Growing up as a vegetarian 20 years ago, there weren’t many different meat alternatives on the market. I remember a lot of Morningstar Farms, and that was pretty much it. Nowadays, there are so many different options, and it makes my vegetarian heart happy. I remember being scared to go on field trips in school, because I didn’t know if I would be able to eat lunch at whatever restaurant the bus would stop at. While not all food chains have options yet, I see exciting things brewing in the news. It’s awesome to know that young vegetarians don’t have to be as anxious about their lifestyle as I was. (Don’t misunderstand me though, I wouldn’t change the way I was brought up for the world).
Even though there are a lot of fun meat alternatives both in restaurants and grocery stores, I do try to eat heavily processed foods in moderation. Most of the protein from my diet comes from more whole sources like tofu, tempeh, lentils, soy curls, and beans; however, sometimes I just want to mix things up and have an easy meal. The meatless section at the grocery store can be overwhelming. With how expensive meat alternatives can be, I don’t want to waste money on ones that I don’t love.
I thought I would review different products and compare them in case you are curious like me. Meatless chicken products are definitely my favorite kind of alternative, so that’s where I wanted to start! I have very little experience tasting real chicken, as I’ve been a vegetarian almost my whole life (all but a couple of years in the college/newlywed era). Even in those “experimental” years, I didn’t eat meat at all and never beef. Therefore, I wanted to be sure to include my husband’s thoughts too, as he has only been a vegetarian for about 2.5 years.
Most of my groceries have been purchased online and picked up curbside for the past two years, and that has made it harder to look for new products. Also, some of the items that I’ve ordered have repeatedly been out of stock. Thus, I am going to treat this as an evergreen post. As I find and try different products, I’ll add them to the list. If I make an update, I’ll be sure to make a note about it on my Instagram page @its.just.that.c.z .
Let me preface these reviews by saying that:
- I don’t have a microwave, so all of the nuggets were either baked or air fried. From experience, choosing to bake over microwave is a game changer, especially when it comes to the breading.
- All prices are from my local stores (mainly Kroger). To be honest, I usually buy whichever brand is on sale or what I have a coupon for.
- And as far as servings sizes go… we always finish a box off between the two of us.
- These are just our initial opinions from right after we ate them.
Average of me and my husband’s scores out of 10
- Quorn Meatless Nuggets– 8.5
- Incogmeato by Morningstar Farms– 8.25
- Gardein Ultimate– 8
- Boca Original Nuggets– 7.25
- Beyond Meat Plant-Based Chicken Tenders– 7.25
- Impossible Chicken Nuggets– 6.75
- Simulate Chicken Nuggs- 6.75
- Dino Simulate Chicken Nuggs– 6.75
Most realistic: Gardein Ultimate Nuggets
Best tasting to me: Morningstar Farms Incogmeato
Best tasting to my husband: Quorn Meatless Nuggets
Best price per serving: Boca Original Chik’n Veggie Nuggets
Impossible Chicken Nuggets
- Regularly priced at 7.99 for 4 servings
- $2.00 per serving
Overall: 6.75/10 (Noah: 7.5/10 and Gabriela: 6/10)
- Breading: thin and basic
- Flavor: like a standard, cheap chicken nugget, lightly seasoned and not very buttery
- Texture: the middle is more dense than flakey
I was really looking forward to these, especially because it took a while for me to find them; however, they didn’t live up to the hype. For the price, you can definitely find a better tasting nugget.I was surprised how much I liked them!
Incogmeato by Morningstar Farms
- Regularly priced at $6.39 for 4.5 servings
- $1.42 per serving
Overall: 8.25/10 (Noah: 8/10 and Gabriela: 8.5/10)
- Breading: really good and crisp
- Flavor: like a regular, buttery chicken nugget
- Texture: slightly softer than an actual chicken nugget with a little chewiness
I am not sure how these differ from the original Morningstar Farms nuggets (or if they even do), but I think baking these makes a big difference. I was surprised how much I liked them! They aren’t the most realistic, but I think they have the most buttery taste.
