You're going to love this crunchy, panko crusted Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets recipe! Deliciously crispy on the outside with a firm but tender interior that is addictive to snack on. They're super easy to make and the yummy panko crunchy outer can be customized for your own tastes. You can even oven-bake or pan-fry them! The firm tofu makes a great chicken nugget substitute, so make a batch for dinner! Also included are methods for oven baking, and regular frying!
I love making a batch of these tofu nuggets in my air fryer. They're quick and easy, and really satisfy that urge for something junky, without the icky feeling afterward.
These nuggets are a logical next step from this Sticky Miso Tofu Recipe , using the crispy tofu idea, but turning them into nuggets with a crunchy panko crust. I like to serve them with my new favorite vegan kewpie mayo recipe and some spicy BBQ sauce. They're also super yummy as part of a rice bowl, in which case I definitely suggest making this Vegan Sriracha Mayonnaise to drizzle over the top.
- Firm Tofu: I use an extra firm organic tofu that does not require any pressing. However, if you can only find firm tofu, you can choose to press your tofu between two paper towels to remove some of the moisture, or freeze it then defrost and squeeze out the water. This creates a more 'meaty' texture which some people like.
- Panko Bread Crumbs: Essential for the extra crispy crunchy outer.
- Potato Starch (Or Corn Starch): This helps bind the panko to the tofu. I prefer potato starch as I think it crisps up better than corn starch (corn flour to UK and Aussie people) , but you can use either.
- Neutral Oil: When air frying you just need a tiny bit of oil scrunched into the panko breadcrumbs. This ensures the breadcrumbs go a nice golden colour and crisp up!
- Spice Mix: I used Oregano, Chilli Flakes, White Pepper and Smoked Paprika, but you can also add, thyme, dried basil, mustard powder, celery salt or whatever other spice mixture takes your fancy.
- Sea Salt to sprinkle over the top and a little to season the starch slurry.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Prepare your tofu! if you need to remove moisture from your tofu to make it 'meatier' either :
- A) chop it into slices and press between two paper towels or a clean tea towel. Press down, or put it under something heavy to remove the water faster.
- B) Freeze your block of tofu whole, then once frozen, defrost it and squeeze out the water. Some people even do this twice! This creates a chewier, more chickeny texture.
- C) if you already have a very firm tofu block, you can just rip it up!
2. Tear your tofu into nugget shaped chunks.
3. Mix together the potato starch with some water and the spices and seasonings you have chosen to use into a kind of batter or slurry.
4. Dunk the tofu pieces in the starch and spice batter. Make sure they are well covered.
5. Scrunch the panko with a little oil. This allows the panko to crisp up.
6. Cover the coated pieces of tofu in panko crumbs.
7. Cook in an air fryer at 180C/356 F for 12 - 15 minutes or until lovely and crispy.
Choose how to cook the tofu nuggets! In order from easiest (and healthier) to the messiest/least healthy.
- Air Fry: I think by far the easiest way to make these tofu nuggets is to air fry them. Pop them in the air fryer basket, and set it to 180C/356F and fry for 12-15 minutes. (check after 10 minutes)
- Oven Bake: Oven bake these tofu nuggets by placing them on a lined baking sheet and baking at 200C for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven)
- Pan Fry: Skip the 'scrunching' the oil into the panko step. Coat a non-stick pan with a little nuetral oil and gently pan fry for 5-6 minutes on each side until crispy. Drain on paper towels.
- Deep Fry: Skip the 'scrunching' the oil into the panko step. Heat your oil until when you put a piece of bread into it, it browns up. Gently lower the nuggets into the oil and cook until crispy and brown. Drain on paper towels.
🌶Substitutions & Variations
- Chickpea tofu- make this recipe soya free by using Chickpea or Pumpkin seed tofu.
- Gluten Free - Choose panko breadcrumbs that are gluten free. These are usually found in the 'Free From' section of the supermarket. You can also use non-panko breadcrumbs, it will be less crunchy, but still delicious.
