Tofu chicken nuggets are easy to make and come together in about 30 minutes. These lightly crispy vegan nuggets are packed with protein, taste delicious, and are the perfect finger food for dipping! They’re also a great chicken substitute in your favorite dish.
If you’re looking for vegan nuggets that are perfectly crispy and flavorful with a tender inside, this recipe is just the thing. These nuggets are coated in a flour breading keeping them from being too crunchy.
Bake, air-fry, or pan-fry them. Instructions for all three are in the recipe below so you can choose which cooking method works best for you.
Enjoy vegan chicken nuggets as an appetizer, a kid-friendly lunch, a versatile protein source for your dinner, or a simple plant-based snack. They're sure to be a hit with the whole family.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Tofu chicken nuggets are made with simple pantry staples (no Panko breadcrumbs required). Here’s what you’ll need:
Tofu – For the best texture use super firm tofu. As a replacement, extra firm tofu that has been pressed can be used. But anything softer is not desired for this recipe.
Cooking spray – I find cooking spray works best for coating the tofu in oil. I used avocado oil cooking spray to coat each nugget. If you don’t have a spray oil, you can use any vegetable oil you have.
Soy sauce and olive oil – For the marinade, I used a mix of soy sauce, olive oil, and water giving the tofu a savory umami flavor. Use tamari sauce to keep it gluten-free or liquid aminos as a substitute.
Flour – The breading is made with all-purpose flour and seasonings. To make this recipe gluten-free, use a 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour.
Cornstarch – This helps crisp up the breading without using breadcrumbs. It can be replaced with flour or potato starch.
Nutritional yeast – I added nutritional yeast to the breading for another savory element. You can leave it out if you don’t have any, but you may want to increase some of the other seasonings.
Seasonings – Paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder add flavor to the breading. You can make the breading your own with any other seasonings you like. I've included a few suggestions in the notes of the recipe below.
Salt – Any salt you have on hand will do. I used Himalayan pink salt.
Black pepper (optional) – Add the black pepper if you want a bit of pepper heat in the tofu chicken nuggets. Or leave it out to keep them savory for the kids.
Full ingredient amounts and printable recipe are below.
What kind of tofu should I use?
Super firm tofu, pressed extra-firm tofu, and frozen tofu are the best options for this recipe.
I prefer super firm tofu because it is ready to go right out of the package. You can see below how dense it is without needing to be pressed.
And the denser the tofu, the better the texture!
I tested this recipe with 3 different kinds of tofu to find the best texture and easiest prep.
I used super firm tofu, pressed extra-firm tofu, and frozen extra-firm tofu. Below are my findings:
This is my favorite option because there was no prep work. And, it was easily ready in about 30 minutes.
The super-firm tofu comes vacuum-sealed. It's the firmest tofu there is. Because it is so dense, I was able to simply pat it dry right out of the package and start making the nuggets.
The final texture of the baked nuggets was very pleasing. The centers were firm and tender which paired perfectly with the light and crispy breading.
I pressed the extra firm tofu using my tofu press.
As you can see in the image above, the extra firm tofu has been compressed and is smaller than the super firm tofu. However, it still wasn’t as dense.
Instead, it was slightly squishy when I pressed on it.
Therefore, with this method, the baked tofu nuggets had the softest inside but were still flavorful and delicious.
I also used extra firm tofu for freezing (firm tofu can be frozen as well).
Freezing the tofu gave the baked nuggets the meatiest texture with a perfectly tender bite.
The biggest problem I had with this method was finding the time to freeze and defrost the tofu. But, if you find the time or want to impress your family, give it a try. Otherwise, super-firm tofu has a great texture with no prep.
How to Make Tofu Chicken Nuggets
These flavorful nuggets are easy to make and can be ready in about 30 minutes.
Step 1: Prepare the tofu
If you’re using super firm tofu you can simply pat it dry with a paper towel.
For extra firm tofu, you’ll want to press out the excess water for a firmer texture. You can use a tofu press or wrap it in a clean kitchen towel, or a few paper towels, and place a plate with a slightly heavy object on top.
If you're using frozen tofu that has been defrosted, you can simply squeeze it with your hands to drain the water. Then pat it dry with a towel.
Step 2: Tear the tofu
Use your hands to tear the tofu into nugget-sized chunks. You can make finger-food-size nuggets or smaller-sized popcorn chicken nuggets. I tore it into smaller chunks.
Add the pieces of tofu to a large bowl as you break them off.
Step 3: Toss the tofu in the marinade
In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, water, and oil). Pour the marinade over the tofu nuggets.
Using a rubber spatula, toss the tofu with the marinade to coat.
Step 4: Breading the nuggets
In a shallow dish, whisk together the dry breading ingredients.
Roll each tofu piece around in the flour breading until coated. Tap off any excess flour and place the nuggets on a large plate.
Tip: Placing them on the plate keeps the excess flour off the baking pan. I’ve noticed the nuggets cook better this way. If you’re in a hurry you can place them straight on the baking pan after breading.
Step 5: Baking the nuggets
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray a light coating of oil across the paper.
Transfer the nuggets to the baking sheet and spray each one with oil.
Tip: Cooking spray gives the best coverage for coating the nuggets. If you don’t have any you can drizzle them with oil and toss them around the baking sheet for an even coating.
Be sure to generously coat each one in oil (as shown above) so they crisp up during baking.
Bake at 425ºF for 12-18 minutes. If needed, use tongs to flip each one halfway through the cooking process.
Enjoy this tofu chicken nugget recipe with your favorite dipping sauce. Or use it in one of the suggestions below.
I love this recipe because it is so versatile.
These tofu chicken nuggets make a great appetizer, dinner, snack, or kids' lunch.
