If there was one food item I was completely OBSESSED with as a kid, besides frosted circus animal cookies (which I have a bag of in my pantry right this very moment because my sister gave them to me for Easter), it would most definitely be dino nuggets. Chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. What kid doesn’t like that? Kids who aren’t fully living life, that’s who. Dino nuggets are what dreams are made of. Dino nuggets are the answer to all of your problems. These dino nuggets from my kid days weren’t anything special by any means, let me tell you. I’d eat them all the time whenever my mom would take me to Sizzler as a treat. P.S. I loved Sizzler. They always had dino nuggets back then, so that definitely made them the coolest restaurant in my book. That’s the place I’d pick whenever a special occasion came up. Birthday dinner? Sizzler. Graduation dinner? Sizzler. Last Monday? Sizzler. I’m kidding! But maybe I’m not, you’ll never know. Whenever we weren’t eating at Sizzler, I’d beg my mamma to buy a box from the freezer section and I’d eat them all week long with ketchup. I can’t even handle it right now. Dino nuggets and ketchup were the bomb dot com. I’ll forever hold a special place in my heart for dino nuggets. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of them. With that being said, I just had to make them at home…from scratch…so here we are.
I think it’s important to mention that, if you’re not feeling the whole dinosaur shaped nugget vibe, then you can definitely just make regular ol’ round chicken nuggets instead. I won’t get angry or tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. You can never go wrong with chicken nuggets. Any chicken nugget is a good chicken nugget. These are a great snack to have on hand for throughout the week or they make for a great quick and simple lunch or dinner. Fry them up and keep them in the fridge for whenever you’re feeling hungry. They’re great cold, but I’m partially biased to cold fried chicken so maybe I’m not the best judge of character on this matter. Either way, make them this week so you can feel like a kid. They really are the best tasting chicken nuggets you’ll ever eat.
Let’s start by mixing together the chicken filling for the nuggets. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken with two eggs, bread crumbs, sriracha, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper until evenly combined.
**Note: We’re using ground chicken to get that same texture as the original dino nuggets and because ground chicken makes them easier to shape into the dinosaurs.**
Use your hands to mix it all together, because that’s really the best way to get it all incorporated well. Just make sure to wash them really well because this is raw chicken we’re dealing with and raw chicken always makes me super nervous. You can never be too careful.
Shape the nuggets into dinosaurs with small dinosaur cookie cutters. Update: A kind reader left a comment (down below) on a easier way to shape these nuggets. Roll out the mixture between two pieces of greased parchment paper and then freeze for a good while until frozen. Then, once firm, cut out with the cookie cutters for a clean cut. (Thanks Bill!) Place the chicken nuggets onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. I found my dino cookie cutters at amazon, here!
**Note: I’m going to be honest and real with you, and tell you that shaping these nuggets into dinosaurs was a real pain. It’ll take some time, but it’s worth it because it brought me back to my childhood. The good news is that if you don’t want to deal with all of that craziness, then just freeform them with your hands into small round chicken nugget shapes. They don’t have to be perfect at all.**
Place the baking sheet in the fridge or freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes. This will make it easier when you go to bread them, because they’ll firm up a bit once chilled.
Dredge the nuggets by first passing them through seasoned flour (flour mixed with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper), then into the eggs and buttermilk mixture and finally into the breadcrumb mixture.
**Note: Be careful when you go to dredge them and try to keep their shape. Place the dredged dino nuggets onto a wire rack, set over a baking sheet.**
Chill the dredged nuggets in the fridge or freezer once more for about 15 to 20 minutes. Again, this will make it easier and hold their shape when you go to fry them.
**Tip: At this point, you can freeze the nuggets fully and then transfer them to a freezer plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until ready to fry. Then just fry them until golden brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes in total.**
If you’re going to fry them right away, chill them for a bit, and then fry the nuggets in batches in vegetable or canola oil, flipping halfway through until brown and crispy.
Transfer the fried nuggets onto a clean wire rack, set over a baking sheet. Keep them warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven while you continue to fry the remaining nuggets.
Serve warm with ketchup (you have to because that’s how I ate them as a kid) and/or ranch or bbq sauce or cilantro dressing. Basically just go wild. Serve your nuggets with anything you like. Honey mustard would be great. There’s no right or wrong. You just made homemade dino nuggets for crying out loud. You win.
You want to to freeze your nuggets after you’ve fried them, this will make it easier down the road because then you can just rewarm them in the oven, then lay them out flat in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Then transfer the nuggets into a large freezer storage bag. Keep them in there for up to 3 months and pull them out as you want to eat them.
Again, if you don’t want to shape them into the dino shapes or can’t find the dinosaur cookie cutters, you can most definitely 100 percent just shape them into round chicken nugget shapes. They totally don’t have to be dino shapes or perfect circles. The idea is that they’ll be the best tasting nuggets you’ll ever have.
I like to eat them as a snack through out the day, I won’t even lie they’re great cold, but also, they make for a great dinner or lunch with some fries on the side or a potato salad or a healthy salad, if you feel like being healthy. But come on, fries with nuggets? They go together like PB an J. Or salt and pepper. Throw tater tots into the mix, instead of fries, and FORGET about it. All bets are off.
Go ahead and relive your childhood with these dino nuggets. We’re never too old to have some fun with our food and eat small crunchy delicious dinosaurs by dipping them, head first, into ketchup and biting their heads off. Too much? No, not enough is what I say. I’ll forever be obsessed with dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, it’s the kid in me, and I’ll continue to eat them until the end of time. My kids will eat them, and I’ll feel good about the fact that I’ve made them at home from scratch. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll still pick up a box from the freezer section because sometimes I’m lazy and sometimes I don’t have the time. Dino nuggets forever!
- 2 pounds ground chicken
- 5 large eggs
- 1½ cups plain bread crumbs, divided
- 1 tablespoon sriracha, or any hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon granulated onion
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1½ cups panic bread crumbs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
- In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, 2 large eggs, ½ cup bread crumbs, sriracha, salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, cayenne pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes until well combined.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly with cooking spray, set aside. Place a wire rack over another baking sheet, and set aside as well.
- Roll out the mixture between two pieces of greased parchment paper and then freeze for a good while until frozen, about 3 to 4 hours. Then, once firm, cut out with the cookie cutters for a clean cut. Transfer the nuggets onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You could also just shape the nuggets into rough round pieces by hand. They don't have to be perfect.
- Place the baking sheet in the freezer or fridge for about 30 minutes to chill. Meanwhile, in a shallow dish combine the remaining 1 cup bread crumbs with the panic bread crumbs, set aside. In a separate shallow dish, combine the flour with a bit of salt, pepper, granulated onion, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper, set aside. In a third shallow dish, whisk together the remaining 3 eggs with the buttermilk. Dredge the chilled chicken nuggets by passing through the flour mixture on both sides, then into the egg mixture and finally into the breadcrumbs. Place the dredged nuggets onto the baking sheet with the wire rack. Continue dredging all the nuggets. Chill the nuggets in the fridge or freezer for at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a cast iron skillet, about halfway up with oil and bring up to about 360 degrees, using an instant read thermometer. Once hot, fry the nuggets, a few at a time, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over and continue to fry for another 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Drain well and transfer to a platter lined with paper towels, to catch the excess oil. Continue frying the remaining nuggets.
- Place the nuggets on a clean wire rack set over a baking sheet, and keep warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven until ready to eat. Serve with ketchup or ranch or honey mustard or BBQ sauce and enjoy. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days (and rewarmed in the oven or microwave) or frozen in a freezer storage bag, for up to 3 months, and then rewarmed in the oven.