Impossible Chicken Nuggets Are The Latest In Fake-Meat Innovation [Updated]

Impossible's first foray into “poultry” might be even more impressive than its burgers.

Updated Post, September 17, 2021: As we await the release of Impossible Chicken Nuggets in major grocery store chains, you may be wondering where you can snag some right out of a restaurant's deep fryer. Because, let's face it, we all know everything is better right out of a deep fryer anyway.

VegNews compiled a handy list of where you can try the new nuggets in major markets, and while there are only eight restaurants (a few of which are chains) where you can give them a shot right now, that's likely to change soon. Here are the current spots:

  • Fuku, New York City, NY
  • Red Rooster, Harlem, NY, and Miami, FL
  • Joyland, Nashville, TN
  • Crossroads Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA
  • El Alto Jr., Los Altos, CA
  • Fatburger, multiple locations
  • Gott's Roadside, multiple locations
  • Dog Haus, multiple locations (including Chicago, where The Takeout taste-tested them)
  • Since Impossible Foods' plant-based products are so popular, I imagine we'll be seeing the nuggets become more widely available at restaurants later this fall. The Impossible Foods product locator might be a handy tool if you're keeping tabs on where to find the nuggets as they pop up on more menus, so keep an eye out if you're interested.

    Original Post, September 7, 2021: When it comes to fake meat, it might be a while before we see a convincing steak, or bacon strip, or rotisserie chicken. Imitating whole cuts like this comes with a set of unique challenges: how to properly mimic the density of muscle tissue, how to get the "meat" to crisp up along the edges without the assistance of animal fat, etc. But honestly, who cares if the food scientists never work out the kinks on all that? With products like Impossible Foods' new Chicken Nuggets, I'll be happy as a clam for years to come.

    This is the company's first foray into a poultry-emulating product, and it will be available starting today at select restaurants. Grocery stores (Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger, Gelsons, Safeway, ShopRite, and Giant) will begin stocking a bagged frozen version nationwide later this month. According to a press release sent to The Takeout, the restaurant and grocery store products differ just slightly, "in order to best accommodate commercial deep fryers."

What are Impossible Chicken Nuggets made of?

Complete nutrition and ingredient information can be found here, but the bulk of each Impossible Chicken Nugget is made from a soy protein concentrate. Every aspect of what makes eating nuggets pleasurable seems to have been considered here. This is how a representative for Impossible Foods, in an email to The Takeout, explained the formula behind the new nuggets:

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  • A soy protein base gives the nuggets the right "bite," and provides protein as animal products would
  • Sunflower oil creates the "fatty and juicy mouthfeel"
  • Nutrients like amino acids and sugars create reactions during the cooking process that mimic a savory chicken flavor
  • Vitamins are added for nutrition
  • Starch and methylcellulose bind the product and retain its moisture (and as a bonus, these contain more fiber than real meat)
  • I had the opportunity to sample these nuggets for myself at Chicago's Dog Haus Biergarten in Lincoln Park, one of the restaurant partners with which Impossible is rolling out the product. Dog Haus franchisee Toni Siprut explained that the restaurant's partnership with Impossible Foods has, in some ways, helped streamline operations: normal chicken nuggets require a three-step preparation process before cooking, whereas Impossible Nuggets go directly into the fryer. And while an order of real chicken takes 12 minutes to cook, the plant-based stuff only takes 3 minutes.

    It all gets served up with the same choice of sauces, at a suggested retail price of $6.99 for a 6-piece serving (or $9.99 for a 10-piece). The Nuggets will join several other plant-based meat offerings on the Dog Haus menu. I ask Siprut: has the restaurant seen an increasing demand for non-meat alternatives lately?

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    "Absolutely," Siprut says. "It's not a sharp spike, but it has steadily risen over the past two years, I would say." That was even true throughout the pandemic, via the restaurant's online ordering platform and its multiple virtual concepts. As curiosity builds around the products, so do orders.

How do they taste?

Since the earliest days of tofu dogs and Boca burgers, many of the leading vegetarian products have had to overcome one primary obstacle: the dreaded sponginess that's characteristic of many meat substitutes. You don't want to feel like you're chewing on a flavored gym mat. Fortunately, with its ground "beef," Impossible demonstrated that it was able to mimic the feeling of biting into a real mass of meat, one that we think yields its firmness accordingly. The Impossible Chicken Nuggets, encased in an ultra-crispy breading, have the perfect exterior and interior texture, and I was surprised to find that the brothy chicken flavor permeated both the breading and the filling, which isn't true of a lot of vegetarian chicken products.

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You probably wouldn't want to nibble on chunks of the unbreaded nugget filling, as I did when trying to determine its flavor—it really needs the crispy element to "work." Though I guess the same would be true of a McNugget?Anyway, it was nice to know that the center wasn't just treated like filler, but a place to infuse added flavor, too. The innards looked a little flaky, but didn't taste that way when I bit into them.

Eating six or 10 Impossible Nuggets, depending on what you pair them with, will likely leave you feeling decently full, but not overstuffed—just like their poultry counterparts. They're somehow juicy and tender, yet so grease-free that there's no residue at all left on your fingers after eating. A little of that sunflower oil on the outside would even be welcome, in fact, since it does a lot to make the inside of the nuggets taste so believably chickeny. But the tidiness of the nuggets means they'd be easy to eat in the car or on the go.

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The suggested retail price might turn some people off: they might cost around $2 more than regular nuggets, depending on where you order them. But at many restaurants that serve Impossible Nuggets, the total cost differential of the higher-priced plant-based meat isn't being passed on to the consumer. Instead, the profit margin on such products is slightly lower than on meat. But it's a cost that restaurants are more than willing to cover, in part because it widens their potential customer base and allows them to serve their diners (both meat-eaters and non-) a more diverse array of offerings.

It'll be interesting to see if the grocery store version lives up to the restaurant nuggets I tasted. I wouldn't replace all my at-home chicken meals with something like this, of course—a grilled chicken thigh is nowhere close to being replicated in soy form, and I don't always want my "meat" breaded—but there are plenty of occasions when I'm craving something easy, crispy, and snackable, and having a bag of these in my freezer would be what I turn to. How about you? Curious to taste these newbies to the plant-based scene?

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