Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Basically, to reiterate the compliments flying around the dinner table the night I served these, I would simply have to state:

Mom rules! McDonald’s drools!
{Insert fist pump}

A light, crunchy, flavorful breading envelopes tender, juicy pieces of chicken, which are baked not fried. Dipped in this beloved BBQ sauce, even I was swooning over this humble meal.

From the children who aspire to live beneath the golden arches (despite their mother’s attempts to brainwash them otherwise), these chicken nuggets were so well-received that I nearly got contracts signed in blood that they will never ask to eat at you-know-where again. Nearly.

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

What To ServeSweet Potato FriesΒ orΒ Jo Jo Wedges
Green salad
Sliced fruit

One Year Ago: Lemon Berry Trifle
Two Years Ago: Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham
Three Years Ago: Honey Mustard Chicken

Healthy Chicken Nuggets {Baked}

Yield: Serves 6

Healthy Chicken Nuggets {Baked}


  • 2-3 thick slices whole wheat bread (for about 1 cup of crumbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 large (about 2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch or so sized pieces


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor or blender, place the slices of whole wheat bread and pulse until crumbs form. Add the basil, oregano and Parmesan cheese and pulse until combined. Pour the bread crumbs into a shallow dish (like a pie plate) and mix in the panko crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, egg whites and water until well combined. Pat the chicken cubes dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken cubes in the egg white/olive oil mixture before taking a few of them at a time and rolling them in the bread crumb mixture to coat evenly.
  4. Place the coated chicken nuggets on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, carefully flip the nuggets over (taking care not to remove the breading) and bake for 5 minutes longer, or until cooked through (the exact time will depend on the size of the chicken pieces). Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: inspired by a recipe at Skinny Taste

52 Responses to Healthy Chicken Nuggets {Baked}

  1. Tiffany says:

    Hey Mel! Just wanted to say we love these. Before my son was born they were a regular at our dinner table. I just made them for the first time in forever. I forgot how good they are.

  2. Rachel Salinas says:

    Thank you Mel, I made these as tenders and my husbands response was “why haven’t you made these before?” I’ve already been asked to make the “healthy” chicken again. Kudos to you.

  3. Jackie says:

    Hi! Found this recipe on Pinterest and planning on making them for dinner tonight. Do you have any idea what the nutritional value is?

    • Mel says:

      Jackie – I don’t provide the nutritional breakdown for my recipes, but there are some great websites out there that provide that information if you put the ingredients/amounts in. Good luck!

  4. Susan says:

    Hi there: I tried this recipe and was very excited about the prospect of baked homemade chicken nuggets… The taste was not quite what I expected.. They were really dry and not as flavorful as the fried… I dare say a little bland.

  5. Sara says:

    I am a definite neophyte in the kitchen…..Would I freeze these after they are baked or freeze them uncooked?

  6. Ashley says:

    Hi Mel,
    I am a huge fan of yours! I just love all your recipes, you are my first stop when sitting down for my weekly meal planning! I am also from the midwest as Im right next door in SD and I cant wait for your upcoming fall recipes πŸ™‚
    I made these chicken nuggets 4 days ago and I am still craving them! I followed your exact recipe but instead of baking them, I fried them coconut oil. This provided the perfect combination of sweet and salty. I then whipped up some honey mustard, poured some bbq sauce and ketchup into dipping bowls. My husband, daughter and I had so much fun dipping and eating. This was a fun recipe with an adventurous change up in the weekly menu. I will definitely be making them again and as others said, likely in big batches!

  7. Deb in Dayton says:

    I have tried several mediocre recipes for chicken nuggets, all fried. The family ate them, but I didn’t. Too greasy for me! I tried these tonight, and my chicken nugget expert said, “These are the best ones yet!”. They were a little on the pale side, so I will toast the panko next time as Cathy recommended. These will now be my go to nuggets, and even I can eat them without guilt! THANK YOU MEL!
    P.S. I added 1/2t garlic powder and 1/2t onion powder.

  8. Mel says:

    Emily – I am not a gluten free expert so my best guess is to try to find a gluten free sub for the bread crumbs. Sorry I’m not more help!

  9. Emily says:

    wow. these look amazing.
    any thoughts on making them gluten-free? most gluten-free bread is so heavy i don’t know if the crumbs would stick..

  10. kelsey says:

    Tried a super yummy variation today. Substituted pepper jack cheese for the Parmesan and left out the spices (the pepperjack had more than enough flavor of its own) and then dipped them in Costco mango salsa for the grown ups and ketchup for the kids. LOVED IT!

