The 15 Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets, Ranked

Invented in 1963 by agricultural scientist Robert C. Baker at Cornell University (per Slate), the chicken nugget has been a staple in lunches for kids and adults alike for decades. Versatile in taste and shape, the nugget is a pinnacle of manufactured culinary creation. It runs circles around its contemporaries: Rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, grilled chicken, and wings often cannot compare to the greatness of a handheld, pebble-sized serving of breaded ecstasy.

Much like Coca-Cola, few people in this world dislike a great chicken nugget. Forget the discourse about popcorn chicken and boneless wings, the nugget, whether small or large, remains a pillar of American tastebuds. Whether you're in a hurry or itching to become your kitchen's next top chef, the nugget is your best friend. It's a warm blanket positioned next to a crispy batch of restaurant fries; a no-doubt slam-dunk on any fast food restaurant's menu.

Chicken nuggets come in all shapes and sizes and are mass-produced by dozens of companies across the country. Some brands specialize in only chicken, while others make every food product under the sun. Whichever approach to poultry consumerism you prefer, there's no shortage of terrific, delicious chicken nuggets that will reaffirm your faith in America's greatest breaded invention. From worst to best, here's a ranking of the 15 best chicken nugget brands you can buy at grocery stores.

15. Good & Gather

The worst brand on our list is Good & Gather, but it's far and away the best chain-store generic brand. Though Kroger brand and Walmart's Great Value have solid offerings, Good & Gather, an in-house staple of grocery, clothing, and entertainment conglomerate Target, is the best of the bunch. It's not a special creation, as its flavor profile is pretty non-existent, but it's $6.69 a bag for a pretty well-sized nugget.

Good & Gather makes too many products to really hone their focus on just one thing, as is the case with most generic offerings, so you can't fault them for making a subpar chicken nugget. If you go into eating a Good & Gather nugget expecting nothing more than chicken bits, made by a company that also makes coffee, pasta sauce, and string cheese, you won't be disappointed. For added flavor, throw a few dashes of some spices from your cabinet onto the nuggets, and it'll do the trick.

14. Pilgrim's

One user on Google reviews likened the Pilgrim's chicken nugget to a McNugget "but meatier." That's a high bar to set, given how prestigious and revered the latter is. Nevertheless, we're talking about a very standard chicken nugget with a crunchy breading that doesn't make too much of a mess, which puts it higher than Foster Farms.

A detractor for Pilgrim's is its lack of gluten-free options. Most of the brands on this list do their best to look out for customers with Celiac, and there isn't a plant-based item on the company's website yet. They do have a "hot and spicy" option though, which will heed the taste buds of folks yearning for a kick in their chicken.

On par with Weaver, Pilgrim's is a hard bag of chicken nuggets to find. Like the former, you can find them on Instacart. However, Pilgrim's is also for sale at Walmart locations across the country. A bag can cost anywhere from $7.99 to $8.99, depending on where you buy it from. Though the price is smack dab in the middle of the nugget cost spectrum, there's nothing otherworldly about Pilgrim's to make it more desirable than a product like Earth's Best or Perdue.

13. Earth's Best

Though marketed toward kids, Earth's Best chicken nuggets soar beyond age-group targeting. Championed for being made with vegetarian-fed chickens raised without antibiotics, Earth's Best is good, but not great. Much like Applegate, the nuggets are small and have a crunchy breading made from a whole wheat flour and cornstarch combo.

At just $7.99 a bag at Target, you're getting a good volume of nuggets for the price, especially if you're buying these to pair with your kids' vegetables at lunchtime. There's even a gluten-free alternative that clocks in at a surprisingly low $6.79 a bag, making it one of the most affordable options around.

In a review for Buzzfeed, Ross Yoder noted that they needed an extra bit of salt, but praised the nuggets for their crunchiness and tender meat. The nuggets don't go overboard with the breading, leaving more meat in their compact shape and a plentiful experience for your tastebuds. For a nugget that's barely bigger than a quarter, Earth's Best is a solid alternative to the high prices of Applegate.

12. Yummy Dino Buddies

Another kid-centric chicken product, the Yummy Dino Buddies nuggets clock in just a hair above Earth's Best for one reason; they're shaped like dinosaurs. Granted, you can also get them in alphabet shapes, but we can leave that to SpaghettiOs.

