Well, I put it to the test by trying seven of the most popular fast-food chicken nuggets to see which one ranks supreme.

Here's how each nugg stacked up, ranked in descending order from worst to first.


popeyes nuggets in an open box.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 8 Pieces):
Calories: 380
Fat: 24 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 880 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 22 g

Popeyes offers an array of size options for its nuggets, including 8-, 12-, 24-, 36-, and 48-piece sizes, as well as a 6-piece kids meal. Its nuggets are made with white meat chicken breast and then hand-battered and breaded in a buttermilk coating. Customers can select two sauces to accompany them. An 8-piece order costs $9.99 in New York City.

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The look: It's hard to tell how many "nuggets" there are because it just looks like crumbled chicken in a box. That being said, these do look super crispy and perfectly fried.

The taste: Just as crispy as they look. Personally, I prefer less breading to really allow the chicken itself to stand out. You can taste the oil and grease on these, which I also don't love. However, the chicken inside is delicious. You can tell it's real chicken and it's wonderfully tender and juicy. Breading aside, the chicken itself was probably the best cooked of the bunch. Unfortunately, there wasn't much seasoning on these nuggets and they could really benefit from some pepper or something similar to give them a tiny kick of extra flavor.

Additionally, these nuggets were crumbly and messy to eat because the breading fell off when you ate them. Afterward, I could really feel these nuggets just sitting heavy in my stomach. I probably wouldn't order these again.

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Burger King

an open bag of burger king nuggets.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 8 Pieces):
Calories: 390
Fat: 25 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 990 mg
Carbs: 23 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 18 g

Burger King's chicken nuggets can be ordered in 4-, 8-, or 16-piece sizes, allowing you the freedom to decide just how hungry you are. The 8-piece nuggets costs only $3.49 near me in NYC. The fast-food kingpin also has chicken fries on its menu, giving customers a good amount of variety when it comes to poultry-based finger foods.

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The look: Although uniform in size, these nuggets appeared dark and possibly a bit overcooked. The breading looked consistent throughout the entire nugget and had visible seasoning.

The taste: The texture here is what really ruined these nuggets for me The flavor was good but there was really no crunch whatsoever when biting into these nuggets. The texture made me think that they weren't made fresh, but instead sat under a heat lamp for a while. I wouldn't say they were dry, but they certainly weren't juicy. Even though I enjoyed the flavor of these, the lack of any crunch made the texture disappointing and hard to overlook.

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Shake Shack

shake shack nuggets in open box.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 6 Nuggets):
Calories: 300
Fat: 19 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 780 mg
Carbs: 15 g (Fiber 0 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 17 g

Shake Shack's chicken bites come in both 6- and 10-piece serving sizes and contain crispy, whole white meat morsels and you get one of several of the chain's dipping sauces on the side. The 6-piece order costs $6.99, making them one of the more expensive options in this survey.

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The look: Crispy and greasy. They were glistening in the sun just as I do when I'm trying to get a tan. They looked substantial and tasty, but a little too oily for my liking.

The taste: As I guessed, these bites were greasy, but thankfully not as greasy as Popeyes. They were certainly crispy and a bit messier than some of the more standard-sized nuggets on this list. It tasted as though the chicken was seasoned in addition to the breading, which was a smart choice. Sadly, however, these were some of the driest bites of the bunch—they could have benefited from a sauce. That, coupled with how greasy they were, made me rank these lower than I was expecting to going into the tasting.

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kfc nuggets in an open box.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Nugget):
Calories: 35
Fat: 1.5 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 140 mg
Carbs: 1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 3 g

Kentucky Fried Chicken, better known as KFC, serves up its classic nuggets in 5-, 8-, 12-, 36-, and 50-piece sizes. A 5-piece order retails for $3.99 in New York City. The chain also offers saucy nuggets in an array of sizes, too. KFC's nuggets are composed of 100% white meat, hand-breaded with KFC's Original Recipe flavoring, and, according to the chain's website, freshly prepared for each order.

