These crispy vegan chicken nuggets are juicy, ultra crunchy and bursting with salty savory flavor. Plus they're baked not fried! Ready in under 30 minutes, these tofu chicken nuggets make a super popular party appetizer or easy weeknight dinner dunked in honey mustard sauce.
To make breaded tofu nuggets, the tofu is tossed in an irresistibly flavorful marinate then coated in a seasoned potato chip and panko crust before being baked to golden perfection. The tofu nuggets are creamy and meaty on the inside and so shatteringly crispy on the outside, you won’t believe they’re not fried!
The best thing is the whole family loves this extra crunchy tofu recipe! My brother in law (who's not vegan) requests what he calls his favorite 'vegan chicken wings' for game day at our house (he's obsessed with my Peanut Hoisin Sauce for dipping).
Just like some of my most popular tofu recipes: crispy pan fried tofu, glazed orange tofu, and easy air frier tofu, this crunchy breaded tofu is easy to make, cheap, gluten free, and scrumptious! Let's get into the details.
Ingredients for Vegan Nuggets
After the first bite, I'm pretty sure you'll be obsessed with these vegan chicken nuggets just like we are! In that case, here's the ingredients you'll need to have on hand:
- Tofu: Extra firm tofu is the perfect vegan chicken alternative for this recipe. It's lean, firm, and meaty, high in protein and a blank canvas flavorwise much like chicken.
- Soy sauce: Adds salty savory umami flavor (use low sodium or gluten free alternative).
- Nutritional yeast: Adds a cheesy, savory, umami flavor. Nutritional yeast is optional but I highly recommend it! Find it online or in the health aisle at grocery stores.
- Sambal Oelek: For the flavor and kick of heat, Sambel Oelek is my first choice. Find it in the International aisle at grocery stores or buy it online.
- Spices: Garlic powder and onion powder (not salt), coarse ground black pepper, sea salt, and sweet paprika (for color).
- Cornstarch: Acts as a binding agent making the tofu sticky so the coating sticks like glue to the tofu.
For the crunchiest tofu crust you'll need:
- Potato chips: Plain, ripple or any flavor that goes with what you're serving.
- Panko: Ultra light and crispy Japanese dry breadcrumbs. Mixed with crushed potato chips, together they create an epic, crunchy coating for the tofu.
- Olive oil: The oil adds extra crispiness to the coating.
Tofu marinade: Choose your favorite combination! I tested a few different versions for the marinade. The recipe as written has a ton of flavor. For a lighter marinade, swap all the soy sauce/tamari for plant milk or mix ½ soy sauce and ½ plant milk.
Panko tofu breading: Skip the crushed potato chips and use 1-2 cups panko breadcrumbs instead for a lower calorie, reduced salt tofu dish. The potato chips add loads of flavor, so when subbing for panko only, you may want to add extra seasoning.
How to Make Crunchy Tofu Nuggets
You'll be surprised how quick and simple it is to make these tasty, vegan chicken nuggets. Just in case, I've set up step by step instructions so everything comes together at the same time for you. Hopefully this will help beginners and newbies to cooking tofu.
- Prepare the tofu: First, wrap the block of tofu in paper towels or a kitchen towel. Place a cutting board on top then stack a couple heavy cookbooks on. Let the tofu press for ~10-15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Cutting the tofu: Once pressed, cut the tofu into ~½" thick batons or ~1" bite size cubes.
- You'll need 2 bowls: A large bowl to marinade the tofu and another bowl for the crushed potato chip-panko breading mixture.
- Seasoning the tofu: Place the tofu pieces into the large bowl. Sprinkle the marinade ingredients over the tofu then toss to coat evenly. Don't add the cornstarch yet! Let the tofu soak up the marinade while you prepare the coating.
- Making the tofu coating: Place the potato chips into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Cook's Tip: For extra color, add ½ teaspoon paprika in with the chips before blending.
No food processor? No worries! Place the chips into a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin or heavy pan. Then stir in the panko, paprika, and dry parsley.
- Breading the tofu pieces: Now sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu pieces and toss to incorporate. This will make the tofu sticky so the coating doesn't fall off. Pro Tip: Be sure to swipe the tofu pieces through any marinade on the bottom and sides of the bowl (don't leave any flavor in the bowl!) before breading.
Then place a few pieces of tofu into the chip-panko mixture pressing it onto all sides to thoroughly coat. Arrange the tofu pieces on a prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
- Time to bake: In a pre-heated oven, bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Flip after 15 minutes.
- While the tofu nuggets are baking, make a few dipping sauces. Enjoy!
CLEAN KITCHEN TIP: Along with cleaning as you go, one simple tip for keeping your kitchen workspace clean and tidy is: CLOSE THE DRAWERS! This keeps the crumbs out of the drawers when chopping and measuring ingredients!
