Paleo Chick-fil-A

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Paleo Chick-fil-A | stupideasypaleo.comThis Paleo Chick-fil-A is dedicated to my friend Ricky, a fellow CrossFit Invictus athlete and friend who’s basically like a little brother to me. Being from the south, he’s been rattling on about Chick-fil-A for SO long, I finally decided to make a Paleo version for him. It came out so tasty that I’m going to bring some to party this weekend for him to officially try. The secret’s in the pickle juice! It basically brines the chicken which makes it super moist and tender. The recipe easily doubles.

When researching this recipe (because, you know, it’s got to be somewhat true to the original), I came across loads of different versions on the Internet and tried to best tweak it to be grain- and dairy-free. A few that really inspired this one were Gluten, Grain and Garbage Free Chick-fil-A Nuggets from The Domestic Man and Copy Cat Chick-fil-A Nuggets from Chocolate, Chocolate and More and Chick-fil-A Copy Cat from Hilah Cooking.

Ingredients for Paleo Chick-fil-A:

Directions for Paleo Chick-fil-A:

  1. Cut the chicken breast into large chunks, and put it in a zip top plastic bag. Pour the pickle juice into the bag. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (I kept it in overnight). 
  2. After it’s done marinating, pour the pickle juice out of the bag.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg and coconut milk. Pour that into the bag and let it sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the spice mix. Paleo Chick-fil-A | stupideasypaleo.com
  4. In another small bowl, mix the coconut flour, arrowroot flour, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion power and garlic powder.
  5. Open the bag and drain out as much egg/coconut milk as you can. It doesn’t have to be 100% dry because you want something for the spice mix to stick to.
  6. Pour the spice mix into the bag, close the top, and really massage it into the chicken. This may take a minute or two but you want all the pieces to be evenly coated. Paleo Chick-fil-A | stupideasypaleo.com
  7. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat a few tablespoons of coconut oil until the oil is very hot. Add a single layer of chicken (being careful not to crowd it) to the pan and fry on each side for about 3 minutes or until it’s completely cooked through. It took me two batches to cook one pound of chicken. Paleo Chick-fil-A | stupideasypaleo.com

Change It Up:

  • Use a basic salt water brine solution instead of pickle juice (2 Tablespoons salt to 2 cups of water).
  • Serve with Paleo Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce or honey mustard dipping sauce.
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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130 thoughts on “Paleo Chick-fil-A

  1. Calliope

    Wow i have never heard of ths chick a fila place, so i looked it up and looked the ingredients in their filet thingies, WOW, thats a lot of crap! The pickle juice intrigues me and I am going to try these this weekend!

    Reply
    1. Pamela

      I was out of paprika when I made these so I substituted 1/2 tsp each of chipotle, ancho and San Antonio chili powder. It was delicious!!
      I think the dill pickle juice is the key to the recipe….

      Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Sylvia. You could brine the chicken in a water/salt solution (a basic recipe is 4 cups of water to 1.5 Tablespoons of salt) instead of the pickle juice.

      Reply
  2. Robin

    I was just wondering if there is a substitute for the pickle juice? I really hate pickles!! It’s such a strong flavoring that I would think it may come through at the end. Could you comment on if you can taste the pickle juice or not- and if so, what substitutions could be made (if any)?

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Robin…the taste of the pickle juice is definitely present in the background. You could brine the chicken in a water/salt solution (a basic recipe is 4 cups of water to 1.5 Tablespoons of salt) instead of the pickle juice.

      Reply
  3. Mary B

    I’m curious if you have any ideas for a healthy version of their Chik-fil-a Sauce. It has such awful ingredients but sadly I sometimes succumb to using it anyway. I’m definitely going to try your recipe this week. My eight year old will be so happy – he loves pickles and even their juice more than anything else! I just need to find some Arrowroot powder – any appropriate substitutes if I can’t find it at the store?

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Mary, I think you can try just using 2 Tablespoons of coconut flour instead of arrowroot + coconut. I made simple honey mustard with some brown mustard, honey and apple cider vinegar.

