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.
Loved this recipe! So glad I stumbled upon it as I’ve been trying to eat less processed vegetarian meals. I ended up crushing Cheerios for the breadcrumbs and they baked perfectly!
I love these nuggets! I love how easy this recipe is, and that it’s so simple to cook. Usually when I pan fry a meat protein, it ends up getting burnt, but with the tofu, these were perfect! I can’t wait to try these with various sides or in salads!
This is the best fried tofu recipe I’ve ever tried! I love how Jessica set us up for success with the detailed and clear instructions in how to dredge the tofu. I also love how she added helpful tips like to use a sheet pan as a landing spot for the seasoned nuggets prior to frying. The ultimate tip was testing a single piece of tofu in the oil to figure out your oil temperature and cook time are correct: a game changer! Because of these tips I wasn’t left feeling flustered or behind at any point in the recipe 🙂 Will 100% make again. Thank you Jessica!
So delicious! Tastes just like real chicken nuggets! Will definitely be making again 🙂
Awesome we’re so happy you enjoyed it Lauren! Thanks so much for reading!
These were amazing! Even my pickiest eater who lives off broth and noodles scarfed them down. My daughter told me that I impressed her and would win Master Chef. Thank you!
We’re so happy that you and your wonderful family enjoyed this recipe Katie! Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a nice comment!
I literally just made these. I tasted them before giving them to my girls, and they are delish! The texture is like a juicy nugget. Not wet, but juicy and not overcooked. YUM! They are enjoying them! I would take a picture, but there’s nothing left! Thank you for this alternative!!!
These tofu nuggets were so tasty! As new vegetarians, my husband and I are still building up a library of new favorite recipes. This one definitely makes the cut. I’ve shared it with other vegetarian friends and with neighbors who want to experiment more with tofu. Will be making this again!
Hi Jessica! I am dying to try these this week, especially after reading all the great reviews! If I try to substitute an alternative flour, do you have a specific suggestion other than gluten-free regular flour? I have cassava and coconut flours on hand, and I’m just wondering if you have any recommendations before I destroy a batch. Or should I stick with gluten-free regular flour? Thanks!!
Hi Erin! Thank you so much for reading you should be able to use cassava flour for your batter. I hope this helps!
These are delicious! I used oat bran instead of bread crumbs as my coating, and they turned out great. I loved the texture of these little nuggets. I think you could totally fool chicken nugget lovers! I’m definitely adding these to my meal rotation!
The best tofu I’ve ever made at home! The first time I made them my spouse came over to taste test, picked up the bowl, and walked away to eat them all. When them make it to the table, we love them on top of a kale salad with an herbaceous dressing.
Hi, Staci wow thank you so much. We’re so happy you like this recipe and we’re glad that you and your spouse enjoyed it! Having it with kale salad sounds incredible!