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You won’t believe how realistic these tofu chicken nuggets are! They’re chewy and tender on the inside, and crispy and golden brown on the outside.
They’re made with wholesome ingredients like tofu, nutritonal yeast, and spices, and are baked until golden perfection. Plus, a gluten-free option is included!
Ever since switching to a plant-based diet, tofu has been a staple in my kitchen. It’s not only packed with nutrients (it contains all nine essential amino acids!), but it’s also SO versatile thanks to its subtle flavor.
Today, I’m adding one more recipe to my catalog—these delicious tofu chicken nuggets.
Not only do they satisfy that nostalgic craving for crispy, savory nuggets, but they’re also made healthier by using the oven (or air fryer), instead of the deep-frier.
Ingredients and notes
- Tofu: Use extra-firm or super firm tofu (aka high-protein tofu) for best results. They give a realistic texture to these vegan chicken nuggets. Other types of tofu, such as soft tofu or silken tofu, won’t work well in this recipe.
- Panko breadcrumbs: These are my go-to when I’m breading something. I use them in vegan coconut shrimp and baked zucchini chips for that extra crunchy coating.
- Vegan chicken bouillon cube: The trick to make tofu taste like chicken is to soak it in vegan chicken broth. If you don’t have bouillon cubes on hand, you can use Better Than Bouillon Vegetarian Paste.
- Non-dairy milk: Make sure to use unsweetened milk. You can use any type that you like such as soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, etc.
- All-purpose flour: Feel free to use gluten-free all-purpose flour if needed. A whole wheat flour also works well!
- Cornstarch: It helps thicken the batter and make the tofu crispy. You can also use potato starch.
- Nutritional yeast: Adds umami flavor and helps season the tofu. If you don’t have it on hand, check out my post for nutritional yeast substitutes.
- Spices: You’ll need smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. You can also add cayenne pepper if you want a spicy kick.
Scroll to the recipe card below for the full recipe and measurements.
How to make tofu chicken nuggets
Start by freezing your tofu block first. Then, thaw it in the refrigerator for a few hours.
If it’s still frozen by the time you’re ready to cook, defrost it in the microwave.
If using extra-firm tofu, press it for 15-20 minutes to remove excess moisture. You can do that by either wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels) and placing a heavy pot on top, or using a tofu press.
If using super firm tofu, gently squeeze it over the sink to remove excess water.
Using your hands, tear the tofu into 1-inch chunks. This will give it a more realistic chicken look and more crispy edges.
Next, in a large bowl, dissolve the vegan chicken bouillon cube in hot water. Add the tofu chunks and marinate for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare two small bowls. In the first one, mix the non-dairy milk with all-purpose flour and cornstarch.
In the second one, mix the panko breadcrumbs and spices.
When the tofu pieces are ready, remove them from the broth and start coating.
First, dip one into the batter, then into the breadcrumbs mixture. Dip it back into the batter, and then in the breadcrumbs again for a second time.
Let any excess batter drip off after each dipping.
Arrange the tofu chicken nuggets on a baking sheet layered with parchment paper. Make sure to leave enough space so each piece can crisp up.
Spray with cooking spray for extra browning if desired. Bake in a preheated oven to 400°F (200°C) for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until golden brown.
Air fryer method
Arrange the tofu chicken nuggets in the air fryer basket. Make sure to leave enough space so each piece can crisp up.
Spray with cooking spray for extra browning if desired. Air fry at 375°F (190°C) for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until golden brown.
- Freeze, then thaw your tofu for the best texture. Freezing tofu forms ice crystals inside, creating holes. When you thaw it, the ice melts, but the holes stay, making the tofu denser. The result is a tofu with a meat-like texture that absorbs flavors better.
- Use the right kind of tofu. Using extra-firm or super-firm tofu is KEY! These kinds of tofu contain less moisture, which makes them crisp up more when frying or baking.
- Serve right after baking. These tofu chicken nuggets are crispy and crunchy while they’re still warm. The coating softens when it cools down.
Tofu is an excellent plant-based protein for vegans and vegetarians alike. It provides essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese, and it’s also cholesterol-free. It’s lower in saturated fat than chicken, and higher in fiber.
Yes, you can freeze them before cooking. I don’t recommend freezing them after cooking, as the coating will become soggy.
You can make it gluten-free by using gluten-free all-purpose flour, and gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. Tofu is naturally gluten-free.
Yes! Follow the recipe until step 5. Then, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven. Use a kitchen thermometer to check when the oil has reached 350ºF (170ºC). If you don’t have it on hand, dip a wooden spoon or a chopstick into the oil. If the edges sizzle right away, the oil is ready.
Add 3-4 tofu chicken pieces into the hot oil, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, flipping halfway through.
Carefully remove them using a spider strainer and place them on a plate with a paper towel to soak the excess oil. Repeat until all nuggets are done.
Serve these tofu chicken nuggets with your favorite sauce. Try my Korean BBQ sauce, vegan BBQ sauce, and vegan tartar sauce for more ideas. Or try this yummy homemade tomato ketchup without onion and garlic.
Storage and reheating
These tofu chicken nuggets are best served fresh, while they’re still warm and crispy. However, you can save leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
To reheat, add leftover tofu chicken to a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for 10 minutes, or until warmed through and crisped up. You can also reheat them in the air fryer for 7 minutes.
Crispy Tofu Chicken
For the tofu
- 16 oz super firm tofu or extra firm
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 vegan chicken bouillon cube
For the batter
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch or potato starch
For the coating
- 1 ¼ cups panko breadcrumbs or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ – 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional, for spicy
- Cooking spray optional
- Advanced prep: Freeze the tofu for at least 8 hours, then thaw in the refrigerator. This helps create a more realistic chicken texture. If it doesn't thaw completely by the time you’re ready, you can use the defrost option on a microwave.16 oz super firm tofu
- Press tofu: If using extra-firm tofu, press thoroughly for at least 15-30 minutes to remove excess moisture. You can do that by either wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels) and placing a heavy pot on top, or using a tofu press. If using super firm, gently press it with clean hands over a sink or bowl to remove excess water.
- Marinate: Prepare the vegan chicken bouillon by dissolving the cube in two cups of hot water. Cut or break apart the tofu block into nugget-size pieces about 1 inch thick and add to a large bowl. Pour over the bouillon and marinate the tofu chicken pieces for 30 minutes.2 cups hot water, 1 vegan chicken bouillon cube
- Breading: Meanwhile, prepare the breading. Add the milk, flour, and cornstarch to a small bowl and whisk to combine.1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk , ⅓ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup cornstarch
- In a separate small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and seasonings.1 ¼ cups panko breadcrumbs , 1 ½ teaspoon onion powder , 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ – 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Assemble: When the tofu is ready, remove it from the marinade and dip the tofu into the batter mixture, then into the breadcrumb mixture, and then back into the batter and breadcrumb mixture again for a double coating. Shake off any excess batter between dips.
- Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place a silicone baking mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Arrange the coated tofu bites on the sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until golden brown and crispy. If you want, spray the tofu chicken bites with a little oil to help them become more golden while they bake.
- Air Fryer Method: Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C). Place the coated tofu bites in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air fry for 15-20 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through, or until golden and crispy. If you want, spray the tofu chicken bites with a little oil to help them become more golden while they bake.
- Fridge: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Freezer: Freeze before baking by adding the tofu pieces into a freezer-safe container in a single layer. Add a piece of parchment paper if you want to layer the tofu to prevent it from sticking. Freeze for up to 3 months.