With their crisp coating and meaty texture, these air fryer tofu wings are the perfect game-day appetizer or movie-night snack. Plus, they're packed with soy protein and isoflavones that may have some major health benefits. Now that's something to cheer for!
YOU WILL LOVE THIS AIR FRYER TOFU RECIPE:
- They are quick to make! Using an air fryer means that these tofu "wings" cook in only about 10 minutes without any pre-heating. Avoiding the use of a deep fryer or even pan frying makes for less prep and less mess.
- They're flavorful. Using a flavor-packed marinade and reinforcing those flavors in the batter helps give these "wings" have a double punch of umami, smoky flavor. No bland tofu here!
- They are vegan and gluten-free. Everyone will enjoy these "wings", meat eaters and vegans alike! Plus, this recipe is gluten-free, though it is easily adaptable for any flour depending on what you have on hand.
INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Tofu- I've used super-firm tofu to get the meatiest texture in this recipe. If you have firm/extra-firm tofu on hand, consider draining the excess water, freezing overnight, and then thawing the tofu before marinating to get that meatier texture. I do not recommend using silken tofu for this recipe.
- Pickle juice- Dill pickle juice gives this tofu recipe that flavor punch! If you do not have pickle juice, you can substitute with ¼ cup each of water and vinegar, plus ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Vegetable broth- The veggie broth is another flavor-booster for this recipe. Feel free to use any broth you like. I bet chicken-flavored vegan broth base would be very tasty too!
- Tamari- Tamari is one of the ingredients that adds a savory, umami flavor to the marinade. If you do not need this recipe to be gluten-free, feel free to use regular soy sauce.
- Smoked paprika- I have to admit, I have a smoked paprika obsession. I find there is pretty much nothing else that can add that same smoky, savory flavor. You can try to substitute regular paprika, but I personally believe the smoked version is life-changing, especially for plant-based cooking!
- Nutritional yeast- Nutritional yeast adds a savory, slightly nutty flavor that some liken to the flavor of cheese. I use it to add another savory layer to this recipe. If you do not have any "nooch" on hand, feel free to omit it. It is not essential!
- Corn starch- Corn starch gives the tofu its crispy coating.
- Gluten-free flour- I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour, but feel free to use any flour in this batter. The flour makes the batter easier to work with.
- Soy milk- I use unsweetened soy milk in this recipe but any non-dairy (if vegan), unsweetened, unflavored milk such as almond milk will do.
- Spray oil- Use any neutral flavored oil to spray your "wings" prior to cooking. I've used avocado oil.
- Wing sauce- I love good ol' Frank's buffalo wing sauce because it is a classic. Plus, it's vegan as is! You can also customize this sauce by adding a couple of tablespoons of melted vegan butter for an extra-buttery wing sauce. If you prefer a sweeter wing sauce, you can add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar.
To start, create the marinade by mixing all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Then, slice a tofu block lengthwise to create two thinner layers of tofu. Press the tofu for 15-30 minutes to remove excess moisture.
From here, score the tofu into wedges that are about a half to three quarters of an inch at the wide end. Then, rip at the scores to create small wing-sized tofu strips. Place the tofu wedges in the marinade and allow to marinade for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
While the tofu is marinating, mix the batter by combining all of the dry batter ingredients in a small bowl and giving a stir. Then, add the milk. Remove the tofu from the fridge, cover the tofu wedges with batter, and place them in a single layer into the air fryer basket. Spray them liberally with oil.
Cook in an air fryer at 400° F for 10-15 minutes until the tofu is golden brown, pausing once to flip the tofu pieces. Depending on the size of your air fryer, this may require multiple batches. When the tofu is cooked, place it onto a cooling rack or a tea towel or paper towel-lined plate.
When all of the tofu has been air fried, toss the tofu in the buffalo sauce. Then, enjoy!
