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Breaded Tofu: The Ultimate Nugget Replacement Recipe

Gone vegan? One of the most common foods to miss when adopting a plant-based diet is good old chicken nuggets. Many of us have enjoyed chicken nuggets as a comfort food every so often, and lots of people who have cut out meat don't realize how easy they are to replicate. We present breaded tofu nuggets!

It's relatively easy to create a delicious vegan replacement for your favorite childhood meal, and all it requires are a few simple, store-bought ingredients and a tofu press.

Perfect for those days when you need a bit of comforting, this crispy breaded tofu can be made and stored in the fridge or freezer for when you need a delicious breaded pick me up.

Let's take a look at exactly how to make breaded tofu!

Breaded tofu ingredients

Makes 6-8 servings

  • 14 oz (400 g) firm or extra firm tofu*
  • 2 tsp oil, for shallow frying

*You will need to press this tofu to get rid of the water.

Tofu marinade ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1tsp of a sweetener, such as maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce if you want a kick!
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala*
  • 1/2 tsp tapioca starch or cornstarch**

*If you have no garam masala, you could substitute it for 1/2 tsp of ground cumin and 1/2 tsp of ground coriander.

** You don't necessarily need this ingredient, so don't worry if you can't find it, but it does help the breadcrumbs stick together!

Breadcrumb mixture ingredients

  • 3/4 cups (81g) of breadcrumbs*
  • A dash (0.5 - 0.75g) of cayenne chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast

*If you want to make gluten-free breaded tofu, you can purchase gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Equipment

Preparation

  1. Take your block of tofu and slice it up into six or eight pieces depending on the original block's size. Ensure that you drain all the liquid from the tofu by pressing it for half an hour.
  2. Mix all of your marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Take one piece at a time, dip the tofu in the marinade and ensure that each piece is fully coated, without too thick a layer.
  3. Once marinated, put all of the tofu strips in a container together. Pop a lid on the container and place it in the fridge. Leave the tofu pieces in the fridge for half an hour at least. If you have more time, marinating the tofu for longer will give it a more intense flavor.
  4. Check the size of your breadcrumbs. If they look large, use a blender to pulse them and break them down.
  5. Once the breadcrumbs are the desired size, mix them with all the other breadcrumb ingredients.
  6. Take the marinated tofu from the fridge and place the strips into the mixture of breadcrumbs. Ensure that all sides are fully coated.
  7. Place a grill pan on medium-high heat. Add a splash of oil, then put the breaded tofu nuggets in the pan.
  8. Fry the vegan breaded tofu for 7 to 9 minutes, until they have browned sufficiently.
  9. You could serve this crispy breaded tofu with homemade fries or salad for a filling dinner, or on their own with a vegan dip as a quick snack!

How to make breaded tofu nuggets: FAQ and preparation tips

Do I need to press my tofu?

As tofu is stored in water to keep it fresh, this breaded tofu recipe - along with all tofu recipes - calls for you to squeeze the water out of the tofu first.

If you don't press the tofu, it will not absorb the flavors, meaning that your breaded tofu may taste a bit bland. Watery tofu has trouble marinating, and, in breaded tofu recipes, the coating doesn't stick as well.

So, yes, pressing your tofu is essential. It will give you the most delectable taste and texture to your vegan breaded tofu!

Do I need a tofu press?

You could just use paper towels and a plate or chopping board to press your tofu. The chopping board or plate adds pressure, and the paper towels absorb most of the moisture from the tofu block.

However, a tofu press is designed to do the job properly. This handy bit of kit squeezes out much more of the moisture than a DIY press will, leaving you with firmer tofu that will absorb many more of the flavors. If you plan on making many more tofu-based recipes - and let's face it, it's a common feature in vegetarian and vegan recipes - a tofu press is an excellent investment!

Is fried tofu healthy?

Another excellent reason to use a tofu press is the more you press the tofu, the healthier it becomes! A firmer piece of tofu takes in a lot less oil than its non-firm counterpart. Having firm tofu means that your fried tofu will be less greasy and substantially healthier.

If you scrimp on the oil, you can enjoy fried tofu as part of a balanced healthy diet. The crispy outer coating does contain more sodium and calories than if you had tofu on its own. Still, this snack is much more nutritious than deep-fried varieties - including the old staple, chicken nuggets!

Can I try breaded tofu baked?

If you want to make an even healthier meal, you could bake your breaded tofu! You can omit the oil for this baked tofu - preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and once you assemble the breaded tofu pieces, pop them onto a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray.

Put the crispy tofu in the oven for 25 minutes, turning after around 12 minutes to ensure that both sides are cooked. Remove the baked tofu from the oven after 25 minutes, and voila! Delicious, low fat, crispy breaded tofu.

What bread crumbs are vegan?

Not all bread crumbs are vegan, so check the packet you purchase in the store. It is especially true for gluten-free breadcrumbs - you may need to head to a specialty store to find breadcrumbs that are both gluten-free and vegan.

We use Authentic Japanese Panko breadcrumbs in this breaded tofu recipe. If you are struggling to find vegan breadcrumbs, you could make your own by crushing any vegan crackers. It works just as well!

Can I refrigerate my crispy breaded tofu for later?

You can easily pop your crispy tofu strips in an airtight container and enjoy them for a few days - so if you want to make a big batch of breaded tofu nuggets at once, go for it! You can freeze them as well - but the texture does change a little once defrosted - you'll end up with a slightly spongy texture underneath the breadcrumbs. The pieces are still delicious, though!

What tofu should I use?

To make this dish, you will need firm or extra firm tofu. These types of tofu are much better when you want to use tofu as a meat substitute. Silken tofu is more commonly used to blend into sauces and soups, and regular tofu is used in other delicious tofu-based recipes such as scrambled tofu.

Regular and silken tofu won't hold together enough to make crispy breaded tofu, and they may disintegrate if you try to press them! Therefore, it's vital that you only use firm or extra firm tofu in this recipe - both are easy to locate in most grocery stores.

Can I make other types of breaded tofu with this recipe?

This recipe makes breaded tofu nuggets, but you can use the same concept to create tofu steaks or breaded tofu cutlets. The main difference is that you need to slice the tofu slightly thinner and be careful when marinating and applying breadcrumbs, as thin pieces of tofu will be more likely to fall apart. However, as long as the tofu is adequately pressed, it should hold together.

Crispy breaded tofu is a simple recipe to make, easy to store, and is loved by vegans and meat-eaters alike! If you fancy creating something that's reminiscent of chicken nuggets but is entirely animal-free and a lot healthier, try out our breaded tofu recipe!

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