Best Fast Food Chicken Nuggets: Top 5 Drive-Thru Items, According To Experts

We’ve all benefited from being able to swing into the nearest fast food drive-thru for a quick meal or snack. However, we don’t always want a messy burger or oily French fries. For anyone wanting to stay away from a huge helping, the best fast-food chicken nuggets are tasty, savory treats that will hit the spot in a pinch. 

Speaking of fast food options, a recent study found that fast food menu options are more unhealthy now than they were 30 years ago. Researchers at Boston University analyzed menu items at 10 of the most popular fast food restaurants in the United States in 1986, 1991, and 2016. The research team found that fast-food entrees, sides, and desserts have increased significantly in total calories, and sodium over that time. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from ordering fast food whenever it’s convenient, but it’s still considered junk food

And, according to another recent study, humans might just be predisposed to seek out junk food. Researchers in the Netherlands conducted a study with over 500 participants and found that people are more likely to remember where high-calorie foods are located over healthier options. A team of researchers from Wageningen University and Research believes the human brain has evolved to focus on memorizing where high-calorie foods are located and that this evolution allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive in environments where food was scarce. If you know your way to the closest McDonald’s with your eyes closed, then this could be a possible explanation.  

So, which fast food franchises have the most delicious nuggets on their menu? StudyFinds did some research, consulting 10 foodie review websites in an attempt to deliver the best fast-food chicken nuggets for our readers. Our list comprises the five most listed chicken nuggets from across these sites. Think we missed your favorite nuggets? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below! 

Someone holding a chicken nugget
Someone holding a chicken nugget (Photo by Fernando Andrade on Unsplash)

The List: Best Fast Food Chicken Nuggets, According to Foodies

1. Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets

Topping the list of the best fast food chicken nuggets is none other than Chick-Fil-A’s chicken nuggets. Chick-fil-A has been doing fried fast-food chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches for decades, and its dedication to quality is apparent in these chicken nuggets. 

“Chick-fil-A holds the title of best chicken nuggets in the fast food world. Very lightly fried and perfectly golden, the Chick-fil-A nuggets have the perfect crunch, especially when you get to the corners and get the crispy edges, which is my personal favorite part…. But what really makes these nuggets special is the flavor. Marinated in pickle juice, each of these nuggets have slight but delicious tang to them. It is a flavor that I crave every time I am away from Chick-fil-A for too long. With such great textures and tastes, Chick-fil-A wins the nugget battle,” raves Spoon University

Chick-fil-A obviously has some of the best fast-food chicken sandwiches you can find, so it’s no surprise that their nuggets are an absolute home run. As the experts explain, Chick-fil-A is in a class of its own. “Chick-fil-A’s chicken nuggets, which are made from actual whole chunks of chicken, are in another class. This is real, unprocessed chicken. It’s tender, juicy, and imperfect in the way actual chicken is. Sure, you don’t get a consistent crunch across this nugget, or a consistent shape, but you get so much more flavor here than in any other nugget,” writes Uproxx

Chick-fil-A uses peanut oil to fry their chicken, and the nuggets are cooked the same way. And, anyone who has ever been to Chick-fil-A knows that choosing the right dipping sauce is paramount. “Chick-fil-A is known for its delicious chicken, and its nuggets are no exception. Their nuggets come lightly spiced and have the perfect amount of crispiness. I like Chick-fil-A Nuggets because they have a distinct flavor that is not too overwhelming. If I had to taste-test several chicken nuggets, I know I’d be able to identify Chick-fil-A’s from the bunch! They also pair well with their signature sauces, like the classic Chick-fil-A sauce, honey mustard, and Polynesian sauce. I like to dip my nuggets in the Polynesian sauce because it adds a nice kick of flavor,” notes Restaurant Clicks

2. Wendy’s Classic Chicken Nuggets

Dipping into the second spot on the list of the best fast food chicken nuggets is Wendy’s Classic chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets are not the first food that typically comes to mind when people think of Wendy’s but they make some really tasty nugs. 

