On Mondays, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite non-Paleo recipes that I’ve made a few tweaks to make them Paleo. This one, in particular, also happens to be Whole 30 approved.
On the surface, Chick-fil-A grilled nuggets seem like a safe choice, but one quick look at the ingredients list will prove you wrong: soybean oil, modified corn starch, sugar, cane molasses (sugar) and dextrose (more sugar)—all things you should avoid in general, but are definitely not allowed on Whole 30. Luckily, a quick Google search brought me to this homemade version from Girls Can Grill.
It was a great start, but there were still some changes to be made to make them Paleo and Whole 30 compliant. Note that it does take some “prep time” as the chicken needs to marinate for 30 minutes. I think it would have been fine after 20, but definitely do not go over 30 minutes.
Here’s what I modified and what you should look out for:
- Swap out regular milk for coconut milk. Canned is usually your safest option, but be sure to check your labels to ensure it does not contain any sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite). The Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk I get at Costco contains just organic coconut, water and guar gum (a thickening agent which is fine on the Whole 30). You should be able to find this in the regular grocery store, too, in the international foods section. There are some carton brands out there that would be fine (like Pacific Organic Coconut Unsweetened Non-Dairy Beverage), but the canned option will typically be the cleaner option.
- Ensure that the pickle juice you are using is Whole 30 complaint—ingredients for the pickles should be as close to just cucumbers, vinegar and spices as possible. I used Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value Organic Kosher Dill Pickles—the only ingredient I questioned was Calcium Chloride, which is acceptable on Whole 30.
- Omit the powdered sugar and instead use almond meal/flour to give the nuggets a little crunch. I wanted it to be more of a coating than a dusting, so I increased the amount of almond flour and upped the spices a bit, too.
- Use pink Himalayan salt rather than kosher salt. Table salt isn’t explicitly a “no” on Whole 30, mostly because it is unavoidable when dining out. You should, however, avoid it as much as possible. Pink or regular sea salt would be fine in this recipe. I also decreased the amount since pickle juice is pretty salty to begin with.Skip the celery salt. There’s typically lots of sketchy ingredients in celery salt. If you wanted, you could use about an 1/8 of a teaspoon of celery seed and an extra pinch of salt, but I omitted it altogether because I did not have any on hand.
- Make sure you use compliant mayonnaise for the dipping sauce, or make your own. Ingredients to avoid would be soy, canola, sugar and funky additives. I like Primal Kitchen’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise, which is just avocado oil, organic cage-free eggs, organic vinegar, sea salt, and rosemary extract. You can find this on Thrive Market for a great price. It’s also pretty simple to make your own mayo.
- Omit the honey from the dipping sauce. Added sweeteners, including honey, are not allowed on Whole 30.
- Dijon mustard is another one to check the label on to make sure there are no added sweeteners (including honey) or white wine. For the yellow mustard, the French’s Yellow you likely already have in your fridge is compliant.
- Use the pink Himalayan or sea salt in the dipping sauce rather than your regular table salt. Just a pinch!
Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like me to “Paleo-ify” or make Whole 30 approved? Leave it in the comments or contact me here!
Paleo/Whole 30 Approved Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets + Dipping Sauce
For the Nuggets
- 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh
- ½ c dill pickle juice (check your labels!)
- ¼ c coconut milk
- ¼ c almond meal/flour
- 1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
For the Sauce
- 1/3 c mayonnaise
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt (optional)
- Start by putting the pickle juice and coconut milk in to a medium-sized bowl.
- Cut the chicken in to nugget-sized pieces and put into the bowl of pickle juice/coconut milk. Place in the fridge to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
- If you will be baking these instead of grilling, preheat your oven to 350.
- While the chicken is marinating, make the spice mix for the nuggets and the dipping sauce.
- Line up three plates: one covered in paper towels to dry the excess marinade off the nuggets, one in the middle with the almond meal and spice mixture (almond meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika) and one at the end to place the seasoned chicken nuggets on.
- In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients: mayo, Dijon, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar and salt. Place in the fridge until the nuggets are ready.
- When the 20-30 minutes of marinade time is up, take the nuggets from the bowl and place them on your first plate lined with the paper towels for the excess marinade to drip off. Pat them dry on top with a couple more paper towels.
- Lightly roll each nugget in the almond meal/spice mixture – they should not be completely covered, just a light coating. Place the nuggets on the last plate for grilling.
- Finally, heat your grill to high and grill the chicken for 3 minutes per side or until fully cooked. I made these in February in Wisconsin, so I instead grilled them on the stove top on a grill pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side and then finished them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. They turned out perfectly!
- Serve with the dipping sauce.
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