If you’d like to serve more plant-based proteins to your family, but tofu seems like a weird, squishy bridge too far, I’ve got the recipe for you!
Because yes, tofu is squishy–and, let’s face it, kind of weird too. It’s coagulated soy protein, a name that won’t exactly make the kids come running.
But tofu has the magic power to transform (hello, teen-approved Chocolate Tofu Pudding!)–this time, into something crunchy, hand-held, and utterly dippable: Crispy breaded tofu nuggets that cook in just 15 minutes in the air fryer.
How to Make Crunchy Tofu Nuggets
First, it’s important to buy extra-firm tofu for this tofu nuggets recipe. Tofu comes in a few different varieties, but extra-firm is the sturdiest. It’s hefty enough to stand up to dipping and breading.
Where can you buy tofu? Look for it in the “natural foods” section of your grocery store. If your store doesn’t have one, tofu is stocked in a refrigerated section, typically grouped with other plant-based proteins like vegan cheese.
Then you’ll want to press your tofu to remove excess moisture. If you have an official tofu press, go for it. Otherwise, here’s the DIY method I use:
- Place the block of tofu on a plate between paper towels or clean kitchen towels
- Put something heavy on top (I use a cast-iron pan)
- Let it rest for at least an hour, draining away the moisture periodically
Next, slice the block of tofu into 10 strips, then slice across to give you 20 nuggets.
Soak them in a dish with one cup vegetable broth. You can skip this step if you’d like, but tofu itself is very bland, so this gives it a bit more flavor.
In a shallow bowl, beat one egg. In another dish (I like using a pie plate for breading), mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Carefully take each tofu nugget out of the broth, dip it in egg, then place in breadcrumbs. Spoon more of the breadcrumb mixture over the nuggets (be gentle–tofu can crumble and break apart with too much handling).
Spray the basket of your air fryer with cooking spray and preheat to 400 degree. Place half of the nuggets in the basket (or however many fit without overlapping). Spray the tops with olive oil spray (here’s the oil sprayer I’ve used for years) and cook for 15 minutes.
Here’s how they look after 15 minutes: deep-fried without being deep-fried!
Serve right away or set on a cooling rack to enjoy later.
How to Serve Tofu Nuggets
- Serve these on a plate with ketchup or another favorite dip, like BBQ sauce or honey mustard
- Tuck these on the side of a veggie and rice bowl
- Pack cold in lunch boxes
Recipe for Crispy Crunchy Tofu Nuggets:
Is Tofu Good For Kids?
Yes! Tofu is soy, a “high-quality” protein. That means it has all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that we have to get from food. Soy protein may have other some unique benefits too, like helping to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Why I Love My Air Fryer
I used to be an air fryer skeptic, writing it off as just another giant appliance I didn’t have room for.
And truth be told, I don’t have room for it in my kitchen. I store it on the basement landing and bring it up when I need it. But it’s worth the extra effort.
The air fryer is basically a small convection oven that circulates air around food and cooks faster than a regular oven. But its real claim-to-fame is giving a crispy, crunchy texture to foods like French fries and chicken tenders without a lot of oil. Some other perks:
- It preheats much quicker than a standard oven (some models like my Philips XXL Air Fryer don’t even need preheating)
- It reheats leftovers without making them soggy like a microwave does
- It’s push-a-button-and-walk-away convenient, plus easy for kids to use
The downsides? It’s big and can also be loud. And large models, like mine, are pricey (I got mine for free through a story I did). But I’ve cooked so many good things in it (including, according to my husband, the best pork chops I’ve ever made), that it’s definitely an appliance I recommend.
- 1 block extra-firm tofu
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/3 (heaping) cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 beaten egg
- Cooking spray
- Olive oil spray
- Press the tofu with a tofu press or by this method: Place the block of tofu on a plate between paper towels (or clean kitchen towels) and put something heavy on top (I use a cast iron pan) and let it rest for 30-60 minutes, draining away the moisture periodically.
- Slice tofu block across width-wide into 10 strips, then cut those in half to make 20 pieces total.
- Marinade pieces in a dish with 1 cup vegetable broth for 30 minutes.
- Crack an egg into a shallow bowl or dish and beat it well.
- Mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a second shallow bowl or dish.
- Take each piece of tofu from the broth, coat it in egg, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with remaining pieces.
- Spray air fryer basket with cooking spray and preheat to 400 degress.
- Arrange half of the tofu pieces in the basket (or however many fit in your air fryer without overlapping). Spray the tops with olive oil spray or cooking spray.
- Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from air fryer to a cooling rack or plate.
- Repeat with remaining tofu nuggets until all are cooked.
- Serve immediately or store in airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy within five days.
To reheat: Tofu nuggets stored in the fridge will lose their crunch so to restore crispness, heat in toaster oven or in air fryer for about three minutes.
To freeze: Allow nuggets to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-proof bag (pressing out all excess air) or container. When ready to use, defrost in fridge then reheat using methods above.
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Yield: 20 nuggets Serving Size: 4 nuggets
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 133Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1.3gTrans Fat: 9gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 237mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 11g