The Truth About Wendy's Famous Chicken Nuggets

When it comes to fast food burger showdowns, Wendy's is less often featured than the McDonald's-Burger King rivalry that's practically as old as fast food itself. But hidden in the shadows is the third largest burger franchise and seventh largest restaurant chain in the country. And with more than 6,000 locations across the U.S. and Canada, it probably won't be hard to find a Baconator when the mood strikes. 

Of course, you're not just confined to a burger and fries when you hit the Wendy's drive-thru. Much like its biggest counterparts, Wendy's has a whole slate of chicken offerings on its menu. The oldest and most iconic are Wendy's famous chicken nuggets, which have been a menu staple for decades. And many say they rival, if not beat out, the nuggets from their fast food competitors (via Thrillist). But how much do you really know about those nuggets you're chowing down on? Keep scrolling to find out the untold truth of Wendy's famous chicken nuggets.

Wendy's nuggets might be less than 50% chicken

Wendy's boasts on its website that its chicken nuggets are made with "100% white-meat chicken breaded to crispy perfection." While that statement sounds really nice, it's cleverly deceptive. That's because it doesn't actually clarify how much chicken is in each nugget, even as it does confirm that those nuggets are made up of bread as well as meat.

While Wendy's isn't offering up their exact methods and rations for making their nuggets, we can try and estimate their composition, thanks to the internet and some hungry data analysts. According to info collected on the data science platform, Kaggle, Wendy's chicken nuggets are only about 37% chicken (as explained by Medium's Start It Up, which broke down the data set). The other roughly two-thirds of the nugget consists of breading and fat.

It's worth noting that Wendy's is certainly not the only fast food chain to come under scrutiny over how much chicken is in its chicken nuggets. And it's not to say that this reality makes those nuggets any less delicious. But you may as well know what you're eating, which is a lot less chicken than you might think.

You can get Wendy's nuggets at a lower price depending on how you order

Here's a little secret — if you know how to order the right way, you can save money on every single Wendy's chicken nugget you ever eat. Let us explain. Wendy's offers customers three different sizes of chicken nuggets, depending on how big of a craving you're having. However, counterintuitively to what you might expect, the cost per nugget actually goes up if you order in higher quantities. Several sleuthy customers on Reddit have worked out the math to figure this out. So basically, if you order more nuggets in smaller quantities, you'll always be saving yourself some money. 

We also looked at a local Wendy's menu to test the theory out, and it held true: A four-piece nugget order is priced at $0.99, which comes out to roughly $0.25 per nugget. The ratio stays the same for the six-piece, which is priced at $1.49. But when you order the 10-piece nuggets at $4.69, the price per nugget almost doubles to $0.47. So technically, you could get a dozen nuggets (in the form of two six-piece orders) for about $3, which is less money than a single 10-piece order. And if you're really smart, you could get a built in discount on your 10-piece by simply ordering a four-piece and a six-piece together for just under $2.50. We're not sure if Wendy's has caught on to their pricing problem yet, so keep this under wraps.

Wendy's chicken nuggets helped break an all-time Twitter record

There's no doubt that Wendy's chicken nuggets hold a special place in many people's hearts. The love runs so deep, in fact, that those nuggets helped break an all time Twitter record. It all started with one guy's major craving for Wendy's nuggets. But he didn't want to hit the drive thru — he wanted it all.

In 2017, Carter Wilkerson tweeted at Wendy's "Yo Wendy's how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?." The company shot back with a cool "18 million." So Wilkerson turned to Wendy's lovers across the internet to help him reach his goal. And while he fell woefully short (we see you Wendy's) he did manage to break the all time record for most retweeted tweet, according to Guinness World Records. And as a reward, Wendy's did give Wilkerson free chicken nuggets for a year. 

Unfortunately, Wilkerson lost his record-holding title to a Japanese billionaire in 2019, but his nuggets tweet still ranks as the third most retweeted Twitter post of all time (via Market Watch).

Wendy's nuggets contain additives

While Wendy's claims to pride itself on using real, fresh, and high quality ingredients in all of its food, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the label, and Wendy's chicken nuggets are no exception. A peek at the ingredients list shows that Wendy's uses at least one additive in its nuggets, in the form of sodium aluminum phosphate. According to Healthline, this additive used in fast food and other processed foods for a variety of purposes, including thickening, leavening, and as a preservative.

While sodium phosphates have been "generally recognized as safe" for consumption by the FDA, that doesn't mean they don't come with negative health effects. The American Heart Association (AHA) reported on a UT Southwestern Medical Center study that linked phosphate additives, like the ones you find in Wendy's nuggets, to lower physical activity and more sedentary habits. And overtime, this can lead to increased risk for cancer and other diseases, and mortality. The AHA also noted that "previous studies have linked higher phosphate intake to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death, particularly in people with kidney disease."

