Chicken nuggets are among the most supreme delights of the modern culinary world. Crispy, tender, juicy, perfectly paired with sauces–what is there not to love?
Perhaps one of the most iconic and beloved qualities of the chicken nugget, though, is that it can come in a wide variety of different options.
From the dinosaur chicken nuggets of youth to the seemingly amorphous shapes one sees in fast-food restaurants, there are a seemingly infinite number of chicken nugget shape options.
Now, as I was contemplating the many chicken nugget shapes, it occurred to me that I’ve never read a comprehensive study of all the major shapes.
That said, I’ve done extensive research, including taste tests and historical studies, on all the major chicken nugget shapes.
Now, I’m here to break down nine of the shapes most people have tried–or ones that any nugget lover should add to their list.
The legions of McDonald’s lovers that dot the globe, myself included, can assure you that the boot belongs in the hall of fame for chicken nugget shapes.
Now, any readers who aren’t familiar with the shape might be confused–a boot-shaped chicken nugget?
But readers might know the boot chicken nugget better than they think. The boot is one of the four signature shapes that McDonald’s offers in its chicken nugget offerings.
It’s also recognizable as an L-shape or a parallelogram but held at the right angle, it looks like a boot.
The boot, like other McDonald’s chicken nugget shapes, is specially designed to ensure that every single nugget is cooked evenly and identically. The more you know!
Dinosaur chicken nuggets are perhaps the most famous of all the chicken nugget shapes, and for very good reason.
Besides being delicious and nutritious, dinosaur chicken nuggets allow nugget lovers to gaze on their favorite prehistoric beasts even as they enjoy a meal. They’ve been a favorite among children for years.
Evidence suggests that dinosaur chicken nuggets were developed by Perdue Chicken in the early 1990s.
Although the exact date of their release is a matter of dispute, there’s no doubt that the contemporary love of dinosaurs (and the release of Jurassic Park) ballooned their popularity.
Since then, numerous dinosaur nuggets varieties have hit the market, including tyrannosaurus rexes, triceratopses, and pterodactyls.
For time immemorial, chicken nuggets and fries have been the dynamic duo, the dream team, and best buddies.
But in the year 2005, Burger King decided that it was time to change the game.
They rolled out chicken fries, a hybrid entity that existed in a fry/chicken hypostatic union–thin strips of chicken in french fry shapes, complete with dipping sauces.
While chicken fries bear a barebones resemblance to chicken tenders, they’re far thinner and crispier, making them supremely easy to snack on.
Although Burger King briefly discontinued chicken fries in the early 2010s, they were quickly reinstated on the BK menu due to popular demand–and spawned a spinoff, Cheetos Chicken Fries. We hope the chicken ingenuity never stops.
At the beginning of the year 2021, it seemed as though the chicken nugget world could do no better, as though it were Babylon at the peak of its power.
But then, a light shone on the horizon: Tyson’s Chicken released Nuggets of Love, heart-shaped chicken nuggets.
The heart-shaped nuggets were extremely popular when they debuted in 2021, so much so that after Valentine’s Day passed, numerous heart nugget fans cried out in despair.
But not to worry: at the end of January 2022, Tyson revealed that the heart-shaped nuggets would return to stores, satisfying nugget fans for another year.
What better shape could there be to represent the love we have for this top-tier snack?
Whether a nugget eater is just learning the alphabet or is a lifetime letter appreciator, letter-shaped chicken nuggets are a stellar option for any fried chicken aficionado.
The major distributor of letter-shaped chicken nuggets is Perdue, which is innovating the nugget game every single day.
One of the best elements of letter nuggets is that they allow for an infinite degree of creativity.
Whether a nugget lover wants to spell out their favorite words or choose their favorite shape (I’m partial to the R), the possibilities are endless.
Bells are another of McDonald’s four signature chicken nugget shapes. Now, the bell is a little more abstract than the boot shape.
When I looked at the four shapes, I couldn’t guess what it was. It looked more like a gourd or pear.
But the ambiguity doesn’t matter: bell-shaped chicken nuggets are an absolute treat.
And just like other McDonald’s chicken nugget shapes, the bell shape’s uniformity ensures that McDonald’s’ expert chefs always cook them to perfection.
As we’ve seen, there’s an extensive number of chicken nugget shapes on the market, so we shouldn’t be surprised every time there’s an innovation.
One of the most recent additions to the nugget shape hall of fame is the chicken nugget ring, a circle of breaded and fried chicken meat with a fun hole in the middle.
Chicken rings first debuted from the vintage burger chain White Castle in 2002, where they’ve since earned something of a cult following.
While they can be served on miniature hamburger buns and eaten as a sandwich–like a beautiful cross between a chicken nugget and an onion ring–they’re just as good to scarf down by themselves.
Chicken nugget spheres, or balls, are another of McDonald’s four chicken nugget shapes.
The spheres are the most condensed of the four McDonald’s shapes, packing plenty of juicy white meat in a small package.
Their shape is also so simple that they have inspired several imitators and competitors.
Since sphere nuggets are, well, spheres, it’s only a matter of rolling chicken meat into a spherical shape, breading it, and then frying it.
Bones are the fourth of McDonald’s standard nugget shapes. The four shapes altogether are boots, bells, spheres, and bones.
The bone is very similar to the boot, but it’s missing the toe of the boot that gives it its shape.
The bone is essentially a rectangle, but it’s slightly wider at the ends. The bone shaped nugget looks a lot like the bell and boot shape, but it’s somewhere in the middle.
Like all the McDonald’s nugget shapes, it was designed to cook evenly without having one uniform nugget!
Star-shaped chicken nuggets are most recognizable for their inclusion on the Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. menu, as the five-pointed star imitates the chain’s iconic smiling star logo.
Now, the star can be a tricky shape, but it’s worth it. Since five arms extend from a central axle, it can be easy for the arms to break off while the nuggets are in the fryer.
Thankfully, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. employs a crack team of experts to ensure that each nugget makes it through cooking safely.
After that cooking process, these stars pack an added punch. Since they have all those points, it’s easier to dip each nugget into multiple sauces, creating a symphony of flavor in the mouth.