Homemade Allergy Friendly Chicken Nuggets Recipe- Quinoa Crusted- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free

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I don't think I've ever bought chicken nuggets- even before I got into frugality and health, the price and terrible ingredients in store bought chicken nuggets scared me away.
But kids always love chicken nuggets; I think it must be wired into their genetic coding or something. I never really made chicken nuggets before, especially not once we started being on a strict diet...
But my friend Sara told me how she makes chicken nuggets for her family, and her kids have even more food sensitivities and allergies than I/my family do, and if she can make these, so can I! I actually misunderstood about how she said she makes these, and ended up coming up with a version that is different than hers, but I'll still credit her with the inspiration for the basic idea... (She makes hers with quinoa flour, not with cooked quinoa...) I mean- who knew you could make egg free chicken nuggets?

It's a really terrific recipe with lots of potential for playing around with it. They taste really yummy, especially with homemade healthy ketchup. They're very moist, even when reheated. And though I fried mine, I know they'd work terrifically being baked as well.

I purposely didn't over spice mine, because these are supposed to be a blank canvas upon which to smear ketchup ;) but feel free to spice it up however you want to make it more flavor packed. Ideally I'd up the garlic powder and salt, maybe add some smoked paprika, or put in dill or some other dried herbs. Or maybe even cumin or taco seasoning. Who cares- the potential is unlimited. Though I haven't tried it, I am pretty sure it would work just as well with ground fish to make fish sticks.
As it is, this is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free, and corn free. To make this nightshade free, just leave out the paprika and you're good.
If you want this as cheap as possible, and care less about the allergens, you can use bread crumbs (gluten free or regular) or cornmeal or corn flake crumbs in place of the quinoa. And if you want it totally low carb and with no grains or pseudo-grains, just leave off the breading/quinoa, or coat with ground nuts or sesame seeds.

You can make this with other veggies instead of the ones listed, like red peppers in place of the zucchini or carrots, etc... just don't change the proportion of meat to veggies or it might not hold together.

(If you avoid quinoa because it bothers your stomach, see my tip here on how to deal with that.)

Homemade Allergy Friendly Chicken Nuggets Recipe- Quinoa Crusted- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free

4 cups (approximately 2 lbs) ground chicken, turkey, beef, pork, etc... (Make sure it doesn't have anything mixed into it, like TVP/soy flakes if you buy it ready ground. I make mine myself from 2 whole chicken breasts that I remove myself from 2 while chickens, after which I use the carcasses to make soup.)
1 medium onion
2 small or 1 large carrot
1 medium/large zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
Oil for frying

1. Cook your quinoa with 1.5 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa, and a bit of salt. (I used 2 or 3 cups of raw quinoa to make enough cooked quinoa to make both this and my quinoa craisin spice cookies.)

2. Grind your carrot, zucchini, and onion in a food processor or blender until the pieces are as small as you can get them.

3. Grind the chicken/turkey, etc... if it isn't already ground.

4. Mix the meat with the vegetables very well, so it is entirely uniform.

5. Add the salt and spices to the meat mixture, and again, mix very well.

6. Put the cooked quinoa in a wide bowl or plate.

7. Heat up oil in a frying pan on medium heat. I use palm or coconut oil in my cast iron skillet.

8. Wet or oil your hands lightly so the meat mixture doesn't stick to your hands, and roll superball sized balls of meat. (Superball? Yea, I know, weird way to describe it- between marble and golf ball size, a little bigger than a cherry tomato.)

9. Put the chicken ball in the quinoa, and roll it around until it gets covered by the quinoa. It may get flattened a bit, and that's fine.

10. Place the chicken/quinoa ball in the hot frying pan, and flatten with a spoon/spatula/fork.

11. Repeat with more meat balls until the frying pan is filled.

12. Cover the frying pan if possible for a few minutes.

13. When browned on one side, flip over to the other side and cook until browned on both sides.

14. Test a chicken nugget to see if it's fully cooked by cutting it in half and checking if it changed color- if it isn't ready, even though it's browned, return it to the pan, lower the flame to low, cover the pan, and cook the entire batch for another few minutes.

15. Place on a cloth napkin to collect excess oil

16. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. Ketchup is my favorite for this, but mustard or mayonnaise or honey mustard would work well too.

Are you a chicken nuggets fan? Are your kids? Do you ever make them or buy them ready made? 
Does this look like a recipe you'd try out? Which version?

Linking up to Real Food Wednesday and Allergy Free Wednesday

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. How do you grind the chicken? In a food processor like the vegetables.

    1. Yes, in the food processor. But we also have ground chicken sold locally- do you?

  2. When I make chicken nuggets, I just use cut-up chunks of chicken, not ground meat. I coat them with seasoned bread crumbs and bake them in the oven. The whole fam likes them. If you are gluten free, you could substitute something else for the bread crumbs. I have used egg prior to the breading sometimes, but sometimes not, and they come out fine.

    1. I consider breaded cut up chicken that to be shnitzel, less chicken nuggets. But very yummy. In my experience, when I don't use egg to bread shnitzel, the breading almost all comes off, especially if I'm frying it...

    2. How interesting. I think of schnitzel as a cutlet rather than nuggets, and fried. I live in Atlanta, and we love our Chic-Fil-A nuggets around here. They are the only fast-food place I know that actually uses cut-up pieces of chicken instead of a conglomeration of unhealthy ingredients. Also, if I bake them instead of frying, the breading doesn't come off as much, and we don't eat the extra fat either.

    3. I'm cool with the fat- it makes the food more filling, and if its good fats, it doesn't make you gain weight, as per many studies, and my personal experience, but to each his own.

      I like the ground chicken conglomeration of nuggets better than slices because i find shnitzels dry out upon reheating, but these stay moist inside. This also stretches the chicken more. :-D

  3. Have you made a larger batch and successfully frozen them?

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