Yummy Dino Buddies are surprisingly versatile, with a large palette of options. If you're just a fan of original nuggets, you're already set. But, if you're vegetarian or have dietary restrictions, you can get plant-based, whole grain, and even gluten-free nuggets.

Ranging from $6.99 to $8.99 a box at Target and Walmart, depending on what type of nugget you snag and where from, Yummy Dino Buddies is pretty affordable given its competition. If you're an adult, don't be discouraged from chomping down on a breaded Brachiosaurus — they're terrific, especially the gluten-free selection. Rich in Omega-3 and made with antibiotic-free chickens, you can't go wrong with a brand that doesn't try to be flashy. The dinosaurs might be the selling point, but the taste is good enough to keep you around for the long haul after the shapes become indiscernible. On top of that, Yummy Dino Buddies come with an ever-so-valuable resealable bag.

11. Weaver

Weaver chicken nuggets are a prime example of a middle-of-the-road product. The company has been around since 1937, but they're now under the Tyson umbrella. Weaver uses the same recipe they always have, but tracking down a bag of these nuggets is a tall task. You can get them on Instacart or Boxed Market if you live in the right zip code.

Built on the nostalgia of Depression-era homestyle cooking, Weaver does simple nuggets justice. They aren't flashy, and they don't need to be: The chicken is juicy and dense, while the breading isn't too overbearing. Weaver champions the quality of its nuggets, which are made from real chicken. Every nugget company makes that same claim, but there's something about the legacy of Weaver this more believable.

However, given the sparseness of their stock almost everywhere, you're better off buying Tyson or Perdue. Weaver chicken nuggets taste just like your mom used to make, if you can track down a bag of them.

10. Foster Farms

A go-to nugget at Safeway, Target, and Kroger, Foster Farms chicken nuggets are crispy pieces of heaven. They have a lot of products available, including a gluten-free nugget, though it's not in most stores yet. You can get the original recipe for $7.79 a bag at Target, putting it right in the middle of the nugget cost spectrum. And that says a lot about the product's taste, too. It's not too extravagant, nor is it underwhelming. 

Like every great role player in sports, Foster Farms knows its position and plays it well. Sometimes, all you need is an average nugget that comes at a good price. If you're perusing the frozen aisle at your grocery store and the only guy left in the lineup is Foster Farms, you won't be disappointed with the results at home.

When compared to heavyweights like Tyson and Perdue, the Foster Farms nugget has a similar alchemy. It's thinly breaded lean meat that tastes great. According to Mashed, however, that thin breading has the consistency of stray Cheetos dust, so beware of messy fingers when consuming. The "minimally processed" label might be a red flag, but we're talking about mechanically separated meat here. No product has clean hands in this, so points to Foster Farms for admitting that they dabble in poultry machinery.

9. Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's organic chicken nuggets are not a generic brand, given that almost everything sold in a Trader Joe's store is an in-house creation. That being said, these nuggets are a godsend. Better than in-house nuggets from Target, Kroger, and Walmart, Trader Joe's has perfected and cornered the affordable nugget market, with a $4.99 price tag for every 12 ounces of breaded goodness.

Juicy, tender chicken and a thin breading that holds a massive crunch, the Trader Joe's nuggets are outstanding. Unlike previous entries on this list, there's a great assembly of spices in the breading. Trader Joe's uses a combination of cane sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, white pepper, and dried vinegar to deliver a taste that will undeniably get you hooked.

In his Buzzfeed taste test, Ross Yoder gave the Trader Joe's nuggets a 10/10 and gave them the title of "Best Flavor." The biggest detractor of this nugget, much like Good & Gather and 365, is that you can only get it at Trader Joe's. If you're outside of major metropolitan areas, the availability is rather slim. If you're close to a store, though, definitely pick up a bag of these nuggets when you make your next stop.

8. Simulate

The hot-shot new kid on the block, Simulate Chicken Nuggs are the plant-based apex of any vegan or vegetarian's dreams. In 2021, the company raised $50 million to kickstart their distribution as the "Tesla of Chicken." The money was raised with the help of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and Simulate is now valued at over $250 million, as reported by Bloomberg. Simulate fashions themselves as a highly processed, pro-GMO, lab-to-table brand of chicken nuggets.