“Wendy’s offers some of the best fast-food chicken nuggets, making them a great option for anyone looking for a tasty yet super convenient meal. I love the way Wendy’s nuggets are made with all-white meat chicken that’s cooked to perfection. Not to mention, Wendy’s is well known for their delicious sauces that pair perfectly with the nuggets. I love the Barbecue and the Creamy Sriracha sauces. But with so many delicious flavors, there’s something for everyone. Regarding who would like Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets, they’re great for anyone looking for a quick snack or meal. From lunchtime to late-night cravings, Wendy’s nuggets provide a great way to satisfy your hunger. Kids, in particular, love them,” raves Restaurant Clicks

Again, Wendy’s has never really been known for its nugs, but the fast food giant produces some of the best chicken nuggets you can find. Wendy’s nugs are moist, crispy, tasty, and great for dipping.  

“Wendy’s serves up two different types of chicken nuggets: regular and spicy. Go with the regular. In fact of all the traditional fast food nuggets we tried, these are our favorite. They have the crunchiest coating and the chicken itself is moist, juicy, and flavorful—just what we’re looking for. You might think the only difference between the two options is the batter itself, but that isn’t the case,” explains Serious Eats

Wendy’s keeps its nugs simple, but that’s exactly what people love about them. Wendy’s chicken nuggets speak for themselves, and as the experts say, there’s a reason Wendy’s doesn’t need fancy marketing schemes. 

“The Wendy’s chicken nugget is simply a belt-high fastball over the center of the plate—the best version of what you might consider the ‘standard’ style of nugget. The likes of Popeyes may be putting on a marketing blitz right now, but if they could execute like this they wouldn’t need all the advertising,” notes Paste Magazine

3. Popeyes Chicken Nuggets

The third spot on the list of the best fast food chicken nuggets belongs to the aforementioned Popeyes and its delicious chicken nuggets. Popeyes chicken nuggets are similar to the Chick-fil-A nuggets in that these babies are made from whole chunks of chicken and breaded to perfection. 

“You could make a case that the chicken nuggets from Popeye’s aren’t in the same class as traditional chicken nuggets and you’d be absolutely right. Unlike most chains, which use a mix of breast and rib meat that’s ground, seasoned, and formed into various shapes, the nuggets at Popeye’s are made from breaded pieces of chicken breast. Similar fast food items, like KFC’s Bites and Chick-fil-A’s nuggets (which are so tiny they should really be called ‘nubbins’), don’t even come close,” writes Serious Eats

Popeyes chicken nuggets are considered a ‘no-filler’ option, meaning they’re made with whole chunks of chicken. The Popeyes chicken sandwich and chicken nuggets are both new ventures for the fast-food chicken chain

“Popeyes is relatively new to the fast food chicken nugget scene, having only just launched this menu offering in summer of 2021. At the time, the chain boasted that the nuggets are made in the same way as the chicken on its sensational fried chicken sandwich, instantly setting extremely high expectations for itself. Turns out the hype is real. These are some of the best chicken nuggets you can get right now,” explains Thrillist

Popeyes definitely set high standards for themselves when they began producing one of the best chicken sandwiches available, and their nuggets picked right up where the chicken sandwich left off. In fact, Popeyes even ran a 300-piece chicken nugget promotion in British Columbia. Nugget lovers could get a 300-piece nuggets for $200. Sounds like overkill, right? Popeyes had some takers, and rightfully so.  

“Popeyes is one of the leading chicken-focused fast food restaurants in the States, arguably because of its delicious chicken nuggets. Popeyes makes them with white meat chicken and coats them in crisp Southern-style batter. Popeyes Chicken Nuggets have amazing, punchy flavor and a great crunch. So if you’re looking for something that tastes homemade, these are fantastic! I especially love that the chicken pieces are nice and large. They pair perfectly with the classic Cajun dipping sauces — like their famous Bayou Buffalo and the sweet Honey Mustard,” raves Restaurant Clicks

4. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets 

The fourth spot on the list of the best fast food chicken nuggets belongs to the place that started the chicken nugget craze – McDonald’s. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are the original fast food nugs, and as a result, these are some of the best nuggets you can find. 