      Reply
    2. Susan

      Mary B, I know what you mean. It is nearly impossible to get away from high frutose corn syrup and soy bean oil. It is everywhere. I had to quit eating Chick fil a because I have thyroid disease which I think my have been caused by polyunsaturated fats. It is hard to eat out anywhere now, but my daughter works at Chipoltle and their food is all really healthy and good. I know that the Chick fil a sauce is a mix of honey mustard and BBQ so maybe if we made the paleo version of those two and mixed them together it would work.

      Reply
  4. Mary

    Where does everyone get their arrowroot powder from? I have a very hard time finding it. And everywhere I’VE seen on the internet charges a ton for it.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Mary, I get mine from my local health food store. You can also substitute coconut flour, but it may be a bit more clumpy.

      Reply
      1. David

        What about almond flour and coconut flour? I don’t have a lot of local shopping options, but one specialty store does carry some of the Bob’s Red Mill products (which is where I got my coconut and almond flours) — I didn’t see arrowroot, but I will look next time, anyway.

        Reply
  5. Susan P

    LOVED this! Tasted JUST like what I remember Chick-Fil-A to taste like. We had chicken thighs thawed so used them and then made honey mustard: 1/2c paleo mayo, 1 1/2T dijon mustard + 1 T ground mustard, pinch salt, 2T raw honey. Fam said it tasted just like store-bought (and since when is THAT an endorsement? :-D). Served with Sweet Potato Fries out of “Against All Grain” cookbook and steamed zucchini. WONDERFUL meal.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      I love the sound of that dipping sauce…YUM!

      That sounds like the perfect combination for a healthy dinner. Great to hear that it was a success!

      Reply
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  7. Lynn

    I’m usually one who hates my own cooking, but this was absolutely delicious. This is one I will make again and again!

    Just a note for those who are wondering: I usually hate the taste of unrefined coconut oil, but I used it for this, and the final product didn’t taste a bit like sunscreen.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Lynn! I’m really glad you enjoyed it :) High five! Thanks for checking in and also for sharing your thoughts on the coconut oil. I know it will help a lot of people.

      Reply
  8. Jessica

    Ok, I am about to serve this for dinner and I have to say it came out amazing! I didnt have arrowroot flour on hand so I used all coconut. Thank you for this recipie! Now one of my favorites for sure.

    Reply
  9. Haley

    This recipe looks awesome! I would like to incorporate it into my macros, any chance you could post the nutritional value?

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Haley…I don’t count macros unfortunately. The coconut milk, coconut flour and arrowroot are very minimal ingredients and would probably be the only things aside from the chicken that you’d want to count? Sorry I can’t help out more!

      Reply
  10. Sylvia RN MSN NP-C

    This looks awesome! I’m going to have to try tonight!! Just curious as I’ve never cooked with coconut oil (but am going to start as I know it’s SO healthy and SO delicous), do you ever bake with it?? I didn’t know if I could substitute coconut oil for other vegetable oils in baking recipes…. Thanks for the GREAT website! :-) Blessings!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Sylvia! I don’t do a LOT of baking but I have used it in muffins and cookies with great success. In fact, if you gently melt it, it should be a 1:1 substitution. Thank you for the very kind words :) Steph

      Reply
  11. Deb

    Oh my gosh! This was a hit! Followed the recipe to a T and LOVED it! I’ve shared it with all my CF friends and anyone else who will listen :)

    Thank you so much for posting great paleo alternatives that taste GREAT!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Deb! Thanks so much for letting me know :) It’s always nice to have an alternative. Where do you CF at?

      Reply
  12. Beth

    Any suggestion on ingredients to make this the SPICY recipe?!? That’s my FAVORITE thing at Chick-fil-a!! Maybe cayenne??

    Reply
  13. Jenny

    I made these last night for dinner. My whole family loved them! I made a double batch and only cooked up 1 batch last night. I cooked the rest today and then took it another step to try and mimic Chik-fil-a’s chicken salad. I miss their chicken salad sandwiches sooo much! So I chopped the nuggets up real good, added some chopped pickles, and some homemade mayo. OMG!! I’d swear this came from Chik-fil-a. It’s totally awesome and delicious! Thank you so much for posting this recipe!!

