Chicken Nuggets Vs. Plant-Based Nuggets

With more and more plant-based alternative foods popping up in stores, I wanted to look at some of the plant-based versions of popular foods to find out the difference between the meat and the plant version.

In this article, I’m going to be comparing plant-based nuggets against chicken nuggets to find the truth on whether the plant-based versions are any healthier than the meat version.

Read on to see comparisons on nutrition, cost, flavor, and take part in our poll to tell us which is your favorite.

Chicken Nuggets Vs. Plant-Based Nuggets Nutritional Comparison

The first and foremost comparison that we’ll look at is a nutritional comparison between a chicken nugget and a plant-based chicken nugget to determine which is best for calorie content, carbs, protein, dietary fiber, and sodium.

To make a like-for-like comparison, I’m comparing two nugget types with a similar breadcrumb coating based on a weight-for-weight comparison.

For information, the brands I’m comparing are MorningStar Farms Chik’N Nuggets (meat-free) vs. Tyson Chicken Nuggets (a popular US brand).

Please note nutritional information will vary slightly between various brands and nugget types depending on their ingredients.

close up of nuggets on a plate with ketchup

Best for Calorie Content

For the first category, I’ve compared chicken nuggets against meat-free nuggets for calories per 100g of product.

The nuggets with the least calories were the meat-free nuggets which contained 79kcal fewer calories per 100g when compared to the chicken meat version.

Nugget TypeCalories Per 100g of Product
Chicken Nuggets300kcal
Meat-Free Nuggets221kcal

Best for Carbohydrate Content

If you’re keeping track of the number of carbs you’re consuming, then chicken nuggets are the lower-carb choice when compared to meat-free nuggets.

The meat-free nuggets I compared contained 4.3g more carbs per 100g than chicken nuggets and also had some added sugar.

Nugget TypeCarbohydrates Per 100g of Productof Which are Sugars
Chicken Nuggets16.7g0g
Meat-Free Nuggets21g2.3g

Best for Protein Content

As you would expect, the meat chicken nuggets contain more protein per 100g of product; however, it’s worth pointing out that there’s only a slight difference and meat-free nuggets contain protein-rich soy, which helps keep protein at a level that rivals the meat version.

Nugget TypeProtein Per 100g of Product
Chicken Nuggets15.6g
Meat-Free Nuggets15.1g

Best for Fat Content

Moving on to fat content, meat-free nuggets win this category because they contain half the fat of the meat version and have less saturated fat.

Nugget TypeFat Per 100g of Productof Which is Saturated Fat
Chicken Nuggets18.9g4.4g
Meat-Free Nuggets9.3g1.2g

Cholesterol

If cholesterol is a consideration for you, it’s worth knowing that chicken nuggets contain 44mg of cholesterol compared to meat-free nuggets, which have no cholesterol per 100g.

Best for Fiber Content

When it comes to chicken nuggets, fiber isn’t something you associate with this kind of food, but opting for a meat-free version will provide you with some dietary fiber compared to the meat version, which contains no fiber.

Nugget TypeDietary Fibre Per 100g of Product
Chicken Nuggets0g
Meat-Free Nuggets4.7g

Best for Sodium/Salt Content

In the sodium category, meat-free nuggets were the winners with 173mg less sodium per 100g compared with chicken nuggets.

To put this into context, with the nuggets I compared, a serving of chicken nuggets contains 20% of the daily allowance compared to meat-free nuggets, which have 13%.

Nugget TypeSodium/Salt Per 100g of Product
Chicken Nuggets522mg
Meat-Free Nuggets349mg

Best for Vitamins/Minerals

Meat-free nuggets are the winner of the vitamins and minerals category with more per serving than the meat version.

This makes sense being plant-based, but it’s also worth noting that there is some missing or unclear data regarding the daily value for all nutrients in chicken nuggets.

Vitamin/Mineral TypeDaily Value % For Chicken NuggetsDaily Value % For Meat-Free Nuggets
Vitamin A0%0%
Vitamin C0%0%
Calcium0%2%
Potassium2%4%
Iron0%8%
Vitamin D0%0%
ThiaminNo data25%
RiboflavinNo data6%
NiacinNo data20%
Vitamin B6No data10%
Vitamin B120%35%

Best for Price

Prices vary between brands, and also, both types of nuggets are sold in different pack sizes, so to keep things as fair as possible, I’ve based the cost on an average price per serving.

Please note that prices will vary between brands, and this information is correct at the time of writing (March 2022).

The average cost of breaded chicken nuggets is around $0.64 per serving, compared to meat-free nuggets, which cost an average of $1.19 per serving.

Based on this information, chicken nuggets are currently the lower cost option per serving.

Overall Winner

Using all of the information above, I can now confirm which type of nuggets has won the most categories, and the winner is… meat-free chicken nuggets!

It was a close contest, but with the nuggets I compared, the meat-free nuggets are the winners based on nutritional factors, including being lower in calories, fat, sodium while being higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the chicken version.

Read on to see more information on ingredients and take our poll to tell us which is your favorite nugget.

Comparison CategoryWinner (Chicken Nuggets or Meat-Free Nuggets)
Best for Calorie ContentMeat-Free Nuggets
Best for Carbohydrate ContentChicken Nuggets
Best for Sugar ContentChicken Nuggets
Best for Protein ContentChicken Nuggets
Best for Fat ContentMeat-Free Nuggets
Best for Fiber ContentMeat-Free Nuggets
Best for Sodium ContentMeat-Free Nuggets
Best for Vitamins/MineralsMeat-Free Nuggets
Best for PriceChicken Nuggets
Overall WinnerMeat-Free Nuggets

Best for Flavor/Texture

I’ve not included flavor and texture in the overall comparison because this is a subjective opinion that requires a poll across a broad demographic to get an accurate answer.

You can help out by voting in the poll below to tell other readers and us which is your favorite, and once you vote, the results so far will be revealed.

Which do you prefer?

Ingredients Comparison

For information, the table below shows the ingredients comparison for each type of nugget I used in this article.

As a reminder, the chicken nuggets brand I reviewed is Tyson Breaded chicken nuggets, and MorningStar Farms produce the Meat-Free Nuggets.

Chicken Nuggets IngredientsMeat-Free Nuggets Ingredients
Chicken, Water, Wheat Flour, Contains 2% Or Less Of The Following: Brown Sugar, Corn Starch, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Dried Yeast, Extractives Of Paprika, Natural Flavor, Oat Fiber, Salt, Spices, Wheat Starch, White Whole Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour. Breading Set In Vegetable Oil.Water, wheat flour, soy protein concentrate, vegetable oil (corn, canola and/or sunflower), soy protein isolate.contains 2% or less of wheat gluten, yellow corn flour, methylcellulose, potato starch, cornstarch, yeast extract, sugar, salt, natural flavors, wheat starch, dextrose, spices, onion powder, potassium chloride, yeast, glutamic acid, paprika (color), leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate), garlic powder, citric acid, xanthan gum, barley malt extract.

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Canned Corn Vs. Frozen (Which is Best?)

References Used for this Article

To ensure the nutritional information used in this article is accurate, I have used data from both the original producers and the USDA; the links below contain the source information:

MorningStar Farms Meat Free nuggets nutritional information

USDA chicken nugget nutritional information