Wendy's chicken nuggets are high in fat in calories, but they're a good source of protein

We're guessing you're not hitting up Wendy's a lot if you're worried about your waistline, but for the sake of transparency, it's worth knowing what you're taking in when you chow down on Wendy's chicken nuggets. As expected, they aren't lacking in fat and calories. A mere six-piece nugget order contains 270 calories, and 17 grams of fat, including 3.5 grams of saturated fat. There's also 570 grams of sodium. Go for that ten-piece instead and you're looking at 450 calories and nearly 30 grams of fat. And this is all before adding on your fries, soda, and dipping sauce. 

But it's not all bad news. Wendy's chicken nuggets also happen to be a great source of protein, with 15 grams in a six-piece order. The nuggets will also give you a little nutrient boost in the form of potassium, iron, and vitamin C (via Fooducate).

Wendy's chicken nuggets could be fried in plastic chemicals

We'll preface this by saying this is highly disturbing, and also probably unlikely to be happening across the board. But apparently there's a chance your Wendy's chicken nuggets could come with a little plastic chemical coating. One Reddit user whose ex-wife worked at a Wendy's, claims that sometimes laziness got in the way of food safety, writing "when they were about to fry a new batch of chicken nuggets, the other employees would just dip the bottom of the plastic bag into the fryer so that it would melt and the nuggets would fall out." This is a pretty big deal for obvious reasons, but mostly because consuming plastics can cause an array of dangerous health effects ranging from indigestion to chronic diseases to cancer (via Ecology Center). And it's definitely worth noting that there's nothing to indicate this was more than an isolated incident.

Some customers claim that Wendy's nuggets taste and look different than they used to

In the decades that they've been on the menu, the chicken nugget recipe at Wendy's seemingly has not changed. However, some customers claim to notice something different about the nuggets in recent years, and if you think too hard about it, it may arouse your suspicions. 

One Reddit user says they "remember Wendy's nuggets being distinct in that they were always very tender and succulent" but lamented that more recently the "nuggets were tough." An apparent Wendy's employee agreed with the post, writing "our nuggets used to [be] awesome! Now even fresh they taste odd." In another Reddit post, someone claimed Wendy's nuggets are smaller than they used to be, with someone else adding that they are "not as juicy, and the breading is thinner." Unfortunately, Wendy's has not verified these claims, so you'll just have to go get some nuggets and decide for yourself.

Wendy's chicken nuggets are considered by many to be some of the best fast food nuggets you can get

You've got a lot of options out there when it comes to fast food chicken nuggets. But according to many, Wendy's nuggets are some of the best you can get. The folks at Eater taste-tested nuggets from nine different popular chains and ranked Wendy's as the best of them all, stating quite simply, that "these are America's best chicken nuggets." 

They aren't the only ones with high praise for Wendy's chicken nuggets. Serious Eats ranked Wendy's as the best traditional nuggets out there. They further made the ranking in Pop Sugar (both spicy and regular) for their "consistent crunch," and according to the world of Reddit, Wendy's nuggets are definitely superior to McDonald's chicken McNuggets. And Business Insider agreed. After comparing chicken nuggets at Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonald's, they concluded that "the chicken nuggets at Wendy's won out with their crispy coating, juicy chicken, and balanced flavor."

Spicy Wendy's chicken nuggets may or may not be here to stay

Wendy's introduced a spicy version of their chicken nuggets to the menu in 2010, and they quickly became a hit (via Forbes). So much so, it's debatable if they are more beloved than the classic version. But here's the thing — their future on the Wendy's menu isn't certain. Wendy's has taken them away from us before. Who knows if they'll do it again?

Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets first disappeared abruptly in 2017. Fans were not happy, and Wendy's noticed. After two years of desperate pleas and angry tweets from hungry customers, it was a Twitter post from Chance the Rapper that finally brought spicy nuggets back to the menu in 2019. Wendy's responded by challenging nugget fans on twitter to like their tweet two million times. Which they did. Perhaps Wendy's forgot what they learned from Carter Wilkerson

Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets remain on the menu today. But some customers have noticed the words "limited time offering" in commercials and advertisements (via Reddit). Might as well go get some right now just to be safe...

Wendy's chicken nuggets are frequently featured in deals and promos

Wendy's chicken nuggets won't cost you a whole lot, especially if you know the smart way to order them, as we explained earlier in this list. But if you keep your eyes peeled, you're likely to find an even better deal to save on your nuggets, since Wendy's frequently seems to feature their chicken nuggets in various promos and deals. 

For instance, sometimes Wendy's may offer free chicken nuggets at its drive-thrus for a whole day, like it did in 2020 (via Business Insider). Other times, they'll offer a free 10-piece when you order something through the app, like they did last September and then again in March (via Delish). Look out for the "2 for $5" deal, and get double the nuggets, or a sandwich to go along for just five bucks (via Thrillist). And sometimes Wendy's will even let you spread the love. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wendy's offered a deal letting customers send free nuggets to a friend.