Baked Chicken Nuggets with Dilly Ranch Dip

Chicken nuggets, tenders, fingers…whatever you want to call them…are a whole lotta fun to eat. Even for us big kids. Who doesn’t love to dip crispy little chicken bites into their favorite sauce?!

But I haven’t encountered many chicken nuggets that I’ve actually felt good about eating. In my adulthood, that is. I won’t talk about all those McNuggets I happily downed as a kid.

Homemade baked chicken nuggets is a meal I’ve been meaning to create for our family for a number of years, but I was only recently inspired to give it a shot after reading an interesting article in last month’s issue of Cooking Light. Their healthy recipe makeover amped up the flavor and texture of chicken nuggets by first brining the chicken in tart pickle juice, a method rumored to be used by Chick-fil-A, and buttermilk, which helps to tenderize. I was intrigued. So I tried their recipe.

And then I had to go back in for Round 2, because the recipe needed a little help. While I absolutely loved the pickle juice and buttermilk soak, the breaded exterior was something less desirable. Not crunchy. Not flavorful. I forged on.

After another try, I’m happy to share this deliciously crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets recipe. My family thinks it’s great, especially when served with homemade Dilly Ranch Dip. The dip is creamy and full of flavor, with a garlicky zip that we can’t get enough of. This meal is a whole lotta tasty fun, I think you’ll agree.

Baked Chicken Nuggets with Dilly Ranch Dip

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


    for the baked chicken nuggets:
  • 4 boneless, medium-large skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1'' x 2'' pieces
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/3 c. dill pickle juice
  • 2 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten until combined
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • for the dilly ranch dip:
  • 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely minced
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 1 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 T. chopped fresh chives
  • big pinch kosher salt


for the baked chicken nuggets:

Combine chicken pieces, buttermilk, and pickle juice in a wide shallow bowl and cover with a lid. Or just put all ingredients in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spread panko on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a shallow dish and stir in Parmesan and salt. Drizzle with oil and stir well to distribute. Place flour and eggs in separate shallow dishes.

Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Set a wire rack inside the same rimmed baking sheet and lightly coat the rack with cooking spray. In batches, coat chicken pieces in flour, then dip in egg, and lastly coat evenly with panko, pressing to adhere. Place on oiled rack. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper. Bake until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 12 minutes. Serve hot out of the oven with homemade dilly ranch dip.

for the dilly ranch dip:

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Can be made 1 day ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator.


Chicken nuggets portion adapted from a variety of sources, but mostly from Cooking Light and Martha Stewart Everyday Food. Dilly ranch dip from a farmgirl's dabbles.


33 Responses to “Baked Chicken Nuggets with Dilly Ranch Dip”

  1. #
    Shaina — October 31, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I love homemade chicken nuggets, and the seasonings in yours sound fabulous. Plus, a dilled ranch dip is right up my alley.

  2. #
    Heather @ Heather's Dish — October 31, 2012 at 10:11 am

    i have made so many versions of chicken tenders in my day and have never once thought to make little nuggets – these sound so good!

    • Brenda replied on October 31st, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you, Heather!

  3. #
    Sheila — October 31, 2012 at 10:32 am

    So fun to see you do savory food, my sweety pie maker! These look so good, wish I had a plate full for lunch…right now!

    • Brenda replied on October 31st, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Did you think I only serve my family cake and cookies?! :) {mwah!}

      • Sheila replied on October 31st, 2012 at 9:32 pm

        Hahaha! No…sorry that didn’t come out right. XOXO

  4. #
    Bree — October 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I love the idea of the pickle juice–brilliant!

  5. #
    Cassie | Bake Your Day — October 31, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Tart pickle juice sounds totally interesting but it would be worth a shot. I love this dip, too! Chicken nuggets just can’t be beat!

  6. #
    Becca - Cookie Jar Treats — October 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I love love love baked breaded chicken. I’ve never heard of using pickle juice before. It seems kind of… I dunno… intimidating? to use, just because I don’t like the taste of pickles, but I do like trying new recipes fr breaded baked chicken :)

    • Brenda replied on October 31st, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      Not intimidating at all, Becca! So simple and delicious!

  7. #
    Jessica@AKitchenAddiction — November 1, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Now I’m curious about pickle juice! I need to try these! Love the sound of the dip!

  8. #
    Mom — November 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Chicken nuggets and three precious little girls. Brings back good memories of Florida.

  9. #
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking — November 4, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I don’t know how I’m just now finding you. Your recipes and pictures are fantastic! I love chicken fingers, tenders, nuggets and all that… and while I normally make everything homemade, I have to admit, I have cravings for the non-homemade kind. There’s just something about them! I’ll have to give these a try. They definitely look better than any other nuggets I’ve seen! :)

  10. #
    Peggy — November 4, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I’m always up for new chicken nugget recipes! Sounds like a winner to me =)

  11. #
    Paula — November 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    The breaded nuggets look great and that dip looks so inviting!

  12. #
    Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen — November 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    My kids would totally love this and I can’t wait to try the dip!

  13. #
    nest of posies — November 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    i love chicken tenders. i know i will love this recipe. and that dip – oh my!!!

    have a super week, brenda!

  14. #
    Sommer@ASP — November 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

    LOVE… this makes me feel like a kids again, in the best possible way!

  15. #
    Tara @ Unsophisticook — November 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Betting my kids would go crazy over these!

  16. #
    Shari-Tickled Red — November 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

    The guys are going to flip over these! :D

  17. #
    Terri — March 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I make a gluten free version of these.
    I use crushed gluten free corn flakes with parsley and the dressing is either blue cheese, Ranch or Chipolte Ranch – Cindy’s brand found at Whole Foods is the best! I dip in the dressing and then the corn flakes and then bake on sheet with olive oil, and serve with more of the dressing as a dip. Delicious – and great left over at work the next day.

  18. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — June 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    These look like little bites of perfection!

    • Brenda replied on June 11th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks, Chung-Ah. They sure are good!!

  19. #
    Gina — October 15, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I made these for the first time this evening, and my kids LOVED them! Thank you very much!!!! Since they don’t eat much, and we have plenty of leftovers, I was wondering if they would keep well if I freeze the rest?

  20. #
    Rachel Ellis — July 1, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I was also wondering if they would still be good frozen. Usually the appeal of nuggets is being able to pop ’em in the oven.

    • Brenda replied on July 11th, 2014 at 11:14 am

      I have not tried freezing these, Rachel. If you try it, please let me know!

  21. #
    Ruby — July 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    can’t wait to try this! i’ve never heard of the pickle juice thing, so this is going to be interesting!

    • Brenda replied on July 11th, 2014 at 11:05 am

      It’s so good! Hope you like it, too!


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