Why You Should Use Panko Instead Of Bread Crumbs For Chicken Nuggets

When you're in the mood for a childhood staple with a mature twist, you can't beat some homemade, crispy chicken nuggets. As quick and easy as store-bought nuggets are, their coating often leaves a bit to be desired in the texture department. Fortunately, Mashed recipe developer Ting Dalton has a solution for home chefs: panko bread crumbs.

These are a key element of katsu (fried-and-crumbed meat cutlets hailing from Japan), which uses flakes of crustless white bread. In comparison to standard bread crumbs, which are small, dry, and packed together, panko's easily aerated flakes provide an "added crunch" that Dalton appreciates on a nugget.

As for panko's impact on these handheld delights, Dalton told Mashed that because panko bread crumbs are "drier in texture [and] absorb less oil ... [They] make these nuggets lighter and crunchier." Store-bought nuggets with a low-quality crumb can become a bit soggy, which isn't ideal in a supposed comfort food. Traditional bread crumbs can improve upon this, but they can also come out greasy and heavy.

This trick doesn't just apply to chicken nuggets — panko can elevate many dishes that use breaded meat, such as tenders, breaded burgers, Kyivs, and Schnitzel. If you don't eat meat, they can cover mozzarella sticks, cauliflower, and scampi just as beautifully.

How should you season your panko nuggets?

In terms of flavor, chicken is a blank slate that will work with just about anything. So, if you want to give your nuggets a bit of extra flair, make use of your spice cupboard and start experimenting.

Dalton's recipe uses garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. The paprika, in particular, gives these nuggets a homey warmth, especially if it's smoked. "For an extra kick," Dalton told Mashed, "add some cayenne pepper to spice things up." Other, spicier variations include adding your favorite chili flakes or incorporating a mix of ground coriander and garam masala to create a curried nugget.

If you don't like spice, Dalton suggests that you can "add oregano for a more herby flavor." Rosemary and thyme are a classic combination (especially when paired with chicken), and using sage can give your nuggets a heady, aromatic taste. For a super light flavor to complement the panko's light texture, go with parsley and basil. Alternatively, if you want to intrigue your taste buds, try a sprinkle of aniseedy tarragon or an herb mix that uses dried citrus for some zing.