If you’re one of those people who think tofu just isn’t for you, these supremely savory, catastrophically crunchy, jaw droppingly juicy chicken fried tofu nuggets inspired by NYC’s Superiority Burger will change your mind forever.
I’m a lover of tofu. I love it in all it’s forms: plain with just a drizzle of soy, in a ruby red mapo sauce, crispy with a sweet and savory miso glaze, and even in wonton. Tofu to me, is undeniably a good thing: high in protein, plant based, and incredibly tasty. But, I get it, some people don’t appreciate tofu. They think it’s bland or has a weird texture. I’m here to tell you tofu doesn’t have to be bland! It has texture! I’m here to give you tofu fried tofu nuggets! Because a life without tofu isn’t a life worth living.
I’ve had many, many versions of crispy fried tofus and while I love them all, this chicken fried tofu (more on what that means exactly later!) is one of the best nuggets I’ve had, chicken or not. Extra firm tofu is given a golden crust then brined in spices so it soaks in flavor like a sponge. After the brine, a heavenly homemade mix of 11 herbs and spices (JK there aren’t 11) are mixed into flour to give it the same crunch as you find on classic fried chicken. If you like nuggets, these nuggets will satisfy you to no end, pinky swear.
What is tofu fried tofu?
Tofu fried tofu is kind of a misnomer. I think it stems from “chicken fried,” like how everything that is battered in buttermilk and coated in flour is considered “chicken fried.” But since there’s not buttermilk in this recipe – it’s completely vegan – the internet started calling battered tofu “tofu fried tofu.” Or maybe that’s just me?
Anyway, this tofu is inspired by Superiority Burger’s crispy fried tofu sandwich which has been named as one of NYC’s best chicken sandwiches even though there’s no chicken in it.
For this tofu fried tofu we’re going to do a three step process: brown, brine, then deep-fry. Browning the tofu gives it an extra crust and stability. It also pulls out some moisture which we’re going to add back in by brining. The brining will inject salt, garlic, and onion-y flavors all through the tofu, making it incredibly savory and juicy. After the brine, the tofu nuggets get double dunked into a seasoned flour. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not and really, it’s so worth it.
The best kind of tofu for tofu fried tofu
Tofus are categories by texture/consistency which is determined by water content. The more water, the softer and silkier the tofu. Tofu comes in silken/soft, regular, firm, and extra firm.
The best kind of tofu for this kind of preparation is extra firm. It comes packaged in plastic, without any extra water. It holds its shape well but you can also crumble it. You can find it at all Asian grocery stores and even Trader Joe’s sells it. I like to use a local tofu maker’s firm tofu variety.
How to make tofu fried tofu nuggets
1. Shape: cut the tofu up into nugget shapes (I went with the classic ones – the boot, the tombstone, and the oval). If you want your nuggets to look more organic, use your fingers to crumble the edges. Pat the nuggets dry.
2. Sear: give the tofu a nice golden brown sear in some hot oil. I like to use cast-iron or a non-stick pan for this step.
3. Soak: brine the tofu in a salt-sugar mix with garlic and onion powder for extra flavorful juiciness INSIDE the tofu.
4. Coat: set up a dredging station with two bowls, one filled with the seasoned flour mix and another one with water mixed with a bit of vegan mayonnaise or mustard. The mayo/mustard gives a bit of flavorful body and mimics buttermilk so you’ll get a nice coating of crunchiness on each nugget. Pat your nuggets dry then dip into the mayo-mustard, then seasoned flour. Double dunk for max crunch.
5. Fry: Time to fry! Heat up at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot and make sure it reaches 360-375°F. You want a moderately high temp to quickly fry the tofu. When it’s brown and crunchy, remove it from the pan and let it drain on a wire rack.
The best sides to serve with tofu nuggets
Personally we just devoured these nuggets as is with a side of homemade sweet-n-sour sauce (recipe coming soon) but if you have the deep fryer out and you want to be a little crazy, you can make Heston Blumenthal’s insanely crunchy two day affair triple cooked chips. If you want something a little less time consuming but just as good, you can go with air fryer fries. I also LOVE LOVE this perfect picnic potato salad, these crispy stovetop roasted red potatoes, these crispy oven roasted potatoes, and these insanely delicious potatoes with burrata. Obviously I think potatoes go with nuggets 🙂
I hope you give these a try especially if you love tofu and even if you don’t. They’ll blow your mind.
- 14 oz Extra firm tofu
- High heat oil for deep frying such as grapeseed
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup mayo see notes
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
Prep the marinated tofu: line a cutting board or baking sheet with paper towels or clean kitchen towels. Cut the tofu into 2 inch by 1 inch slabs, 1/2 inch thick. If desired, crumble the edges so they look more like nuggets. Lay out in a single layer on the prepped baking sheet and cover with towels. Gently press to extract some moisture.
Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over high heat until shimmery. Sear the tofu, until it forms a golden brown crust, flipping once, 4-5 minutes per side. Remove and drain on a rack.
Make the brine: in a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups water with the garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, pepper, and salt. Add the seared tofu to the brine and let marinate for minimum 1 hour and up to overnight.
Prep the fried tofu: In a shallow bowl, mix the mayonnaise or mustard with 1/4 cup water until smooth. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Remove the tofu from the brine and pat dry. Dip the tofu in the mustard mixture, turning until coated, then dip into the flour. Dip back into the mustard, then the flour, so each nugget is twice coated.
In a dutch oven, heat 2 inches of oil over medium high heat and prepare a wire rack on a baking sheet. When the oil reaches 350°F carefully lower the battered tofu into the hot oil and fry, flipping as needed, until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the wire rack.
Enjoy hot with sauces!
You can sub vegan mayonnaise, vegan yogurt, or mustard in the coating. You want something that’s a bit thick so that the flour can cling to the tofu. I used a half-half mix of mayonnaise and mustard.