  11. Healthy Baked Chicken Nuggets | Life of a Pint-Sized Mama says:

    […] Healthy Baked Chicken Nuggets! So delicious and pretty darn good for you. If you have never visited Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, go there now! I use her recipes all the time and they are always amazing. Here’s my […]

  12. Mel says:

    Maria – if you can’t find panko, bread crumbs will probably work. The outer texture of the nuggets will be a bit different since panko is a bit crunchier than bread crumbs but it should work alright.

  13. Maria Luisa Nino says:

    Hi Mel, I live in Venezuela and panko crumbs are not sold here so I would like to know if I can substitute them for the same amount of regular bread crumbs

  14. Mel says:

    Hi Pau – sorry for the confusion…I use dried basil and oregano in the recipe so it should work just fine!

  15. Pau says:

    Hi Mel, would love to try these, but I would like to ask, can I use dried basil and dried oregano? The ones in the small McCormick bottles? Or do they have to be fresh leaves? Thank you so much!

  16. Pau says:

    Hi Mel, would love to try these, but I would like to ask, can I use dried basil and dried oregano? The ones in the small McCormick bottles? Or do they have to be fresh leaves? Thanks!

  17. amelia says:

    I combined a couple of the above the suggested to blend the chicken, rolled in super crispy pre-toasted wheat bread breadcrumbs (brilliant!!), and pressed into dinosaur shaped sandwhich-cutters. I also shaped my son’s name J-O-H-N. He was soooo excited and gobbled them up!!! However, these ended up larger than typical nuggets so they took longer to bake. Maybe I can try smaller cookie cutters next time. This was fun, but definitely took longer than 30 min to prepare!

  18. Melanie Brown says:

    Had these for dinner & they were GREAT! I just read a few msgs & did not realize they would freeze/reheat well. I too will be making a lg bag of them & freezing them b/c my 4 yr old LOVES the dinosaur nuggets too & they are so gross!! I love making things homemade – I know I am providing good nutrition for my kids! Thanks!

  19. Cathy says:

    Hey, Mel,
    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your site & visit it often.
    Many of my favorite meals were found here.
    So my family & I thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
    I make healthy school lunches for a living & use panko a lot in
    healthy meal makeovers. One thing I discovered is it doesn’t brown much in the oven,
    so can leave food looking pasty-pale. An easy way to overcome that is to pre-brown it.
    Just place a bag or 2 of panko in an aluminum or stainless pan (8×8 or 9×13 or really almost any size) & put in a preheated 375 degree oven. Set timer for 10 minutes. At end of that time stir flakes to redistribute & set timer for 10 more minutes. Repeat this until panko has reached a nice amber golden color. Cool down & store in gallon-size ziploc. Can be left at room temp almost indefinitely.
    This really adds not only to panko’s look when baked but also to its taste.
    From a VERY grateful fan!

  20. Heidi says:

    Heidi again, I made one more variation to the recipe. Blending up that chicken baby!! It’s not the most fun to handle, but I liked the texture of them way better. I did the same and froze the rest and I pop them in the microwave for lunches. Nice to know there’s no fillers or anything else questionable. Thanks again for this great recipe.

  21. Homemade Chicken Nuggets {Toddler Approved} | A Sweeter Thing says:

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  22. Made these tonight and they were a hit from ages 33 to 2! Definitely a keeper. Thanks, Mel!

  23. heidi says:

    My little 3 year old is accustomed to eating “dinosaur chicken” from a bag. It made me cringe inside when she’d request them for lunch EVERYDAY! I made a 3 lb bag into these beauties yesterday, baked them and threw them in the freezer. Today, we have a healthful option on the menu and she is loving them.
    Thanks a ton for saving our arteries!

  24. Sarah says:

    I just wanted to let you know my husband has requested these chicken nuggets no less than 5 times since I made them (about a month ago)! I think it may be his new favorite dish! Also I made these for the “world’s pickiest children” (their mother’s words) and they loved them and barely left any for mom! So thanks for a great recipe that we can feel good about eating! Your recipes are awesome πŸ™‚

  25. Traci says:

    Since chicken was on sale this week, I decided to make some homemade chicken nuggets and then freeze them for later. We ate a batch of them for dinner tonight. Delish!! All the members of my family loved them and one of them is a fast food chicken nugget lover. Thank you for recipe!

  26. Amy M says:

    Made these last night and was very happy with how quickly they came together. I did bake on a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking pan and therefore skipped the step to flip them half way through baking which worked great. The wheat bread I used was on the sweet side which I didn’t love so I’ll be changing that next time. I used four slices of normal sandwich bread and it turned out to be way too much and I had to double the rest of the ingredients to compensate. Next time I’ll just use 2 slices. Can’t wait to make this again. The kiddos and husband love anything that can be dipped in a sauce!

