These Crispy Vegan Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets are the crunchiest, crispiest, and most flavorful nuggets you’ll ever have. This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make and uses simple ingredients.
These tofu nuggets brought back so many childhood memories for me. Chicken nuggets are most kids’ staple foods, especially if you’re a picky kid. Well, these crispy nuggets are kid-friendly and vegan!
Vegan diets don’t have to mean you miss out on childhood memories, such as chicken nuggets. Let’s just ‘veganize’ them by making these vegan tofu nuggets…
Why You’ve Got To Try This Recipe
These crispy air fryer tofu nuggets are simple to make, tasty as ever, and resemble real chicken nuggets (although they’re completely plant-based!)
- Easy to make
- High in plant protein
- Resembles real chicken nuggets
- Dairy-free and vegan
- Only 15 minutes to make
What You’ll Need For This Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets Recipe
Air fryer – I too was an air fryer skeptic. Why on earth would I need yet another way to cook my meals? But this air fryer changed the game for me.
I even have an oven with an air fryer setting built in but I still use my tabletop air fryer because it does the best job of crisping up the food. This cosori air fryer is a highly-rated one or this is the one I use!
Tongs – You can just use your fingers to dip the nuggets into the breadcrumbs and transfer them to the air fryer, but it might be a lot messier.
Extra-firm block of tofu – You want the firmest tofu for this recipe and you need to squeeze as much excess moisture out of the tofu as possible. Soft tofu will not yield a crispy tofu nugget. I’d suggest to press tofu using a tofu press (they aren’t too expensive), or wrapping it in a paper towel or kitchen towel and placing heavy plates on top for 10 minutes.
Panko breadcrumbs – You can leave this step out if you’d like to keep the recipe gluten-free. I just find it brings more of a crunchy texture to the nuggets and levels this recipe up. Try using your own slightly stale bread too. Just process it in a food processor to break it apart. You could also try almond flour to keep it gluten-free!
Dipping sauce – I like to dip my crispy tofu nuggets in barbecue, dairy-free ranch, ketchup, and honey mustard… If you’re like me, you want to use many different dipping sauces for your nuggets!
Nut milk of choice – I used soy milk as that’s my favorite dairy-free milk, but you can use coconut, almond, or any other kind you prefer.
Soy sauce – You can substitute this with tamari or coconut aminos. Keep in mind these substitutes might have a much saltier taste, so adjust measurements accordingly.
Apple cider vinegar – The acidity of vinegar brightens the flavor of this recipe and adds the perfect balance to it. That’s why vinegar is a common ingredient in most marinades like this one. You can use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice instead if you do not have apple cider vinegar.
Nutritional yeast – You’ll find nutritional yeast in most of my meat substitute recipes. It’s an easy way to add a cheesy taste and more flavor while also giving the nuggets a higher nutrient profile. It’s such a versatile ingredient, too.
Garlic powder – You could use either garlic powder or 1 tsp of regular minced garlic. I like using garlic powder as I believe it spreads the flavor out over the tofu instead of minced garlic residing in only a couple of places.
Onion powder – This isn’t pivotal to the recipe, but I like it! Why not use all the herbs and seasonings you can, right?
Paprika – I used smoked paprika as I like that smoky, slightly spiced flavor. If you prefer a milder taste or are giving these tofu nuggets to your kiddo, use sweet paprika instead.
How To Make Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets
These crispy vegan nuggets are pretty simple to make. You just need common ingredients and 15 minutes to make them.
Get started by pressing the tofu block with a kitchen towel wrapped around it and heavy plates on top for about 10 minutes or use a tofu press to remove excess water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all paste ingredients and stir to combine.
Break the tofu into bite-sized pieces over the same bowl. You want these to resemble ‘imperfectly shaped’ real nuggets and not just tofu cubes, so use your hands to break them apart instead of a knife.
Lightly fold the chunks into the paste, being careful not to break the tofu too much.
Using tongs, dip each piece of tofu into the panko breadcrumbs, being sure to get each side of the tofu.
Spray the air fryer with a little oil or use parchment paper.
Add the tofu to the air-fryer basket in a single layer, making sure to give each piece a little space to ‘fry’. Try not to get extra paste or breadcrumbs on the air fryer basket as they could burn easily.
Cook for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 F (or until the nuggets are golden brown), stopping halfway to shake the basket and mix the tofu around.
Serve your air fryer tofu nuggets with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!
Although baking these tofu nuggets in the air fryer is the best option, you can also bake these vegan tofu nuggets in the oven. If baking in the oven set it to 475 F and place it on a baking sheet with parchment. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Crispy Vegan Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets
- Air Fryer
- 14 oz extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Dipping sauce optional
- ¼ cup nut milk of choice I used soy
- 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika *smoked or regular
- Sea salt to taste
- Press to remove excess water.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all 'paste' ingredients and stir to combine.
- Break the tofu into bite-sized pieces over the same bowl. You want these to resemble ‘imperfectly shaped’ real nuggets and not just tofu cubes, so use your hands to break apart instead of a knife.
- Lightly fold the chunks into the paste, being careful not to break the tofu too much.
- Using tongs, dip each piece of tofu into the panko breadcrumbs, being sure to get each side of the tofu.
- Spray the air fryer with a little oil or use parchment paper.
- Add the tofu to the air-fryer basket in a single layer, making sure to give each piece a little space to ‘fry’. Try not to get extra paste or breadcrumbs on the air fryer basket as it could burn easily.
- Cook for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 F (or until the nuggets are a golden brown), stopping halfway to shake the basket and mix the tofu around.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!
3 Tips To Give Tofu Nuggets A Meaty Texture
- Freeze the tofu beforehand. This is a little-known trick to make tofu a bit meatier in texture. Place the tofu unopened in the freezer until you’re ready to bake. Then place it in the fridge to defrost for a day. Some even suggest freezing, thawing, and freezing again for an even better texture, but I rarely remember or have the time to do this.
- Press out as much excess water as possible. Invest in a tofu press or use really heavy plates and paper towels or a good kitchen towel to wrap tofu and get all the excess liquid out.
- Use breadcrumbs, oil, or cornstarch to get crispy tofu every time. Since we’re using breadcrumbs, there is no need to use vegetable oil or corn starch. But you could add a tablespoon of oil to the paste or mix the tofu bites in cornstarch instead of breadcrumbs if you’d like.
Can I Prep This To Bake Later?
Yes! You can premake and prep these vegan tofu pieces by mixing the tofu and paste, then letting the tofu bites marinate in the fridge for up to 2 days in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
When you’re ready to bake the tofu nuggets, let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Then dip in the panko breadcrumbs and bake in the air fryer.
How To Save And Store Leftovers
Once baked, you can save the tofu nuggets in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. To reheat the vegan nuggets, place them in the air fryer at 400 F for 2-3 minutes to crisp the nuggets back up.
Other Plant-Based Air Fryer Recipes
If you enjoyed these Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets, be sure to check out my other Planted air fryer recipes!
Air Fryer Teriyaki Tofu
This air fryer teriyaki tofu is crispy and full of flavor. All you need is an air fryer, 15 minutes, and a hungry belly to enjoy this teriyaki tofu recipe.
Healthy Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
Wings, chips, dips, and more are always a must at any game day get together. But what if you contributed this healthy, crispy yet tender cauliflower wing dish? Your friends will be shocked and inspired.
Healthy Vegan Carrot Bacon
Healthy yet delicious Carrot Bacon to pair with your morning coffee and a tofu scramble or potato skillet. YUM.
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