6 Highest Quality And 6 Lowest Quality Frozen Chicken Nuggets

assorted chicken nugget brands
assorted chicken nugget brands - Static Media / Shutterstock

While we can all agree that frozen chicken nuggets are a staple in many households and a win for quick meals, it is also fair to say that not all frozen chicken nugget brands are created equal. From the taste to the texture, every style of nugget is different. These differences can be largely attributed to the quality of ingredients used to make the products, which can vary widely, impacting the nutritional value and overall health benefits.

If you or your family consume frozen chicken nuggets regularly, choosing the right brand can make a big difference in your diet. Although everyone's dietary and nutritional needs differ, there's no question that opting for brands that use high-quality, minimally processed ingredients will ensure you're getting better nutrition and taste overall. Highly processed nuggets with vague or questionable ingredient lists often compromise on quality and, as a result, health.

We've compiled a list of the best and worst options when it comes to chicken nuggets available on the market. You can find our methodology regarding how we ranked these products at the end of the article. For now, let's break down what's good or not so good about the ingredients in these frozen chicken nuggets and how they affect your health so that the next time you're in the frozen aisle, you can make a healthier choice for yourself and your family.

Read more: Ranking Grocery Store Rotisserie Chickens From Worst To Best

Low: Tyson All Natural Crispy Chicken Nuggets

Tyson all natural chicken nuggets
Tyson all natural chicken nuggets - Tyson

Although Tyson is a household name, its practice of mass-producing all types of chicken products can come at a cost to consumers who are looking for options with high quality ingredients. The presence of Tyson's All Natural Crispy Chicken Nuggets in nearly every grocer's freezer aisle may make it seem like the product is a great option for kids and adults alike, however the ingredients list begs to differ.

For starters, Tyson's labeling of the nuggets as "nugget shaped chicken patties" in small print on the packaging could be a red flag. This terminology often indicates the nuggets are made from various parts of the chicken rather than whole pieces of all white breast meat. Tyson's ingredient list for the all natural nuggets simply lists "chicken" as the first ingredient. The lack of distinction about what type of chicken used could mean you're consuming a lower-quality protein. If the lack of specificity around the chicken used in the product doesn't bother you, Tyson's All Natural Crispy Chicken Nuggets may be an alright option, however we prefer brands that are specific as possible about the contents.

High: Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets

Applegate naturals chicken nuggets
Applegate naturals chicken nuggets - Applegate

Applegate Naturals is a brand that focuses on simplicity, quality, and humane practices when it comes to its protein-based products. The company's chicken nuggets are made with all white meat chicken, ensuring you're consuming high-quality protein that is lower in fat than dark meat. Additionally, Applegate avoids using unwanted parts of the chicken or low-quality pieces of meat.

As for other ingredients, Applegate lists wheat flour and rice flour for the breading, which provides a light, crispy texture without the need for artificial additives or preservatives. To flavor the nuggets, Applegate uses real spices like garlic powder and onion powder instead of extracts or chemical flavorings. The brand is committed to avoiding a range of negative ingredients in all of its products, including chemical nitrates or nitrites, artificial ingredients or preservatives, fillers, and GMO ingredients. This means you can trust the nuggets you serve your family are high-quality and healthier than many other popular brands.

Low: Banquet Original Chicken Nugget

Banquet chicken nuggets
Banquet chicken nuggets - Banquet

While affordability is the main draw for Banquet's frozen meals and meats, it's important for health-conscious consumers to know that quality is often the sacrifice of affordability. Banquet''s chicken nuggets are made of processed chicken, as described by the packaging's label, which reads "chicken nugget patties." Similar to Tyson's chicken nugget packaging, the ingredients list for Banquet's nuggets doesn't specify exactly what part of the chicken is used. This suggests it may not be all-white meat but rather a blend of chicken.

The use of added natural flavorings to enhance the meat's taste suggests a product that isn't made with the most flavorful meat. Although Banquet does get points for using real spices like garlic powder and salt, the brand's use of extracts and flavorings is a knock to the product's overall quality, resulting in a taste that simply isn't as good as the real thing.

High: Earth's Best Chicken Nuggets For Kids

Earth's Best chicken nuggets for kids
Earth's Best chicken nuggets for kids - Earth's Best

It's no secret that frozen chicken nuggets are a must-have for parents with young children. Those looking to feed their children a high-quality chicken nugget should consider Earth's Best. The brand stands out with its commitment to using organic, non-GMO ingredients with no artificial flavors.

