I'm not ashamed to say I love vegan chicken nuggets, mostly because I can pretend that they aren't just totally junk food and because they are quick and easy to make. Sometimes I don't even put them in the oven, and I don't even care that microwaving them makes them soggy. I dip them in Bitchin' Sauce or a ketchup mixed with Sriracha. Easy peasy lunch, snack, or dinner. My favorites are the "Simple Truth" brand from Kroger, and the Gardein ones—I like the crunchy coating on both and especially love how the Gardein ones have oats in the coating. I'm perfectly happy with these two brands.
But maybe you care more than I do about searching for and finding the perfect vegan chicken nugget. If so, check out this piece by Antara Sinha of Bon Appetit, which presents findings from their taste tests of seven brands of vegan chicken nuggets. First, the article explains the quest to replicate fast food nuggets and the massive growth of the market for plant-based items:
When you seek out chicken nuggets, chances are you're seeking out nostalgia, and if you're reaching for the vegan version, that's an especially high bar to meet. The explosion of brands contributing to the supermarket proliferation of faux-chicken nuggets—with "plant-based" meat projected to be a market worth $140 billion in the next few years—all claim to replicate that feeling of indulgence. The mostly vegan breading is the easy part. But the distinct texture of ground chicken (spongy? squishy? bouncy?) is the Everest, with companies using myriad ingredients like soy isolates, pea protein, jackfruit, and mycoprotein.
They then present their findings. Spoiler alert: the Impossible Nugget is the winner. They describe the winner this way:
The Nugget: Made from soy protein concentrate, the Impossible Chicken Nuggets lacks the plant-based heme that gives Impossible Burgers (the company's debut product, launched in 2016) its signature "bloody" appearance. Soybean and sunflower oils impersonate animal fat, while garlic and onion powder add savoriness.
The Taste: Ironically, this was the first nugget our tasters tried, which was a mistake, because none of the other brands could compete with the high standard that the Impossible Nugget set. A picturesque golden crust, a pleasantly meaty flavor that both vegetarians and nonvegetarians enjoyed, and the most nostalgic feel made this the clear winner. There were a couple of complaints on the texture veering into "mushy" territory, but isn't that part of the chicken nugget experience? "It is chicken," Emma said. "I don't believe that it's not."
If you want to read more about the other nuggets they tried, go check out the rest of the article! Plus, it's kind of interesting to see all the brands' different takes on the shape of a vegan chicken nuggets. I guess, unsurprisingly, they all seem to be some kind of version of the four shapes that McDonald's nuggets come in: ball, bell, bone, and boot.