- Other Spices- Choose your favourite 'Chicken' spice mix, or get creative and use any spice blend you love. Experiment with different ones and pair the dipping sauce with the nuggets accordingly.
- Tempeh- Instead of choosing tofu, choose it's cousin, tempeh for a meaty texture to make the nuggets.
- Corn Starch (Corn Flour for UK/Australians) I prefer potato starch to make the slurry as it becomes very crispy as well as the panko, but corn starch is often easier to find and works just as well.
I find that this tofu nuggets recipe is best cooked in an air fryer, in terms of speed and easyness to clean up. I love my Ninja Foodie Grill and Air fryer, so can personally recommend that!
This recipe can be made ahead of time and added to lunch boxes or as part of a nourish bowl. The tofu loses it's crispyness after a while, so be awar of that. It keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge. You can also freeze this recipe, then cook in the air fryer from frozen.
Be sure to really scronch the little amount of oil into the panko. You don't need a lot, but it makes a difference to the overall crispy texture.
Tofu nuggets will take about 10-15 minutes in the air fryer at 180C/356F, depending on how crunchy you want them.
Yes you can air fry tofu without oil. It won't be as crunchy on the outside but it will still cook.
Firm tofu is excellent in the air fryer. Make a crunchy coating, or marinade then air fry in slices or chunks.
Love using your air fryer?
Me too! Try these other delicious but healthy air-fried recipes:
Keep the balance and serve these crispy nuggets with a delicious salad.
Crunchy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets
For accuracy, I measure all ingredients in metric as standard, then convert and test the recipe for American cup measurements etc.
(Heads up Aussie and UK readers- your measurements in cups are sometimes different, so please use metric or check you have the correct cup and spoon type!!)
For the Tofu
- 300 g (10 ½ oz) extra firm tofu (1 standard packet (usually) Make sure this is the extra firm tofu, NOT silken tofu that also says extra firm. )
For the crispy batter
For the Panko Crust
- 80 g (1 ⅓ cups) panko
- 1 teaspoon Nuetral Oil such as Sunflower
- Prepare the tofu by slicing it then patting it dry. If it is not the extra firm variety, lay it between two clean tea towels for half an hour with something heavy on top.300 g extra firm tofu
- If you want a meatier texture, you can also pre-freeze the tofu, then squeeze out the water, before the next step.
- Tear or chop the tofu in to 3cm/1 ½ pieces that are vaguely nugget shaped.
Make the Potato Starch Batter
- Whisk together the potato starch, water, white pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, chilli flakes and any other spices.3 tablespoon potato starch, 2 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon flakey sea salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Dredge the tofu nuggets in the potato starch batter, making sure they are completely covered.
Make the Panko Crust
- Scrunch the oil into the panko bread crumbs. This ensures an even crispy coating when fried.80 g panko, 1 teaspoon Nuetral Oil such as Sunflower
Cook the Tofu Nuggets
- Put the nuggets into an air fryer basket and cook at 180℃/256℉ for 10-15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes. The nuggets are ready when crispy and golden.
- Serve sprinkled with a little salt and your favourite dipping sauces.
- Corn Starch- I think potato starch is superior in terms of how crispy it makes the food, however you can use corn starch instead if that is what you have available.
- Soy Free- Pumfu or Chickpea tofu- choose chickpea tofu or Pumpkin seed tofu in place of the tofu.
- Tempeh- Cubes of tempeh would work well in place of the crispy tofu.
- Oven-Bake- Treat the tofu in the same way as air fried. Place onto a lined baking sheet and bake the tofu at 180c/350F for 20 minutes, or until crispy on the outside.
- Pan Fry- Coat the tofu cubes in the batter and panko. Then generously oil a non-stick pan. Pan fry the tofu until it is crispy, tossing it to ensure it gets completely cooked. You might need to do this in batches for the optimal result. Once cooked, remove the oil, wipe the pan and cook the sauce, tossing the tofu into the sauce.