The nuggets are made with chicken breast meat, a lean and nutritious component. According to the product's ingredients list, the breading is made from whole wheat flour, which adds fiber and essential nutrients that are often stripped away with refined flours. Corn starch is also included, which helps give the nuggets a crispy exterior. Earth's Best also uses real seasoning like cane sugar, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and spices, as opposed to extracts or artificial flavorings. Although these nuggets contain a small amount of sugar, it's less than 1 gram per serving, which is lower than many other brands. This balance of flavor and quality makes Earth's Best a smart choice for shoppers looking to provide healthier meals for their kids.

Low: Just Bare Boneless Skinless Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Chunks

Just Bare chicken breast chunks
Just Bare chicken breast chunks - Just Bare

At a glance, Just Bare's chicken breast chunks might initially seem like a healthy option. After all, according to the ingredients list they are made with boneless, skinless chicken breast, something we don't see as often in mass-produced frozen chicken nuggets.

However, the first seasoning ingredient listed on the label is sugar. In addition, sugar is listed as a primary ingredient in the nuggets' breading. This means there is more sugar used than the other spices and breading ingredients, such as salt, celery, and paprika. As a result, the nutrition label shows a high sugar content of 2 grams per serving, raising concerns for sugar-conscious consumers. Excessive sugar in savory products can contribute to unnecessary calorie intake for kids and adults alike. Other not-so-great ingredients listed on the Just Bare nuggets label include chicken fat used as a flavoring agent. This diminishes some of the benefits of using all white meat chicken, a leaner option.

High: Perdue Chicken Nuggets

Perdue panko chicken nuggets
Perdue panko chicken nuggets - Perdue

Perdue is another nationally known brand that is present in nearly all grocery store freezers. Although the brand holds prominence in the chicken industry, it continues to uphold high quality ingredients. This is true of Perdue's nuggets, which are made with chicken breast meat, spices, and wheat flour.

Despite the fact that Perdue's nuggets are not made with 100% all-white meat chicken (they are made with chicken breast and rib meat), they are still made with a higher quality meat than the unspecified chicken parts many nuggets are made from. Additionally, Perdue's nuggets are made with a breading composed of wheat and corn flour and spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, and sugar. Luckily, the nuggets' nutritional value is not highly impacted by the sugar, as there is only 1g of sugar per serving. Overall, Perdue's take on frozen nuggets is a quality option to feed your family.

Low: John Soules Foods Southern Style Chicken Bites

John Soules Foods chicken bites
John Soules Foods chicken bites - John Soules Foods

Initially, a quick glance at the ingredients label of John Soules Foods frozen chicken nuggets may make you think these are a great option. After all, the company seems to take a fairly simple approach with its Southern-style chicken bites. Despite the fact that they are made with a basic list of ingredients, including white meat chicken and wheat flour, there is one ingredient that should be cause for concern — sugar.

Although sugar is listed on the label on the label as comprising less than 2% of the product's overall ingredients, the nutrition label still features 2 grams of sugar per serving. That's not a huge amount, however, when compared to other brands on our list, many of which contain 0 grams of sugar per serving, it is questionable, particularly for health-conscious consumers. The brand would be listed as a high-quality option if it were to trade in the sugar for spices to enhance the flavor of the nuggets.

High: Ian's Breaded Chicken Nuggets

Ian's breaded chicken nuggets
Ian's breaded chicken nuggets - Ian's

Ian's is a brand that caters to those with dietary restrictions and food allergies. Its goal is to create products that are allergen-free without compromising on quality, and the brand is committed to producing food that is made with easy-to-read ingredient lists. When it comes to Ian's frozen chicken nuggets, the ingredients label is, in fact, easy to read, and boasts a range of simple, quality items.

For starters, the nuggets are made from antibiotic- and hormone-free boneless and skinless chicken breast. The breading is made from yellow corn flour, garlic powder, and cornflake crumbs, providing a distinct, crunchy texture without unnecessary fillers. Additionally, there is no sugar added in Ian's nuggets, making them a healthier option for anyone looking to cut down on their intake. As it turns out, these nuggets are not only free from common allergens like wheat, dairy, eggs, and nuts, but also high-quality.

Low: Tyson Air Fried Chicken Breast Nuggets

Tyson air fried nuggets
Tyson air fried nuggets - Tyson

Although Tyson is a popular brand for affordable chicken products, it's not necessarily well-known for using the highest quality chicken. One thing brands like Tyson do well is jumping onto trends and capitalizing on popular flavors or cooking techniques. So, while the brand's air fried chicken breast nuggets might sound healthier due to the improved cooking process, they don't include the best ingredients for health-conscious customers.

