A surprising secret ingredient makes these copycat Chick-fil-a nuggets a tender, mouthwatering substitute for the real thing.
I was 18-years-old the first time I ate at Chick-fil-a. I’d just moved to Mississippi to attend college and my cousin and I were driving home- to her house- after orientation. When she realized I’d never heard of Chick-fil-a, let alone tried it, she decided to remedy that immediately. We went through the drive-thru and got nuggets, waffle fries, and lemonade.
I was hooked. Not nearly as much as J, though, who has a love for Chick-fil-a that rivals his love of oxygen. For the three years we lived in Oregon, our semiannual trips to Mississippi were filled with as many nuggets and waffle fries as we could cram in. I’m convinced the restaurant is one of the main reasons he wanted to move back.
If, like me, you’ve been on Pinterest for any length of time, you’ve seen copycat recipes for these nuggets floating around. I’d never made them before, though, mostly because I was certain they’d fall far short of the high expectations we have for the original. If I’m being completely honest, this copycat version isn’t going to fool anyone. It isn’t identical to the real thing, but it is really darn close. I’d say it’s as close as you can get without visiting Chick-fil-a.
The strange thing about this recipe is that it calls for pickle juice. The recipe I adapted mine from didn’t use pickle juice, but I’d heard rumors that it’s the “secret” to getting them as close to restaurant-quality as possible, and since my pregnant self happened to finish off a jar of pickles a couple weeks ago, I went ahead and marinated the nuggets in a combination of the juice and milk.
It made all the difference. The pickle juice provides an interesting tang, a little bit of a bite to the nugget that, if you didn’t know about the juice, you wouldn’t be able to place, but that makes them so close to the Chick-fil-a version. J hates pickles, but he never guessed the juice was there. Trust me- don’t skip it.
Copycat Chick-fil-a Nuggets
adapted from Mandy’s Recipe Box
1 1/4 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders
1 1/2 c. milk, divided
1 c. pickle juice
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tbs powdered sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
oil for frying (I used vegetable, but peanut is recommended)
Trim and cut chicken into one-inch pieces. Place it in a large bowl and cover with one cup of milk and the pickle juice. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes to an hour and then drain the milk mixture off. Add the remaining one cup of milk and the egg and mix well, tossing the chicken to coat.
To a gallon-size zip-top bag, add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pepper and shake to mix. Using a fork, transfer all the chicken from the bowl to the bag. Shake and toss the bag until all the chicken pieces are coated.
Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet- I use my trusty cast iron– over medium-high heat. I’m not a frequent fryer- see what I did there?- so I use this thermometer to know when the oil has reached 375 degrees. Working in batches of seven or eight pieces, carefully transfer the chicken to the oil. Allow chicken to cook about a minute or a minute and a half on each side, until the coating is golden brown.
Remove chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. To check that chicken is cooked through, slice a nugget in half and make sure there’s no pink inside. I served these with homemade ranch, because I had some, but Mandy’s recipe includes instructions for easy homemade honey mustard. Pinterest has plenty of recipes for copycat Chick-fil-a sauce, too.
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