The company fits in with the sleek, tech-heavy sheen of contemporary corporate America. What makes them so unique, though, is how well they've assimilated in hipster circles across the country. They're the nugget of the future, even though they haven't figured out how to make a gluten-free option.

Nonetheless, they look identical to a Tyson chicken nugget. Put one of the plant-based nuggets on a plate and give it to your meat-loving father, and he'll probably think nothing of it. That's how incredible Simulate has become. They haven't been around long, but their prospects look good for the future. It's hard making vegan chicken nuggets cool, but Simulate has risen to the task and taken a big lead on their poultry peers.

7. Banquet

With a bag aesthetic reminiscent of various french fry brands, Banquet chicken nuggets are much more than a side dish. You might be most familiar with the company's frozen TV dinners, but their chicken nuggets are easily the best product in Banquet's repertoire. The company recently changed their recipe, now making the nuggets with 100% natural, minimally-processed white meat. On top of that, they've made it a point of emphasis that their nuggets are made without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

The spices in the breading are minimal, with garlic powder being the most dynamic ingredient, but it doesn't matter. The meat in Banquet nuggets shoulders the taste into the stratosphere all on its own, though you can add a dash of paprika or red pepper flakes to solidify their greatness.

Banquet is weirdly omitted from a lot of nugget taste test lists, which feels strange, given how delectable they are. Perhaps the brand's legacy as a microwavable dinner conglomerate has stunted the nuggets' ability to forge their own storied history. Either way, Banquet is a heavyweight that deserves more praise — most nugget brands that aren't flashy tumble deep into the realm of blandness.

6. Ian's

Ian's gluten-free breaded chicken nuggets are immense feats of incomparable poultry grandeur. It comes as no surprise, given how delicious Ian's gluten-free onion rings are, but, when stacked against gluten-heavy competition, they stand tall on their own. Ian's comes in a box, which can be a detractor for some, but don't let the cardboard packaging push you away from these nuggets.

It needs to be mentioned that Ian's is a well-rounded product for people with any kind of dietary restriction. The breading is free of gluten, milk, casein, eggs, nuts, and soy — and you'd never know the difference in a blindfolded taste test. That kind of accessibility alone makes this chicken nugget one worth trying. The meat is tender and almost melts in your mouth, which can be disheartening for some, but the taste palette is off-the-charts.

What keeps Ian's out of the top five is how poor the nuggets are when made in the microwave. You absolutely have to put them in an air fryer in order to get a good crispiness, which is a luxury not all consumers have. You can find boxes of Ian's at Target or Whole Foods for around $7.79 a box, a fair price point for a nugget with tremendous upside.

5. Bell & Evans

Bell & Evans are among the most unique nuggets on the list, given that they are sold raw rather than pre-cooked. Of course, that introduces a few extra hurdles when cooking: Every other nugget on this list can be tossed into the microwave and made on a dime, but Bell & Evans requires some extra time and an oven.

The freshness of Bell & Evans' nuggets makes the product stand out from the rest of the field. Unfortunately, the taste doesn't completely send people's taste buds to the moon. The nuggets are good, but they're only marinated in water and sea salt. The most extravagant spice involved in the ingredients list is paprika. But, the meat Bell & Evans uses is some of the best on this entire list, as they are heavily against making chicken products that use antibiotics, hexane, DDGS, or other preservatives. You can get them organic or gluten-free, too, which is an added bonus.

However, the wave of freshness can only take Bell & Evans so far. Some extra flare in the spice department could easily make this a top-three chicken nugget. As it stands right now, Bell & Evans is a good product that you have to put in the work to make. So, if you're in a hurry and need a snack on the go, you might want to skip this one. If you've got some time to kill, you're in for a really delicious treat.

4. 365

Don't let the "everyday value" tag fool you: 365 is not a generic chicken nugget. In fact, they're far from average, and the wallet-friendly price tag is an added bonus. You can't buy 365 anywhere but Whole Foods, but centering your entire trip around these nuggets is a totally acceptable thing to do.

