Chickpeas and artichoke heart nuggets are coated in a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and cornmeal, and pan-fried up until golden to create these crispy, delicious and satisfying vegan chicken nuggets.
Well, I suppose this was bound to happen. I got the idea in my head back when I posted my vegan chicken Parmesan a few months ago. I even saw a few people commenting on social media that the recipe would be perfect for making vegan chicken nuggets. And so, here I am, with a recipe!
Chickpeas are on of my favorite ingredients for adding meaty texture to vegan dishes. (Proof: I even made them into a meatloaf.)
But I added a little something to this recipe. I didn't exactly follow the vegan chicken Parm recipe. In fact, this is a bit of a hybrid between that recipe and my artichoke burgers from last year. Artichokes are pretty meaty, so I thought they'd be perfect.
One thing about these nuggets: they're fried. Not deep fried, but shallow-fried. So really, if you ever buy frozen vegan chicken nuggets, these are probably no heavier on oil than those, but at least you're familiar with everything that goes into these!
I feel like I have to mention the whole fried thing because when I post a recipe like this I can be sure somebody will ask if they can be baked. The answer, in this case is yes, but they won't be as good.
I tried a baked version a month or so ago and ended up scrapping it because those nuggets were just okay. If you'd prefer to bake them, do so at your own risk (and at a time and temperature of your own choosing, because like I said, I didn't like mine so you probably don't want to use my instructions for the baked version).
FAQ & Tips for Making Awesome Vegan Chicken Nuggets
- Don't overblend your ingredients in the food processor. The mixture will get mushy very quickly, and nobody likes a mushy nugget!
- Make ahead option: the nugget base (meaning the chickpea and artichoke mixture that gets mixed up in the food processor) can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated.
- The seasonings in these are very mild. I wanted them to be super kid-friendly! Feel free to add extra garlic, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, or your favorite seasonings!
- Can these be made gluten-free? Maybe, but I haven't tested a gluten-free version. My recommendation would be to thicken the batter with a gluten-free flour, such as chickpea, and use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for the nuggets and coating.
- Can these be baked? Can they be air-fried? They can be baked, but I don't recommend it, and I can't give an exact bake time and temperature (I didn't record them because I didn't like the baked version). I don't have an air-fryer, so I'm not sure if that would work!
Vegan Chicken Nuggets
For the Nuggets
- 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- ½ to 1 tsp. liquid smoke, to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Batter
- 1 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- ¼ cup ground flaxseed
- 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
For the Coating
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. salt
- black pepper to taste
- olive oil, or any high smoke point oil
Place artichoke hearts into food processor bowl and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add remaining nugget ingredients and pulse again until chickpeas are finely chopped and ingredients are well blended, being careful not to overdo it or the mixture will get mushy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a container with a lid. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to a day).
Stir batter ingredients together in a small bowl and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes.
While the batter sits, stir coating ingredients together in a separate bowl. Season with pepper to taste, and add some extra salt if you like.
Remove mixture from refrigerator and shape into 20-24 nuggets.
Coat the bottom of a large flat-bottomed skillet with oil, at least ⅛ inch deep. Place over medium heat. Dip a nugget into batter and gently flip to coat both sides. Transfer to coating mixture and coat both sides. When oil is hot, transfer nugget to oil. Repeat for as many nuggets as you can fit into the skillet, cooking about 4 minutes, until browned on bottoms. Flip and cook until browned on opposite sides. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat until all nuggets are cooked, adding oil to the skillet as needed between batches.
Serve with dipping sauce of choice.