If you're craving the flavors of chicken but you'd rather skip the animal products, you will definitely want try our vegan chicken nuggets recipe. Our nuggets are made with seitan (also sometimes called "wheat meat") and a blend of seasonings that gives them a surprisingly chicken-like flavor. Then they're baked until crispy for a plant-based treat kids and adults alike will love.
Watch our IGTV series, Veganize It, to see how to make this dish and more vegan versions of your favorite dishes.
Pictured recipe: Vegan Chicken Nuggets
Pictured recipe: Homemade Seitan
These chicken nuggets are made with seitan, a dough made of wheat gluten. When cooked, seitan closely resembles meat in taste and texture. Seitan is easy to make at home (see the recipe above) but you can also buy it at health-food stores and many supermarkets—look for it near the tofu. In addition to these nuggets, try seitan in vegan stir-fries.
Related: Healthy Tofu Recipes
The secret to the chicken-like flavor of these nuggets is poultry seasoning. Poultry seasoning is generally a blend of thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper and a touch of nutmeg, with amounts being in that order. (Fun fact: On food labels, ingredients are listed by quantity from most to least.) You can buy poultry seasoning already blended in the spice section of your grocery store, or if you have all these spices individually, you can make your own blend. What's cool is that together they really do remind you of a roasted chicken.
To bread the nuggets without the traditional egg, combine the poultry seasonings with vegan mayo and a little water. The mixture both flavors the seitan and helps the breadcrumbs stick to the nuggets. Dip the seitan nuggets in the mayonnaise mixture and then dredge them in whole-wheat breadcrumbs.
For the crispiest nuggets, bake them on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. The rack allows hot air to circulate under the tenders so they get crispy on all sides. To further encourage crispiness and browning, spray the nuggets with cooking spray—this is an easy way to coat them evenly with oil. Then simply bake until browned and crunchy, and serve with your favorite vegan dipping sauce. You can go for ketchup, BBQ sauce or a combination of vegan mayo, ketchup and dill pickles for a vegan take on special sauce.
For a price comparison on vegan versus traditional chicken nuggets, we turned to vegan chef Jenné Claiborne (@sweetpotatosoul). "You can whip up these chicken nuggets for around $7 for the recipe, which serves four," says Claiborne. Per serving that's $1.80 for four vegan chicken nuggets—about 60 cents more per serving than an all-natural brand of chicken nuggets. "They may cost a little more but you know exactly what you're putting in your body when you make this recipe at home," says Claiborne.
In terms of environmental impact, "Choosing more plant-based protein is in line with a more sustainable diet," says Claiborne. In fact, poultry production emits five times more greenhouse gas emissions per gram of protein compared to wheat, according to the World Resources Institute's Protein Scorecard.
When it comes to nutritional differences, our vegan chicken nuggets are similar in calories to traditional chicken nuggets. But here's the real shocker—the vegan nuggets have more than twice the protein (about 30 grams per serving compared to 13 grams)! You also get 5 grams of fiber in the vegan nuggets, compared to less than 1 gram in a serving of typical chicken nuggets.
In addition to your favorite dipping sauce, serve baked sweet potato fries alongside your vegan nuggets—you can cook them at the same time as the nuggets. Or serve the nuggets over a salad or with your favorite vegetable side dish. You could even add some vegan mac & cheese for a total comfort food dinner.
Check back in with Veganize It soon—we'll be rolling out a new vegan version of a favorite dish every week on IGTV.
Culinary nutritionist and EatingWell Test Kitchen manager Breana Killeen is a Le Cordon Bleu–trained cook, dietitian and sommelier who loves dogs, classic cars and a cool glass of rosé.