Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets: What’s In ‘Em, Plus 5 Popular Brands

Nowadays plant based chicken nuggets

Gone are the days of cardboard-tasting frozen dinners that you consumed on a TV tray in the living room. Today, the selection of frozen prepared foods has not just vastly improved but has also become downright gourmet. 

Fortunately, chicken nuggets are no exception. These bite-sized classics are tasty, convenient, and perfect for picky eaters. But what can you do if you're trying to make better food choices for your family? The answer just might lie in plant-based chicken nuggets. (Just a warning, though: Not all nuggets are created equal.)

Let’s take a look at what plant-based chicken nuggets are all about, plus some popular options so you can make an informed decision and feel good about your choice.

What Are Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets Made Of?

Nowadays plant based chicken nuggets with sauce and veggies on the side

Before we get into some of the most popular plant-based chicken nuggets on the market, let’s clarify what we mean when we say that something is “plant-based.”

In an effort to reduce meat consumption, food brands have created meatless versions of classic meat products like chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, burger patties, and the like. Simply put, plant-based means that the product is made from ingredients (such as grains and legumes) that come from plants. 

Here at Nowadays, we make our meatless nuggets from pea protein, but many brands use ingredients like soy protein, chickpeas, lentils, wheat gluten, hemp seeds, quinoa, or brown rice.

The plant-based market has come such a long way that even meat-eaters have begun to enjoy meatless versions of their conventional counterparts.

Conventional Chicken Nuggets vs. Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets

Many people are opting for more plant-based foods as it feels more sustainable than consuming meat. This is because studies have shown that factory farming may have enormous environmental costs, from global warming to endangering and even destroying biodiversity

There are also some health costs to consider if you’re consuming too many animal-based products. If you’re looking for plant-based meat alternatives, chicken nuggets are a great way to start. They’re approachable for the whole family, easy to prepare, and depending on the brand, they can even be quite nutritious! Here’s a quick breakdown of a few important factors. 


One of the benefits of plant-based chicken nuggets is that they typically have no cholesterol. We actually need cholesterol for a well-functioning body, but the goal is to have more of the “good” kind (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and less of the “bad” kind (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). 

LDL cholesterol is only bad when there are excessive amounts in the body. When you have too much LDL, it leads to clogged arteries. But LDL is responsible for carrying most of the cholesterol to the cells, so if you don’t have enough LDL, your body won’t function properly.

HDL helps remove excess cholesterol from the cells. It’s referred to as the good cholesterol because it helps to get the bad cholesterol out of the arteries, keeping them unclogged.

All of that is to say that conventional chicken nuggets tend to have more cholesterol — both good and bad — simply by virtue of them being made from meat.


While we’re big fans of plant-based foods, we don’t want to mislead you. You should know that even though plants don’t contain cholesterol, they do contain compounds within them that can have an impact on cholesterol. Specifically, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (saturated fat). 

When these kinds of fats enter the body, the liver has to process them, and in doing so, the liver creates cholesterol. This explains why vegans still have cholesterol in their bodies, and thus why their bodies can function properly and optimally even though they aren’t consuming animal foods.

But where plants can cause high amounts of “bad” cholesterol is when it comes to oils and how they’re used. Foods that are fried in trans fats and vegetable oils like canola and safflower are high in saturated fat. Frying food increases the overall fat content of any particular food, and this leads to high cholesterol (and not the good kind).

Many of the chicken nuggets on the market use not-so-great-for-you oils (canola, safflower, vegetable oil) that further contribute to raising the bad kind of cholesterol. Of course, the same can be said for plant-based chicken nuggets. (More on that in a bit.)


Woman happily eating some chicken nuggets

Additives are another consideration when comparing conventional chicken nuggets and plant-based chicken nuggets. While meat-free options have their advantages, it’s worth noting that there are some ingredients that will make you go hmmm. 

For instance, you might see methylcellulose or dextrose on the ingredients list. Some plant-based chicken nuggets also use binders to achieve that meaty taste and texture as well as bleaching agents like titanium dioxide

Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets: 5 Popular Options

Now that you have a better idea of what’s going on with (and in) plant-based meat, let’s review some of the most popular vegan chicken nugget brands you’ll likely find online or on store shelves. It’s time to see what all the hype is about — and get a close look at what’s really in these nugs!

Nowadays Original Plant-Based Nuggets

We believe in starting with the best, so let’s take a look at how Nowadays plant-based chicken nuggets rank among the best vegan chicken nuggets.

If you don’t already know, we pride ourselves on our perfectly crispy-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside meatless nuggets. Made with only 7 ingredients — all of which you recognize and can actually pronounce — our goal was to make a plant-based chicken nugget that you could feel good about feeding your family. 

To achieve the meaty texture and flavor, we use mushroom extract, yeast extract, and maple fiber. Whole wheat flour helps give the breading that crispy goodness and our star player is pea protein made from organic, non-GMO peas. The other two ingredients are filtered water and sunflower oil. Less is more, indeed!

  • Calories per 85g serving: 120g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 250mg
  • Potassium: 456mg
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: n/a
  • Monounsaturated fat: n/a
  • Protein: 13g

Incogmeato 100% Plant Protein Chik’n Nuggets From Morningstar Farms 

You may already know Morningstar Farms from its veggie breakfast sausages and burger patties, and the brand’s latest line of meatless products is called Incogmeato

While these nuggets appear to have hit a home run in taste and texture, they contain almost 40 ingredients to achieve that goal — including methylcellulose, soy protein isolate, dextrose, and glutamic acid.

  • Calories per 86g serving: 180
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 310mg
  • Potassium: 280mg
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: n/a
  • Monounsaturated fat: n/a
  • Protein: 12g

Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Chick’n Nuggets 

Gardein’s chick’n nuggets and tenders are said to have crispy breading on the outside and a tender and juicy interior, much like real chicken nuggets. However, these snacks are made from more than 30 ingredients, including methylcellulose, titanium dioxide, fructose, canola oil, and corn flour.

  • Calories per 94g serving: 190
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 580mg
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Saturated fat: 0.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: n/a
  • Monounsaturated fat: n/a
  • Protein: 14g

Daring Breaded Plant Chicken Pieces

Though these technically aren’t chicken nuggets, they can be found in the same section in the freezer. Daring’s meatless chicken apparently shreds and cooks like the real thing, and customers seem to like the flavor and texture. The nuggets are made with 11 ingredients, including soy protein. 

  • Calories per 85g serving: 190
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 340mg
  • Potassium: 298mg
  • Saturated fat: 1.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: n/a
  • Monounsaturated fat: n/a 
  • Protein: 11g

Alpha Foods Original Chik’n Nuggets

Alpha Foods’ plant-based chik’n nuggets come in two flavors — original and spicy. It takes about 30 ingredients to make these nuggets, including citric acid, modified cellulose, and soy protein isolate.

  • Calories per 85g serving: 190
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 270mg
  • Potassium: 330mg
  • Saturated fat: 0.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2.5g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5g
  • Protein: 12g

Which Plant-Based Chicken Nuggets Will You Choose?

Girl eating some chicken nuggets

As you can see, there are many options for you to choose from in the world of plant-based chicken nuggets. Be sure to read the nutritional profile and ingredients label so that you know what you’re actually getting and can feel good about what you’re feeding your family. Admittedly, we're partial to our nuggets, but don’t just take our word for it. See for yourself and order a box today!

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