close
close

The 25 Best Fast Food Chicken Nuggets, Ranked For 2024

It’s been 41 years since McDonald’s first launched the chicken nugget, and here we are in 2024 still obsessed over them. That’s partly because nuggets have come a long way, what was once a mixture of overly processed mystery meats is now — at most fast food chains at least — 100% white meat chicken.

The best chicken nuggets are juicy, tender, and wonderfully dippable. They function not just as a meal (with a side of fries and a drink of course) but also as one of the best side items on any menu.

You can’t say the same about chicken tenders. That’s why zeroing in on the best chicken nuggets in all of fast food is important to us. With fast food prices rising, and more options than ever before, we want to help ensure that you are eating only the best of the best and getting the most bang for your buck. So we’ve rounded up as many nuggets as we could find — 25 — and put them all to a taste test to help shout out the best chicken nuggets of 2024.

Some of these nuggets are new to fast food menus, and some are tried and true classics. Here are the absolute best of the best.

25. Dairy Queen — Rotisserie-Style Chicken Bites

Dairy Queen

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I usually feel bad about whatever ranks dead last in our food rankings, but I don’t feel bad about this one. These are, objectively, awful. Dry as a bone, seasoned with salt and a bitter onion powder flavor, with a strangely fake rosemary aftertaste.

It’s no surprise that only select DQ’s across the country actually hold these things. They are probably only on the menu to cash in on the keto diet craze from a few years ago.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Country Gravy is the only move that makes sense here.

The Bottom Line:

Order almost anything else from Dairy Queen and you’ll have a better experience. Even if you follow a strict keto diet, eat somewhere else.

Find your nearest Dairy Queen here.

24. Jack in the Box — Chicken Nuggets

Jack in the Box

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I wanted these to be better than they are because the Jack in the Box menu can never get enough sides, but these fall flat for me. The breading is light and crispy, which I love, and its well seasoned with a mix of black pepper and garlic powder, but the chicken itself is absolutely flavorless.

The meat has a strange wet texture, which acts as an even bigger disincentive to eat it than the flavor itself.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Frank’s Red Hot. Dose them as heavily as possible.

The Bottom Line:

Flavorless meat with a weird wet texture. Avoid at all costs.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

23. Sonic — Jumbo Popcorn Chicken

Sonic

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

We’ve already named two nuggets that I would flatly say are bad, but here we are on our second nugget and I’m pleased to say these are pretty good. Turns out the floor for how bad chicken nuggets get isn’t that low!

These nuggets are crispy, a bit moist, and have a nice fragrant black pepper-forward flavor. They are also HUGE. That makes them a problem to dip, as they soak up a lot of sauce, but it’s nothing that asking for extra sauce won’t remedy.

While I like these they are far from the best side order from Sonic. Chili cheese tots, jalapeño poppers, and mozzarella sticks would all rank much higher than these for me personally.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Sonic’s Signature sauce will add a bright and citrusy flavor with a bit of tang, and the slighest hint of sweet smoke.

The Bottom Line:

Pretty good despite ranking this low on the list.

Find your nearest Sonic here.

22. Sonic — Honey BBQ Sauced Jumbo Popcorn Chicken

Nuggets
Sonic

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Better than the non-sauced version but just barely. If you’re not into sweet flavors, you might find this one a bit off-putting as the BBQ sauce leans heavily on the sugary side. Aside from that sweetness, you have a bit of black pepper, and a slight sense of smokeiness, but the lasting flavor is straight sugar.

Best Dipping Sauce?

They’re already sauced to hell, so no dipping sauce is necessary. But if you must, ranch is an option.

The Bottom Line:

As I said before, Sonic has plenty of better snack options. Get mozzarella sticks!

Find your nearest Sonic here.

21. Burger King — Chicken Nuggets

Burger King

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Somehow Burger King’s chicken nuggets are incredibly dry and yet soft and easy to chew through. The meat comes across as dehydrated. What I do like is the flavor, it’s zesty, salty and peppery. If we could just get some higher quality meat, these could easily be ranked much higher.

Best Dipping Sauce?

BBQ. It’s not only Burger King’s best dipping sauce, but the best BBQ sauce in all of fast food. We stand by that.

The Bottom Line:

If you can get past the weird texture, these are pretty good.

Find your nearest Burger King here.

