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Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets

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Skip the drive-thru and make your own Chick Fil A Nuggets at home!  A few secret ingredients make these nuggets taste just like the real thing.  Of course, what would these nuggets be without that special Chick Fil A sauce? I’ve included a simple recipe for that too! 

tray of copycat chick-fil-a nuggets & sauce.

Chick-Fil-A Nuggets & Sauce

A copycat version of a popular take-out item means recreating an original recipe so that you can enjoy your favorite foods anytime you want.

I can safely say, not only does this recipe come as close to the real deal as possible, but these copycat Chick-Fil-A nuggets are even better!

These perfect little bites are made from chicken breast soaked in pickle brine and then breaded in a well-seasoned sweet and smoky coating. They’re deep fried until golden and crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.

Unlike boneless wings which are tossed in the sauce, these little gems have to have the Chick-Fil-A sauce on the side for dipping. My kids love that their mama has the secret sauce 😉

I like to serve this with frozen waffle fries for a true copycat dinner!

Why you’ll love making Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets

The secrets – Pickle juice and powdered sugar. Yes, seriously! If you want your favorite nuggets without leaving home, keep reading!

Control the ingredients – Making it homemade from scratch means avoiding the things you don’t want like MSG, additives, and preservatives while not skimping on the textures and flavors we all love.

Budget-friendly – Saving money is kind of a big deal when you’re on a budget! Eating out can be a splurge once in a while, but if you can have the things you love without spending extra time or money, I’m all for it.

A fun treat! – Great for movie nights and sleepovers or as an appetizer for game nights. You can also enjoy them as a fun way to serve dinner on a weeknight! Serve them in to go boxes if you want to go all out.

Extras for the week – This recipe serves about 6 people. Double the recipe to serve a larger crowd or hope for leftovers. They will keep in the fridge for days, and what a treat for school lunch boxes!

overhead shot of nuggets & waffle fries.

Equipment you’ll need

  • Dutch Oven – If you’re frying in oil, you’ll want a deep pan.
  • Air Fryer – If you opt to air fry them, this is the air fryer I use & recommend.
  • Meat Thermometer – You always want chicken to reach 165°; a simple check with a thermometer ensures you’re not undercooking or overcooking your meat.
  • Thermometer with Clip – I don’t work with oil often but this doubles for making candy like my peanut brittle.
  • Tongs – Using tongs keeps your hands clean.
  • Food Processor – Crushing the crackers in a food processor gives a nice even crumb.

Ingredients

Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card.

  • CHICKEN BREAST – Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 inch).
  • MILK – Used as one of two ingredients in the brine. It helps to keep the chicken nice and moist. You can also use buttermilk if preferred.
  • DILL PICKLE JUICE – Pickle juice is just one of the secret ingredients that help to tenderize the chicken, and break down the proteins, ensuring deliciously moist and flavorful chicken.
  • RITZ CRACKERS – Using buttery Ritz crackers adds a light crispy texture to the coating.
  • BREADCRUMBS – This is what gives the outside of the nuggets its beautiful, crisp, golden bite. Stick with regular breadcrumbs, not Panko.
  • FLOUR – We are not dredging the chicken in flour first, but it still helps the coating stick by absorbing excess moisture.
  • PAPRIKA – Adds a sweet and smoky element to the breadcrumbs giving it a depth of familiar flavor.
  • SALT & PEPPER – Simple seasoning that’s a part of what makes the coating so tasty.
  • POWDERED SUGAR – The other secret ingredient! Confectioner’s sugar is what gives the Chick Fil A Nuggets their signature taste.
  • PEANUT OIL – This type of oil is great for deep frying. It’s got a high smoke point and a neutral flavor. It’s also what they use in their authentic recipe.
  • FOR THE SAUCE – A combination of mayonnaise, yellow mustard, BBQ sauce, and honey.
overhead shot of labeled ingredients to make copycat chick-fil-a nuggets.

How to make Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets with Sauce

  1. STEP ONE: Marinate the chicken in milk and pickle juice for about 1-3 hours. I like to use a bowl with a lid or just some plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator. Do not marinate for too long, otherwise, the acidity will start to break down the meat too much causing soggy issues.
  2. STEP TWO: Crush the crackers in a food processor (or in a zip top bag with a rolling pin) until fine crumbs are formed. In a shallow bowl, combine the crackers with the breadcrumbs, flour, paprika, powdered sugar, salt, and pepper. No eggs or separate flour in this dredging station!
  3. STEP THREE: Heat oil in a deep frying pan, Dutch oven, or deep fryer. You want it between 350-360 degrees. Use enough oil to cover the nuggets. When the oil is hot, pour the breadcrumb mixture into a large zip top bag and use tongs to drop in the marinated chicken pieces. Give the bag a shake until they’re evenly coated. Alternatively, you can dredge the nuggets in the crumbs one at a time, then drop them into the oil to cook until golden brown. About 2-3 minutes per nugget.
  4. STEP FOUR: Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the nuggets and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. Work in batches until they are all cooked.
  5. STEP FIVE: In the meantime, whip up the Chick-Fil-A Sauce by whisking all the sauce ingredients together until smooth.

Once you pop a couple of these crispy nuggets in your mouth, you won’t be able to resist eating them all!

collage of 3 photos showing the process of breading copycat chick-fil-a-nuggets.

What to serve with Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets

You HAVE to have the Chick-Fil-A Sauce on the side for dipping, there’s just no other way!

Just kidding. If you’re not a fan of this sauce (what?) you can use your favorite dipping sauce like this KFC honey BBQ sauce, Yum Yum sauce, or this homemade spicy BBQ sauce.