    Reply
  14. Dara

    Steph!

    You are truly my go to person when it comes to finding new and amazing recipes! I made these last night and they were simply delicious! Even my friends who aren’t Paleo agreed that they were better than CFA nuggets :) Thanks again for another brilliant recipe.

    Dara

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Dara! You put a huge, huge smile on my face. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. Hugs!

      Reply
  15. Nancy

    I brined these with the pickle juice for about 7 hours. It was strange because the majority of the pieces had no flavor of it. The few that did maintain the flavor from the brine actually tasted like I remember chick fil a tasting back when I last had it over 20 years ago. I cut up almost 2 pounds of chicken breast (and doubled the brine and seasoning) into nuggets in the 1.5 to 2 inch range (give or take). My 7 year old daughter has never had chick fil a, so didn’t know what they were supposed to taste like. I lost track of how many she ate at her 10th nugget, but she was still going. I think she ate at least 15. Her only comment was that they could use more seasoning, which I would agree with. We are actually on GAPS diet and can’t have the arrowroot, so I used all coconut flour. I’m wondering if the coconut flour might have negated the flavor of the brine? Who knows! Next time I hope the chicken will be defrosted enough when I want to make it so that they can marinate overnight and through the next day. I am also going to increase the seasoning a bit.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Nancy…hmm that’s strange. When I marinated/brined it, I put it in a plastic ziplock bag and tried to turn the bag every couple hours or so.

      I don’t think the coconut flour would have affected the pickle juice flavor though it is a stronger taste than arrowroot so it’s certainly possible. It also may vary depending the type of pickles one uses.

      Reply
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  17. Linda

    Well, it looks like I’m one for one! Just found this web site this afternoon and fixed the nuggets for dinner. Although the cooking smell was a little strange, (maybe it was the paprika, i’ve only used it on hard boiled eggs), but my husband and I ate the whole pound of chicken! i’ll definitely try more recipes-thanks for doing this site!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      That’s awesome, Linda! I’m super glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know!

      Reply
  18. Sandy

    My friend made these and they were delicious! I would like to try the recipe, but have a child with nut allergies , including coconut, what would you recommend as a substitute for the coconut flour/oil? New to your site and loving it!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Sandy…you could just use all arrowroot flour if that’s an option. For the coconut oil, how about using something like ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil (though I don’t like to use olive oil at high temps). Just some suggestions for you. Thanks for your kind words :)

      Reply
  19. Kat

    I didn’t have any chicken thawed so I used turkey breast and served it with honey-mustard sauce I made with raw local honey and dijon mustard with a dash of salt. Delish!!

    Reply
  20. Liane Colley

    Hi Stephanie, I made this tonight and even my picky husband thought It was great. My kids did too, so this is a keeper. I doubled the recipe and It turned out great. The honey mustard dipping sauce was a perfect addition as well.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Awesome!! When the whole family likes it, I know that it’s a keeper :) Thanks for stopping by to let me know, Liane :)

      Reply
  21. olivia

    this was a bit of work with all the steps involved but it turned out really great! I have always wondered about that sweetness in chik fila’s food, now I know. you definitely want to do a double batch, just get it over with and cook up a ton of this stuff. I will take my own advice next time. I didn’t have arrowroot and just used all coconut flour. what’s the purpose of the arrowroot anyway?

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Olivia…the arrowroot just gives a different (less sticky/bulky texture) to the coating than the coconut flour does in my experience.

      Reply
  22. Shelby

    I have made this recipe several times and must say- DELICIOUS! Whether you eat Paleo or not, this is a crowd pleaser. Even your kids will love it. Here are 2 things I have learned: 1) Marinate the chicken in the pickle juice for a minimum of 3 hours. Anything less and you miss out on the faint hint of pickles. And even if you hate pickles, you will like the briney taste it gives (this came from a pickle hater); 2) Regular paprika, as opposed to smoked, gives these nuggets a more authentic Chickfila taste. Trust me! Regular paprika is where it is at! Thank you for this great recipe. It is one of my all-time favorites.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Shelby! Oooooh great tip :) I let mine sit overnight which was even better I think. Thanks for letting us know about the regular paprika!!

