Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets on simplebites.net #schoollunch

How to make homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets

I first noticed Noah’s affinity for chicken nuggets on our summer road trip. We ate out more on that vacation that we have all year and he never failed to peruse the menu for this rarity in our family diet.

(Side note, why did no one warn me about the risks of taking a new reader to a restaurant? Suddenly, they are acutely aware of menu options. Milkshakes! Sundaes! Side of fries! And where did this sense of entitlement come from? It must be an eight-year-old thing. But I digress.)

I have no clue where his affections formed for this item (they don’t fit into our whole foods diet) , but Noah maintained a steady request for chicken nuggets at any diner, cafe or restaurant that listed them on the menu. I, true to form, stood my ground and played the “while we’re on the coast we’re going to enjoy the good seafood” card, and he had to be content with fish and chips. Oh gee, the hardship of enduring fresh-caught halibut and haddock. Actually, the boys both love fish, and, nugget notions aside, they were easy to please most evenings.

Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets n simplebites.net #schoollunch

I forgot all about Noah’s requests until I was flipping through my latest cookbook, Weelicious Lunches, from Catherine of Weelicious and spotted her recipe for chicken nuggets. Hmm, chicken breast, mashed potatoes, spices, breadcrumbs….wait a minute, these perfect little lunch box proteins were actually pretty simple to make from scratch with real ingredients.

I don’t know about you, but I always find my lunch box ‘mains’ get boring. I can mix up the fruits and vegetables and bake up a storm of treats like cookie and cereal bars, but beyond the sandwich and the wrap, I’m not much good.

The make-ahead-and-freeze option appealed to the lover of batch cooking in me, and Catherine’s recipes are always tasty.  That day I whizzed up a batch in my food processor, baked them until crisp, and served them up for the boy’s lunches today.

Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets n simplebites.net #schoollunch

The results? Approved! Both boys gave the green light for future school lunches. Clara wasn’t convinced, but she’s on a bit of an anti-meat kick right now, so her little opinion doesn’t count.

You could keep these warm for lunches in a thermos or insulated bag, or why not just serve them cold, with a buttermilk dip or a side of ranch dressing and baby carrots? Sounds like a good lunch to me.

How to make homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets
5.0 from 3 reviews
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Recipe type: School Lunch
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 24 nuggets
Approved by children, and baked, not fried, these little protein bites are an ideal lunch box snack.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground savory
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Place the chicken, mashed potatoes, parsley, garlic powder, savory, and salt in a food processor and pulse until smooth and combined.
  3. In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan.
  4. With moistened hands, roll 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture between your palms and flatten into a "nugget" shape.
  5. Gently press the nugget into the bread crumb mixture to coat and flatten slightly.
  6. Transfer to a lightly greased cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with foil.
  7. Lightly spray the nuggets with cooking spray.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crispy outside and cooked throughout.
  9. Serve hot with a dipping sauce, such as honey mustard or homemade ketchup.
Notes
Freezing directions: after the nuggets are shaped and coated, but not baked, place them on a sheet tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to a ziplock bag, seal and freeze for up to 4 months. To bake: do not defrost, just add 3-5 minutes to the baking time.

 

Do you have a favorite lunchbox protein to send to school or bring to work?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. How did I not think to freeze these before? We’ve reluctantly made fish and chicken into nugget form for years, how did kids get this hard wired love of breading? We’ve gotten them to try many a new food just by breading it.
    Robin from Frugal Family Times’s last post: Simple Healthy Salsa Recipe (Yes, You Can Can!)

  2. Nice and easy and perfect for any lunch box!
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking’s last post: Caprese Chicken Pesto Pasta

  3. I love her ideas! My kids would flip for this in their lunches!!

  4. OK- I think I already know the answer to this, but are you using cooked or raw chicken in the recipe??

  5. How can I keep this warm in my kids lunch box? Thank you.

  6. Never mind! I found the answer – by using a thermos or insulated bag. Thank you for a great recipe!

  7. We are a week and a half into our school year, and already I’m getting burned out on the lunchboxes. For the first time, I am packing two lunches (!!) a day and it’s easy to run out of ideas quickly. We will definitely be trying this one! I’m not sure that my girls have ever had chicken nuggets before, so this will be fun to surprise them!
    Allison’s last post: Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (Slow Cooker Meal) . . .

  8. OH MY! I will SO BE MAKING THESE! I realized we have been to mcdonald’s too often, so more fun & healthy lunches at home will be happening. THANK YOU!!!!

  9. LOVE the book & this super healthy lunchbox you packed!

  10. YUMMY! just to clarify, the chicken goes into the food processor raw? i’ve never done that and wondered if it processes it well. thanks for this lunchbox recipe!

  11. HAHA i didn’t read the previous comments and my question has already been asked and answered! and by someone with the same name!

  12. This is brilliant!! I’ll definitely be adding this to the lunchbox menu sometime soon. :)
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel’s last post: Spiced Apple Chutney {Guest Post}

  13. Cute lunch! I don’t know what it is about the breading, but I know that chicken strips (or nuggets) are still frequently requested by my 13 year old who’s 6′-tall and out-eats all of us. I’ve never made them with a mashed potato base, only pieces of chicken, and I’m dying to try it to see if it keeps him feeling fuller longer.

    • This made me chuckle, Jan. You have your work cut out for you feeding these boys!!! I know I’ll be in the same boat before long. Mad hungry, anyone?

      Let me know what you discover. Maybe add a little ground almonds in the breading? Almonds are great for energy boosts.