- Tofu buffalo wing lettuce wraps: This is my favorite way to serve these crispy tofu wings! Once you have tossed your tofu in your sauce, place a couple of wings into a piece of butter or romaine lettuce. Then, drizzle with vegan ranch or blue cheese dressing. Eating wings this way, you can avoid messy fingers!
- Baked vegan buffalo tofu wings: For baked tofu wings, bake them on a lined baking sheet at 400° for 13-17 minutes. Then, toss them in your vegan buffalo sauce!
- Air fryer tofu nuggets: For nuggets, cut the tofu into cubes or tear it into chunks. When cooked, do not toss in sauce but instead serve the tofu bites with your favorite dipping sauce.
- Oil-free tofu wings: These nuggets do well without oil, though they are a bit less crispy. To make this recipe oil-free, do not spray the nuggets with oil before cooking and choose an oil-free sauce.
- Make-ahead: You can make the marinade and save for up to 5 days in advance. The tofu can safely sit in the marinade while refrigerated up to two days (48 hours). The tofu will be very tender if it sits in the marinade the full 48 hours, however.
- Storing: This recipe is best consumed when first cooked for crispy perfection. However, if you do wish to keep leftovers, I would refrain from saucing them if able. They will last for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. I do not recommend freezing them.
- Reheating: The best way to reheat this recipe without ending up with soggy tofu is back in the air fryer. Place the tofu into the air fryer at 390° F and cook for 3-5 minutes. Then, toss in buffalo sauce.
Add whatever sauce you want! While I went with the classic, This crispy tofu recipe could just as easily go with spicy buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce, or lemon pepper sauce. If this needs to remain a vegan recipe, be sure you check the label or prepare the sauce without animal products.
Scoring the tofu helps keep everything uniform. I came up with scoring the tofu and breaking it into chunks while developing this recipe. This helps to keep the size of the tofu uniform, while still getting the awesome texture of ripped tofu. To score the tofu, use a knife to cut about one quarter of the way through the block of tofu. When you have made all of your cuts, carefully tear the tofu at each score mark. I chose to cut the tofu into wedges to slightly resemble drumsticks, but you can cut them into cubes or whatever shape you'd prefer!
You can use a tofu press to press tofu, however, you can also wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel or paper towel and sandwich it between two cutting boards. From there, you can place a heavy pan (I use a dutch oven) on top. The towel catches the bland excess liquid so that the tofu will be able to better absorb the flavor from the marinade.
You want the marinade to impart flavor into the tofu without saturating it so heavily that it makes the tofu soggy. The best amount of time to marinate is a few to several hours (about 3-6 hours). I would recommend placing the tofu in the marinade the morning you plan to make it. If you are pinched for time however, this recipe is still delicious without marinating at all as many of the same flavors are in the crispy coating!
Air Fryer Tofu Wings
- 1 block super-firm tofu
- spray oil
- ½ cup corn starch
- ¼ cup gluten-free measure-for-measure flour (OR: all-purpose flour for non-gluten-free)
- 3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- several cracks fresh cracked black pepper
- ½ cup unsweetened soy milk (OR: unsweetened, unflavored milk of choice)
- Slice the tofu lengthwise into two flat, wide pieces and press for 15-30 minutes.
- While the tofu is pressing, combine all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl or large ziploc bag.
- Score the tofu into wedges that are about ½-¾ of an inch at the widest point. Rip tofu at score marks to create tofu wedges with irregular edges.
- Place the tofu into the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight.
- When ready to cook, mix all batter ingredients besides the soy milk in a medium mixing bowl. When combined, add the milk and mix until the batter is uniform in texture.
- Remove the tofu from the fridge. Using a fork or clean hands, coat each tofu wedge in the batter and place into the air fryer basket.
- Spray the tofu liberally with oil and cook in an air fryer at 400° F for 10-13 minutes until the tofu is golden brown in color. Pause about halfway to flip the tofu with a heat-safe turner.
- When cooked, toss the tofu in sauce and serve.