Confession time, I love chicken nuggets. I’m basically a five-year-old in a thirty-six year old body. I didn’t even care that the nuggets were made from left over bits of meat, or other mystery ingredients, they were my favorite, quick cooking snack. I usually always had some in my freezer and I would eat them once a week at least.
Since going vegan, I have managed to fill that craving with Gardein’s chicken tenders (No, I’m not being sponsored by them. I just really like their vegan chicken tenders.). They are nearly as good and with time, I’m sure I would come to love them as much as I love chicken nuggets.
The problem is that in my switch to a plant-based diet, I’m trying to eat better. That means less processed foods and a move to whole food-based cooking. (Yes, Gardein’s chicken tenders while delicious are processed.) So, the search began for a recipe to replace them.
To be fair I’m pretty early in that search but I have found a solution that is quite delicious and fits my need for nuggets. And that recipe is Vegan Chickpea Nuggets from the thekitchen.com. You can find the recipe here.
The end result (And yes, there was a journey of mistakes here as always.) were chewy and filling, flavorful and perfect with BBQ sauce. They fulfilled my need for crunchy, chewy goodness and the best part, they freeze and reheat like a gem. (Note here that the author of the recipe doesn’t give freezer directions. I did this test on my own.) I simply cooked the frozen nuggets in a 425-degree oven for 16 -18 minutes flipping half way through.
The recipe calls for canned chickpeas but I don’t keep canned beans in my house as I tend to cook from dried beans (they’re cheaper and take up less pantry space). In my infinite wisdom, (please feel free to read that in as sarcastic a voice as you wish) I thought it would be simple to replace home cooked chickpeas for the canned variety.
To be fair to myself it’s not hard to supplement canned beans and (even making homemade aquafaba) as long as you substitute appropriate amounts. My trouble was I weighed out fifteen ounces of cooked beans since the recipe calls for a 15 oz can of beans. What’s the trouble you ask? Well a can of beans also has liquid in it. You aren’t actually using 15 ounces of beans.
Naturally, I ended up with a dry mixture that wouldn’t stick to the toasted panko. But never fear, I was able to salvage the situation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I seem to make mistakes often, but I can usually fix them and end up with something delicious. (Except for one memorable occasion when I attempted edible cookie dough. I won’t go into details here but it was a disaster.)
After rescuing my chickpea nuggets, I baked them a directed and enjoyed them. I liked them so much I had to make them again, and not just because I really ought to test these recipes as written. Knowing I needed to test the recipe in the right way, I went out and bought a can of chickpeas. Shock of shocks, with the proper amount of beans, the nugget mixture came out sticky enough for the panko to adhere without dipping them in more aquafaba.
Texture wise, these nuggets aren’t exactly like chicken. They don’t have the same chewiness, they’re a bit mushier (though not unappealingly so.) I actually like them better because they aren’t exactly like chicken nuggets. I experience a bit of uncanny valley with pho meat products and sometimes being different can help me get over not eating the actual meat version.
I will say that of the two recipes, I actually liked my mistake the most. The drier mixture made for a chewier nugget. (Although to make the canned version drier all you have to do is add more ground oats.) They were great reheated from frozen. I didn’t notice a taste difference in the frozen nuggets at all. It makes them a great addition to the family meals. The sort of thing you can make on a weekend and have all week. (Frankly, they don’t take that much time to make from scratch if you use canned beans so they can be made at any time of the week.)
I will keep searching for vegan nugget recipes (again no one should be surprised. Chicken nuggets are amazing.) but this recipe will be one of my staples throughout the search process. I was extremely lucky to find it so soon. The ease and simplicity of the recipe make it ideal. There are only 6 ingredients in the base recipe and it’s really simple to follow.
Do you have a recipe for vegan nuggets you’d like to share? Let me know so I can try it.
I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or medical professional of any kind. I am just a regular person sharing my personal journey on a way to a healthier, more satisfying life. Consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise or diet plan. Please see full disclaimer here.