How to Make Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
When we were kids, my mother used to make this Parmesan chicken dish that was so good we would fight for drippings, every last crumb. She would start with a whole chicken, remove the skin and bones (and use them for making chicken stock), and then cut the meat into small pieces. (She made "chicken nuggets" before anyone called them that!)
Then she would dip these chicken nuggets into melted butter, dredge them in breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and bake them.
My god were they good.
The Secret to the Best Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
Several years ago when I asked mom for her Parmesan chicken recipe, she hadn't made it in so many years, she had completely forgotten how. After several false starts, my father and I finally recreated what comes close to her original recipe.
The secret, of course, is the melted butter.
When we made the Parmesan chicken with olive oil, it was okay, but not the earth-shattering deliciousness we were looking for. At least that part of the recipe my mother remembered (when we were halfway through our recipe discovery)!
Also, when you use boneless skinless meat that has been cut into small pieces, the ratio of buttery crunchy coating to the meat is much higher than regular coated baked or fried chicken.
The Best Chicken to Use for Baked Chicken Nuggets
Both boneless breast or thigh meat will work for this recipe. Thigh meat is slightly fattier, so it's moister. You can also use a mix of both. Entirely up to you!
The Best Parmesan Cheese to Use for Chicken Nuggets
Pre-grated Parmesan cheese works just fine in this recipe, especially for ease. If you want a sharper flavor, you can grate your own from a hunk of Parmesan. Even the powdered Parmesan you get in a shaker will work fine. It won't taste as good, but it'll do in a pinch.
Swaps and Substitutions
- Looking for gluten free options for breadcrumbs? You can use gluten-free panko, almond meal, or even instant mashed potato flakes.
- You can also make your own homemade breadcrumbs, but be sure to process them finely for this recipe.
- No Parmesan? You can substitute shredded mozzarella or even cheddar for a creamier texture and flavor variation.
- For a slightly healthier option, feel free to substitute mayonnaise or egg in place of the butter.
- If you don't have any Italian seasoning handy, you can substitute dried basil, oregano, thyme, or a combination of any of them.
More Baked Chicken Recipes to Make!
- Classic Baked Chicken
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- Breaded and Baked Chicken Drumsticks
- Herbed Chicken Tenders With Tomato Sauce
- Goldfish Chicken Tenders
Baked Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
The color of your roasting pan may make a difference in your results. A dark roasting pan (as pictured) may impart more heat and may brown the bottom of the chicken more.
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (can substitute regular salt)
- Large pinch dried Italian seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Position a rack in the center.
Pat the chicken pieces dry:
Pat the chicken pieces with paper towels. Patting the chicken pieces dry will help the chicken have crispy breading when baked.
Prepare the butter and breadcrumbs:
In a small bowl, stir the minced garlic into the melted butter. In another bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and black pepper.
Dredge the chicken pieces:
Piece by piece, dip the chicken pieces into the melted butter mix. Then dredge into the Parmesan breadcrumb mixture to coat.
Note: if your chicken pieces are cold, they may cause the melted butter to thicken, leaving too much butter sticking to the chicken pieces. If you see this happening, just reheat the butter.
Place the chicken on the roasting pan:
Place coated chicken pieces on to a 9x13 (or larger) roasting pan. Try to leave a little room between each piece for air circulation. (You may need to use more than one roasting pan.) Drizzle with any remaining garlic butter.
Bake, then serve:
Bake uncovered at 450°F for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165°F. Note that the chicken will get much more browned on the bottom side than on the top, especially if you're using a non-stick pan.
Let cool slightly before serving.