The 7 Best Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets, According to Vegetarians and Omnivores

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Chicken nuggets might seem like a universal crowd pleaser, but there are plenty of people who can’t or won’t indulge in this iconic American fast food. To cater to this audience, as well as to show carnivores that switching to a plant-based diet is truly possible without sacrificing your favorites, there are a ton of companies claiming you can eat their nuggets without knowing that they are vegan. As a lifelong chicken nugget lover, I felt compelled to put this to the test.

Each of the vegan nuggets tested here was made both in the oven and in the air fryer, with my favorite BBQ sauce for dipping. The nuggets were tested on the same day by me – a non-vegetarian – as well as my girlfriend, who has been a vegetarian for many years. Other CNET staff writers were also asked to share their thoughts on which vegan nugget they liked best, which helped set up our options for this test.

impossible foods

The best vegan nugget doesn’t have to taste like the chicken nugget you’d get at your favorite fast food joint, but consider it a bonus that Impossible Nuggets does just that. If you’re a meat eater looking for a casual plant-based alternative or just looking for finger foods that anyone can eat, you can’t go wrong here.

The texture of the breading is great in both the air fryer and the oven, the topping has great texture and taste and a bag of these aren’t much more expensive than chicken nuggets. Like most things Impossible makes, the filling is soy-based with seasonings like garlic and onion powder, and five nuggets make a 240-calorie serving.

These are great all-purpose nuggets, but if you’re a dino nugget connoisseur, they also come in animal forms if you purchase the Impossible Wild Nuggies made of the same material.


Sometimes finding the right plant-based meal involves checking the box to make sure that whatever you eat isn’t entirely soy-based. Quorn has been hugely successful in Europe and is slowly becoming more popular here in the US. Quorn’s plant-based meats are made with mycoproteins, which are part of the mushroom family – which means you’re eating protein-rich mushrooms (sort of). As long as you follow the directions, the end result is delicious no matter what you’re making.

Quorn Nuggets contain 270 higher calories per five nuggets, largely due to the fantastic outer texture. It’s the perfect dipping nugget, in terms of size and shape, and the inside has an almost chewy consistency. You don’t get a ton of flavor inside, which isn’t a bad thing for people who want something that doesn’t taste like chicken. With the right dip, you won’t notice it anyway.

It’s also nice that Quorn Nuggets come in a variety of containers. There’s a small box of 12 for someone who wants them as an occasional treat, and several larger sizes for families or people who really like nuggets.


Unlike most herbal brands I’ve seen in stores, Simulate was the first brand I saw heavily advertised on social media. The company bragged that it was impossible to know they weren’t made of chicken. I didn’t find them exactly like that, but what Simulate has is a blend of quality wheat protein and soy protein in a flavorful shell with more variety than most.

Simulate offers its Nuggs 2.0, Dino Nuggs and Spicy Nuggs in versions of the same white box. And at 200 calories for a five-piece serving, it’s a bit lighter than most other plant-based nuggets. The taste isn’t bad: in fact, the spicy version is great if you like a little spiciness, but the overall effort to make them taste like chicken falls short of what other brands do.


If there was a prize to be won for the easiest plant nuggets to find, Gardein would win it. Where many other vegan nuggets can only be found in specific stores and require a bit of hunting depending on where you live, Gardein Nuggets are surprisingly easy to find, around me at least.

Like most Gardein Chick’n’s, the filling is a combination of soy protein, pea protein and wheat protein with garlic and onion protein to help flavor the exterior. These don’t all look like squeezed nuggets in the same way, in fact most of the time these nuggets look more like big chunks of popcorn chicken. And unlike most competitors, six pieces make a single serving under 200 calories.

The biggest thing that knocks these nuggets down the list a bit for me is the aftertaste. Unlike the top of the charts, Gardein’s offering has a distinct aftertaste that even a good dip can’t completely cover for me.

Alpha foods

Plant-Based Alpha Nugget

Snack-Grade Nuggets

I’ve had several plant-based treats from Alpha Foods before, including the company’s breakfast sandwiches and burritos, but it wasn’t until CNET’s McKenzie Dillon raved about it. these nuggets I grabbed a bag. The thing I found most interesting about these nuggets was that they tasted better in the air fryer than they did using the conventional oven instructions. The outside stayed nice and crispy, and the inside dried out much less compared to standard instructions.

Although the flavor of these nuggets was solid, I found the texture of the filling to be a little less satisfying. If your goal is to buy something that replicates this fast food nugget, you probably won’t be totally happy with how chewy this nugget is. At just 10 grams of protein for the recommended serving of four 180-calorie nuggets, they aren’t as nutritious as many other plant-based nuggets I’ve sampled.

If you have an air fryer handy and just looking for a quick snack, it’s not bad. But there are a ton of other options that can satisfy more completely.

Beyond meats

My first experience with Beyond Nuggets was at a pizzeria outside of Washington, DC, which Beyond had partnered with to help more places offer quick, plant-based options. Although I liked the meal, they didn’t seem like a substitute for the chicken. The texture was off and the outside was only crispy where the nuggets weren’t touching the tray they were being cooked on. So I decided to wait until I could make them at home to see what the difference was.

Unfortunately, the home experience wasn’t much better. Beyond’s nuggets are dense even when placed in an air fryer, though that fixes the crispy exterior that I missed in the restaurant version.

Beyond’s nuggets contain 190 calories for four nuggets and are made mostly of bean protein, which is unique for this list. The packaging warns that they may not be entirely soy-free, but they’re nowhere near as prominent as many others on this list.

Of the many plant-based things Beyond makes, many of which I enjoy every week, these aren’t my favorites.

Morningstar Farms

If you’ve been to a grocery store, you’ve probably seen the name Morningstar Farms. This brand has been around for a long time and offers herbal alternatives for those in need. There’s now more competition for plant-based alternatives, especially when it comes to replacing chicken, and as a result, these Chik’n Nuggets are at the bottom of our list.

The big thing these nuggets have going for them is the big crunchy exterior. Where the breading of most nuggets is uniform, Morningstar Farms offers some variety. Each nugget in my batch had a particularity in the breading, which made some crispier than others. I actually enjoyed the variety and find it lacking in many other places.

Unfortunately, the interior is not as pleasant for me. There’s a distinct aftertaste to the dense nugget of soy protein, which is 190 calories for four. This aftertaste mostly goes away with a good dip, but there are other options if you’re looking for an overall taste.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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