I don’t use my Air Fryer very often, but there is one thing I’ve been making almost every week. And that’s Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets! I’ve got the perfect oil free, vegan crispy batter and I have to hold myself back from eating the whole batch right after cooking!
Do you have to use oil in your Air Fryer?
One thing people ask me often is do you use oil in your Air Fryer and my answer is NEVER! Not even cooking spray. Isn’t the point of the air fryer to eliminate oil and fat? So I’m always perplexed by the number of recipes, even plant based ones, that are LOADED with oil.
The fact is I don’t have a problem with my food sticking or not getting crispy. I have a sturdy spatula that I use to get underneath my tofu or veggies and if I have little bits that get stuck here & there, it’s not a big deal. I just throw it in my dishwasher and it cleans up well.
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What kind of air fryer should you get?
There are many types of air fryers out there these days, including lids that go on your Instant Pot to convert it. But since I do a lot of batch cooking, I like having a dedicated air fryer so I can also be cooking something else in my Instant Pot at the same time. Efficiency is key to saving time on a weekly batching session! I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen like you probably don’t either.
My air fryer is one by Emeril Lagasse like this one.
How to get lots of flavor in crispy air fryer tofu
There are a couple tips I have so that you get maximum flavor in your crispy air fryer tofu nuggets!
#1 is to PRESS your tofu. The more water you get out of your tofu, the more flavor it can soak up like a sponge! I have 2 of these tofu presses so that I can do a double batch each week. I recommend pressing your tofu for at least 30 minutes, but you can leave it pressing in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.
#2 is to marinate your pressed tofu in a sauce for at least 30 minutes or overnight so that it has time to soak up the flavor.
How to make your vegan tofu nuggets extra crispy
I also have a couple tips on getting tofu nuggets extra crispy.
#1 is to add cornstarch or arrowroot powder to the spices you are using. This will help create a crispier coating.
#2 is to set your air fryer to 400° F and cook for 5 minutes, 2-3 times, using a spatula to release the tofu and toss the basket. The perfect time for my air fryer is 15 minutes total, but if they are crispy enough for you after 10 minutes, then yours are done. All air fryers are a little different!
#3 Make sure to have just 1 layer of tofu nuggets in your air fryer at a time. My air fryer is pretty large so I can usually get at least 1/2 a block of tofu in at one time.
#4 Also make sure you find EXTRA firm tofu. It’s easy to cut and doesn’t break a part as well. Firm tofu can work well as well if your store doesn’t have extra firm. But NOT medium or soft!
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What to dip crispy air fryer tofu nuggets in?
I love to dip tofu nuggets in oil free, low sugar (no HFCS) BBQ (my fave is Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce), but you could use any oil free vegan dressing, mustard, or sauce you like!
You might want to try these for tofu nugget dips – Easy Vegan Ranch Dressing, Oil Free Vegan Greek Tzatziki sauce, Healthy Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce, or Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce.
You can eat tofu nuggets as the main entree, eating them like Chick-fil-A nuggets – that’s what my kids think they taste like!
Sometimes I just snack on these cold right out of the fridge, but you can easily reheat in the microwave if you like. They won’t be as crispy as they are right out of the air fryer, but they are still delicious!
I also like to use these vegan tofu nuggets as salad or bowl toppers for added flavor & protein. But you could also use them to make tofu tacos as well! The options are endless!
Here are some more WFPB recipes you might like:
- Air Fryer Zucchini Fries
- Crispy BBQ Roasted Chickpeas
- Tofu Scramble Seasoning (tastes like real eggs!)
- Crispy Baked Tofu Marinara Fingers
- Oil Free Roasted Potato Wedges
- Vegan Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Crispy Baked Veggie Spring Rolls
- Coconut Crusted Tofu with Pineapple Sauce
Crispy Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets (oil-free)
- Air Fryer
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu drained & pressed for at least 30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos for gluten & soy free
- 1 tablespoon low sodium vegetable broth or water
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt optional
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- After you've drained & pressed your tofu, place on a cutting board & slice into 1" cubes.
- Mix low sodium soy sauce & vegetable broth together in a small bowl.
- In a separate small bowl, add all the dry ingredients & mix together (garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, black pepper, salt, & cornstarch).
- Place cubes in a medium sized bowl & toss with the soy sauce mixture (or you can put in a ziplock bag to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge for more flavor).
- Coat the tofu with the dry spices and toss well. It's ok if you have broken pieces – they'll end up super crispy & tasty!
- Place cubes in the basket of your air fryer (no need to spray with oil) in a single layer and leave a little space around each piece. (you may have to do separate batches depending on the size of your air fryer)
- Set your air fryer to 400°. Cook for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to flip them/shake basket and repeat 2-3 more times until desired crispness. 10-15 minutes total.
- Remove tofu & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy as a snack, salad topper, or main dish! Serve plain or with sauce of choice. Great to dip in BBQ sauce!
- I have this tofu press and love it! https://amzn.to/2ZsseMD
- If you don’t have a tofu press, drain & wrap tofu in kitchen towels, then place a small plate on top with a heavy item, like a book.
- Important – make sure you buy EXTRA FIRM tofu. FIRM tofu is ok, but will break a part more easily. Make sure it’s NOT soft tofu, which is for smoothies and creamy dishes.
- For lower sodium, just use vegetable broth to marinate the tofu and leave out the salt.
- These tofu bites can be refrigerated for up to a week – but they probably won’t last that long because they’re so good!
- Feel free to change up the seasonings however you like or just try soy sauce or balsamic vinegar only for a quick marinade.
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