Which Vegan Chicken Nuggets Actually Taste Good? A Blind Taste Test of Whole Foods, Impossible Foods, and More

When you seek out chicken nuggets, chances are you’re seeking out nostalgia, and if you’re reaching for the vegan version, that’s an especially high bar to meet. The explosion of brands contributing to the supermarket proliferation of faux-chicken nuggets—with “plant-based” meat projected to be a market worth $140 billion in the next few years—all claim to replicate that feeling of indulgence. The mostly-vegan breading is the easy part. But the distinct texture of ground chicken (spongy? squishy? bouncy?) is the Everest, with companies using a myriad of ingredients like soy isolates, pea protein, jackfruit, and mycoprotein.

So who reached the tippity top? We had nine staff members try seven brands, including Whole Foods, Impossible Meat, and Quorn, to find the most palatable of the bunch. We prepared all of them according to package instructions, served hot with ketchup (of course). There were some good, some bad, and some exceptionally worse.

Photograph by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Spencer Richards

The Inexplicably Juicy: Nowadays

The Nugget: Nowadays brand, which is currently available through direct-to-consumer ordering, purports itself as a healthier vegan chicken. Its ingredient list is short: only seven, with pea protein making up the bulk.

The Taste: “This is like biting into a soup dumpling, but not in a cute way,” said Genevieve Yam, assistant editor at Epicurious. Why was there so much liquid? Other tasters described this one as “actively bad,” with a super spongy interior that released liquid after each bite (though some tasters refused to take more than one). Nowadays boasts a prominent, glutinous seitan taste, perhaps due to its pared-down recipe.

Photograph by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Spencer Richards

The Meatiest Tasting: Whole Foods

The Nugget: Whole Foods Frozen Chicken-Style Plant-Based Nuggets uses a mix of soy protein, wheat gluten, potato starch and wheat starch.

The Taste: Meatiest but not in a good way. While the pale, crumbly breading was a let down, it was the “chicken” of this chicken nugget that was the major disappointment. It had a flavor that tasted like dark meat—not what you’re looking for in a classic nugget—mixed with a smell that tasters described as “rancid oil” and “chemically.” The greasy, somehow-dense-but-also-spongy texture also didn’t do it any favors.

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/vegan-chicken-nugget-taste-test, BonAppetit
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