Last Updated July 30, 2021
I am addicted to Chick-Fil-A nuggets, but I love to grill, so I’ve made a copycat version of grilled Chick-Fil-A nuggets using two (no longer) secret ingredients to make them extra juicy and well seasoned.
This is one of the most viewed recipes on my website because it’s easy, healthy and oh so delicious.
To start, grab some boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders and dice them into even size pieces. Then, we can get to the secrets…
The first secret ingredient in grilled Chick-Fil-A nuggets is pickle juice
Simply, use the juice straight out of the jar from your favorite type of pickles. I recommend going with dill pickle juice, but if you prefer sweet or bread and butter pickles, go for it.
Be mindful that not all pickles and hence not all pickle juice is the same. Some have way more sodium than others. Check the label on the jar to make sure you don’t pick one that’s too salty.
Here is some info from the nutrition labels of some popular brands. This level of sodium is per ounce.
Heinz dill chips = 60 mg
Wickles Original Pickles = 150 mg
Vlasic dill spears = 220 mg
Mt Olive dill spears = 240 mg
Mt Olive dill chips = 290 mg
Claussen dill spears = 330 mg
Vlasic stackers = 410 mg
Brine the chicken
To create the brine, you’re going to combine the pickle juice with some milk. You can use whole or low-fat, depending on your diet. If you use a milk alternative like almond milk, just make sure it’s not flavored or sweetened.
Place the chicken nuggets in a bowl or zip top bag and pour the juice and milk right on top. Give it a gentle stir. The brine is the secret to making the nuggets extra juicy.
I don’t recommend marinating the nuggets for longer than 30 minutes, because too much brine time can make them too salty.
The second secret ingredient is powdered sugar
After the chicken brines for 30 minutes in the pickle juice and milk, you’ll rub it with the powdered sugar and other seasonings.
Adding the sugar to the dry rub helps create a nice crust on the nuggets and balances out the seasonings.
Don’t try this recipe with granulated or brown sugar. It won’t be the same.
Powdered sugar is usually combined with corn starch. That’s the component that gives the nuggets their nice texture.
When I first created this recipe in 2015, the rub was a little different. I included it in the recipe notes, if you’re interested.
Now, that I have my own award-winning Chicken Rub from Spiceology, I just mix two teaspoons of it with the powdered sugar.
How to grill copycat Chick-Fil-A nuggets
You can make these on any type of grill. I usually use a gas grill, because it’s such a quick cook, but you could also use a charcoal grill, pellet grill or even an indoor grill. Just heat the grill to high or about 400F degrees.
For juicy nuggets, you only need to grill them about 3 minutes per side.
Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F degrees.
Chick-Fil-A copycat honey mustard sauce
If you’re like me, you can’t have the nuggets without the sauce, so I’ve included my copycat version of Chick-Fil-A’s honey mustard dipping sauce below.
It uses mayo, two types of mustard, and of course honey. The touch of vinegar gives it the added pop. You could also use hot honey or add a dash of hot sauce, if you like a little heat.
How closely does this match the ingredients in actual grilled Chick-Fil-A nuggets?
This is a question I get asked a lot. So here you go. Below is the ingredients list straight from their website:
Chicken (boneless skinless chicken breast, water, apple cider vinegar, soybean oil, modified corn starch, salt, yeast extract, sugar, chicken breast meat, chicken broth, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, sea salt, cane molasses, spices, chicken fat, natural flavor [including smoke], lemon peel, red bell pepper, paprika, lemon juice concentrate, parsley and vinegar solids, xanthan gum, and calcium disodium EDTA [to protect quality]).
The chicken breasts is an obvious match.
The water, vinegar, salt, onion, garlic, pepper and herbs are ingredients you’ll find in pickle juice, so that’s a close match.
They don’t list milk, so my brine recipe differs in that manner. If you have a dairy intolerance or just don’t want to use milk, you could follow their ingredients list more closely and substitute the milk with oil and chicken broth.
I like the milk, because it helps break down the chicken to make it tender, and based on the reviews this recipe gets, a lot of other people like it, too.
Lastly, you can see they list a variety of herbs, spices, sugar and cornstarch. That’s where powdered sugar rub comes in.
So there you go. Give the recipe a shot, and let me know what you think in the comments below.
Grilled Chick-Fil-A Nuggets
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup dill pickle juice
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tsp powdered sugar
- 2 tsp Christie Vanover's Chicken Rub
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with pickle juice and milk. Marinate for 30 minutes.
- Remove from marinade and pat dry.
- In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and Chicken Rub. Sprinkle all over chicken.
- Heat grill to high. Grill chicken for 3 minutes per side until cooked through.
- Serve with honey mustard dipping sauce.
- 2 tsps powdered sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
Copycat Chick-Fil-A Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Combine ingredients in a small bowl and chill.
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