Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets Recipe

Nuggets are a lunch and dinner staple, though we most often see them in chicken form. Sure, chicken nuggets are tasty, but they're often not the healthiest, especially when they're deep-fried in oil. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to customize nuggets and switch up the protein of choice — have you ever considered using tofu instead of chicken? And, instead of deep-frying, what if the nuggets were cooked in an air fryer?

If either of those questions intrigues you, you'll definitely want to give recipe developer Miriam Hahn's air fryer tofu nuggets a try. This recipe captures all of the best adjectives of nuggets — crispy, crunchy, and delicious — in a much healthier, wholesome way. "Tofu is full of lots of fiber, protein, and minerals," Hahn explains of the main protein in these nuggets. "This is a great recipe for kids as a healthy alternative to chicken nuggets. It actually tastes so close to chicken nuggets that I don't think a kid would even know it is tofu." 

Not only are these tofu nuggets healthy, but they couldn't be easier to make since the air fryer does most of the work! If you want to switch things up from processed chicken nuggets, give these air fryer tofu nuggets a try!

Gather the ingredients to make air fryer tofu nuggets

Before you can get started on making air fryer tofu nuggets, you'll want to make sure you have the right ingredients. Of course, you'll need a block of tofu, and you'll also need arrowroot powder (or cornstarch), nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, any kind of milk, whole wheat pastry flour, smoked paprika, panko breadcrumbs, optional fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish, and a dipping sauce of your choice. Hahn loves Buffalo sauce with these tofu nuggets, but ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, or ranch are also tasty dipping sauce options! (If you need some inspiration, here are some homemade sauce options that will upgrade any meal.)

Press the tofu then break it into bite-sized chunks

Now that you have your ingredients sorted, you can focus on the tofu block. Before you can cook up the tofu, you'll need to drain all of the excess water. If you have a tofu press, you can easily use that to drain the water. Otherwise, take the tofu block out of the package and place it in a shallow bowl or dish. Put a plate on top of the block, and then place something heavy, like a cast-iron skillet, on top of the plate. Let your tofu sit like this for about 20 minutes so the water can slowly drain. Once it's fully drained, go ahead and break up the block into bite-sized chunks, one to two inches in size, and then set them aside. 

Prepare the batter and coating for the nuggets

Once you're finished with the tofu, you can focus on the batter and the coating that will help transform it into nuggets! 

First, in a medium-sized bowl, combine the arrowroot powder, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, pastry flour, and smoked paprika until a batter forms. Then, in a third bowl, simply pour in some of the panko breadcrumbs, which will help give your tofu nuggets that irresistibly crunchy texture. 

Dunk each piece of tofu into the batter

Now that all of your ingredients are ready, you can begin coating the tofu chunks in the batter. 

First, toss each chunk in the dry arrowroot mixture — this will help give it some flavor and allow the batter to stick to the tofu more easily. Next, dip the coated tofu chunks into the wet batter. Hahn notes that this part can get messy, but by using tongs, you can more easily dunk each piece of tofu and avoid too big of a mess. After you've dunked the tofu chunks into the batter, roll them in the panko breadcrumbs to help seal in the batter and ensure that each nugget will get nice and crispy.

Air fry the tofu nuggets and then serve them with a dipping sauce

Spray your air fryer basket with cooking spray and then place each of the coated tofu nuggets inside, cooking them at 400 F for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, your tofu nuggets will look golden brown and they'll be nice and crispy on the outside. At this point, you're ready to serve and enjoy your air fryer tofu nuggets! 

These are best enjoyed as lunch or dinner, though Hahn also notes that they work well for a Sunday game day appetizer as well. 

If you happen to have leftovers, you can easily reheat them in the air fryer and achieve that crispy, crunchy texture all over again. This air fryer tofu nuggets recipe eliminates the need for deep-frying, making it just as healthy as it is delicious! 

Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets Recipe
4.8 from 11 ratings
This air fryer tofu nuggets recipe is crispy, crunchy, and delicious — all the best parts of nuggets, but healthier and more wholesome. Skip the deep-frying.
Prep Time
Cook Time
tofu nuggets with dipping sauce
Total time: 30 minutes
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Optional Ingredients
  • Dipping sauce of choice
  • Parsley or cilantro, for garnish
  1. Take the tofu out of the package and discard the water that it is packed in.
  2. To drain the tofu, place the tofu block in a shallow bowl or dish. Place a flat plate on top of the tofu and place something heavy (like a cast-iron skillet) on top of the plate.
  3. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and then pour out the water collected in the bowl. Alternatively, you can use a tofu press.
  4. While the tofu is pressing, in a medium bowl, combine the arrowroot powder, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt.
  5. In another bowl, combine the milk, pastry flour, and smoked paprika. Stir with a whisk to form a batter.
  6. Put the panko breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
  7. Using your hands, tear the tofu into 1-inch to 2-inch irregular pieces. Add the pieces to the arrowroot bowl and toss them to coat.
  8. Using tongs, dip the coated pieces into the wet batter, then roll them in the panko crumbs.
  9. Place the coated tofu pieces in an air fryer that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Set the temp to 400 F and the timer to 15 minutes.
  10. Serve your tofu nuggets with your favorite dipping sauce, garnished with parsley or cilantro if desired.
Calories per Serving 264
Total Fat 6.3 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 4.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 40.0 g
Dietary Fiber 5.1 g
Total Sugars 4.3 g
Sodium 417.6 mg
Protein 14.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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