Taste Test: Whole Foods’ 365 Chickenless Nuggets

Can the vegan nugget alternative hold its own against the real thing?

The chicken nugget is a fairly simple item, or should be, at least. Some chicken, ground up with spices, formed into a patty, breaded, and fried. Dunked into some ketchup or barbecue sauce, it’s the one food that just about every kid will eat without question.

But what happens when we veer into vegan territory? We stopped by Whole Foods and picked up a 10 ounce package of their house brand Chickenless Nuggets from the frozen food aisle, popped them in the toaster oven, and gave them a shot.

These nuggets replace chicken with textured wheat protein, a soy protein alternative that’s essentially straight wheat gluten and also the main component of seitan. It’s spiced with a little paprika, rosemary, onion, garlic, and celery seed, given a breadcrumb coating, and frozen.

Once reheated, all of our tasters agreed that the texture and consistency were spot-on for a chicken nugget, with a nice crunch from the breading yielding to an interior that stayed juicy and flavorful. All could tell right away that no meat was involved, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. “It has more flavor than an actual chicken nugget,” said one taster. “It’s better than most other veggie chicken nuggets I’ve tried,” said another.

And while there were no kids around to sample the goods, we all agreed that you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid who would turn his nose up at these nuggets, especially when dunked into some ketchup or barbecue sauce.

365 Chickenless Nuggets are vegan and have no cholesterol or saturated fat, and a serving of three nuggets contains 5 grams of fat and 130 calories. A package of about 14 nuggets sells for $3.99. 

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