Though 365 is an in-house brand akin to Good & Gather, the organic angle works in its favor, as it provides a fresh taste that Target and Walmart can't provide with their own products. So, if you're looking for a gluten-free or plant-based nugget that comes at a healthier cost than something like Tyson, 365 should be your next go-to.

You're going to pay more for a 365 bag than you would for Good & Gather, but it's worth it. The breading is delectable and the meat is tender, leaving your belly satisfied and aching for more. The icing on top is their dietary restriction-friendly nuggets, which are inclusive to anyone who's looking for something curated to safely fit their palette needs. The only thing that brings this nugget down is its exclusivity: You can only get it at Whole Foods, a store that is not available to everyone.

3. Perdue

Perdue makes really great chicken nuggets. Their strips, however, leave a lot to be desired. Because you can often only find the strips in stores, especially when the nugget stock is low, both products are considered in this particular ranking. The strips aren't bad, though; they just have no exciting crisp factor when they're made in the microwave, which can be said about a lot of products, but not many other entries on this list.

The nuggets themselves, however, which you can get in the original breading or gluten-free, are phenomenal. Perdue uses panko breading that's plentiful and unforgettable. In their gluten-free product, they recently changed their breading recipe to make the consistency more on-par with fried chicken than a traditional nugget. It's a delicious transformation that I hope to see happen with the original recipe, too. The taste factor almost completely erases the fact that you have to use an oven or an air fryer to get the perfect level of crispiness.

Perdue doesn't have the flashiest packaging or the most generous price tag, but they're accessible at stores all over, especially in their gluten-free products. You can find bags of Perdue at Walmart, Target, Kroger, and even Dollar General, if you're in the right area. That mass availability doesn't diminish the legacy of Perdue, either. Instead, it gets more nuggets in more mouths, which is never a bad thing.

2. Applegate Naturals

The fact that Applegate makes so many different meat products and each one of them are at the top of their respective classes shows how versatile the company is. However, Applegate can often be a polarizing brand of chicken nuggets. On the one hand, they're delicious, but on the other, they're the most expensive nugget on the market. At $11.98 a bag, Applegate chicken nuggets are almost a luxury you have to save up for.

And, like Earth's Best, these nuggets are tiny. At no bigger than a quarter in size, it's hard to believe you're getting $12 worth of chicken in your bag. Don't be alarmed, though, because Applegate packs their bags with over 30 nuggets, far and away more than any other regular-sized brand on this list. Applegate has multiple types of nuggets, too. Their gluten-free option is among the best at all grocery stores, while their special products, like spicy chicken tenders, are great. As evidenced by chicken and maple breakfast sausage, Applegate is unafraid of packing punches with flavor.

A nugget that is small and expensive shouldn't hold the silver medal in a chicken nugget ranking, but Applegate is just that good. Their flavor profile is unmatched, and if they were as affordable as Perdue bags with the size of a Tyson nugget, there'd be no conversation about who is the heavyweight prizefighter of this bunch.

1. Tyson

The champion of frozen chicken nugget brands is Tyson. They're the Michael Jordan of the chicken nugget game. Tyson is so legendary that McDonald's contracted them to help make McNuggets in 1983 to keep up with the poultry demand, according to Reader's Digest. Forty years later and they still run circles around the competition, though their peers are doing their best to churn out worthy and delicious adversaries.

Not only does Tyson have the best original breaded nugget, but they also hold claim as the best gluten-free nugget on the market. For those who have Celiac disease but haven't always been gluten-free, the Tyson Naturals gluten-free chicken nugget is on-par with some of the gluten greats. To have a repertoire as stellar as Tyson's, you must be doing something right.

So it's no surprise that the largest processor of chicken in America (per The Food & Environment Reporting Network) is also the tastiest, but sometimes it's easy to root for the underdog. Unfortunately for every other chicken nuggets brand, Tyson passes every test with flying colors. They have alternative breading options for people with Celiac disease, maintain crispiness in both the microwave and the air fryer, and their flavor has remained unchanged for years. If you've ever had a Tyson chicken nugget, you know how legit they are: The taste sticks with you, and is often unreplicable by any of its greatest rivals.