Something bad is looming on the horizon.
A Chick-Fil-A is about to open a mile from my house.
I know. I KNOW.
Soon I will have unfettered access to the world’s most delectable little nuggets of chicken-y goodness… and waffle fries.
This does not bode well for me. We had a Chick-Fil-A on campus at JMU and… well, you already know how I ended up my senior year, haha. Since moving up here, though, the closest restaurant location is still quite a ways from where I live and work, so there hasn’t been too much of an issue with OD’ing on the chicken. Well, apparently that will be changing come June.
I just love those nuggets so much! And while yes, there are far worse things that I could be eating in the realm of fast food, I still don’t really NEED an extra 400 calories and 18 grams of fat for the nugs, PLUS an additional 390 calories and 20 grams of fat from the fries (and that’s without dipping sauce!) in my daily diet. (Chick-Fil-A nutrition info can be found here.)
So, in the interest of saving myself the agony of prolonging my weight loss efforts any longer than necessary, I decided that I had better be proactive about this.
Enter Iowa Girl Eats’ recipe for homemade Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Sean and I made these a month or so ago, and they are really delicious. The key? Marinating your nugs in pickle juice! They really do give them that same juicy flavor you get from the restaurant. Apparently the word is that Chick-Fil-A actually injects their chicken with pickle juice? Go figure.
Of course, while her recipe doesn’t call for deep-frying in peanut oil, like the professionals at Chick-Fil-A do, it does still call for not a small amount of oil. So this time around, with the craving for Chick-Fil-A bright in my mind, I decided to try baking them instead. Y’know, save myself a couple hundred calories so that I can shovel down MOAR CHIKEN instead. 😉
I still coated them with flour to give them a little bit of a crispness to the outside, and I also adapted the marinade just a little bit from the original recipe. You guys might not agree, but for me, True Lover of Pickles, I just didn’t find the pickle flavor to be enough last time, hehe.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that these are JUST as good as the original. I mean, c’mon, baked-something never really compares with fried-something on the flavor spectrum. But that said, these are still pretty damn good! They’re moist, fun to eat, and full of flavor. Oh, and super easy, too! This method is far less labor-intensive than pan-frying was, where I had to stand over the sizzling oil and fry them in batches. This is really closer to a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal.
These juicy little nuggets are so much fun to eat! Baked instead of deep-fried, they retain all the flavor of the nuggets you love without the extra fat and calories. You could also forgo the flour coating entirely and grill them up instead. Either way, pop them into whatever dipping sauce you like, and enjoy them guilt-free!
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders
2 cups skim milk
2 cups pickle juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose of whole wheat flour
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder
1. In a sealable bowl or large ziplock bag, combine milk, pickle juice and egg. Season with a little pepper and garlic powder if you like. Cut chicken into small, bite-sized chunks and add to marinade. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain chicken from marinade, and in a separate bowl or large ziplock bag, combine flour with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drop the chicken in, seal up the bowl or bag, and shake it until chicken pieces are thoroughly covered.
3. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread out chicken nuggets on baking sheet (you may need more than one, or to cook in batches), and bake for 18 – 20 minutes, flipping them over once.
Nutritional info per 4 oz. serving: 219 calories, 2.8 g fat, 14 g carbs, 31 g protein.
You can really make the marinade for whatever amount you want. I used up an entire package of chicken breast tenders and ended up with a ton (I like having leftovers!), but you can easily just do a single breast’s worth. Since the ratio of milk to pickle juice is 1:1, just adjust accordingly! I served these puppies alongside a salad (romaine, strawberries, and raspberry vinaigrette) and some leftover coleslaw I had that I mixed with a little chopped tomato. Noms!
I also whipped up a fakey version of Chick-Fil-A sauce (which is basically just honey mustard dressing + barbeque sauce) for some delicious dipping action. Just make sure you don’t go too overboard on the dipping sauces, since that will obviously tack on a lot of extra calories. Bon Appetit!