We Tried The KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets So You Don't Have To

If we've learned anything from KFC over the last couple of decades, it's the fact that the fast food behemoth is unafraid to shake up what makes the brand iconic. Consider the wide array of celebrity spokespeople who have channeled the company's goateed, white suit-clad founder and face of the franchise, Colonel Harland Sanders. Actors who have played Colonel Sanders include comedians (Jim Gaffigan, Dana Carvey, and Norm McDonald all stepped into the role), the World's Strongest Man (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, aka The Mountain from "Game of Thrones"), as well as a country star (the always delightful Reba McEntire, facial hair and all).

Then there was the name change back in 1991, condensing Kentucky Fried Chicken to a mere three letters. Purging the poultry from the title makes even more sense now, because for the first time in the chain's history, KFC has made the bold move of substituting its signature chicken for a plant-based alternative. While other fast food titans have gone the meatless route, like Chipotle's plant-based chorizo and Burger King's Impossible Whopper, chicken chains have been slow to hop on the trend until now. Of course, we were intrigued, and immediately set out to get a taste of the potential future of fast food. Here is everything you need to know about KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets.

What are the ingredients in KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets?

Fast food items aren't known for brevity in the ingredients department, and when the featured protein is manufactured in a lab, it should come as no surprise that the list would be even longer. Per KFC's full nutrition guide, a Beyond Fried Chicken Nugget is comprised of nearly 40 items, which is a lot of stuff for such a small package.

Among the familiar ingredients are water, three types of flour (rice plus both enriched wheat and enriched bleached wheat), and "spices" because, of course, KFC isn't going to give the full game away. We don't have any issue with the addition of pea fiber, soy protein, or potato starch, the latter of which is a key crunch component for Korean fried chicken, according to Food52.

And then there's the science-y stuff like titanium dioxide, which may sound like a weapon employed by a "Batman" villain, but per the National Institutes of Health is inert and safe. Basically, there's nothing terribly sinister in the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets, but if you're aiming for an all-natural diet, this meal will not fit the bill. Also, if you are allergic to gluten, wheat, or soy, you should definitely steer clear. And as for the plant-based distinction it should be noted that the nuggets take a dip in the same oil pool as KFC's fried chicken, which makes it not technically vegetarian if you follow the diet strictly (via Women's Health).

How much do they cost?

Rather than the signature KFC red, the packaging for the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets is green. While this probably has something to do with them being a plant-based option, it may actually be a trollish nod to the price of these nugs which is, fittingly, beyond what you would expect. For a package of six nuggets, we paid a jaw-dropping $7.99. For the same price, you can purchase a KFC Chicken Sandwich Combo (which includes a side and a drink) or a 3-piece Tenders Fill Up (in this case you get the side and the drink, plus a biscuit and a cookie). Though KFC doesn't offer any standard nuggets made with actual chicken, a box of popcorn chicken nuggets is $5.99, and the portion is far more substantial.

As for actual full-sized, oddly-shaped chicken nuggets, or more specifically, McNuggets, a 6-pack at McDonalds will set you back a mere $2.50 while a 20-pack is priced at $6.29, which is nearly two dollars less than the cost of a box of a half dozen Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets. For the best "deal," opt for the 6-Piece Beyond Nuggets Combo which is priced at $9.99. You'll get better value if you double up your nugget portion, but for reasons we'll explain later, that is not advisable.

Note these prices reflect the cost of doing business in Los Angeles, and while the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets may be less expensive elsewhere, they certainly won't come cheap.

How long will KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets be available?

While fast food items tend to come and go, KFC claims that the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets will stay on the menu. The nuggets officially debuted with a nationwide launch of January 10, but the process of fine-tuning the fast food chain's first official plant-based offering was two years in the making.

The Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets isn't the only trendy option currently on the KFC menu. The chain jumped on the Nashville hot chicken bandwagon in 2016, adding the spicy flavor to its chicken tender repertoire (via Time). So far there have been no reports of long lines of frenzied customers clamoring for the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets, and despite the promise of a permanent spot on the roster, nothing is certain in the fried chicken business. There is a long list of discontinued KFC items, and it happens to include Kentucky Nuggets. Per KFC Wiki, the fried morsels made with real chicken were launched in 1984 but were relegated to the dustbin of fast food history 12 years later.

