You’ve probably seen the futuristic ads for the latest faux meat on the block: Simulate’s Nuggs. And while it’s one thing to come up with a sleek, scroll-stopping internet campaign, it’s quite another to attempt an overhaul of the beloved chicken nugget. Whether you’re the type who treats yourself to a yearly Happy Meal, can’t survive a hangover without a greasy breakfast sandwich, or wouldn’t touch an order fries with a ten-foot pole—chances are you have ~ feelings ~ about fast food. As a child of the ’90s, my relationship with the industry was tainted when I saw Supersize Me in my formative years, so unless I can use a road trip as an excuse to enjoy blobs of crispy goodness, I don’t eat them. And now, thanks to Nuggs, I may never again.
In the past when I’ve tried a meat alternative, the flavor and texture would low-key remind me of the sponge-like “meat” you’d find in a microwave dinner from the ’90s—and sometimes even the chewy “bacon” strips my schnauzer Gizmo used to devour. Needless to say, there’s plenty of room for skepticism when it comes to plant, wheat, or soy-based products masquerading as meat—especially when positioned as a “healthy” alternative, considering the degree of processing it takes to make any kind of imitation food. Nuggs definitely doesn’t do that. It leans into the highly-processed nature of its hero product (it literally says “kills you slower” on the site) and instead focuses on what it does offer consumers: a tasty-as-hell alternative that offers more protein and less fat than traditional nuggets.
Dubbed onsite as the “Tesla of Chicken,” Nuggs separates itself from competitors with a hyper-realistic flavor and texture thanks to “advanced soy protein technology.” For my Nuggs review, I ate an alarming number of these mini blobs and compared them to other popular “nuggets” on the market. Even after one bite, I found that they’re about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing—and the fact that it’s animal-free is borderline mind-blowing. Even my McFlurry-addicted, vegan-slandering boyfriend can get behind them, which says a lot—and they’ve got existential reviews to back them: “I’m not a religious person, but I think Nuggs made me question that,” one customer wrote. “What you all have cooked up at Simulate is god’s work.” If by god they mean a 21-year-old serial entrepreneur, they’re not wrong.
Ben Pasternak, the Australian tech whiz behind Nuggs, launched his first iOs app at the tender (see what I did there) age of 14, before moving to New York City to launch a handful of other apps that have since been acquired. After kicking off a successful career in tech, the food space wasn’t what one might have suspected to be his next move, but Nuggs has hints of Pasternak’s tech experience throughout its brand identity.