20. Sonic — Buffalo Sauced Jumbo Popcorn Chicken

Nuggets
Sonic

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I’m just going to say it — Sonic has too many damn nugget flavors. While I like these nuggets, three subtle variations are two too many! This nugget is tossed in Buffalo sauce which adds a tangy, spicy, and savory quality to the stock nuggets.

Are they entirely necessary? No, but they’re better than the two other versions, so I guess that’s something.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Ranch to capture that hot wings experience.

The Bottom Line:

Sonics best chicken nugget flavor, whatever that’s worth.

Find your nearest Sonic here.

19. Rally’s — Chicken Bites

Rally

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I like these. The breading is crispy yet strangely dusty with a great pepper and garlic blend. The chicken itself is tender and juicy. My only issue is that Rally’s only sells these as part of a half-pound box with fries. When you have that many nuggets, they quickly overstay their welcome.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce for a spicy kick.

The Bottom Line:

Pretty good but we wish Rally’s would offer a smaller size as it’s easy to get sick of these once you’ve had more than five.

Find your nearest Rally’s here.

18. White Castle — Chicken Rings

Chicken
White Castle

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

If you can get passed the odd shape, these are good. The breading is seasoned with a nice mix of pepper, onion, and garlic, housing some heavily processed white meat chicken. They aren’t going to win any awards for quality, but I can’t deny the flavor, they’re strangely addicting.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Zesty Zing Sauce. It’s a mustard-based sauce that adds a tangy and sweet flavor into the mix.

The Bottom Line:

Good but disturbing. Whoever told White Castle that ring-shaped chicken was a good idea must’ve been high out of their mind.

Find your nearest White Castle here.

17. Carl’s Jr — Chicken Stars

Carl

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I’ll admit it, I’m ranking these way too high. Why am I okay with a star-shaped chicken and not a ring-shaped chicken? I couldn’t tell you, but I love the flavor here. These nuggets are bright, slightly buttery, and incredibly crispy. Yes, the chicken inside is weird and spongey, it’s clearly a meat slurry which is one of the most distasteful combinations of words ever, but for whatever strange reason, I like ‘em!

Are they top ten material? Not a f*cking chance, but they are a guilty pleasure that I make no apology for enjoying.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Buffalo Hot Sauce adds a buttery tang and heat into the mix that makes these nuggets truly addictive.

The Bottom Line:

If your instincts are pushing you away from star-shaped chicken, we feel that. But if you can look past the shape and weird meat texture, these are strangely addictive.

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr here.

16. Arby’s — Premium Chicken Nuggets

Nuggets Ranked
Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Arby’s nuggets are surprisingly good. I don’t love the breading, its powdery, dry, and only seasoned with black pepper and salt, but the quality of the meat here is significantly better than all the chicken proceeding it in this ranking.

True to its name, the chicken is premium. It tears, tastes, and looks like actual white meat chicken, rather than a low-quality meat slurry.

But just because it’s a step up from the stuff ranked lower, it’s far from being amazing.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Bronco sauce. It adds a fruity apple and cherry note to the mix which might sound strange, but the sweet notes make for a great pairing with the savory flavor of the chicken.

The Bottom Line:

Arby’s best chicken option. That’s not saying that much, but hey, it’s something.

Find your nearest Arby’s here.

15. Wendy’s — Chicken Nuggets

Wendy

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I like Wendy’s nuggets, but we’re back in meat slurry territory here, so if you like whole pieces of a single cut of chicken look elsewhere. These nuggets have a floral and earthy black pepper flavor with a buttery finish. They’re crispy and wonderful to dunk.

A good nugget, but far from great.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Ghost pepper ranch brings some much needed heat to these buttery nuggets.

The Bottom Line:

Good, but Wendy’s has several better nugget options.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

14. Burger King — Fiery Buffalo Nuggets

Nuggets
Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Introduced to the Burger King menu this year, BK’s Fiery Buffalo Nuggets are a significant step up from the brand’s old sauce-less nuggets. Thanks to a toss of buffalo sauce, these nuggets have a strong and pungent aroma that tastes tangy and peppery.

If you love buffalo sauce, these are a must.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Ranch will add a savory herbal quality to this dish.

The Bottom Line:

One of the best new menu items at Burger King.

Find your nearest Burger King here.

13. McDonald’s — Chicken McNuggets

McDonald

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Too high for McDonald’s McNuggets? Maybe, but when these things are perfectly cooked, they’re wonderfully addicting.