What is the nutritional content of KFC Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets?

If the laundry list of ingredients and the inclusion of the word "fried" in the name didn't convince you that these aren't the healthiest of nuggets, here's some information to make it abundantly clear: According to KFC's Full Nutrition Guide, a single Beyond Fried Chicken Nugget contains 80 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 240 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of total carbohydrates. While those numbers don't seem too bad, multiply everything by six, and the picture becomes far more bleak. 

Particularly worrisome are the totals for fat (27 grams, which is 42% of your daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet) and sodium, which crosses the four-figure threshold with an unpalatable 1440 milligrams, translating to 60% of your daily value. The protein content, however, provides a bit of a bright spot, totaling 36 grams for a six pack of nuggets. But, yeah, even if you're on a protein-focused diet, it's doubtful that the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets should fit into it as more than an occasional treat.

How do they compare nutritionally to KFC's other nuggets?

Since actual chicken Kentucky Nuggets were shelved by KFC over a quarter of a century ago, the best in-house comparison to the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets is the Popcorn Chicken Nuggets. Unfortunately, KFC doesn't specify the weight of the nuggets, but the size of a six pack is comparable to the kids' portion of the Popcorn Chicken Nuggets so we'll use that as a reference. In the popcorn chicken, you're looking at 290 calories, 19 grams of fat, 870 milligrams of sodium, and 19 grams of carbohydrates. So far, that's looking better than its plant-based rival (via KFC). However, while the Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets come up empty in the cholesterol and saturated fat department (which, to be clear, is a good thing), the Popcorn Chicken Nuggets contain 30 milligrams of cholesterol (10% of your daily value) and 2.5 grams of saturated fat (13% of your daily value). The Popcorn Chicken Nuggets also lose out in the protein battle, offering just 13 grams.

Ultimately, comparing the nutritional value of two fried foods is like arguing whether the Jets or the Giants is the better football team. When it comes down to it, nobody is a winner.  

How do they taste?

Let's review: Price? Very high. Nutritional stats? Not very good, but that's to be expected. Of course, taste is the true measure of whether Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets are worth ordering. We'll cut to the chase: These are the George Hamilton of nuggets — an overcooked novelty act that is pure empty calories (via IMDb).

It's a tad shocking that KFC spent the last two years trying to fine-tune its plant-based breakout, and this is the best they can do. The disappointment set in when we snatched a nugget between our fingers and immediately noticed something was off. It was clear that the protein encased in this breading was far denser than a true meat filling. Our tactile suspicions were confirmed when we began to chew. Rather than a clean bite, the nugget makes you work for it, and the sensation is like biting down on a yoga mat (far more nasty than namaste).

It was no surprise that the not-meat is as dry as a Brit's wit, though it does taste like chicken ... but then again, so does everything else. The breading doesn't do the Beyond Chicken any favors, either. It's crumbly and listless, and somehow, KFC's much vaunted herb and spice blend is reduced to salt, salt, and salt. These are in desperate need of lubrication so have your sauce selection ready. We suggest the KFC Sauce and the Honey BBQ, both of which lend much-needed sweetness to balance all that sodium.

How do they compare flavor-wise to KFC Popcorn Chicken Nuggets?

We need to make sure our Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets experience wasn't a complete fever dream and verify that our senses didn't completely fail us. As we mentioned, the only other nuggets currently on the KFC menu fell into the popcorn chicken category. We placed an order for the Popcorn Chicken Nuggets, cracked open the familiar red and white box, popped one of those suckers into our mouth, and ... crunch! Ah, there it is: that familiar KFC sensation. In this case, the coating was on point, with an herb and spice blend that extended beyond the realm of NaCl. Some pepper, some sweet heat — it was glorious (at least by fast food standards).

And the chicken, well it was juicy enough, tender with some springiness. The Beyond Fried Chicken Nuggets were but a distant memory. If you're not adverse to eating the flesh of animals and you prefer your fried chicken in bite-sized form, popcorn is most assuredly the way to go. And if your diet is plant-based or bust, well, you should run far, far away from KFC. To quote the ABC execs after the first season of "Cop Rock," "We will not be ordering this again." If you're searching for the great "beyond" or want to live the "impossible" dream, do yourself a favor and stick with plant-based ground beef. Namaste.