I tried Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A's chicken nuggets to see which are better, and there was a clear winner

Rachel Askinasi/INSIDERI pitted Shake Shack (left) and Chick-fil-A (right) against each other for a chicken nugget showdown.
  • Shake Shack recently added chicken nuggets that it calls Chick’n Bites to the menu.
  • Since Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are my two favourite fast-food chains, I tried the Chick’n Bites next to CFA’s counterpart for a chicken nugget showdown.
  • I compared the nuggets based on their coating, freshness, flavour, and, of course, the chicken.
  • Chick-fil-A’s nuggets had a crispier coating, while Shake Shack’s had the better flavour.
  • Chick-fil-A ultimately took the number one spot, but Shake Shack’s barbecue sauce left a lasting impression.

As a native New Yorker, I’m a big fan of Shake Shack and I became an even bigger fan when I tried its Chick’n Shack sandwich earlier this year. But, as someone who lived in Maryland for four years during college, it’s also pretty hard to get me to turn down some Chick-fil-A.

When I heard Shake Shack had added chicken nuggets called Chick’n Bites to its menu, I knew I had to try them. So I went to Shake Shack’s West Village Innovative Kitchen to put them to the test and took along Chick-fil-A’s nuggets to see how my two favourite fast-food chains would fare.


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The test really came down to four categories: coating, freshness, flavour, and, of course, the chicken. Here’s how each nugget stacked up.

Just from looking at Shake Shack’s and Chick-fil-A’s nuggets, I was able to tell what kind of crunch I’d get from each

Shake Shack vs Chick-fil-ACourtesy of Samantha HandlerBoth Chick-fil-A’s (left) and Shake Shack’s (right) nuggets looked amazing on the outside.

The coating on Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites had more of a flaky kind of fry, so I knew it would be crispy. While Shake Shack’s didn’t hold up too well, Chick-fil-A nuggets had more of a crunchy, chicken cutlet-esque breading.

Rachel Askinasi/INSIDEROnce it started to come off, there was no stopping it.

While I preferred the texture of the Shake Shack coating on first bite, because of their floppy breading that fell off with the slightest touch, this round went to Chick-fil-A.

When it came to freshness, Chick-fil-A had the edge

Chick-fil-a shake shack nuggetsRachel Askinasi/INSIDERAt first glance, they both look stunning.

Around 30 seconds after the cashier at Shake Shack handed me my bag, I took a bite out of a nugget. The Chick’n Bites were juicy and the coating crispy, but they quickly lost their appeal. Soon enough, they were cold and a bit soggy. The extra crispy corners held onto their crunch, but that’s about all.

When the Chick-fil-A nuggets inevitably got cold, they lost their crunch as well. But they were still pretty enjoyable. The breading stayed put and the chicken itself held onto its moisture.

Although the Chick’n Bites put up a good fight, Chick-fil-A took this round as well.

Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites was a good combination of salty and spicy, while Chick-fil-A’s flavour came mostly from adding sauces

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggetsCourtesy of Samantha HandlerTime for the taste test.

If you’ve ever had the Chick’n Shack sandwich, you’ll understand the peppery goodness that is the seasoning. You get the same heat from the Chick’n Bites, even though they’re not particularly spicy. They were salty, but I’m someone who is particularly sensitive to salt and I had no complaints.

With the Chick-fil-A nuggets, though, the real flavour came from the dipping sauces. While the combination of salt, spices, paprika, and MSG was delicious, it was nothing special.

This round went to Shake Shack, hands down.

I was impressed by the chicken in both nuggets

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggetsCourtesy of Samantha HandlerThese are some quality nuggets.

It’s easy to find a chicken nugget that looks like cooked baby food on the inside. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with either of these.

I ripped open one from each chain and found nothing but evidence of their promised white meat – and honestly, I wasn’t surprised. I can always rely on both Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A to give me something that looks, feels, and tastes like just chicken. No byproduct in sight.

The Chick-fil-A Nugget held onto its moisture a bit longer than its Manhattan-native counterpart, but it wasn’t enough to make a huge difference to its yum factor.

This round was a tie.


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Sauce is arguably the most important part of any fast-food meal, and Shake Shack delivered the better barbecue sauce

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggetsRachel Askinasi/INSIDEREveryone knows the sauces are the most important part of any meal.

Nuggets, tenders, a burger, whatever, can be absolutely horrific, but put a good barbecue or special sauce in front of me and I’ll eat the entire portion, and then I’ll wipe the sauce container clean using my pinky finger (to keep things classy).

Shake Shack had the better barbecue sauce by a mile. It was tangy, and thin enough to leave you with just the right amount after a dunk. Chick-fil-A’s was good, but had a thicker texture and tasted more like a mainstream sauce.

Now for a debate that’s sure to get your friends in an argument: Shack Sauce versus Chick-fil-A Sauce.

If you’re extremely partial to either of the chains, you’ll probably will yourself to like its special sauce better. But I’m here to set the record straight. Chick-fil-A Sauce is far superior, at least when it’s on the side. A side of Shack Sauce is thick and stiff, not gooey and dunkable.

While both nuggets have their strengths, the one I’d want to order again, no doubt, would be the Chick-fil-A Nuggets

Chick fil a nuggetsCourtesy of Samantha HandlerChick-fil-A does chicken best.

Overall, Chick-fil-A’s are simply solid, reliable, great chicken nuggets.

But, if you want the real winning combination here, load up on that 30 count of Chick-fil-A nuggets, and then head on over to Shake Shack to pick up some barbecue sauce. Now that’s a collaboration we should all get behind.

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