Crunchy Tofu Nugget Tips
Gratefully, my family happily ate these vegan nuggets for days and weeks on end while I was recipe testing. My goal was an EASY but addictively crunchy and flavorful vegan chicken nugget recipe that was baked not fried. Nailed it! Here's a few insider tips from my testing:
- To press tofu or not to press?: If you buy extra firm tofu in the vacuum pack, you can get away with just a short press. (Confession: I make this recipe all the time using extra firm tofu without pressing it, just a quick wrap and squeeze.) However, tofu brands vary greatly so some brands may need to be pressed for the best results.
- Cutting the tofu: Cut the tofu into any shape. For example, strips, triangles or cubes and make them thinner or thicker to suit your taste. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
- The secret to the crispy crunchy coating: I tested ALL the coating variations to come up with the perfect crunch! For example, just chips, just panko, chips and panko together, all variations with and without the cornstarch.
The addition of cornstarch creates a thin, sticky coating which glues the breading in place. The combination of crushed potato chips and panko creates light, epic crunchiness. No double dipping and no frying required. I promise, it's perfect!
Pro Tip: The finer the chips are crushed, the better they stick to the tofu.
- Million Dollar Tip: Place any smaller tofu nuggets to the center of the baking sheet with the larger pieces on the outside edges. The outside pieces cook a bit faster.
- If making this recipe as an appetizer for a party or large group, you can easily double the recipe. Serve with a variety of dipping sauces. For example, we love Sweet and Spicy Tahini, Vegan Ranch, Spicy BBQ sauce, Vegan Honey Mustard or Creamy Chipotle sauce and the kids love ketchup!
Storing and Reheating
Meal prep: Often I press a few blocks of tofu for ~15-20 minutes then wrap in fresh paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. It's a great time saver for busy weeknight dinners.
Storage: Store baked tofu nuggets in the fridge for up to 4 or 5 days.
To reheat: Reheat leftovers in an air fryer at 380ºF for a few minutes to re-crisp the coating and heat through. You could also pop them into the microwave to warm.
How to Serve
No matter how you slice it, this crunchy tofu dish is a real crowd pleaser at parties, on game day, and also for quick weeknight dinners!
- Game day snack: Serve with a variety of 5 minute, vegan, dipping sauces like spicy BBQ sauce, Buffalo sauce or creamy chipotle sauce.
- Appetizer: Similar to breaded chicken tenders (vegan), they make a popular party appetizer with spicy cranberry mayo or spicy peanut sauce for dipping.
- On salads and bowls: Boost the plant protein in main dishes like BIG vegan salads, veggie sandwiches, and vegan taco bowls.
More Tofu Recipes EVERYONE Loves
Here's a few EASY tofu recipes to try next that anyone can make and everyone will love:
- Spicy Sweet Orange Tofu (just like Panda's)
- Succulent Baked Tofu - my favorite!
- Easiest Crispy Air Fryer Tofu - so fast, so easy
- Sizzling Pan Fried Tofu with sesame garlic sauce
- Tofu Marinade (6 flavors!)
- Spicy Peanut Tofu Bowl - love tofu or hate it, you'll devour this incredible tofu
Did you make my Easy, Crunchy Chicken Nuggets? Please leave a review and ⭐️ rating below. Thank you so much for sharing with family and friends. I love seeing your photos, please tag me on Instagram!
CRAVING MORE?: Sign up for my Sunday morning NEWSLETTER!
The Best Crunchy Tofu Nuggets (GF)
Rate this recipe!
- 14 ounces tofu, extra firm (350 grams)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ - 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
- 1 tablespoon oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 4-5 cups potato chips, crushed
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (gf if preferred)
- ½ teaspoon paprika (for color)
- 1 tablespoon dry parsley or chives
- Preheat oven to 425º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil (optional).
- Prepare the tofu: While the tofu is pressing (see notes), prepare the tofu marinade and breading mixture. Then cut/break the tofu into ~1" cubes/chunks or ½" thick batons (see photos).
- Marinate the tofu: Measure the marinade ingredients (soy sauce to nutritional yeast - not cornstarch) into a large mixing bowl. Add the tofu pieces and shake the bowl or toss until well combine. Let the tofu soak up the marinade for about 5 minutes while you prepare the tofu coating.
- Prepare the crunchy coating: Pulse the potato chips in a food processor* until ground with a few chunks. For extra color on your nuggets, add ½ teaspoon paprika before blending the chips. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the panko breadcrumbs and dry parsley or chives. Mix until combined.
- Coat the tofu: Sprinkle the cornstarch over the marinated tofu pieces and shake or toss until the tofu is sticky. Working with 2 or 3 tofu pieces at a time, coat the tofu in the breading mixture, pressing it into all sides (see photos). Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet with space between.
- Bake the tofu: Reduce oven temperature to 400º F and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crispy (the cook time will vary depending on the size of the tofu pieces). Flip after 15 minutes. Cook for longer to taste.
- While the tofu is baking, make one (or several) dipping sauces. This is a super popular appetizer at parties!
This recipe is from simplyceecee.co food blog. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images or republish this recipe without prior permission. Thank you.