  14. it was ALL over when they learned to read…FRIES are always requiested
    Heather @ French Press’s last post: Quick and Easy Pigs in a Blanket

  15. We will have to make these for Caleb!
    Maria’s last post: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

  16. Chicken nuggets are the best no matter what your age! I’m loving these, AND catherines new book!
    Gaby’s last post: Let’s Talk School Lunches

  17. I have great childhood memories of homemade chicken nuggets piled high and set down at the center of our dinner table. Monday nights. They were delicious. Nostalgia….:)
    Melissa @ A Cozy Bee’s last post: skillet fajitas with hatch rajas con crema & sopa de papas y rajas con crema

  18. We love homemade chicken nuggets at our house. I have to say I love love love those tiny carrots. Too cute!
    Jamie | Jamie’s Recipes’s last post: A Lovely Labor Day Weekend + Baked Taco Recipe

  19. Okay. I am SO wanting to try this but have a few questions. If I want them to be warm still by lunchtime (I’ve got a thermos I could put them in) how do I warm them up in the first place? Do I need to bake them that morning and then put them in the thermos? Or do I pop them in the microwave (assuming they were already cooked and just chilling in the fridge) and then into the thermos? Can you freeze these AFTER they’ve been baked or only before? Lol. Sorry so many questions. Meat just always makes me nervous to do something wrong.

    • Hi Debbie. Don’t be nervous! So, I suggest you pop them in a toaster oven or the oven set to 350F to warm them in the morning. Say, 3-5 minutes. You could then wrap them in foil, or stash them in a thermos or insulated lunch bag. You could also bake them from frozen in the morning, yes. This is what I do when I am packing three lunches (hubby takes them too!). You can freeze before OR after baked. I currently have some fully cooked, and frozen.

  20. I’m sorry to be fussy, but the recipe doesn’t have onion powder, but has ground savory, yet the narrative has onion powder and no savory. And can I sub sage for savory? I really want this to work, because I love this idea!

    • So sorry about that, Robin. You know what? Either would work. Catherine uses onion powder, which I am out of. I added a dash of ground savoury, as I like it paired with chicken. I think a little ground sage would be nice too. Happy Cooking.

  21. Great recipe! Thanks for sharing! :)

  22. I was wondering if you can taste the mashed potatoes. My boys will not eat potatoes at all unless I make my own French fries. (No they don’t like fast food fries either.) This sounds wonderful as I too have a boys that loves nuggets.

  23. Curious about these versus just cutting chicken breasts into nugget-size pieces and pan frying them, rather than food processing into small pieces with mashed potatoes? Is it for ease of chewing?

    • Hi Rachel, that is a good point, but I think because the breasts have a tendency to dry out SO quickly, this is a better route. My buttermilk mashed potatoes really kept the nuggets moist.
      It also allows for infusing them with some actual flavour! Breasts are so bland, no mater how much seasoning there is on the outside, they can still be tasteless. Sorry! Just not a big fan of chicken breasts in general. :)

  24. will try these chicken nuggets soon..thanks for the recipe!!

  25. Love this! I make chicken breast tenders that are similar, but no mashed potato. I’ll have to try that sometime. I also add a little ground flax to the breading for a tiny bit of added nutrition :)
    Katie’s last post: Giveaway Wednesday– Microplane!

  26. I remember seeing these on Catherine’s blog but didn’t get around to making them. We had them tonight, and my picky toddler loved them! It is such a good feeling when you know your little ones have a full tummy and enjoyed eating real food. Thanks so much to both of you!

  27. Could you use ground chicken breast for this? It seems like it would process even smoother… I’ll definitely be making these!

  28. Divine! I bet it’s just as delicious for adults too ;)
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com’s last post: Paneer Tikka with Peach Cilantro Chutney

  29. I am definitely trying this but will make it with sweet potato instead

  30. Mashed potatoes IN my chicken nuggets. You are a miracle worker. These are a MUST make asap!!
    stephchows’s last post: National Donate your Hair Day

  31. Hi Aimee,

    Someone may have already asked, but aren’t panko bread crumbs made of white flour? I know you said you were trying to make the chicken nuggets whole foods based. Do you use whole wheat panko bread crumbs?
    Archer’s last post: 9 Observations from My Facebook Hiatus

  32. Delicious, I even love chicken nuggets every once in a while for myself so I will be saving this recipe :)

  33. Great idea. I can’t wait to try it! My only child just started kindergarten and I’m trying to find some options we are both happy with. I too have done wraps and sandwiches; two other popular choices have been meat and cheese skewered on toothpicks and make your own cheese (and meat) and crackers.

  34. I made these tonight, they turned out wonderful. My 2 year old still wouldn’t eat them (he hates meat) but my 1 year old and husband gobbled them up! We are gluten free so I used almond flour for the breading instead of Panko bread crumbs and it was perfect. I coated the baking sheet with olive oil, turned them after 15 minutes, and they were golden and crisp. I froze some too, excited to see how they turn out!

  35. I’ve done my second batch last night (I doubled this recipe this time.)
    It always comes perfect and delicious! (Even though I didn’t put the ground savory.)
    Thanks for the recipe, Aimee!

    *I also posted about this recipe on my blog (It is written in Korean.).
    Clara’s last post: [Recipe] 홈메이드 치킨너겟 (Homemade lunchbox chicken nugget)

  36. I just made these for the second time. This time I toasted the panko (10 minutes over medium heat with 1 T oil per cup of bread crumbs). This made a big difference in creating a crunchy, flavorful crust! I must be breading the nuggets too much, though, because a double recipe only covered about 1.5 times the recipe for filling.

  37. I finally made these for the first time last night, insisting that my boyfriend help me for the nuggets and coat them in their ‘crust’. They were a serious HIT! I’ll be making these again for sure!

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