      Reply
  23. GMS

    Does anyone know how to find a pickle juice that doesn’t have ‘natural flavors’ or xanthum gum or any of the other bad stuff that makes me ill? I live in a smallish, not progressive town, and the local grocery stores don’t carry much beyond generic, and vlasic. Both had the same ingredients listed.

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Great question! Hopefully someone has suggestions for you…which state/regions are you in? That may help get a more specific answer.

      Reply
      1. GMS

        Hi, I live in NW Florida, great beaches but few shopping choices… I found a recipe on Elana’s website for pickles that don’t require actual canning. I might try that if I don’t find anything on-line.

        Reply
    2. Nancy

      What you want to make is fermented pickles, which should just require a lot of salt to start the process, and whatever other seasonings you would like. Many recipes require whey (NOT the powdered kind), but you can easily find recipes that only require salt (a real salt, not processed salt). Do an online search for recipes that start with “lacto-fermented”. This is the term for this method of pickling. One super easy recipe for carrots (the “juice” from these would still be a flavor that would work with chicken nuggets, doesn’t taste like carrots, but just like pickle juice is):
      http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2010/08/lacto-fermented-dilly-carrot-sticks.html
      This recipe does call for whey, but gives instructions down at the bottom for extra slat if you would like to leave out whey. Best of luck to you!!! :)

      Reply
  24. Jessica

    Can you bake instead of fry these? I really don’t like frying my food. Do you think they would still turn out good?

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      I think they’d taste great! Not sure how the coating would turn out texture-wise but I think it’d be fine.

      Reply
  25. Colleenie

    Love your recipes! Can’t wait to try this one. But just wanted to clarify, because I am NOT a cook and have no cooking sense, but when you drain the egg/coconut milk from the bag, you don’t save it for anything, right? Draining means tossing it? Then you add the flour mix to the bag? I’m sure my roommate would be rolling his eyes right about now but I want to make this on my own :)

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Hi there! It’s okay…I’m glad you asked. Don’t save the coconut/egg mixture…you’ll want to throw it out before you add in the flour. That was, you’ve moistened the chicken enough for the coating to stick but it’s not soupy. You’re going to be great!

      Reply
  26. Erica

    I just made these (tenderloins instead of nuggets, though), and they turned out great! My husband liked them, though he suggested that I tone down the pickle flavor next time (I let them marinate overnight). Even my picky nephew liked them. He ate every single chunk of chicken I gave him, which ended up being about the size of a small tenderloin; that’s a lot for him. I will definitely make this a second time. :)

    Reply
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  28. Maria

    My “picky eater” son said he likes these better than REAL Chick-Fil-A! My other son asked if we could have them for dinner every night!

    Reply
  29. ticamom

    You’re brilliant for coming up with this!!! Do you think they would freeze well (once cooked)? It’d be great to make a big batch and then freeze some for quick meals/snacks. Thanks!

    Reply
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  31. Glyn

    I just made this for lunch – absolutely delicious! I too used tenderloins and I brined the chicken in salt solution rather than pickle juice (as I didn’t have any). Great recipe, this will certainly be in high rotation on our dinner menu! Thanks!

    Reply
  32. Molly Armstrong

    Just made these tonight for my family. My 3 boys were giving me funny looks as I was draining the pickle juice out (I marinated the chicken for a day). We live in CA and I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a chick fil a, but these were sooooo goooood!! And easy! I doubled your recipe and all of the chicken was gone! I was hoping to have some left over. I’m going to make a huge batch of these and freeze them for an easy lunch or snack. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      You’re so welcome, Molly! It always make me smile to know it’s kid-approved…I know they can be a tough crowd ;)

      Reply
  33. Wendy

    I used to work at Chick-fil-A and I know that we put the chicken in the pickle juice the night before. That is a big part of the final flavor. Anyway, if you have seen the news lately or follow Food Babe’s blog you know they are making some changes to their products to make them healthier. I am looking forward to trying this recipe. Thanks !