For the kids: Make larger, finger food, nuggets so they are easier to hold and dip in their favorite sauce.
As an appetizer: Make a double batch of nuggets and serve them alongside a variety of dipping sauces. A few of my favorite sauces are ketchup, vegan ranch, honey mustard, and BBQ sauce.
For dinner: This recipe makes a great vegan chicken replacement in your favorite Buddha bowl, stir fry, or Asian dish. Follow the instructions in the recipe below to break the tofu into popcorn chicken-sized pieces.
Serve the tofu popcorn nuggets over rice topped with your favorite Asian sauce. I find it delicious with teriyaki sauce, General Tso sauce, or as a replacement for orange chicken.
Or enjoy the nuggets with fries and macaroni salad for a weekend dinner treat.
These dippable nuggets also make a great vegan copycat Chick-fil-a meal. Serve popcorn-sized nuggets with vegan honey mustard dip and a side of waffle fries. It will be a hit with the whole family.
For a healthier meal, pair this recipe with a baked potato and steamed veggies, or top your salad with cold leftover nuggets and BBQ ranch dressing.
Let us know in the comments below how you enjoyed your vegan nuggets!
Shake off the excess flour breading: A light coating of breading will keep the outside crispy. Extra flour can cause the breading to be soft so be sure to tap off any excess.
Tear the tofu: This helps the marinade and flour breading to stick. It also gives the edges a rougher more natural look.
Best tofu to use: For a meaty texture and the quickest meal prep, use vacuum-sealed super-firm tofu.
Flour breading: I went with a flour breading so the tofu nuggets would be crispy without being too crunchy. Sometimes a breadcrumb coating can be too crunchy, especially for the little ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make tofu chicken nuggets in the air fryer?
Sure! This recipe is perfect for air-frying. Instructions are in the recipe card below.
Do the baked tofu nuggets freeze well?
Yes! Place them in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat the frozen nuggets in the oven or air fryer.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Absolutely! I’ve made it easily adaptable to gluten-free Ingredients you’ll have on hand. Simply replace the flour with an all-purpose gluten-free flour and switch out the soy sauce for tamari.
Will freezing the tofu give it a meatier texture?
Yes! When I tested this recipe with 3 kinds of tofu, the frozen tofu had the meatiest texture. It was chewy yet tender. It also quickly absorbed the marinade. So if you’re looking for the meatiest texture and have the time, freezing the tofu is the way to go.
More vegan tofu recipes to try
Reasons you’ll love this recipe
- Only a few simple ingredients are required, no Panko breadcrumbs!
- Super simple to make and comes together in about 30 minutes.
- Can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free all-purpose flour and tamari.
- It’s a delicious and versatile recipe that can be used in many different dishes.
- And best of all, the kids love them with their favorite dip!
We'd love to hear from you!
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- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, or tamari
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 and ½ teaspoons olive oil, or vegetable oil of choice
Prepare the Tofu
- Press the tofu: If you are using super firm tofu, simply dry it off and proceed with the next step.
For extra firm tofu, you'll need to press out some of the excess water for a firmer texture. You can use a tofu press or wrap it in a clean kitchen towel, or a few paper towels, and place a plate with a slightly heavy object on top.
- Tear the tofu: Over a large bowl, tear the tofu into bite-sized chunks with your hands dropping them into the bowl.
Tearing them by hand will produce rigid edges for a chicken nugget look. The size really depends on how you are serving them. You’ll want bigger chunks for finger-food-sized dipping nuggets and smaller chunks for popcorn chicken-sized nuggets.
- Marinade: In a small bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients, soy sauce, water, and oil. Pour it over the tofu and toss to coat.
- Flour Breading: In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour breading ingredients. Roll each tofu piece around in the flour mixture until coated. Tap off any excess flour then place it on a large plate. Repeat until all the nuggets are breaded.
Now use the instructions below to bake, air-fry, or pan-fry the nuggets.
- Preheat your oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Once all the tofu nuggets are coated in breading, spray a light coating of oil across the parchment-lined baking sheet. Alternatively, you can pour about 2-3 teaspoons of oil on the pan and use a silicone basting brush to spread it out.
- Transfer the nuggets to the baking sheet and generously spray each nugget with oil.
If you don’t have spray oil, you can drizzle them with oil flipping them around on the pan to make sure all sides are coated. The oil is what helps the flour breading become crispy so you want a good coating.
- Bake at 425ºF for 12-18 minutes. If needed, use tongs to flip them halfway through the cooking process.
Air fry instructions
- Add the vegan nuggets to the bottom of the air fryer basket.
- Generously spray each nugget with oil.
- Cook at 400ºF for 12-15 minutes. If needed, flip them halfway through the cooking process.
Pan fry instructions
- In a large pan, heat up 3-4 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Test the oil to see if it is hot enough by dropping a bit of flour into it. If the oil bubbles it's ready.
- Now, turn the heat down to medium and carefully add the tofu pieces to the pan. Fry on each side for 3-5 minutes or until brown and crispy. Cook in batches if needed and add more oil as needed.
Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce.
Gluten-free: These vegan nuggets can easily be made gluten-free by swapping out a few ingredients with ones you probably have on hand. Simply replace the flour with a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour and the soy sauce with tamari. That's it!
Seasonings: You can increase any of the breading seasonings or add your own. Thyme, parsley, and oregano are a few dried herbs you can add. Or add a smoky flavor to the nuggets with smoked paprika. Chicken seasoning is another great option. Just be sure to adjust the salt if your seasoning has salt added.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 77Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gSodium: 707mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gProtein: 3g
**Nutritional info is provided as an estimate based on the ingredients I used and for convenience and as a courtesy only.**
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