  27. Alisha says:

    Got it– Thanks Mel!

  28. Alisha says:

    I FOR SURE thought someone would ask this question first but I must be the only dumb one… what in the heck are panko crumbs?!?!?

    After I find that out, I will definitely be making these!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Alisha – panko is a Japanese-style bread crumb so you can usually find it in the Asian foods aisle at the store. It’s a larger, flakier bread crumb (the crusts are removed before the bread crumbs are made) and it gives a great crunchiness to the food. It’s pretty widely available – I’ve found it everywhere from Walmart to my basic grocery store.

  29. grace says:

    i won’t lie–i shudder to think of what’s actually contained within the little mcdonald’s chicken nuggets box. shudder. these are lovely in many, many ways. πŸ™‚

  30. Amy wein says:

    Made these for Sunday dinner.. 1 kid and one hubby happy, will make again to see if I can convert the two stalwarts left in the house!! As always Mel, thanks! Your writings just as magnificent as your recipes and photos!!!

  31. Natasha S says:

    Mel, you don’t know me and I’ve never commented before but I use your recipes all the time. Made this tonight with your BBQ and it was de-freakin-lish! I’m not going to lie, you are pretty much my cooking hero.

  32. Melody S says:


    Can you prepare these and freeze them before you cook them?

    • Mel says:

      Melody – I’ve never tried it but it should work. Someone else left a comment saying something like they freeze them and then bake them at a lower temperature for slightly longer out of the freezer. If you try it, I’d freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen and then pop them in a freezer bag.

  33. ashley says:

    Looks yummy! Do you use homemade bread?

    • Mel says:

      Ashley – Yes, I do use homemade bread. I usually save a couple slices or the heel of the bread when we get to the end of the loaf and stick it in the freezer. I use those pieces to grind up for homemade bread crumbs.

  34. Yum Yum! I would fry these babies up in some coconut oil πŸ™‚

  35. Melanie A. says:

    Oops, I just read the other comments…apparently I’m not the only one who does this!

  36. Melanie A. says:

    So glad you posted these, I’ve been looking for a good baked chicken nugget recipe to make for my little ones. I like to place a cooling rack over a foil lined baking sheet and then bake the nuggets on top of the rack. This makes for a perfectly crisp nugget all around!

  37. Amy M says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I have a chicken tender recipe that I’m getting tired of. Chicken tenders/nuggets like this freeze so well that I usually make about 8lbs of chicken at once, freeze individually on a cookie sheet and then place into gallon freezer bag and dinner comes together SUPER easy when you throw them into the oven already frozen…just lower the cooking temp and cook a little longer… I do 350 for 25 minutes. My toddler likes ranch dressing for dipping but I use Mel’s recipe for pizza sauce because it comes together so easily, is healthy for me and because it freezes well in muffin tins, which is the perfect amount for dipping.

  38. Those look so yummy, Mel! Perfect for a quick dinner, lunch or snack. Love ’em! Thanks for sharing, and have a great weekend.

  39. Jennifer says:

    I love oven-fried foods! I never fry anything, from nuggets to french fries to “fried” zuchinni to taquitos, everything goes into the oven. Plus it makes less mess! Maybe if you give them some kind of cheap toy with their nuggets, it will replicate the McDonald’s experience and they’ll be satisfied!

  40. I already knew that you rule and McDonald’s drools!

    I make this exact recipe with tofu (freeze it and then defrost it before using for a chewier texture) and no one can tell it’s not chicken! πŸ™‚

  41. Haha! With such rave reviews these must be some awesome chicken nuggets!

  42. This is quite healthy unlike those offered by McD’s etc. One step closer to driving McD’s out of business:)

  43. I havent ever thought about making homemade chicken nuggets but my 2 year old always wants to go to ‘Wendy’s house’ (Wendy’s restaurant) for chicken nuggets fries and sauce. I cringe every time she says it cause they aren’t good. I am really excited to make these!

  44. Stephanie says:

    I love making baked chicken nuggets! I use the same method as Nicole, so both sides get crispy and I don’t have to flip them. Everyone in my house loves it when I make these. They all think I’m a wierdo, though, because I mix ranch dressing and bbq sauce for dipping. Yum!

  45. Kim in MD says:

    Healthy chicken nuggets? Count me in! They look delicious! πŸ™‚

  46. StephenC says:

    I’ve been pondering the idea for some time of making nuggets just like this. You’ve proven it can be done. I’m off the hook. Nice work!

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