McDonald's chicken nuggets
McDonald’s chicken nuggets (Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

“So handsomely blonde, it’s as if you’re eating a golden lab. I’m tempted to say the delicate crunch evokes good tempura… The texture is pure Goldilocks, not quite firm but not entirely squishy, and the flavor is distinctly neutral; without any overtones of pepper, garlic, or spice. There is no aftertaste. This is without a doubt the vodka of the nugget world, a plain, sometimes too plain conduit for other flavors. Pros know that the best of those conduits is pure honey,” writes Eater

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are largely unchanged over the years, but that’s part of what makes them so great. McDonald’s does not have a need to fix something that isn’t broken

“McDonald’s is known for its iconic Chicken McNuggets, which are made from all-white meat chicken, making them both flavorful and juicy. They are also made with a unique blend of seasonings to give them an extra kick of flavor. I like McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets because they are so easy to eat. You can dip them in your favorite sauce or enjoy them on their own. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets pair well with their french fries, and I love dipping them in their classic BBQ sauce or honey mustard for extra flavor and zest. If you want to try something different, dip them into your McFlurry,” adds Restaurant Clicks

McNuggets dipped in a McFlurry? Sounds similar to dipping your French fries in a milkshake, and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Ice cream-fried food combinations aside, McDonald’s chicken nuggets go great with all of the traditional dipping sauces.  

“No, it’s not the juiciest chicken around, and it should be illegal to eat it without dipping it in honey mustard first, but it’s a menu item that’s stood the test of time. It was the first popular nugget in fast food. It represents American ingenuity, convenience, and loads of flavor, all for a couple bucks. In a world where the status quo changes on a dime, the McNugget is always there. It’s still fantastic. And its enduring popularity says something about its quality,” furthers Thrillist

5. KFC 

Rounding out the list of the best fast food chicken nuggets is Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) delicious nuggets. KFC is another fast-food chicken chain that recently stepped into the realm of nuggets, and most of us are glad they did. 

“We all know the world-famous chicken chain loves to kid around, as evidenced by its commercials and its Twitter account. So it should be no surprise that an order of KFC’s popcorn chicken is housed in a bright red, movie popcorn-esque box. Things get even better from there. The breading surrounding these nugs is exemplary—a 20 out of ten,” raves Thrillist

Packaging always plays an important role in our food, and KFC nails the packaging for its nuggets. Of course, KFC is one of the original fried chicken chains, and they’ve been frying delicious chicken for decades. 

“Like Chick-fil-A, KFC is another fast food company known best for its tasty chicken menu items. Their popcorn nuggets are bite-sized, nicely seasoned, and have a great crunchy texture. I love KFC Popcorn Nuggets because they are so easy to eat, as you can grab a handful at once or pick them up one by one and plop them in your mouth. These nuggets are perfect for when you’re in a rush and want a snack for the car ride. Additionally, KFC popcorn nuggets have the perfect level of spiciness,” furthers Restaurant Clicks

KFC is also known for it’s ‘special’ blend of herbs and spices – that is what gives its chicken such a distinct and unique taste. Well, KFC carried the recipe over to its chicken nuggets, and unlike other chicken nuggets, KFC hand breads their nugs in-house. 

“As of March 27, however, KFC moved its revamped Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets from test run to main menu item, a move customers hadn’t seen since the 1990s. The premium nuggets are made with 100% white meat chicken and hand-breaded with KFC’s Original Recipe, so nugget fans can taste those 11 herbs and spices in a bite-sized form,” adds Eat This, Not That

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


  1. How can you expect this post to be taking seriously when you in life McDonald’s CN?!

  2. Obviously none of your reporters have tries Arby’s chicken nuggets. You really missed the mark on this article. Wendy’s USED to be our favorite nugget until we tried Arby’s. They are the best tasting, crunches, all white meat nugget we can’t ever had and won’t go anywhere else. I can’t see why you put McDonald’s on your list even at 5 I won’t let my kids eat those things

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