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The look: These nuggets looked rather small to me, especially when comparing them to competitors. They also seemed to have the least amount of breading on them and were not uniformly crusted, with some sections of each nugget containing more breading than others.

The taste: Despite their small size, these nuggets had great flavor. There was a lot of seasoning and spices in this mix, but they weren't spicy at all. Like I expected after seeing these, they were not too crispy. In fact, these nuggets might have been a bit soggy in their container because there wasn't any crunch to them which was a bit disappointing. The meat inside, though, was juicy and tasty, but not quite as juicy as Popeyes' nuggets. These were also a bit greasy, but not overwhelmingly so.

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mcdonalds nuggets in an open box.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 4 Nuggets):
Calories: 170
Fat: 10 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 430 mg
Carbs: 10 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 9 g

These classic nuggets are available in 4-, 6-, 10-, 20-, and 40-piece sizes. They certainly aren't an item on the dollar menu, as a 6-piece order will cost you $7.29 in my neighborhood. Famously known for using all-white meat chicken—a swap McDonald's made back in 2003 by removing dark meat from its nuggets—these tasty bites are also free of preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors.

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The look: One thing you can always count on McDonald's for is the uniform size of its nuggets. These babies look perfectly crisp, with a golden brown breading that even appears layered. Once you take a bite, you'll notice the white meat chicken inside and you can even see some of the seasoning atop the chicken if you peek in between the layers.

The taste: The nostalgia really hits home here. I don't know if it's because I grew up with these nuggets, or it's because they're really that good, but I just can't turn down the version at McDonald's. These nuggets are crispy on the outside and both juicy and tender on the inside. The exterior gives just the right amount of crispness without being too bready or overwhelming. Plus, I love that these don't taste overly salted. Do these taste particularly chickeny? No. But those classic flavors of childhood really make me enjoy them.

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wendy's nuggets in a open container.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 6 Nuggets):
Calories: 270
Fat: 17 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 570 mg
Carbs: 14 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 15 g

Wendy's sells 4-, 6-, and 10-piece sizes of its crispy chicken nuggets at all store locations, as well as the chain's spicy chicken nuggets. A 6-piece order of the regular nuggs set me back $4.87. Wendy's version is made with 100% white meat chicken, breaded, and served with the customer's choice between six different dipping sauces.

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The look: These nuggets were beautifully uniform in size and looked crunchy, golden brown, and well-seasoned. I was worried they might be a bit too crunchy or overcooked based on their appearance.

The taste: There was a great outer layer of crispiness and breading on these, but not so much as to make the ratio off. These didn't crumble and weren't very greasy, which is always a plus in my book. There was a lot of pepper and spice, giving these nuggets a bit of a zesty kick. To me, they seemed like a more flavorful version of the McDonald's nuggets.

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chick fil-a nuggets in an open box.
Photo: Amanda Mactas, Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 8 Nuggets):
Calories: 250
Fat: 11 g (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 1,210 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 27 g

With chicken practically in the name of this restaurant, it shouldn't come as a complete shock that Chick-fil-A ranked supreme in this chicken nugget taste test. Its bite-sized nuggets are made with boneless chicken breast, breaded, and pressure-cooked in 100% refined peanut oil. Plus, they come in 5-, 8-, 12-, and 30-piece sizes. The 8-piece size set me back $9.19.

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The look: These nuggets are the epitome of golden brown. They appear to be lightly breaded and range in size, but there isn't a huge discrepancy between the size of each nugget.

The taste: These small bites are cooked to perfection with tender chicken inside and a crisp exterior. Although they aren't as crispy as the runners-up, the flavor here more than makes up for it. There's a slight tanginess to these chicken bites and the saltiness brings out all of the flavors of the seasoning. I love that the meat wasn't overwhelmed by the breading, making these nuggets a balanced bite. This won't be the last time I make a pit stop at Chick-fil-A.

Amanda Mactas
Amanda Mactas is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City, covering food, travel, and lifestyle content. Read more about Amanda