CASA GRANDE -- It’s always fun to try copycat recipes of favorite restaurant foods and sometimes the results can be very good.
Over the years, we’ve tried various restaurant copycat recipes for things such as gnocchi soup, lasagna, steak, biscuits and other foods.
So, a few weeks ago, when I ran across a copycat recipe for Chick-fil-A-style chicken nuggets on TikTok, I had to give it a try.
Restaurants often keep their recipes a closely guarded secret, so copycat recipes are created using a bit of guesswork. And this recipe has two surprising ingredients — pickle juice and powdered sugar.
Pickle juice is used as a brine.
Powdered sugar in the flour-based dredge gives the exterior of the chicken a unique flavor and enhances the salt and savory flavors in each bite. Some recipes for Chick-fil-A-style nuggets call for as much as a tablespoon of powdered sugar but when I made the recipe, I included only a half teaspoon — enough to give the dredge a touch of sugar without it having an overwhelming sweetness.
The chicken soaks in the pickle juice for about 20 minutes, then it’s tumbled through an egg wash and dredged through a flour mixture before being fried. The process produces a delicious chicken that would rival any fast-food restaurant.
And although pickle juice works nicely in this recipe, it’s probably not actually used in Chick-fil-A chicken. Most likely, the fast food restaurant soaks its chicken in a sugar-salt brine rather than actual pickle juice.
Whether pickle juice or a more traditional brine solution is used, the salty liquid does tenderize the chicken, breaks down the proteins and plumps the pieces up a bit, keeping the nuggets moist and juicy when they fry.
The dredge gives the chicken its flavorful and crispy exterior.
While this recipe is easy and fun to make — and it was a hit in our house — it won’t completely eliminate visits to our favorite fast-food chicken restaurants. From cutting the chicken into pieces, preparing the dredge and frying the chicken, the process takes about an hour for 24 nuggets. And then there’s the cleanup.
But it’s a fun recipe to try and sure to please most chicken nugget fans.
2 chicken breasts (for about 24 nuggets), cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup pickle juice for marinade
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup flour
¼ cup corn starch
¼ cup Panko, or other finely processed bread crumbs
½ teaspoon powdered sugar (or more or less depending on taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate chicken pieces for at least 20 minutes in pickle juice. Remove from liquid and pat dry.
Dip each piece of chicken in egg wash, then roll through flour mixture.
Working in batches, fry chicken in vegetable oil until golden brown and cooked fully on the inside — about 4 to 5 minutes each, depending on the size of the pieces.
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Mix all until well combined.