After so many attempts at making chicken nuggets, tenders, or whatever you like to call them, I've FINALLY identified the path towards achieving crispy chicken magic. The typical method I always see (and have always used before switching things up) involved dipping raw pieces of chicken breast in egg and dusting it with your flour of choice (almond meal, coconut flour, etc.), and then either frying them in a skillet or baking them in the oven. Don't get me wrong...this still provides a delectable piece of chicken; but time after time, I was never able to get them really crispy. Instead, the breading would end up pretty soft (unless I burned it) and would just end up peeling off.
So there are four key differentiating elements to this individual chicken nugget recipe:
- Use boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts. It ends up juicier and more flavorful...and a little more fatty. PLUS!
- Brine the chicken pieces before breading in water and kosher salt. Don't ask me why...I honestly don't really know why brining affects the end results...but it makes a sizeable difference. Just do it.
- For the breading, use tapioca flour or arrowroot powder (I use tapioca). Using nut flours will still work, but the nuggets won't be as crispy.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Rather than dipping the chicken in the egg and then flour, dip the chicken in the flour first and then the egg. It's the true secret to getting a crispy yet spongy chicken tender.
Ok enough chit-chat about how big of a chicken nugget miracle worker I am. Here's the recipe!
- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into nugget-sized pieces
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- In a ziplock bag, combine chicken pieces, water and salt. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk an egg and set aside. In another bowl (large enough for all the chicken to fit), combine tapioca flour, paprika, garlic salt and pepper.
- When the chicken is done marinating, drain it well (do not rinse). Warm up coconut oil in a large skillet on medium heat while breading the chicken.
- Place all chicken pieces in the flour mixture and mix until all pieces are evenly coated. Get dirty and use your hands here. The tapioca starch will mostly absorb into the chicken, so don't worry if your chicken nuggets don't look "flour-y".
- One at a time, dunk each nugget into the egg and shake off any extra egg. Place in the skillet. Repeat this step until there is a full layer of chicken nuggets in the skillet.
- Still on medium heat (no higher, otherwise it will burn), fry the chicken nuggets for 3-4 minutes per side and flip, frying for another 3-4 minutes.
- Remove chicken nuggets to a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately with your favorite condiment!