Grocery Store Chicken Nuggets, Ranked From Worst To Best

These are the bags to look for in the grocery store freezer aisle.

Whenever I bite into a chicken nugget, I'm immediately transported back to the past. I remember standing in long lunch lines in the school cafeteria as a 15-year-old, where my choices for an entrée on most days was either a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or chicken nuggets, followed by a choice between 2% milk, chocolate milk, or juice. Biting into those chicken nuggets would leave me with an empty, unsatisfied feeling. Luckily, the world of chicken nuggets has changed for the better since then.

These days, there are lots of chicken nugget brands all vying for your attention at the grocery store. How do you know which ones are worthwhile? Do you judge a bag by its cover, its price, or what it promises? Is there really one chicken nugget that's "healthier" than the rest, as they all seem to claim?

Curious to find out the answers, I enlisted the help of my two kids, ages five and nine, to help me decide which brands are worth savoring. We tested eight brands from across a variety of stores and were pleasantly surprised by the results. Here's our ranking, from worst to best.

8. Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets

Not only was Applegate Naturals the most expensive, but it also packs the least amount of flavor. Upon first bite, my kids immediately declared that these nuggets "taste like yucky tofu," and they both thought the product was made with "fake meat." I'm sorry to report that I agree on both counts. When I told them that Applegate was indeed made with real meat, from chickens that were "humanely raised, with no antibiotics," as the bag claimed, their eyes widened with horror.

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While I love the company's vision and applaud its business practices, the result is a small, bland, pale nugget. To feel full, one would need to eat twice as much and spend twice the amount of money. Even then, there's no guarantee that you'll feel satisfied.

7. Banquet Chicken Nuggets

The Banquet brand was darkest in color, both inside and out. On the outside, the nuggets do not appear to have any other seasonings (except perhaps the salt). Eat five of these nuggets and you'll be consuming a whopping 540mg of sodium. That's 120 mg less than John Soules Foods Chicken Nuggets (more on those later), but when we tasted these nuggets, the salt immediately hit our tongues and it took a minute or so to adjust. Crunch-wise, it was mediocre.

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Overall, my kids didn't have much to say about this nugget other than "kind of salty." The meat color also bordered on light gray, which did not score high points on my list.

6. John Soules Foods Chicken Nuggets

John Soules ranks in the middle in terms of cost per serving ($.68), but in taste, it's on the salty side. These precooked nuggets have a lot of pepper seasoning. The result is a nice, thin crunch. Perhaps too thin, because it left me wondering where the rest of the chicken nugget was.

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Like the Tyson brand chicken nuggets, John Soules' nuggets contain a similar blend of spices and flours. Unlike Tyson, this product boasts 660mg of sodium, or 29% of your daily value. I gave it a high thumbs up for taste and color, but thumbs down in terms of healthy qualities.

5. Great Value Breaded Chicken Nuggets

To be honest, when it comes to chicken nuggets (and other fried or frozen products) I tend to steer toward brand names rather than store brands. Thus, I didn't have high expectations for this Walmart house brand.

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Upon first taste of this almost perfectly round chicken nugget, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it did, in fact, taste pretty good—not too salty nor too bland. It certainly didn't feature the best crunch of the brands we tried, but overall it had a decent flavor. For only $5.88 at my local Walmart (or $.53 per serving) this is indeed a "great value" for your money.

4. Tyson 100% All Natural Chicken Nuggets

When I tried these Tyson nuggets, it reminded me of school cafeteria nuggets, except better. There was a particular zing on my tongue that I couldn't quite figure out. Further research into the ingredients list told me that there are a variety of spices and seasonings, including paprika extracts, dried garlic, dried onion, and multiple varieties of flour (wheat flour, yellow corn flour, and wheat starch) breaded in vegetable oil. What I loved most was its slightly sweet aftertaste. At 270 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving, these are the highest out of the bunch on both counts.

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3. Foster Farms Breast Nuggets

Foster Farms Breast Nuggets do not conform to the standard shape of a nugget. Each is neither round nor oval, but rather a lopsided square. But for what it lacks in shape it makes up for in its price and the number of servings (12 in each bag), making it one of the most affordable brands around.

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The size, flavor, and firmness of this nugget is ideal for dipping. Foster Farms knows this, and thus has surreptitiously placed an image of a small bowl of dipping sauce right on the front of the bag, beside its declaration that this product is "all natural 100% chicken." Natural or not, it was very tasty.

2. Impossible Chicken Nuggets

Another surprise came when we tried Impossible Chicken Nuggets. This brand scored high marks on crunchiness, flavor, color, and texture. It really tasted like real chicken nuggets. With a lovely golden sheen on the outside and great flavor on the inside, these nuggets are an excellent source of protein (13 grams per serving) and have less fat than a traditional chicken nugget. It's a great way to eat "meat" without feeling guilty. However, each bag contains only four servings, and at the cost of $1.62 per serving, it is priced significantly higher than other chicken nugget brands.

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1. Yummy Meatless Plant-Based Nuggets

Out of all the brands we tried, Yummy's chicken nuggets surprised us the most. We were all shocked by how incredible this nugget tasted: perfectly crunchy with tender, juicy insides. It was also the biggest one out of the bunch. I loved the surprised look on my kids' faces when I told them that it was not real meat, but rather plant-based "poultry."

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Eating Yummy nuggets felt as enjoyable as eating my favorite summer fruit. I also loved the fact that this brand has a high source of omega-3 and is vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian-friendly. All in all, a perfect nugget brand for anyone to enjoy, regardless of their dietary restrictions or food preferences.

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