A side of waffle fries (Sam’s Club brand is really good) and a few slices of pickles would really take this meal over the top. Roasted potato wedges would be great too!

collage of 3 photos showing the process of making copycat chick-fil-a sauce.

Recipe Tips & Substitutions

  • Any buttery cracker will work in the breading. Townhouse Ritz just happens to be my favorite.
  • You can definitely use chicken tenderloins in this recipe, either cut into nuggets or as chicken strips.
  • To get a true Chick Fil A taste you need to use dill pickle juice, not bread and butter pickles or hot pickles, just dill.
  • If you don’t have a food processor, add crackers to a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
  • To save a bit of time, instead of dredging the nuggets one by one, place the crumb mixture into a bag and add the nuggets. Shake shake shake!
  • Be sure to fry in batches. If you add too many at a time, it will lower the temperature of the oil, creating soggy nuggets in the end.
  • Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the oil temperature. It’s the only way to ensure it stays where it needs to be.
  • Double the recipe and freeze some for later!

How to reheat and store Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets and Sauce

How to store leftovers

Store them in an airtight container or freezer-friendly bag. Make sure they’re completely cooled first.

How long will they last in the fridge?

You can refrigerate the leftovers for up to 3 days. The sauce can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I suggest using it on everything!

Can I freeze them?

Yes! For up to 3 months. As I said, make more than you need. You won’t be sorry!

How to reheat the nuggets?

Whether it is this copycat version or the real deal, reheat Chick Fil A nuggets in the air fryer for the best results. They’ll be good as new! I do 350° for 4-5 minutes. You can also warm them up in the oven on a baking sheet.

overhead shot of nuggets & waffle fries.

FAQs

Does Chick-Fil-A really use pickle juice in their brine?

This is up for debate. I guess that’s why they call it a secret! Some people say yes, and some say no…I say, who cares as long as it tastes good. I use it in this recipe, but if you don’t want to, you can stick with tangy buttermilk instead.

Can I make them in the air fryer?

Absolutely. I rarely fry in oil these days.

To use the air fryer, lightly spray the basket of your air fryer and then lay the coated chicken pieces into the basket in a single layer. Don’t overcrowd them. Cook for 6 minutes at 360° F. Open the basket, give them a shake and lightly spray with oil. Close and cook another 6 minutes at 360° F. Check to make sure they’ve reached an internal temperature of 165°. If you like them extra crispy, raise the heat to 400° and cook an additional 2 minutes.

I have a peanut allergy. Can I use a different oil?

I chose peanut oil because that’s what they use in their restaurants, however, you can opt for canola oil or vegetable oil if you’d like.

Why aren’t my nuggets crispy?

Could be a couple of reasons. Either your oil wasn’t hot enough when you added your chicken, or you added too many at a time. If you start frying your chicken too early, it will continue to absorb the oil as it heats up. By the time you’ve cooked your nuggets, they’ll have absorbed too much of it leaving them unable to fully crisp up.

Draining the excess oil on a paper towel will help too.

Need more copycat recipes? Try these:

Chicken Cheese Quesadilla (Taco Bell copycat)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (On the Border copycat)

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wrap (Buffalo Wild Wings copycat)

Click here for my entire collection of copycat recipes.

closeup of chicken nuggets.

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tray of copycat chick-fil-a nuggets & sauce.

Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets

Melissa Williams
Skip the drive-thru and make your own Chick Fil A Nuggets at home!  A few secret ingredients make these nuggets taste just like the real thing.  Of course, what would these nuggets be without that special Chick Fil A sauce? I’ve included a simple recipe for that too! 
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 3 mins
Marinating Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 23 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 651 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the nuggets

  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup dill pickle juice
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 37 Ritz crackers one sleeve
  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Peanut oil for frying

For the copycat Chick Fil A Sauce

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Instructions
 

To make the nuggets

  • In a large bowl, combine the milk and pickle juice.
    1 ½ cups milk, ½ cup dill pickle juice
  • To the milk mixture, add the cut up chicken pieces and make sure they are submerged.
    2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to marinate for 1-3 hours.
  • Use a food processor to finely crush the crackers. (alternatively, you can place the crackers in a large zip top bag and crush them with a rolling pin)
    37 Ritz crackers
  • Pour the cracker crumbs into a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs, flour, paprika, pepper, salt and powdered sugar. Whisk together and pour into a large zip top bag.
    1 ½ cups breadcrumbs, ½ cup all purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoon paprika, 1 ½ teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ cup powdered sugar
  • After the chicken has marinated, pour approximately 2" of oil into the bottom of a deep frying pan, dutch oven, or deep fryer. You want enough oil to cover the nuggets.
    Peanut oil for frying
  • Heat the oil to 350-360° F.
  • While the oil is heating, use tongs to move the marinated chicken to the bag of seasoned bread crumbs, shaking until evenly coated.
  • Once the oil is at temperature, drop in the nuggets in batches, and let them fry until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Do not overcrowd the pan. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165° with a meat thermometer.
  • Move the cooked nuggets to a paper towel lined plate to drain and repeat until all batches are cooked.

To make the copycat Chick-Fil-A Sauce

  • In a medium bowl combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk until smooth.
    ½ cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons yellow mustard, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons honey
  • Serve!

Notes

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. 
Air Fryer Instructions
To use the air fryer, lightly spray the basket of your air fryer and then lay the coated chicken pieces into the basket in a single layer. Don’t overcrowd them. Cook for 6 minutes at 360° F. Open the basket, give them a shake and lightly spray with oil. Close and cook another 6 minutes at 360° F. Check to make sure they’ve reached an internal temperature of 165°. If you like them extra crispy, raise the heat to 400° and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 651kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 41gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 12gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 1828mgPotassium: 779mgFiber: 2gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 420IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 171mgIron: 3mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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