Food Review: KFC’s Beyond Chicken Nuggets

So, was there like a meeting of all the vegetarians and vegans that everything presented as that, or at least, a plant-based alternative, must be packaged green or presented green? What if this box was … blue? I don’t know; I’m just saying!

Folks, I’ve written on here before about how I’m a sucker for advertising and add in my natural curiosity about trying — let’s say, unusual — food, and I simply couldn’t resist Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Beyond Chicken in the form of its six-piece beyond chicken nuggets. And you know the bastards get me with “limited time only.” Supposedly, after rolling out Jan. 10, it’s only getting to be available for four weeks thereafter.

I have nothing against meat imitations, whether beef or chicken and particularly from a moral standpoint beyond the aesthetic issue, I agree with the idea of trying to move away from animal-sourced meat. At minimum, we need to figure out a more humane way to source it from animals.

However, I do believe this is the first time I’ve tried an imitation chicken before. I have had beyond meat burgers and I do think I’ve had the impossible version as well. I’ve tried Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and Subway’s Veggie Patty, as well as places that literally specialize in making impossible burgers here in Cincinnati.

I’ve also had pizzas with crusts that were based on cauliflower or broccoli, which I’ve previously reviewed on the blog.

But imitation chicken? Colonel Sanders has the distinct and greasy honor of being the first to introduce me to it last night.

I didn’t actually realize the Beyond Chicken was a six-piece chicken nuggets combo. I thought they were going to be tenders, but nonetheless.

A “Kentucky Fried Miracle,” as KFC calls it, the beyond chicken is a team-up of traditionally fried nuggets via KFC, but with Beyond Meat plant-based chicken. Also, I just now learned that Beyond Meat is an actual company and not just a snazzy concept or slogan. They were founded in California in 2009 and then the products were launched in 2012, so only a decade old. Insert “TIL” here.

According to Beyond Meat, their plant-based chicken is made with water, fava bean protein, breading (which itself is made from wheat flour, rice flour, salt, corn starch, pea protein, canola oil, wheat gluten, paprika, spices, and such), sugar, sunflower oil, dried onion, dried garlic, yeast extract, breadcrumbs, vital wheat, more corn starch and a few other dealios that have long names.

Thing is, because of the breading, even plant-based chicken nuggets aren’t the healthiest item in the world! I’m confused by the calorie math here. So, according to Beyond Meat, plant-based chicken tenders clock in at 210 calories per serving, with a serving equaling two chicken tenders. In other words, a six-piece chicken tender meal would be 630 calories. However, KFC’s says its six-piece plant-based chicken nuggets are 480 calories total. Are tenders and nuggets that different? Apparently. Calorie-wise, I’m glad I had the nuggets instead!

That actually compares worse calorie-wise than McDonalds (250 calories), Wendy’s (270 calories) and Burger King (258) for a six-piece chicken nugget.

But can you put a calorie count on morality? CAN YOU?!

Sorry for the windup; I’m here now: The imitation meat was good! I did heat it up in the microwave when I got home because the nuggets seemed cold already, but I was surprised with how … solid the chicken nugget was? Sometimes when you’re eating plant-based items, the texture and consistency can’t compare to, or hold up as well, with actual meat. But the thickness and feel here was exactly like an actual chicken-based chicken nugget.

It also looks on the outside and inside like a chicken nugget, which is because they add in an ingredient for coloring. I’m sure it would probably look green or something if they let it look more “natural.”

Aforementioned inside. Pretty thick!

To elaborate more on taste, it was good. I mean, can I use the food cliché about how everything tastes like chicken, even not-chicken? The main thing you’re going to notice from biting into a plant-based chicken is the breading itself; it’s like the coat of flavorful armor around the plant-based stuff going on. So, you’re going to get the spices, the onion and the garlic and so on, that hit your palate and stick with you before anything else.

Because of that, it’s tasty. After all, 95 percent (as I pull a statistic out of my behind) of good food is in the seasoning. Season it well and are you really going to notice you’re not eating a real chicken nugget? I’d love to do a blind taste to see if someone could tell the difference, sort of like those classic blind Pepsi and Coke taste tests.

That said, the one thing the best plant-based anything, or meal imitation anything, can’t mirror in actual meat is the juiciness factor, which perhaps is a part of why some meat-lovers (like me!) are hesitant to try something plant-based. These weren’t dry or anything, but they’re not going to be as juicy as real chicken nuggets are in your mouth. I actually would compare it to the difference between having frozen nuggets versus deep fried fast food nuggets. The frozen nuggets are still good and to some extent, juicy, but they don’t compare to those right out of the fryer nuggets on the Juiciness Scale.

But let’s get to the real … meat of the story here: KFC has some bangin’ fries, folks. Seriously. McDonald’s has long been the king of fast food fries, but if you ask me, two places that shouldn’t be so good at fries are giving McDonald’s a run for its money: KF freaking C and Taco Bell. Yes, Taco Bell has great fries, too! Whatever KFC’s secret recipe is for these fries (they literally call it a secret recipe), they’re doing something right.

Anyhow, whether you’re a vegetarian or not (and I’m not), but you’re plant-based curious, consider checking these out while they’re still available. I didn’t regret it and I don’t think you will, either.

As for vegans, supposedly these are not strictly vegan-prepared, so that could mean the oil these are cooked in isn’t vegan and/or the same fryers meat was prepared in was used for these. Whatever the case, depending on your thoughts on that as a vegan, keep that in mind.

To be honest, I don’t know why meat-lovers (again, like me!) are so scared of, or put off by, plant-based foods and imitations. If the thought is, Well, I could just have the real thing, why bother with an imitation? I get that, but also, why not broaden your taste horizons?! It’s not like the real thing is going anywhere anytime soon. In the alternative, you get to eat something new, different, still tasty and let’s be honest, more ethical.

If you try it, come back here and let me know what you thought!

And hey, if you hate the “chicken,” at least you get some tasty fries out of it!

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