The fourth and fifth ingredients listed on the product's label are brown sugar and caramelized sugar. Despite comprising less than 2% of the product's overall ingredients, the addition of two types of sugar is unnecessary. The brand's health-conscious claim that the nuggets contain 75% less fat may be a plus, but regardless, it doesn't make up for the sugar content. These feature 2 grams of sugar per serving, whereas many brands on our list have no sugar at all. This impact on nutritional quality makes these nuggets less desirable for those seeking a healthier option.

High: Pilgrim's Chicken Nuggets

Pilgrim's chicken nuggets
Pilgrim's chicken nuggets - Pilgrim's

Pilgrim's is a popular brand that many grocery stores keep in stock, making it an easily accessible and affordable option for shoppers. Luckily for budget and health-conscious shoppers, according to the ingredient label and packaging, the brand uses antibiotic-free chicken breast as its primary ingredient.

Although Pilgrim's nuggets contain rib meat, it is listed as minimally processed and all natural. As well, it's always a bonus to see brands being transparent about what kind of meat is used as opposed to simply listing "chicken." Additionally, the breading for Pilgrim's nuggets is made with wheat flour and there is no added sugar, something we've seen plenty of among lower-ranked brands. For those who prefer real spices over extracts when it comes to flavorings, Pilgrim's may not be the brand for you. Nevertheless, overall the nuggets are made with decent ingredients that aren't artificial or overly unhealthy.

Low: Great Value Chicken Nuggets

Great Value Chicken Nuggets
Great Value Chicken Nuggets - Walmart

Great Value's chicken nuggets are surely a staple for many Walmart shoppers, but the ingredients leave room for improvement, unless you're looking for a nugget that is bulked up with added ingredients or potential allergens. The package label describes these as "nugget shaped patties," which typically means they are formed from a combination of chicken meat and fillers.

Indeed, the nugget ingredients include two different soy protein concentrates in addition to chicken breast. This means the brand is likely using less chicken and making up for it by adding soy product. Many consumers would not know about it if they didn't inspect the ingredients list, which may not be an issue for everyone. However, for those with a soy allergy, this could be problematic since this is an unexpected place to encounter the allergen. Additionally, Great Value uses spice extracts instead of real spices, suggesting a lower-quality product overall.

High: Realgood Foods Co. Chicken Nuggets

Realgood chicken nuggets
Realgood chicken nuggets - Realgood

Realgood Foods Co. offers a different take on the traditional chicken nugget. One of the main concerns that health-conscious consumers have when it comes to chicken nuggets is the added carbohydrates from the breading. Realgood has found a way to combat these extra carbs by only lightly breading the nuggets and prioritizing the protein content of the product. The result is a high-protein, low-carb, and low-sugar chicken nugget that is also free of added sugars and gluten.

Realgood's frozen nuggets are made with chicken breast and rib meat, whey protein, and egg for an extra protein punch. These added ingredients could be a turn-off for some shoppers, but for others they make chicken nuggets an easier item to fit into a healthy diet. The breading is made with chickpea flour and seasonings like salt, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and black pepper. These nuggets are ideal for those looking to increase their protein intake with real, quality ingredients, offering a healthier alternative without sacrificing taste or texture.


chicken nuggets plate with ketchup
chicken nuggets plate with ketchup - Olga Miltsova/Getty Images

When it came to ranking frozen chicken nugget brands based on the quality of their ingredients, we had to consider various factors. For starters, we wanted to make sure that the core ingredient — chicken — was prioritized by the brand. We rated nuggets made with all white meat chicken in our "high quality" category, because white meat chicken is leaner, lower in calories, and generally preferred by those looking for high-quality nuggets. Nugget brands that used fillers, mixed chicken meat, or failed to specify what kind of chicken was used were ranked in our "low quality" category.

Next, we considered what ingredients were used in the breading. We ranked nugget brands that use whole wheat flour highly and those that added sugars lower on our list. In general, healthy diets should have more whole grains and less added sugars whenever possible. Additionally, we ranked brands that used real spices to season their nuggets more highly than those that opted for spice extracts or artificial flavors. Despite being a frozen product, we know that consumers still want to purchase nuggets that are as close to homemade as possible, and the only way to achieve this is by using natural, whole ingredients.

Read the original article on Mashed.