Can Chicken Nuggets really be healthy?
Are you sceptical about the term “Healthy Chicken Nuggets”? Don’t be! In this recipe, we’re showing you how to create delicious, nutritious chicken nuggets by incorporating hidden vegetables and using an air fryer (or pan-frying method if you don’t have one). This kid-friendly meal is perfect for families, especially when convincing a picky eater to consume more veggies.
This recipe was inspired by one of our lovely followers who wanted to find a way to get their 3-year-old to eat more vegetables. Sometimes, being a little sneaky is necessary to ensure our little ones get the essential nutrients.
Our families have tried these healthy chicken nuggets, and the verdict is in – they’re a hit! We served ours in wraps, similar to how you’d dish up a falafel, and made a side of air-fried chips seasoned with my tasty fries sprinkle. This combination made for an excellent family meal.
The recipe yields about 22 nuggets, but this number will vary depending on the size you make them. We froze five nuggets for a future meal, making this recipe perfect for meal planning. Cook all the nuggets and set aside some for freezing to enjoy on another night. This way, adults can savour a curry while the kids indulge in their favourite nuggets!
Tips for making Chicken Nuggets
- For the Chicken: You could use minced chicken for this recipe, but I prefer to have some of my chicken pieces a little larger. Using thigh fillets in a processor without processing them too much will sort that out for you. If your chicken is ground too fine, your nuggets can be like bullets. I’m sure you’ve seen those before.🙃
- For the Feta: I’ve chosen to use feta to give my nuggets some extra flavour and moisture. You can use other cheeses, of course, but fetta is wetta.😆 I like to have the feta crumbled through so it’s not so hidden, but if you think your little munchkins might sit and pick that out, then blitz it in with everything at step 4; that’s where I add the egg and the rest of the ingredients.
- Seasoning: I’ve not added any extra salt and pepper to this recipe because there’s quite a bit of salt coming from the feta, and I’ve added a spice blend to my crumb mix, but if you want to add some, go for it. I suggest making them once, so you know what flavours you have, before adding more.
- Spice Blend: I added a teaspoon of my Southern Gried Spice Blend to panko bread crumbs for coating. You can use whatever you want, or leave it plain if you like. Whatever suits your taste.
Chicken Nuggets with hidden Veggies
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- 1 Thermomix (optional)
- 1 Air fryer (optional)
- 50 g bread 1 slice fresh or day old, I used multigrain
- 150 g – 200 g raw vegetables e.g. use what ever you have at hand, cauliflower, broccoli carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, spinach or what ever your child won’t notice.
- 450 – 500 g chicken thigh fillets. I used 2 Maryland’s deboned *see notes
- 80 g Danish Feta
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- Additional breadcrumbs for coating panko are good for this
- Cooking oil spray if baking
- Grate the bread in the Thermomix for 10 seconds/speed 6. Set aside.
- Add 150 – 200g peeled and chopped mixed vegetables to the Thermomix mixing bowl. Chop for 10 seconds/speed 7, or chop as finely as you need to. Set aside with the bread crumbs.
- Place the cubed chicken in the Thermomix bowl and chop for 10 seconds/speed 7, or until it reaches your desired consistency. *see notes
- Add egg, garlic powder, onion powder, and the reserved bread crumbs and vegetables to the bowl. Mix for 8 seconds/speed 7, using the spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the feta crumbling it in by hand as it goes into the bowl then give the mix another stir on reverse speed this time 4 seconds/speed 6. *see notes.
- Pour some panko bread crumbs into a small bowl.
- Shape the mixture into small nuggets or patties with your hands. Coat each nugget in the panko bread crumbs, pressing gently to ensure they adhere. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to set.
- Preheat your oven or air fryer to 180°C (356°F).
- If baking, place the coated nuggets on a non-stick oven-safe cooling rack. Lightly spray with cooking oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown and cooked through.
- If using an air fryer, lightly spray the nuggets with oil and place them in the air fryer. Cook for around 15 minutes, checking at 10 minutes to see if they need flipping. Cooking time may vary depending on your air fryer and the size of the nuggets.
- If pan-frying, heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a little oil and fry the nuggets in batches for 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Serve the chicken nuggets with your favourite dipping sauces.
- Preheat your oven or air fryer to 200°C if you plan to bake the nuggets. Alternatively, you can also pan-fry them.
- Start by processing the bread into crumbs.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the finely chopped chicken, finely chopped or pureed vegetables, feta cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Don't over mix or your nuggets will be heavy.
- Shape the mixture into small nuggets or patties, using your hands or spoons.
- Place additional breadcrumbs on a plate. Coat each nugget in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to make sure the coating adheres. Place in the fridge to set up for around 30 minutes.
- If baking, place the coated nuggets on a non stick cooling rack that can go in the oven, spray them lightly with cooking oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway through, until they are golden brown and cooked through. If you’re using an air fryer spray with a little oil and place them in your air fryer. They’ll take around 15 mins but check at 10 to see if they need flipping. It depends on your air fryer and how big you’ve made them.
- If pan-frying, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Fry the nuggets in batches, cooking for about 4-5 minutes per side or until they are golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove the cooked nuggets from the oven or skillet and let them cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve the chicken nuggets with your favourite dipping sauces.
Want to know more?
You might consider our Big Mac sauce to go with these chicken nuggets.