Cauliflower Chicken Nuggets

We’re giving chicken nuggets a healthy (and tasty) makeover with riced cauliflower.

We're giving chicken nuggets a healthy (and tasty) makeover with riced cauliflower.

Chicken nuggets are a comfort food for me. They remind me of rare and exciting family dinners at McDonald’s. I’m not sure if this was a thing or not for other people, but I used to get them with straight up honey to dip. They were so good. But they were, of course, not good for me. Which was why my parents wisely didn’t take us there often. And that’s why I don’t take my kids there often either.

Chicken nuggets don’t have to be unhealthy though. There are ways to make them much better for you. The simplest thing is to use a whole wheat or bran flake crust and then bake them instead of fry them. For today’s recipe, I went with bran flakes for the extra fiber and sprayed them with cooking spray and then baked them at a high temperature (400°F) to help them brown.

You can absolutely do that with chicken pieces. Get chicken breasts and slice them 3/4 inches thick rounds. Bread the rounds and bake them. I have a boneless wing recipe similar to that method over here and here’s a really quick and simple way to bread chicken prior to baking.

Another way to make your chicken nuggets even healthier is by mixing in a vegetable, like cauliflower. That’s what I did here. I used riced cauliflower, which you can buy at the grocery store already chopped up into tiny pieces, or you can make the crumbles yourself following these instructions. The riced cauliflower gets cooked in the microwave until tender and then mixed together with chopped, cooked chicken. You form the chicken and cauliflower mixture into nuggets and bread those before baking them.

I will admit that these are a tad time-consuming to make. Sorry! But they’re actually really convenient because they’re so easily freezable. I make a big batch of them and then freeze them on a tray in a single layer. Once they’re frozen, I transfer them to a freezer bag. Then I can heat up a few for a quick dinner for the kids, or even put them still frozen into the kids’ lunches. They’ll defrost by lunchtime.

Sweet, right?

Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 65 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. cauliflower florets
  • 3 cups cooked chopped chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • eggs, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 and 1/2 cups bran flakes

Directions:

  1. Place cauliflower and 2 Tbsp. water in bowl. Cover loosely and microwave HIGH for 2 minutes at a time, for 5-6 minutes or until very tender.
  2. Place cauliflower, chicken and salt in food processor and pulse into very small pieces.
  3. Whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk in small bowl. Add to cauliflower and puree until smooth. Mixture should be slightly damp but able to hold together when pressed. If too dry, add a drizzle of milk and puree.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray large baking sheet with baking spray.
  5. Put flour on plate. In bowl whisk together remaining eggs and milk. In separate bowl, add bran flakes and crumble into small pieces.
  6. Scoop 1 Tbsp. of cauliflower mixture and drop gently into flour. Use fingers to roll around to coat, forming into a ball. Remove from flour and place in egg mixture; flip to coat. Remove and place into bran flakes. Roll around to coat. Transfer ball to prepared baking sheet and press down and flatten into a ¾" inch thick oval. Spray nuggets with baking spray.
  7. Place in oven and bake 15 minutes, or until nuggets begin to darken underneath. Flip and cook 10 minutes. Serve immediately or allow to cool on pan.

Christine Pittman

Christine is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Cookful. She also blogs at COOKtheSTORY where she specializes in easy healthy homemade recipes. Healthiness aside, she has been known to shred cheese onto a dinner plate, microwave it for 30 seconds, and then eat the messy goop with a spoon.