No, Popcorn Chicken And Chicken Nuggets Aren't The Same Thing

The shape and taste are both slightly different, so no popcorn chicken and chicken nuggets aren't the same thing. The two foods are similar in concept but vary in enough ways to be individual menu items despite both being made from chicken. 

One of the main differences is the type of meat that's used. According to Tom Super, the senior vice president of communications from the National Chicken Council, nuggets are commonly made of breast meat, but sometimes, the parts used are completely random. In an interview with Insider, Super defined nuggets as "further-processed products." In the same interview, Sticky Fingers' CEO Jon Sherman revealed that popcorn chicken is made of boneless white meat.

Furthermore, chicken nuggets come in many shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, popcorn chicken is designed to resemble popcorn, making it easy to pop in your mouth. Popcorn chicken is created by deep-frying and battering pieces of chicken, whereas chicken nuggets are grinded down and formed into their familiar shape. Another obvious difference is how the two chicken varieties came to be.

Several years separate the cuts of chicken

Though KFC was the first fast food brand to serve popcorn chicken, the chain didn't actually invent it, contradicting popular beliefs. Instead, it was thought up in the early 1990s by Gene Gagliardi, the same food inventor who introduced Steak-Umm. After its creation, Gagliardi filed a patent and sold the recipe to KFC, which boosted its popularity, especially in the South. Unfortunately, KFC replaced its popcorn chicken in 2023 with chicken nuggets, which have completely different origins.

Chicken nuggets were invented in 1963 — long before popcorn chicken. The favorite was created by Robert C. Baker, the scientist also responsible for chicken hot dogs. Unlike Gagliardi, Baker didn't file a patent for the lab-created meal. It's likely he threw money down the drain with this decision, sending the recipe to various food chains for their use instead. After nearly 20 years, chicken nuggets began gracing the McDonald's menu in the form of McNuggets, and the rest was history.