These crispy air fryer tofu nuggets are the ultimate plant-based response to the familiar chicken nugget. With their crispy coating, meaty texture, and savory flavor, these nuggets are a favorite amongst tofu fans and skeptics alike.
You will Love this Recipe
- It's full of flavor. No bland tofu here! These crispy tofu nuggets are packed with flavor thanks to lots of spices and a tangy tofu marinade.
- It's the perfect crunchy texture. Crisp panko and air frying give these tofu bites a next-level crispiness!
- It's super adaptable. These nuggets are dairy free/lactose free, vegan/vegetarian, and easily gluten free. In fact, I make this recipe with gluten-free panko often!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Super-firm tofu gives the meatiest texture to these nuggets. Firm or extra-firm tofu will also work well, especially if you freeze and thaw it before cooking.
- Panko breadcrumbs provide an extra-crispy texture, however regular bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes will also work well. Gluten-free panko also works great.
- Nutritional yeast adds a savory, buttery flavor. Plus, it's fortified with Vitamin B12, which is especially important if you are choosing mostly plant-based sources of protein.
- Corn starch helps to get that crisp coating all over the tofu pieces. You can use all-purpose flour or tapioca starch as well.
- Unsweetened soy milk or your preferred plant-based milk is used for dredging the nuggets to help the breadcrumbs adhere.
- Tamari or soy sauce adds a savory, umami flavor to the tofu for convincing vegan chicken nuggets.
- Seasonings including smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, and a pinch of cayenne come together in these super flavorful nuggets.
- Veggie broth is the base of the tangy marinade. Use whatever broth you have on hand.
- Pickle juice adds acidity and saltiness to the marinade. If you do not have pickle juice, you can substitute it with 2 Tablespoons each of water and vinegar, plus ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Cooking spray gives the vegan tofu nuggets maximum crispiness. I like to use avocado oil or olive oil spray.
To start, combine the marinade ingredients in a one-quart-sized container. Cut the block of tofu lengthwise into four thin slices. From here, break each slice into nugget-sized pieces and place them in the marinade. Allow the tofu to marinate for a couple of hours to several.
Once the tofu has marinated, set up three shallow bowls with the starch mixture, non-dairy milk, and breadcrumb mixture. Then, dip each side of each tofu piece into the starch, milk, and breadcrumbs until they are evenly coated. Place the tofu pieces into the basket of your air fryer in a single layer.
From here, spray the tofu generously with oil, and cook them at 400° F (204° C) for about 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Pause the air fryer roughly halfway through cooking to flip the tofu and spray the other side.
When they're done, serve these flavorful tofu nuggets with french fries or parsnip fries and your favorite dipping sauce. I love them with barbeque sauce, buffalo sauce, or my copycat Chick-fil-A sauce.
Spicy tofu nuggets: Add an additional ¼-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to the cornstarch mixture. Or try my tofu wings for an even spicier tofu recipe!
Oil-free tofu nuggets: Your tofu nuggets will still get pretty crispy without oil, though they will stay a bit lighter in color.
Honey Mustard Tofu: Instead of dipping, try my crispy tofu already coated in honey mustard sauce!
Make ahead: Prepare the marinade 2-3 days before using it if desired.
Store: Leftovers will stay in the fridge for 3-4 days or freezer for 1-2 months.
Reheating: Reheat leftover tofu nuggets back in the air fryer at low heat (about 325° F) for about 5 minutes.
- If you're using firm or extra firm tofu, freezing the tofu block beforehand can give it an even meatier texture. Pop the tofu (container and all) in the freezer for at least 6 hours. Then, place it back in the freezer to thaw until you're ready to use it.
- Before marinating, you can press the tofu with a tofu press or between two cutting boards, but this is not very necessary unless you plan to marinate the tofu for a shorter time.
- Cooking time will vary based on the size and type of air fryer you use. The first time you air fry these tofu nuggets, take note of the cooking and make adjustments to this recipe as need be.
Yes, very! Because an air fryer circulates hot air in a small area, the tofu can quickly get crispy without much oil.
This is likely because the tofu is not getting hot enough, is not cooking long enough, or is too crowded in the fryer. Try cooking your tofu nuggets longer, at a higher temperature, or in smaller batches.
Sure! Spread them evenly onto a baking sheet and bake them at 400° F (204° C) for about 20-25 minutes. About halfway through cooking, flip the nuggets and give them a second spray of oil.
Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets
- 1 block super-firm tofu (or firm/extra-firm tofu)
- ½ cup unsweetened soy milk (or milk of choice)
- (Optional) Combine the marinade ingredients in a quart-sized container.
- Cut the block of tofu lengthwise into four thin slices. Break each slice into bite-sized pieces and place them in the marinade.
- (Optional) Allow the tofu to marinate for about 3-12 hours.
- Set up three shallow bowls with the starch mixture, non-dairy milk, and breadcrumb mixture. Dip each side of each tofu piece into the starch, milk, and breadcrumbs until they are well-coated. Place the tofu pieces into the basket of the air fryer in a single layer.
- Spray the tofu generously with oil. Cook them at 400° F (204° C) for about 10-15 minutes. Pause the air fryer roughly halfway through cooking to flip the tofu and spray the other side.
- When the nuggets appear golden brown, use a heat-safe turner to remove the nuggets and serve.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat them in the air fryer at 325° F for about 5 minutes or until heated through.
- Marinading is delicious but optional as there is a lot of flavor in the breading.
- Temperature and cooking time may vary slightly with different air fryers.