When fresh, these nuggets are airy and crispy, with a salty flavor that is backed by some white pepper. The crispy exterior stays crispy no matter how much you dip it, which can’t be said for most of the nuggets on this list. But quality control at McDonald’s is rough stuff.

When you get an order of nuggets that isn’t fresh, what you get is stale and flavorless. Because of that, we have to bump these nuggets a few placements back.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Sweet and Sour adds some nice tang to these nuggets.

The Bottom Line:

The nugget that started it all! It’s very good, but not quite great.

Find your nearest McDonald’s here.

12. Wendy’s — Honey BBQ Nuggets

Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

This year Wendy’s launched four new sauce-tossed nuggets and they’re all pretty damn good. Our least favorite is the Honey BBQ.

My issue here is since BBQ sauce is already an available dipping sauce, this isn’t bringing much new to the table. You could get this same experience by simply dipping the nuggets in a side of BBQ, so I guess if you’re too lazy to do that, just order these.

The flavor is a well-balanced floral honey sweetness with a smokey aftertaste.

Best Dipping Sauce?

No sauce required.

The Bottom Line:

They’re good, but ultimately inessential.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

11. Chick-fil-A — Grilled Nuggets

Chick-fil-A

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

When compared to fried chicken nuggets, grilled nuggets are never going to perform that well, we already know going in that this is an uphill battle. Which is a shame because these are f*cking delicious.

They’re juicy and packed with flavor, I’m tasting black pepper, a hint of lemon, and some lightly charred notes.

They’re designed for people on a keto diet but if you’re just looking to cut calories and carbs and aren’t dogmatic about any diet rules, these are a delicious option and are even better when dipped in sauce.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Polynesian is your best choice. It’ll elevate this delicious nugget with a sweet, tangy, and citrusy top note.

The Bottom Line:

Way more delicious than you’d assume.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

10. The Habit — Crispy Chicken Bites

Nuggets Ranked
Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

The meat on these nuggets is great. Tender, flavorful, minimally processed, and super meaty, but the breading leaves something to be desired. Instead of a crispy crunch, you get a weird powdery texture that is too heavily seasoned with black pepper.

If The Habit changed how they batter this chicken, it would do a lot to rank higher for us.

Best Dipping Sauce?

BBQ will give you some smoke and tang, which will help distract from the weird powdery texture.

The Bottom Line:

The only nuggets on this list that require sauce.

Find your nearest The Habit here.

9. Wendy’s — Buffalo Nuggets

Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

We’d be mad at Wendy’s for having too many subtle variations on nuggets if they weren’t all good, but luckily for all of us, they are!

The Buffalo nuggets give a bright, zesty, and tangy flavor with a buttery savoriness that is easy to fall in love with. Here is the thing though, if you like your buffalo sauce spicy, this doesn’t quite deliver. If you can look past that, there is a lot to love here.

Best Dipping Sauce?

No sauce required!

The Bottom Line:

Zesty, tangy, and delicious!

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

8. Wendy’s — Spicy Nuggets

Wendy

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

I like these a lot because for a while they were the spiciest nuggets you could order in all of fast food. A single bite will ignite your palate with a strong cayenne pepper kick joined by fragrant black pepper notes. The texture is crispy but like a lot of the lesser nuggets on this ranking, the meat is heavily processed.

Because of that, we have to knock it back a few spots.

Best Dipping Sauce?

As I said with the non-spicy version, you’re going to want to go with Ghost Pepper Ranch here.

The Bottom Line:

For a heavily processed chicken nugget, it’s damn good.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

7. Popeyes — Classic Boneless Wings

Popeyes

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Let’s just be real, all boneless wings are just nuggets, anytime a brand uses the word “wings,” it’s probably to justify charging too much for what you’re getting. Price aside, I really like the chicken here, that shouldn’t come as a, I mean it’s Popeyes we’re talking about.

The breading is wonderful, it’s crispy, light, and crunchy with a blend of garlic powder, salt, and pepper. The chicken inside is the perfect level of juicy, making each one of these nuggets a true joy to eat.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Blackened Ranch for a bit of heat and tang.

The Bottom Line:

It’s not Popeyes’ best chicken offering, but it’s damn good.

Find your nearest Popeyes here.

