Reviews you can trust.

See why.

Vegan and Vegetarian Chicken Nuggets

Advances in plant-based technology promise faux chicken nuggets and tenders that offer the full sensory experience of their meat counterparts. Is it possible? We tasted options from 10 brands to find out.


Published June 7, 2022.

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

Eight years ago, Beyond Meat released a meat-free burger that mimicked the taste, texture, and experience of eating real meat and radically changed the vegan-meat market. Up until then, veggie burgers were typically made by shaping a mixture of vegetables, legumes, and rice into flat patties. Since Beyond Meat’s debut, consumption of vegan meat has increased. In 2020 alone, sales of all plant-based food grew 27 percent, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute. Vegan and vegetarian chicken products, which include patties, strips, nuggets, and more, have been a significant part of that growth. Since nuggets and tenders are currently the most widely available types, we compared all the major brands on the market to see how good they are, what they're made from, and how closely this new technology has replicated the flavor and texture of real chicken. Here’s what we learned.

What Do These Products Taste Like?

First of all, we must report that some of these products were downright delicious. Our top-rated nuggets were deemed indistinguishable from the real thing. Real chicken nuggets and tenders are fairly mild and savory, and the best products followed suit, with tasters calling them "rich," "meaty," and “chicken-forward.” Almost every product contains garlic and onion as well as yeast extract. Together those ingredients provide savory and meaty flavors and help mimic the flavor of chicken. We liked those that contained a hit of black pepper, too.

Interestingly, manufacturers can’t just add flavorful ingredients to make these products taste good. According to Dr. Andrew J. Gravelle, assistant professor of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, manufacturers also work with food chemists to develop ingredients that can block or mask the unwanted flavors of soy and pea protein sources (no one wants their vegan or vegetarian meat to taste like a bean). In our tasting, few products exhibited unpleasant flavors, so they were likely masked. The vaguely savory and delicious flavor of chicken nuggets and tenders didn’t prove too hard to re-create, so tasters focused more on textural differences than flavor ones. 

Texture: The Final Frontier

Real chicken nuggets are typically made from ground-up meat, while real chicken tenders are typically made from whole pieces of meat. The products we tasted came shaped as nuggets and tenders (and what resembled smaller popcorn-style chunks), but shape didn’t predict the texture of the interior. The interiors of some tenders appeared uniformly "ground," while others were more variegated. The interiors of some nuggets and smaller popco...

Everything We Tested

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Carolyn Grillo

Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.