Can you air fry frozen chicken nuggets? You sure can! These air fryer frozen chicken nuggets turn out just like chicken nuggets baked in the oven. Serve them up with your favorite dip and some veggies for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Read on to learn about how to find the best chicken nuggets, what temp to air fry chicken nuggets, and much more!
We're all about EASY today. Have you ever have one of those nights when you come home and you're hungry but you just don't have the energy to make food?
Digging out a recipe and measuring stuff? Forget about it.
I get it, really, I do. Consider this post another installment in my "Keepin' it Real" series. We're making chicken nuggets.
And they're the frozen kind. I'm serious when I say all you have to do is plop them on an air fryer tray and cook them. Serve them with some dip, and your kids will gobble them up!
Seriously, what is it about chicken nuggets and kids? Anyway, this one is low effort and just about guaranteed to be a family dinner win.
Of course, I'd be a lousy dietitian if all I did was chuck an air fryer frozen chicken nugget recipe at you and then run cackling off into the sunset. So we're going to cover how to choose a healthier chicken nugget. I'm also going to share the nutrition information for frozen chicken nuggets that I use.
I hope you find this information helpful and that you use it to make your weeknights a little easier. We can all use a little break from the kitchen sometimes. Thankfully, that doesn't mean we need to neglect our health!
- How to Find the Healthiest Chicken Nuggets
- Kidfresh Frozen Chicken Nuggets Nutrition
- How to Cook Frozen Chicken Nuggets in the Air Fryer
- Air Fry Frozen Chicken Nuggets Time
- Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- What do you serve frozen chicken nuggets cooked in the air fryer with?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Other Chicken Air Fryer Recipes That You May Enjoy
- And now for the disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
How to Find the Healthiest Chicken Nuggets
So, here's the deal. If you are only eating chicken nuggets once in a very great while, I'd just go for whatever brand of frozen chicken nuggets that you enjoy. It could be Tyson chicken nuggets, whatever brand reminds you of McDonald's chicken nuggets, or something else.
It's ok to eat a food sometimes simply because you like it. Some people do have to maintain strict food restrictions as part of their medical nutrition therapy. Even in those cases, it is often possible to find substitutes for favorite foods.
But back to the nuggets. If you're eating a lot of chicken nuggets, one or more nugget meals per week, the type you choose is more important. The nuggets are a larger part of your diet, displacing other (perhaps more health-promoting) foods.
The "healthiest" nuggets, at least in terms of nutrient density and minimizing our intake of ultra-processed food, will usually be homemade chicken nuggets. With homemade nuggets, we can use whole cuts of chicken, whole grain breading, and limit the high sodium content typical of most store-bought chicken nuggets.
If you're buying frozen nuggets, aim for a product with an ingredients list similar to what you might make at home. Here are some things I want from a healthy chicken nugget:
- Minimally processed chicken meat (white meat is leaner, but dark meat is fine too)
- A breading made with little (or no) refined grains: Breading made of whole grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds would be better choices
- Minimal (or no) added sugar
- Minimal (or no) low quality added oils (canola, soy, etc.)
- Reduced sodium content (compared to competitor brands)
- The product gets bonus points for added veggies (or other nutrient dense ingredients not typically found in chicken nuggets)
Kidfresh Frozen Chicken Nuggets Nutrition
I am using Kidfresh white meat chicken nuggets for this recipe. They meet my "healthier nugget" criteria above.
The best thing, though, is that they taste normal. No weird aftertaste from the hidden veggies or whole grains. The whole family loved them.
That said, if you have a kid in that typical picky eating stage, they may be able to detect that this is not their usual nugget brand. Still, I think it might be a worthy dinner experiment to try these out sometime!
What follows is the nutrition information for the Kidfresh chicken nuggets. Information given is for ⅕ of a 14-ounce package (5 nuggets).
When having meat or poultry with a meal, I prefer that adults aim for at least 4 ounces. Thus, I think the 14-ounce package is more appropriate for 3 servings. (Multiply the calories and grams provided by 1.667 if you're dividing the package into 3 servings).
130 calories per five chicken nuggets
These nuggets are made with chicken breast, which is a lean protein. Since we're not using fatty meat, these nuggets are fairly low calorie.
Low in saturated fat
You're getting 4 grams of total fat and only 0.5 grams of saturated fat per 5 nuggets. This is because these nuggets are not fried, and they contain a minimal amount of added oil. The package states they have "70% less fat than the leading brand of breaded chicken nuggets."
Whole grain chicken nuggets
These chicken nuggets use a whole grain breading with minimal refined grains. Whole wheat flour is the second ingredient on the ingredients list (after chicken breast meat). You're getting 10 grams of whole grains per 5 nugget serving.
Protein packed chicken nuggets
You're getting 12 grams of protein per 5 chicken nuggets with this product. With the larger portion I recommend (⅓ of the package), you are getting 20 grams of protein.
Lower sodium chicken nuggets
The package states Kidfresh has "40% less sodium than the leading brand of breaded chicken nuggets." Five nuggets contain 250 mg of sodium (10% DV).
No added sugar
The ingredients list for the Kidfresh nuggets has molasses. However, it is negligible since it is pretty far down the list, and the product lists zero grams of sugars per serving.
Chicken nuggets with hidden veggies
Unbelievably, these nuggets contain hidden pureed cauliflower and hidden pureed onions. These ingredients contribute to the fiber (2 grams) and vitamin C (4% DV) per 5 nugget serving.
I will update this recipe in the future with information on other "better for you" options for chicken nuggets. Stay tuned if you cannot find the Kidfresh nuggets in your area (or if they stop being available on Amazon).
Frozen Chicken Nuggets Ingredients
To make these air fryer frozen chicken nuggets, here's what you need:
- Frozen chicken nuggets (do not thaw)
- Your favorite dip – BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, etc. (I used the Primal Kitchen BBQ sauce with no added sugar)
Chicken nugget brands other than the one I used should work fine with this recipe. Be sure to keep an eye on them the first time you air fry. You may need to adjust the baking time slightly.
The other thing you must have for this recipe is an air fryer. I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven.
Other air fryer brands, such as Ninja, and air fryers with baskets can also cook chicken nuggets. However, they may require adjusting the cook time.
If you're making the vegetable side dishes to go with chicken nuggets, here is what you need:
- Delicata squash
- Brussels sprouts
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Finally, if you were curious about the ingredients for Kidfresh white meat chicken nuggets, here they are:
- Chicken breast meat
- Whole wheat flour
- Pureed cauliflower
- Pureed onions
- Unbleached wheat flour (likely a refined flour, since the word "whole" is not used)
- Corn starch
- Yellow corn flour
- Rice starch
- Molasses (but 0 grams added sugar per serving)
- Leavening (cream of tartar, baking soda)
- Whole grain millet flour
- Sea salt
The package states that the nuggets were "browned in expeller pressed canola oil." I do appreciate the time savings here! It would take a long time to blend and shape the chicken and veggies, and then bread and brown them.
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Nuggets in the Air Fryer
Chicken nuggets cook really quickly in the air fryer, so make your side dishes first! To make the veggie side dishes I made, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop your veggies and place them in a large metal roasting pan.
That means cut your delicata squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. (You can save the seeds for roasting later.) You also need to chop the onion and slice the Brussels sprouts into halves or quarters.
Drizzle your veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the veggies in the preheated oven (about ⅓ from the top) for about one hour. Flip and stir the onions and Brussels sprouts about halfway through the cooking time.
Ok, now that that is out of the way, you can work on the air fryer frozen chicken nuggets. Spread the nuggets out in a single layer on your air fryer trays.
If your air fryer does not have two trays, you may need to cook the nuggets in two batches. Try to make sure the nuggets aren't touching for optimal air fryer air circulation.
Air Fry Frozen Chicken Nuggets Time
In an air fryer oven with two trays, frozen chicken nuggets will cook in the air fryer in approximately 20 minutes. In an air fryer with one rack, the nuggets may take a little less time. This is because they are spending the entire cooking time very close to the heating element.
To begin, air fry the frozen nuggets for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, flip the chicken nuggets over and switch the position of the air fryer trays in the oven.
Air fry your nuggets for an additional 10 minutes at 400F. They should have reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit at this point. The chicken nugget breading should be nice and crispy.
To serve, plate up your nuggets and veggies. Add about 2 tablespoons of dipping sauce to each plate. That's all there is to it!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). I normally give items with flour the bump to level 3. However, if you serve your chicken nuggets as I have here, you have a nice moderate calorie dinner the whole family can enjoy. Just add a glass of milk!
I did two main things to make this chicken nuggets meal a little more supportive of a healthy weight. The first is that I increased the nuggets' serving size compared to what is listed on the box. This move increases the meal's overall protein, which should (hopefully!) help it feel more filling.
That's right, I'm telling you to eat more! It may be easier to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight when you eat enough protein. Protein is also very important in helping us to maintain our lean body mass as we age.
The second thing I did with this meal is pile on the veggies! Vegetables provide a lot of volume for very few calories (as long as you don't drown them in oil).
Additionally, vegetables have phytonutrients linked to long-term health benefits. Most of us aren't getting the recommended amount of veggies into our day, so don't skip the veggies here! If you aren't up for roasting fresh veggies, microwaving some frozen veggies is fine too.
One vegetable that people tend to get a lot of is potatoes in fry and chip form. Instead of french fries or tater tots, consider adding some other veggies to your plate. Your plate will be more colorful, and you may develop some new side dish favorites along the way!
What do you serve frozen chicken nuggets cooked in the air fryer with?
One of the reasons I love using an air fryer for chicken nuggets is that it frees up the oven for vegetables! I'm providing a veggie recipe below, but feel free to microwave some frozen veggies instead. Here are some other side dishes that go with chicken nuggets:
- Air Fryer Jicama Fries with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce
- Air Fryer Frozen Vegetables (no more mushy frozen broccoli!)
- Wildflower Bread Chopped Salad Copycat Recipe
- Air Fryer Radish – Loaded!
- Air Fryer Squash with Brown Butter and Sage
Frequently Asked Questions
Are frozen chicken nuggets unhealthy?
My question is, "Unhealthy for who?" To use an extreme example, if you're a person who has limited their diet to solely chicken nuggets, adding more is probably not healthy for you.
On the other hand, if eating foods such as chicken nuggets and pizza ("fear foods" for some) helps you maintain your eating disorder recovery, the chicken nuggets might be an excellent food for you. Indeed, much of the general nutrition advice you find online (including on this site) is inappropriate for those with a history of eating disorders.
It's definitely possible to have an overall healthy diet that includes the occasional meal of chicken nuggets. In terms of nutrient density and amount of processing, I would not say that frozen chicken nuggets are the best choice. That said, stressing out over eating 100% "perfectly" all of the time often isn't optimal either.
Is it safe to eat uncooked frozen chicken nuggets?
Though the breading on frozen chicken nuggets may appear cooked, the chicken underneath may be raw. It needs to be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent food poisoning.
Can you cook chicken nuggets and fries together in air fryer?
Yes, you can cook chicken nuggets and fries (or chicken nuggets and tater tots, etc.) together in an air fryer. However, there are a few main issues that I can see arising with this:
- Air fryer running out of room: My large capacity air fryer just barely had enough space for the whole package of chicken nuggets. Most air fryers won't fit nuggets and sides together unless you're making a single serving.
- Moisture: If your air fryer has two racks, foods that release moisture as they air fry could make your nuggets soggy. This is probably going to be a much larger issue with frozen green vegetables than with frozen fries.
- Food safety: No matter what you cook your chicken nuggets with, they must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't pull everything out of the oven just because one thing looks done.
- Varied cooking times: If your nuggets finish cooking through first, you can take them out of the air fryer and continue cooking the fries.
Can I keep chicken nuggets in the refrigerator instead of the freezer?
You could keep frozen chicken nuggets in the refrigerator, but it would drastically shorten their shelf life. You should not keep uncooked chicken nuggets in the fridge for more than 1-2 days. Frozen chicken nuggets will stay fresh in the freezer for months.
Additionally, this recipe (and most oven recipes for frozen chicken nuggets) provide directions for cooking from frozen. You will need to adjust the baking or air frying times if the nuggets have been thawed.
Cooked chicken nuggets will keep in the fridge for about 3 days, similar to other leftovers. Unfortunately, the leftover nuggets may not have as crisp a coating as when they were first cooked.
Your best bet is to keep chicken nuggets in the freezer. Only cook or air fry the amount that your family will eat in that meal.
Are air fryer chicken nuggets keto?
Most chicken nuggets contain grains high up in the ingredients list, so they are not keto diet friendly. Your best bet for keto nuggets is probably going to be to make them yourself. Here is a recipe for keto baked chicken nuggets that uses almond flour.
Are chicken nuggets gluten free?
The Kidfresh chicken nuggets are not gluten free, as they have wheat flour in the ingredients. Applegate brand makes frozen gluten free chicken nuggets that get pretty good reviews. If you can't find them locally, they are available at Whole Foods through Amazon.
Other Chicken Air Fryer Recipes That You May Enjoy
Are you looking for more ways to cook chicken in an air fryer? If you like frozen chicken nuggets, I highly recommend my Air Fryer Chicken Patties recipe. You can cut the chicken breasts into different shapes to make air fryer chicken nuggets or air fryer chicken strips instead!
Let's not forget though that crispy chicken bites aren't the only way to enjoy this delicious poultry. Here are some other air fryer chicken recipes to add to your repertoire:
- Air Fryer BBQ Chicken (Easy Dinner Idea!)
- Air Fryer Rotisserie Chicken
- Frozen Chicken Wings in Air Fryer (Buffalo Wings Recipe)
- Air Fryer Chicken Shawarma Bowls
- Air Fryer Chicken Legs with Mustard and Herbs
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Nuggets
- 14 ounces frozen chicken nuggets (397 grams)
- 6 tablespoons BBQ sauce with no added sugar (or other dip of your choosing)
For the vegetable sides:
- 2 small delicata squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (approximately 24 ounces total)
- 32 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (907 grams)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Make your veggie side dishes first! Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- If you haven't already, cut the delicata squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. (Save the seeds for roasting later.) Chop the onion and slice (the (trimmed) Brussels sprouts into halves or quarters.
- Place the veggies in a large metal roasting pan. Put the delicata squash halves in the pan cut side up. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the veggies in the preheated oven for about one hour. Flip and stir the onions and Brussels sprouts about halfway through the cooking time. Air fry the chicken nuggets while your veggies cook.
- Spread the nuggets out in a single layer on two air fryer trays. Try to make sure the nuggets aren't touching for optimal air fryer air circulation.
- Air fry the frozen nuggets for 10 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Then, flip the chicken nuggets over and switch the position of the air fryer trays in the oven.
- Air fry your nuggets for an additional 10 minutes at 400°F (200°C). They should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and the chicken nugget breading should be nice and crispy.
- To serve: divide the nuggets and veggies between three plates. Add two tablespoons of dipping sauce to each plate. Enjoy!