6. Wendy’s — Garlic Parmesan

Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

If you’re hoping this is the final Wendy’s entry in this ranking, we’ve got bad news for you, it’s not!

On the bright side, these are delicious and you should absolutely order them as soon as you can. I’m tasting a mix of pungent garlic and nutty, tangy, fruity Parmesan flavors with some Italian herbs on the aftertaste. Imagine the sort of breading usually reserved for a mozzarella stick, but with chicken inside instead of cheese.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Marinara would be ideal, but Wendy’s doesn’t have that. So I’m going to say ranch or bleu cheese.

The Bottom Line:

Herbal, zesty, and tangy, one of the best sauced nuggets in the game.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

5. Wendy’s — Spicy Ghost Pepper

Dane Rivera

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Okay, here it is, the final Wendy’s nugget entry on this list. These nuggets are amazing, especially if you’re a spice lover.

The heat begins smokey before shifting into a bright fruity flavor that combines chive and garlic with a strong cayenne pepper kick. Most of the heat builds between bites, which will draw you in for another taste as you look to relieve the heat on your palate. I absolutely love these.

Best Dipping Sauce?

There is too much flavor going on here, so no sauce required.

The Bottom Line:

One of the most exciting new additions to the Wendy’s menu in some time.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

4. Shake Shack — Chick ’n Bites

Shake Shack

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Shake Shack takes what McDonald’s does well — a crispy light cornstarch-based breading, and couples it with tender pieces of whole muscle white meat chicken that is sous-vide cooked. It’s essentially an elevated McNugget.

The chicken is seasoned with a mix of garlic, onion powder, and black pepper and has an incredible melt-in-your-mouth quality. I don’t have any issues or gripes with these nuggets, they’re delicious, but they aren’t my favorite.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Shake Sauce will add some sweetness and tang, while accentuating the savory qualities.

The Bottom Line:

Great, a snobby elevated version of the Chicken McNugget.

3. KFC — Original Recipe Chicken Nuggets

Nuggets
KFC

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

This is probably the highest KFC will ever rank in one of our fast food rankings, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for KFC’s Original Recipe. I’m tasting a mix of garlic, onion, thyme, and black pepper with a tender and juicy texture.

No complaints here!

Best Dipping Sauce?

Honey BBQ. It adds a sweet counterpoint to the flavor profile which enhances the experience.

The Bottom Line:

A near-perfect nugget. The only thing holding it back is that it’s not quite as good as what we’ve ranked above it.

Find your nearest KFC here.

2. Chick-fil-A — Chicken Nuggets

Chick fil A

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

Last year we named Chick-fil-A’s chicken nuggets the best in fast food. I’m sorry to Chick-fil-A, but it didn’t pan out that way in 2024, but these are still very very good.

The nuggets are meaty, juicy, and tender with breading that combines onion, garlic powder, black pepper, and an earthy floral paprika smokiness. There is a savory tangy to the breading here, and the meat inside is tender and juicy.

The only issue here is that the nuggets lack crunch. They can be a bit too soggy. If crunch isn’t important to you, then these nuggets are some of the very best. But if you want a crispy nugget, look to our top choice.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Like with the grilled nuggets, we’re going to say the best option here is Polynesian.

The Bottom Line:

Far above anything ranked below, but not quite as good as our number one choice.

Find your nearest Chick-fil-A here.

1. Dave’s Hot Chicken — Chicken Bites (Hot Level)

Dave

Tasting Notes & Thoughts:

This has everything that Chick-fil-A’s nuggets have, they’re tender, juicy, and well-seasoned, but the blend of seasonings present in the batter takes things up to another level. We’re tasting a lot of garlic, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and earthy paprika, as well a bigger emphasis on smoked flavors, with a cayenne pepper kick.

Spicy will always trump non-spicy for me, and at Dave’s you have the option of ordering these either “Medium” or “Hot.” Both options are spicy, but if you really want that mouth-watering heat, you have to go with the hot option.

Dave’s Chicken Bites are the newest nugget on the scene, introduced to menus in 2024, so maybe its the recency bias talking, but right now these are my go-to chicken nuggets.

Best Dipping Sauce?

Eat these with the sauce Dave’s supplies you with. It’s a comeback-style sauce that adds some tang and accentuates the savory flavor of this chicken perfectly.

The Bottom Line:

Our choice for the best chicken nugget in fast food for 2024.

Find your nearest Dave’s Hot Chicken here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *