I’ve had a love for tofu for years! It’s one of my go to plant-based protein sources, so naturally, when I recently got an air fryer I had to make a tofu recipe with it. Let me tell you- air fryer tofu is a game changer! These are super crispy air-fried tofu nuggets. They have the texture of chicken nuggets but are healthy, plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan friendly! This air fryer tofu recipe is breaded and seasoned to perfection. They’re a little bit reminiscent of southern fried tofu or chicken fried tofu too!
the main ingredients
These breaded tofu nuggets are quick and easy. They’re ready in under 30 minutes and use easy to find, pantry-friendly ingredients. To make them, you need the following ingredients:
- Extra Firm Tofu
- Almond Milk
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Nutritional Yeast
- Garlic & Onion Powder
- Smoked Paprika
- Salt & Pepper
prepping the tofu
A little-known hack in the vegan community is freezing your tofu to get a completely different texture than normal tofu has. Freezing and then defrosting your tofu helps remove excess moisture and gives it more layers. This results in a texture similar to “chicken”.
freezing the tofu
I recommend freezing your tofu once for this recipe for at least 8 hours. Drain the tofu block, and place it in a Tupperware or an air-tight container. I like to place my tofu in the freezer overnight.
thawing the tofu
When you’re ready to make this recipe, it’s time to thaw out the tofu! The easiest and fastest way that I’ve found is to defrost the tofu on low heat in the microwave, stopping every few minutes to press excess liquid from the tofu with paper towels. Be sure to remove as much liquid as possible!
Once it’s thawed, break the tofu block into 1-2” pieces or chunks. Then set it aside while you prep the breading.
the buttermilk breading
This recipe uses a vegan buttermilk breading to make these tofu nuggets more similar to southern ‘fried’ tofu or ‘chicken’ fried tofu.
To make the vegan buttermilk, all you need to do is mix together the almond milk and the apple cider vinegar in a large shallow bowl. Then, set the mixture aside for 5 minutes so it can curdle slightly.
breading the tofu
In a separate large shallow bowl, mix together the dry ingredients until all the spices are evenly distributed. Then, dip your tofu chunks into the vegan buttermilk mixture. Let the tofu soak for about 1 minute, so they soak up some of the ‘buttermilk’ flavors. Once they’ve soaked, place the chunks in the dry mixture. With your hand, pat or press the breading into all sides of the tofu.
Next, place the tofu back into the wet mixture. For this step, be sure not to let it soak in the ‘buttermilk’. You should dip the tofu just long enough to make it wet again. Then, promptly dip it back into the dry mixture for a second time. The breading process should look like this: wet > dry > wet > dry.
air frying the tofu
To cook the tofu, place it onto the parchment-lined air fryer basket. Then, to make sure it gets crispy in the air-fryer, brush it with a bit of neutral oil and spray all the sides with cooking spray. Air fry the tofu at 400F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip the tofu and reapply cooking spray/oil. Then, cook it for 6 more minutes.
These are honestly the best crispy air fried tofu nuggets! They’re flavorful, crispy, breaded to perfection, and pair so well with many different dishes. They’re the perfect breaded tofu bites and are a great replacement for chicken nuggets if you’re trying to cut out meat.
tips & tricks
tips for air frying tofu
To get a really crispy crust on these breaded tofu nuggets, here are a few important tips:
- Make sure to preheat your air fryer.
- Line your air fryer basket with parchment paper specifically designed for air fryers. The parchment paper I use has holes in it which allows the air to circulate around all the sides of the tofu.
- Use a pastry brush to spread vegetable oil on both sides of the battered tofu.
- I also recommend spraying cooking oil on both sides of the tofu to make sure every part of it is coated in at least a tiny bit of oil.
- Flip the tofu during cooking.
ideas for serving the crispy tofu nuggets
These crispy air fried tofu nuggets are so incredibly versatile. And, they’re perfect as the main star of so many different dishes. Below are just a few ideas about how you could serve them:
- with biscuits and gravy
- sliced on salads
- with ketchup and fries
- on top of waffles to make Vegan Chicken & Waffles
- with a side of collard greens
- on top of mashed potatoes and gravy
- with mac & cheese
- alongside potato salad
Freezing the tofu creates a better texture for the tofu. It’s much closer to the texture of chicken nuggets. The recipe can be made without freezing the tofu. Because freezing allows you to remove extra moisture, you’ll want to make sure you press your tofu block very well if you choose not to use frozen tofu.
For this particular recipe, I don’t recommend cooking the tofu without pressing it. Pressing the tofu removes excess moisture and liquid helping the tofu nuggets get the perfect crisp exterior.
Air frying tofu is definitely one of the healthiest ways to cook tofu! Baking tofu is also very healthy. Both methods require minimal oil.
For the crispiest tofu, I recommend following the tips listed in the section above titled: “tips for air-frying tofu”.
Looking for more vegan comfort food? Check out these recipes!Air Fried Vegan Buttermilk Seitan “Chicken”
The Best Vegan “Beef”
Super Flavorful Baked Tofu
Hoisin Tofu Bao
Tofu Banh Mi
Yellow Tofu Sushi Bowl
Did you make this recipe? I’d love to know! Leave a rating and comment below!
- 1 block tofu- frozen once and defrosted
- 1 ¼ cup almond milk
- 1 ½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (160g)
- ¼ cup corn starch (30g)
- ¼ cup yellow cornmeal (45g)
- ¼ cup bread crumbs (25g)
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp dried onion flakes
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, like vegetable oil
- Cooking spray
To Prep the Tofu:
- Drain the tofu and press gently with paper towels to remove some of the excess liquid. Place in an airtight container and freeze overnight or at least 8 hours.
- When ready to make the recipe, defrost the tofu on low heat in the microwave, stopping every few minutes to press excess liquid from the tofu with paper towels.
- Break the tofu block into 1-2” pieces or chunks. Set aside.
To Prep the Wet:
- In a large shallow bowl, mix together the almond milk and the apple cider vinegar.
To Prep the Dry:
- In a separate large shallow bowl, mix together the dry ingredients until all the spices are evenly distributed.
To Make the Tofu:
- Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F.
- Dip your tofu chunks into the almond milk mixture. Let them soak for about 1 minute.
- Then place them in the dry mixture. Pat the breading into the tofu.
- Place the tofu back into the wet mixture (but don’t let it soak- this is just enough to make it wet again), then dip it into the dry mixture for a second time. (The process should be wet > dry > wet > dry)
- Place the tofu onto the parchment-lined air fryer basket.
- Brush with a bit of neutral oil and spray all sides with cooking spray.
- Air fry at 400F for 10 minutes. Flip the tofu and reapply cooking spray/oil.
- Then, cook for 6 more minutes. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 356Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 354mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 18g
Nutritional info is an estimate.
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