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Oh very cool. I read Food Babe’s blog from time to time but I missed that post. I’ll have to go check it out. Thanks for letting me know, Wendy!

      Reply
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  36. Stephanie

    I love this recipe but I am not a big fan of coconut so I don’t use the coconut flower, I also don’t use any milk at all and find that it’s not needed when you have the egg. :) I love this recipe it’s the only fast food I used to miss.

    Reply
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  40. Carmen P

    This was delicious. Made it for my family this weekend and they gobbled it up. My 4-year asked for more and my pickle hating husband loved it too!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Depends on how hungry you are, I suppose. If you have an average of a 4 oz serving, it’d make about 4.

      Reply
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  42. Patricia

    Going to have to try this recipe. Love Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets. Now just need a paleo version of the delicious Chick-fil-A Sauce ;-)

    Reply
  43. Kim

    I grew up eating Chick-Fil-A roughly twice a week. (My school had lunch catered, and chicken strips were my go-to) Since going vegan and then paleo, I thought I’d never enjoy Chick-Fil-A again. OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD (sorry for yelling, but wow)
    Thank you so, so much.

    Reply
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  45. K

    THIS WAS AMAZING! I have been GF for over a year and now I am currently trying to go paleo. My boyfriend does not like to eat GF or plaeo, so I am always trying new recipes hoping he will “cross over”. Let’s just say he LOVED these!! These are so simple to make and everyone can enjoy them. ;) I will be making these again!

    Reply
  46. Danielle Greenway

    Do you happen to know the calories, fat, etc??? This would help me so much. My trainer this morning said these may not be too good for me to eat and I eat them 5 days a week for lunch… I would greatly appreciate it so I can input it into my fitness app. I’ve been trying to figure it out for hours now?? Pleaseeeee help!!!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Why did your trainer say they’re aren’t good for you to eat?

      I honestly don’t have it calculated. You can trying Google for the nutrition info of the major ingredients and add it up.

      Reply
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  48. Karen

    I’ve read through the comments and saw that you suggest salt water brine as a sub for dill pickle juice. I’m wondering if adding some apple cider vinegar and dill to the brine makes sense to you? I’m not a big dill pickle person (Ok, I REALLY am not a big dill pickle person.), but I’d like to add flavor…just flavor that doesn’t involve tossing dill pickles because there is no way I’ll eat them. ;^) Thanks for the recipes….

    Reply
  49. Michele

    I tried this tonight and oh man, so delicious!! The best part was the crunchy bits stuck to the pan, in fact I think you could make a recipe just from that!

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      That is so awesome Michele! Thanks for taking the time to let me know…and I think you have the right idea ;)

      Reply
  50. Stella S

    Hi Steph!
    I FINALLY got around to making this today. And it was really YUM. I’ve only had the real deal two times, but it was so long ago I couldn’t compare the two. BUT, I really like this recipe because its got ingredients that I can eat and not get sick over it, so that makes it a HUGE win in my book.
    I made two batches to feed 4 adults. I used separate bags for each pound of chicken. It may have been slightly a little more work, but it turned out perfectly. My guys tell me that I will need to make 3# for the next time; they will want leftovers (no leftovers for 2# batch.)
    Thanks for a fabulous recipe. <3
    Light & Love,
    Stella

    Reply
  51. Mica

    These are freaking addicting. I made these for the 1st time today. Luckily for me, I made a double batch. I cooked the nuggets in batches and had to sample a few from each batch. :)

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      So glad to hear that! A lot of folks tell me they should have made a double batch so you’re already ahead of them! :)

      Reply
  52. tom

    OMG a few dips of sauce that has a few “non-paleo” ingredients IS NOT GOING TO KILL YOU AND WILL NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER IN YOUR BODY COMP!! You guys have taken it waaay too far…

    Reply
    1. Steph Post author

      Some people like to make their own sauce at home without going out to the restaurant. To each his own.

      Reply
  53. Kelly

    I just made these. Pretty good but missing something. I only marinaded for 2 hours. I think playing around with the recipe would help.

    Reply

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