Adults eat chicken nuggets. This isn’t news to anyone. Please don’t substitute being over the age of 18 and eating chicken nuggets for a personality trait. But eat chicken nuggets if you want to. I do.
And when I eat chicken nuggets, I dip. I dip HARD. I go HARD in the edible paint. As a young Kait, I would peel the breading off of my McDonald’s chicken nuggets, dip the chicken meat in dipping sauce and eat it, then dip the breading in dipping sauce and eat it.
I have prepared an assessment of dipping sauces as applied to chicken nuggets, tenders, strips, and fingers. Chicken fries may be applicable, but chicken grilled, roasted, fried, or the like has not been taken into consideration. We are evaluating chicken sauces on a quick-service or fast food basis. Some exceptions may apply, the reason being that I am not a scientist or an academic. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a massive laptop computer, yelling about chicken with my voice-to-text translator instead of having significant relationships with the people in my life or preparing for a career of any kind. Woohoo! Num num chicky sauce!
Using this dip for beef-eating plebeians on your pristine poultry may seem like sacrilege, but it certainly has its place. And it certainly beats eating them plain.
Best case scenario: Heinz Tomato Ketchup (kept in the fridge) alongside formerly frozen grocery store chicken nuggets, air-fried by my childhood best friend’s mother, Denise. It has to be Denise.
7. Cheese dip
(Here it is on fries. Use your imagination.)
Dipping chicken in cheese is essentially a full meal. It’s like a portable arroz con pollo, without the rice. It’s just “con pollo.” Queso is welcome, but I guess the cheese doesn’t have to be spicy. Sometimes it’s even better as that plastic-y snack bar nacho cheese that comes with those round-ass, yellow-ass chips. That’s the stuff.
Best case scenario: Steak N’ Shake chicken strips and cheese dip. The oranger the cheese, the better. (For those outside the Midwest, I’m sure you have a fantastic regional chain with great chicken tenders and cheese dip. If you can think of one, please DM each suggestion to @KaitWilbur on Twitter.)
6. Sweet and sour
This is only ever really good in certain circumstances: as a sauce for Chinese food chicken (which isn’t necessarily a tender/finger/nugget unless you count particularly meaty egg rolls? A discussion for another day) and for McDonald’s chicken McNuggets. And so we return.
Best case scenario: McDonald’s chicken nuggets. Full stop. Let those small, classic, savory boys get amped up by some Asian fusion. It’s so chic. Watch the Food Network for 15 minutes and you’ll get it.
A real mixed bag. Sometimes it’s Big Mac sauce or a special mayonnaise concoction reserved for chicken. Sometimes it’s this weird chipotle thing you’re just gonna pretend isn’t chipotle. Like okay, sure, but it’s just chipotle. Or like a creamy barbecue sauce? Whatever. The advantage here is knowing what works for you.
Best case scenario: Chick Fil-A sauce. The holy grail. And no, it isn’t just honey mustard, because Chick Fil-A has a separate honey mustard. I’ve made that mistake before and I WILL NOT make it again.
4. Buffalo/ spicy sauce
Hits the spot right at the moment you need it. What a beautiful kick in the pants this always turns out to be. When you’ve had a bad day and your tongue tastes spiciness, you’re used to the chaos. “This is what I need,” you think. “This is what I deserve.”
Best case scenario: Okay, to be honest, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to eat a lot of spicy sauces on my chicken offerings. So maybe Burger King’s Zesty Sauce on Chicken Fries? Does Burger King even still have Chicken Fries? How did I become the authority on chicken dipping sauces? I am proving myself to be wildly under qualified! (But you even knew that when I began this list with ketchup.)
3. Ranch dressing
The blond, blue-eyed Midwestern icon. Creamy and tangy (sometimes) and even your friends who are the pickiest eaters probably like it. On everything. But especially nugs.
Best case scenario: Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets with ranch. It’s like hot wings on a budget. It’s nice and refreshing and not bad price-wise. I’d also like to use this space to acknowledge how grossly underrated Wendy’s chicken nuggets are. They’ve saved my life so many times. They’re CPR certified.
2. Barbecue sauce
BOI you thought this would be number one, didn’t you? Nope! But I do love it very much! It is my favorite condiment from childhood and I aspire to be one of those people who collects artisanal barbecue sauces the way some people do wines and whiskies. I want to become a barbecue vixen. I want my own flavor of barbecue sauce. BARBA SAAAAUCE.
Best case scenario: Arby’s sauce and popcorn chicken. Also Arby’s sauce on curly fries and roast beef and mozzarella sticks and everything else. Most of the food quality at Arby’s is fine at best. But Arby’s sauce makes it worth eating.
1. Honey mustard
I AM A HONEY MUSTARD BOI THROUGH AND THROUGH. Ask anyone. It’s always honey mustard, it’s always been honey mustard, it always will be honey mustard. When we don’t have it at my house, I just mix straight-up French’s yellow with straight-up bear-bottle honey. And it’s fine. It’s better than fine. It’s good. And other honey mustard gets even better from there.
Best case scenario: Wendy’s chicken nuggets AGAIN with honey mustard. Wendy’s, please pay me for endorsing your products so hard. I have red hair and eat your offerings with such vigor. I would be a great person to connect with your target audience, and already have a small following as a blogger. Think it over.
If your restaurant sells a damn good honey mustard and offers to pay me, I will immediately sell Wendy’s out and edit this article. It’s up to you, really.