By Team Dirty
Jul 16, 2022,
Who says nuggets are just for kids? Definitely not us. We love the uncomplicated joy of a crispy, savory, warm nugget as much as any discerning 7-year-old. But going plant based means you can’t ever have this simple pleasure again, right? Absolutely not. We’ve got just the ticket if you’ve been missing these tiny nuggets of happiness. Make our Oil-Free Crispy Tofu Nuggets and get ready to feel like a kid again. Bonus: actual kids like them, too.
Our delicious vegan nuggets are free of meat, dairy, eggs, oil, and highly processed ingredients so you can enjoy them without guilt. No drive-through ever made that promise.
What’s inside Oil-Free Crispy Tofu Nuggets
Firm or extra firm tofu: tofu is categorized by its texture. Firm and extra firm tofu have had most of the water strained so the texture is, well, firmer. We’ll press more water out before we begin so that our nuggets will have a tasty toothsome texture after being coated and cooked.
Dill pickle juice: this is a key ingredient in the delicately tangy flavor of the nuggets. If you don’t enjoy pickles, don’t worry, the final nuggets won’t taste pickley. Give it a try, you may be surprised.
There’s more tofu where that came from!
No credit card or perfection required.
Tahini: this sesame seed butter is high in naturally occurring fat and protects our nuggets from burning in the oven while adding a subtle nutty flavor that layers well with the spices.
100% pure maple syrup: many syrups on grocery store shelves aren’t actually maple syrup, or contain very little. 🤯 Looking for “100% pure” on the label means you’ll be purchasing a product made entirely from boiled maple tree sap (but always check the ingredients!). This amount doesn’t add too much sweetness to the nuggets, but feel free to skip this if you don’t like sweet with your savory.
Arrowroot powder: this finely ground flour substitute is used to set the coating on our nuggets after they’re tossed. It also delivers some of the crispy texture we love.
Time to cook
Preheat your oven to 375°F. While that’s warming up, let’s press our tofu. Remove it from the package and give it a quick rinse. Now, place the tofu on a flat-ish plate and cover with a cutting board or something else sturdy and flat. Carefully place something heavy on the cutting board, like a couple of cookbooks or a heavy skillet. Make sure the objects are balanced. Set aside for 10–15 minutes to allow the excess liquid to be pressed out.
While your tofu is being pressed, go ahead and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
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Now, we’ll mix up our seasoned nugget coating. Measure all of the coating ingredients into a mixing bowl except for the arrowroot powder. Use a whisk to break everything up and stir until smooth.
Once your tofu is good and pressed, pat it dry, and use clean hands to break it up into bite-sized pieces. We like about ½-inch to ¾-inch sized pieces. These don’t need to be perfect, just try to keep the pieces similar in size so they cook at the same rate. The coating sticks better to the rough hand-torn pieces than those cut with a knife. Plus they look more like the nuggets we’re used to! We love it when the easiest way to do something is also the best way.
Drop your tofu pieces into the mixing bowl with your coating and toss to cover the tofu completely. Once coated, add the arrowroot powder to the bowl right on top of the tofu and toss again to ensure coverage.
Spread the nuggets out on your prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, then pull out the pan and flip the nuggets. Pop them back in for another 10–15 minutes, until they’re golden brown.
When those nuggets are ready to nosh, grab your favorite dipping sauce (or toss them in the sauce if that’s the way you like it), and dig in!
Find the perfect sauce for these crispy tofu nuggets
- Dairy and oil-free ranch
- Creamy Mustard Dressing
- Plant Fueled Life members: Sweet Mustard Sauce
- Plant Fueled Life members: Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce
Storing and reheating
For extra veggie power, serve with Summer Succotash or make macaroni and cheesy sauce for the ultimate childhood-inspired nostalgia meal.
Your nuggets will keep in the fridge for about five days when stored an air-tight container. To reheat the Oil-Free Crispy Tofu Nuggets, pop them on a sheet pan and into a 350ºF oven for about 10–15 minutes or until warmed through. Smaller-sized pieces will need less time. We don’t recommend microwaving as it will turn your crispy pieces of joy into soggy pieces of meh.
For gluten-free nuggets, be sure to purchase gluten-free soy sauce, AKA tamari.
- 1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained, rinsed and pressed (directions below) (395 g)
- 2⅔ tablespoons dill pickle juice (40 ml)
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1½ teaspoons unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1½ teaspoons yellow mustard
- 1½ teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon coconut aminos
- ½ teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce (for gluten-free nuggets, use tamari)
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (about 10 turns from a pepper grinder)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch cayenne powder (optional, adjust spice level by adding more or omitting)
- 1½ tablespoons arrowroot powder (10 g)
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Remove the tofu from the package and rinse with water. Place the tofu on a plate and set a cutting board on top of the tofu, then place something heavy on top, like a few cookbooks or a heavy skillet. Set aside for 10–15 minutes while the liquid is pressed out of the tofu.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the coating ingredients EXCEPT the arrowroot powder until smooth and well combined.
- Using your clean hands, gently break the tofu into bite-sized nuggets, about ½-inch to ¾-inch in size, and place them into the mixing bowl. Toss until all of the tofu is coated with the mixture. Add the arrowroot powder and toss again to coat the tofu pieces.
- Spread the nuggets out in a single layer on your baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip the nuggets over and bake for an additional 10–15 minutes, until they’re golden brown.
Have you tried our Oil-Free Crispy Tofu Nuggets? Were you dancing with happiness? Did your kids ask for seconds or did you forget to share with them? Let us know in the comments below.
Wishing you childlike joy.
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Soooo excited to make this! These would be great on a big crunchy salad. So much healthier than store bought veggie meat substitutes. This would be easy to make into slices for sandwiches. Trying to find something to get my hubby away from store bought deli slices.
So many possibilities!
Thank you for this!
You’re welcome! Let us know how the hubs likes them! My kiddos go crazy for them, and they are so good on a salad with corn, BBQ sauce, and chickpea! So much yum. Happy cooking!
This looks like a great recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Any substitute for the dill pickle juice?
The best substitute is probably a simple salt water brine. We haven’t tested this sub, but we’d start with about a teaspoon of salt mixed into 1/3 cup of warm water. Then measure your 2 2/3 tablespoons out of that for the seasoned coating. You can also try adding a couple of drops of lemon juice for the extra tang. You can also skip the juice altogether. 😀
Have these been tested in the air fryer?
If so, May I please have the deets?
We haven’t tested this recipe in an air fryer. However, you’re welcome to try it!
We would recommend preheating your air fryer to 350ºF and baking the nuggets for about 15 minutes before flipping them and baking for another 8-12 minutes. If your air fryer is a basket model, then go for about 28 minutes total, shaking the basket every few minutes. You may need to cook the nuggets in batches to get them all uniformly crispy.
These were very tasty, and I added them to a big salad. They were not, however, crunchy. But that’s OK… I still inhaled them!
We’re so glad you enjoyed them! Eating them on a big salad is a great idea! To get crispier nuggets next time, we recommend using more than one sheet pan and spreading the nuggets out so there’s space for airflow between them. This can help a great deal. 🙂