Vegan Chicken Nuggets (Crispy & Crunchy)
Prepare to be blown away by these Crispy and Crunchy Vegan Chicken Nuggets aka Tofu Nuggets, that are my vegan version to popcorn chicken! They’re so flavourful on the inside with the best texture thanks to some key tips and marinating the tofu. They’re bound to be a part of your meal prep rotation – I made them three times in one week!
Stop what you’re doing and go marinate this tofu NOW. Friends, these Vegan Chicken Nuggets definitely make my top 10 favourite recipes I’ve made all year. The funny thing is, they were never originally on my recipe list for December. I had another recipe that I wasn’t feeling inspired anymore to make, so decided I would try a tofu recipe instead. One thing led to another and I thought – oh, Vegan Chicken Nuggets! Why haven’t I done that before?
Wow, look at fate. I am SO glad I made these, because I’m made them three times in one week already! Guarantee, if you know someone who dislikes tofu, give them this. If you already love tofu thanks to key tips from my Tofu 101 Blog post, you’re in for a treat!
Key Tips for Making Vegan Chicken Nuggets
I have a few key tips to make these the best vegan chicken nuggets you’ll ever try. #1, press your tofu! There are very rare instances when you shouldn’t press your tofu, and this isn’t one of them. Squeeze all that excess water out of your tofu. Not only will it give you a much better tofu, it’ll prep it for tip #2 which is to marinate your tofu.
I choose a very light marinade, but feel free to up the saltiness on your marinade. It really soaks up into the insides of the tofu, making the texture even better, and each bite perfectly textured and juicy. You can marinate yours for 30 minutes, or overnight.
Two more key tips friends, then we’re ready to dig in. Tear your tofu instead of slicing it into cubes. Yes, I’m all for slicing perfect pieces. But tearing your tofu means there are more rough edges for not only the marinade to soak into, but for the batter to coat the tofu. It truly also gives it more of a nugget look, soo. I just tear mine into 1 inch pieces. Totally okay if the pieces aren’t the exact same size, just to try make them similar enough.
Our last tip friends which is still a major key *DJ Khaled voice* – shake off the excess batter. Funny enough, I ignored this the first time I made them. They still tasted fantastic, but the second time I did. Gav noted how much better they tasted the second time around, even key I lightened up the marinade AND marinated them for less time. They really cooked better, coated the tofu better, and tasted better. So definitely just shake off the excess flour and buttermilk batter with each dip. It makes a difference.
Speaking of which – you can do one or two coats, it’s up to you. I did two because well, that’s delicious, but you can do one! Enjoy, friends!
Vegan Chicken Nuggets (Crispy & Crunchy)
- 1 lb block tofu, pressed and drained of liquid
- ¼ cup light soy sauce + 1 tablespoon, or liquid aminos or tamari (any is fine)
- ½ cup filtered water
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, if you don't have this, that's okay
- ¾ cup any nut milk, or ANY vegan milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar, or regular vinegar
- 1 cup gluten free flour, or regular flour (I used Bob's Red Mill's Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour)
- 1 ¼ cup gluten free breadcrumbs, or regular breadcrumbs (I used Nature's Path Organic Crispy Rice Cereal and pulsed them in my food processor until they resembled panko breadcrumbs)
- 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 3 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup of oil, if pan-frying, if not, instructions for baking are below
- Take your pressed tofu and slice it in half length wise (so you end up with two large slices the same length and width as the original). Tear the tofu into 1 inch cubes. I like to use a ruler to help me measure the first tear, then use that as a guide, but it doesn't seem to be exactly 1 inch.
- In a bowl or glass tupperware, add all the marinade ingredients and stir to combine. Taste it, you can add more liquid aminos if you want yours saltier, or more water. Add in tofu and stir to combine so all the tofu is coated. Marinade for at least 15 minutes, but up to overnight. While marinating, prepare your bowls with the flour, the buttermilk, and the crumbs.
Batter & Crumb Mixture
- In a bowl, add the nut milk and the apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine and let sit for about 2 minutes. This is your buttermilk mixture.
- Add the flour to its own bowl and line up side by side.
- In a bowl add all the crumb mixture ingredients. You can use gluten free panko breadcrumbs or make your own by food processing 1 ¼ cups of brown rice krispies. Line up in a bowl beside the buttermilk. Line a baking sheet beside that - this is where you'll place your tofu pieces before pan-frying them, or layer them to bake them.
Putting it All Together
- Take one tofu piece from the marinade. Dip it into the flour, shaking off all the excess flour, then into the buttermilk. Shake off the excess buttermilk, then dip it back into the flour, then into the buttermilk again, shaking off all the excess again. Then dip it into the crumb mixture, roll around, and place on the baking sheet.
- Once you get the hang of it, you can add several pieces at a time (I do like 10 pieces maximum at a time). This battering process is very forgiving!
- When you're done all the pieces, it's time to cook them.
Cooking the Tofu
- Heat ¼ cup of oil in a baking over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add one piece of tofu. Cook for 1 ½ minutes on each side (check for browning) or until golden brown, then flip and cook for another 1 ½ minutes on the other side. Remove to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Continue to cook the rest, but you can now add several pieces of tofu now that you've tested that the oil is hot and you have your cooking time figured out. Don't overcrowd the pan since it'll reduce the temperature the oil, making them not as crispy. It's best to leave enough space between each piece of tofu.
- Continue unti you've cooked all of the tofu. Allow to cool slightly, then serve immediately by itself, or with a dipping sauce. You can also add these to tacos, sandwiches and many other uses!
- To BAKE these: Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Line the battered and breaded tofu pieces on the baking sheet and spray with some cooking oil on both sides. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping once way at the halfway mark. Serve and enjoy!
Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.
Hi! Can they be cooked in an air fryer?
Hi Lisa yes they can!
Also, do you think that frying these in coconut oil would work well? I’m still getting used to the healthy eating
No worries It should definitely work.
I have made tofu chicken bites, but you didn’t say if the tofu supposed to be firm, extra firm or super firm. or dose it make a difference? They do have the super firm tofu and hardly any water at all in it. So which one did you use?
We use Extra firm but any one of those will work. I hope this helps.
Super yummy!!! I absolutely loved them and every recipe I have tried of yours has came out amazing! Thank you Jess!
These look amazing! I’ll be sure to give it a try tomorrow. However, I can’t find nutritional yeast in my country. Is there a substitute or can I leave it out completely?
Why a 4 star review if you didn’t even make it. As a business owner myself this sucks
The most delicious nuggets ever, I can’t believe I cook that ! Thanks for your recipe
These came out soo soo good!! Great flavor and sooo crunchy!!!
Do you know if they would freeze well??
They do freeze well Sarine! We’re so happy that you like it.
These are so good and pretty painless to make! Made them for the second time today with some vegan mac and cheese and they were so addicting. The only change I made is that I halved the amount of smoked paprika throughout the recipe. I may just be sensitive to the flavor but it seemed to overpower it last time, cutting it in half yielded the perfect flavor! This is absolutely going into the rotation!
These are incredible. It takes a lot to get my 3 year old to eat anything that isn’t mostly created with cheese or bread. He. Loves. These. Granted, he doesn’t know they’re tofu but he always says how “yummy these are!” The rest of my family, including my husband also really enjoys them. I highly recommend this recipe for any age group and all regular or picky eaters 🙂
Awesome Mara! We’re so happy that you and your little one liked it!