You'll fall in love with these ultra-crispy air fried tofu nuggets.
Fun fact: The only meat I ever ate as a kid was chicken.
I was extremely picky as a kid, but I did eat chicken sometimes. Correction: I ate the crust off of fried chicken. Yup. Dipped in ketchup. That was my favorite.
It's gross, I know. Don't worry -- I eventually grew out of it and now I don't eat chicken (or any meat for that matter).
But sometimes I do miss that fried crunch on popcorn chicken or crispy chicken strips. So I created a healthier (but just as delicious) version using tofu and an air fryer!
Ingredients You'll Need
You'll need the ingredients below to make these delicious & crispy air fried tofu nuggets.
- Super Firm Tofu (I recommend using super firm tofu, but extra firm tofu can also be used as long as it's drained and pressed well to remove excess water. See below for more on this.)
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- All-Purpose Flour
- Cornstarch (helps to get a crispier crust)
- Baking Powder (helps to get a crispier crust)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Unsweetened Almond Milk
- Plain Panko Bread Crumbs (make sure to read ingredients to confirm these are vegan)
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Ground White Pepper (for aesthetic reasons; you can use black pepper as well but there will be black specs on the finished nuggets)
See recipe card for quantities.
How To Make Air Fried Tofu Nuggets
Ready to be amazed? Let's prep the tofu.
Drain, press, and break apart tofu. Add in low-sodium soy sauce.
Place almond milk and apple cider vinegar in one bowl. Then place breadcrumbs and spices in another bowl.
Add in flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Stir gently so the tofu doesn't break apart.
Add the almond milk and ACV mixture and stir gently.
Coat individual pieces of tofu with the bread crumb mixture.
Spray lightly with olive oil and air fry at 375F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Pro Tip: use foil in the air fryer for quick & easy cleanup.
What's The Difference Between Extra Firm and Super Firm Tofu?
Extra firm tofu is more commonly used in recipes because it is more widely available. However, super firm tofu has, in my opinion, totally changed the game.
Super firm tofu is simply tofu that has had most of its water already removed. It is much more dense than extra firm tofu and doesn't require the tofu to be pressed before using.
Nasoya, Sprouts, and Trader Joe's all have a super firm tofu available. I can find Nasoya super firm tofu at my local Walmart.
But if you're unable to find super firm, you can also use extra firm tofu. However, you will need to properly press the tofu with a tofu press or wrapped in a clean kitchen towel with something heavy on top for at least 20 minutes to remove the excess water.
The Secret To Getting Crispy Tofu
The absolute most important factor in getting crispy tofu is removing as much water as possible before using the tofu as I mentioned above.
Second, using oil in the air fryer will also greatly help with the crispiness. I use the Misto olive oil sprayer, which uses air pressure instead of butane and the other concerning ingredients that are in non-stick sprays.
You can choose to omit the oil, but it definitely helps get a crispy crust and golden brown color.
Ingredients like cornstarch, baking powder, and breadcrumbs also contribute to getting perfectly crispy air fried tofu nuggets.
Furthermore, I love the texture of leftover nuggets that have been frozen and reheated in the air fryer. The freezer pulls out even more of the moisture and leaves you with the most delicious vegan popcorn 'chicken' nuggets.
Best Sauces To Use With Air Fried Tofu Nuggets
I love to switch up the sauces. Here are my favorite:
- Ketchup - Of course. You can't have fried "chicken" without ketchup, right?
- Buffalo Sauce - Want bomb buffalo wings? Simply coat in buffalo sauce and vegan butter after cooking and serve with vegan ranch.
- Ranch - Maybe you'd rather skip the buffalo sauce and just eat with vegan ranch. My all-time favorite ranch is the Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch.
- BBQ - Want that sweet and smokey taste? Eat with some BBQ sauce.
- Hot Sauce - Pick your favorite hot sauce and go to town.
- Tahini Sauce - For a Mediterranean spin, use the tahini sauce from my Vegan Buddha Bowl recipe!
Have any vegan sauce recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
All you need for this recipe is an air fryer. I use an inexpensive air fryer, but there are nicer more expensive air fryers also available on the market.
These taste best and are more crispy with an air fryer. But if you don't have one, you can also bake these at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until golden brown, flipping halfway.
These air fried tofu nuggets are best served immediately or reheated in the air fryer.
Because the prep process can take some time, I like to make a huge batch and freeze them for easy vegan frozen popcorn chicken nuggets to use whenever I want. To avoid them sticking together, you can first freeze them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Then once frozen, place them in a large glass container or freezer bag.
All I do when I'm ready to eat is place one serving in the air fryer for a few extra minutes than the recipe calls for and they're just as good!
These will stay good in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you store them in the fridge after cooking, I would still recommend reheating in the air fryer to get them crispy again.
Air Fried Tofu "Chicken" Nuggets
- 1 Air Fryer
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl
- 2 Medium Bowls
- 1 Plate
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Foil (optional)
- Air Pressure Olive Oil Sprayer (optional)
- 1 block super firm tofu (drained)
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ¼ cup plain Panko bread crumbs (vegan)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- spray olive oil for cooking
- If using extra firm tofu instead of super firm tofu: drain, wrap in a clean kitchen towel, and press using a tofu press or a heavy book for at least 20 minutes to remove excess water.
- Break tofu apart with your hands into imperfect but roughly equal pieces about the size of popcorn chicken and place into a large mixing bowl.
- Add low sodium soy sauce to the tofu nuggets and combine so that all nuggets are as evenly coated as possible. Set aside.
- Get out two medium bowls. Combine unsweetened almond milk and apple cider vinegar in one bowl. In the other bowl, combine bread crumbs, salt, ground white pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano. Set aside.
- Add all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and baking powder into the large mixing bowl of tofu. Stir gently to coat the nuggets without breaking them apart.
- Pour the bowl of almond milk and apple cider vinegar into the large mixing bowl of tofu nuggets and gently stir until just combined.
- Dip each individual tofu nugget into the bread crumb and spice mixture and pack the coating on well so that no tofu is exposed. Set the coated tofu nuggets on a clean plate. Depending on the size of nuggets you made, you may have leftover bread crumb-spice mixture.
- Place the tofu into the air fryer in a single layer and lightly spray with olive oil. Cook at 375°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, flipping and spraying with more olive oil halfway. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook in batches.
- Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce!
Can I use black pepper instead of white pepper?
Yes, but the white pepper will be more hidden while black pepper will be more visible.
How can I make these tofu nuggets gluten-free?
Use tamari instead of soy sauce and a gluten-free flour instead of all-purpose flour.
How can I make these tofu nuggets nut-free?
Use a different non-dairy milk such as unsweetened soy milk or unsweetened oat milk.
How do I make sure my Panko bread crumbs are vegan?
Some brands of bread crumbs contain milk, egg, and/or honey, which make them not vegan. Look closely at the ingredients of bread crumbs before using. Try to find Panko bread crumbs that only have wheat flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on the ingredient list.
How do I make these more mild?
Depending on the type of paprika you use, these can have a little heat. If that's not your thing, decrease the amount of paprika in the spice mixture.
How do I make these more spicy?
Try adding some cayenne pepper to the spice mix or eat them with your favorite hot sauce.
(Nutrition per serving; calculated without dipping sauce)
Total Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Total Carbohydrates: 30g
Dietary Fiber: 5g
Added Sugars: 0g
Vitamin D: 0%
Vitamin A: 18%
Vitamin C: 1%