Quorn Meatless Nuggets
- Regularly priced at $3.99 for 2.5 servings
- $1.60 per serving
- Contain egg and milk but no soy
Overall: 8.5/10 (Noah: 9/10 and Gabriela: 8/10)
- Breading: nice and crisp but has a tendency to separate from the middle of the nugget
- Flavor: have a little twang at the end
- Texture: perfectly tender, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is slightly more grainy on the inside than a regular chicken nugget.
These are a great non-soy option if you are okay with the milk and eggs. They have a unique taste that isn’t quite like real chicken (probably from the Mycoprotein- a fungal protein), but I happen to like it.
Simulate Chicken Nuggs
- Regularly priced at $5.49 for 3.5 servings
- $1.57 per serving
OVERALL: 6.75/10 (NOAH: 6.5/10 AND GABRIELA: 7/10)
- Breading: nice, crispy outside like a battered onion ring
- Flavor: like a thin chicken nugget from McDonalds, buttery taste with a slight twang at the end
- Texture: not very meaty, relatively thin.
Overall, they seemed the cheapest to me because of how thin they were.
Dino Simulate Chicken Nuggs
- Regularly priced at $4.98 for 3.5 servings (Walmart)
- $1.42 per serving
OVERALL: 6.75/10 (NOAH: 6.5/10 AND GABRIELA: 7/10)
We couldn’t tell the difference in taste between the dinosaur and regularly-shaped nuggets, but the dinosaur ones have 2 less grams of protein per serving (11 grams instead of 13 grams swapped out for carbs) for the same number of calories.
Some of the dinosaurs were fairly blob-like, but I think the idea is fun. I would recommend them for older kids!
- Regularly priced at $7.99 for 4.5 servings
- $1.78 per serving
OVERALL: 8/10 (NOAH: 8.5/10 AND GABRIELA: 7.5/10)
- Breading: not as crunchy as some of the others
- Texture: very realistic, thick, and chewy
- Flavor: not as buttery as I thought they would be
These are hands-down the most realistic nuggets that I have had. If that is your barometer for success, they would be the best.
Boca Original Nuggets
- Regularly priced at $3.79 for 3.5 servings
- $1.08 per serving
OVERALL: 7.25/10 (NOAH: 8/10 AND GABRIELA: 6.5/10)
- Breading: reminds him of Noodles and Company parmesan crusted chicken
- Flavor: one of the better tasting ones (Noah), basic (Gabriela)
- Texture: not very “chicken nuggety”, soft in the middle. Not the thickest and not the thinnest
My husband and I were a little divided on this one. This is the cheapest option, and they are good for the price!
Beyond Meat Plant-Based Chicken Tenders
- Regularly priced at $4.99 for 3 servings
- $1.66 per serving
OVERALL: 7.25/10 (NOAH: 8.5/10 AND GABRIELA: 6/10)
- Flavor: like real chicken, standard, not too seasoned or buttery
- Texture: realistic and hearty. The chew of it was almost gristle-like, and I personally hate that part about real chicken. My husband loved it though.
My young toddler- I’ll speak for my son here and say that it was harder to eat than some nuggets on the market because of the thickness and chewiness. That said, he did eat one entire nugget, and they are pretty large (2 is a full serving). I could tell it wasn’t his favorite nugget, but it didn’t get chucked on the ground either.
Maybe my air fryer is odd, but the nuggets weren’t even close to being done after the five minute cooking time indicated on the package. They were only 63 degrees instead of 145. I ended up cooking them another 7 minutes before they were done, and I’ve never had that issue with similar products before.
So according to the reviews thus far, my husband’s favorite is the Quorn nuggets, and my favorite is the Morningstar Farms Incogmeato. Honestly, going into this review, I really thought my favorite was going to be the Gardein Ultimate nuggets, because I had had them in the tender form before; however, I think I like them as the tender better! That said, if you are wanting the most realistic nugget, the Gardein Ultimate ones are the way to go for sure.
Like I said, I hope to keep adding to this list (Last updated- 6/11/2022).
Let me know if there are any other brands you are curious about and if there are other kinds of products that you would like me to review! Maybe beef crumbles or restaurant meals?
Follow along at @its.just.that.c.z for more!