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Easy crispy vegan gluten-free chicken nuggets recipe

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Easy crispy vegan gluten-free chicken nuggets recipe- crunchy and irresistibly delicious Vegan “Chicken” nuggets recipe. It’s the easy tofu nuggets recipe dreams are made of! It’s so crispy and crunchy on the outside, yet chewy and very chicken-like on the inside thanks to the firm tofu. It can be completely gluten-free if you want – and best of all, it’s so easy even your kids can make them!
I wanted to recreate the texture of chicken while also keeping it really simple – because I crave simple and easy vegan substitutes for my favorite “normal” dishes.

One of the things I decided when I chose to become vegetarian was that I wanted to eat primarily vegan (because of health issues, being fully vegan isn’t a viable option for me) and I wanted to create vegan recipes that would be able to match the “real thing”. And that’s why I came up with this super easy vegan “chicken” nugget recipe.

For my vegan chicken nuggets recipe, I have freshened it up by adding a little lemon zest to the breadcrumbs. That is completely optional, and you can leave it out if you prefer. I just enjoy the freshness and added flavor, plus I’m a bit of a lemon addict (maybe I should have called my blog something with lemons, hmm).

In this Gluten-Free vegan Nuggets Recipe we’re covering

What’s to love about the easy vegan “Chicken” Nuggets recipe

  • It’s super easy to make – a child could make them
  • Deliciously golden and crispy on the outside with a firm meaty chicken texture on the inside. So good
  • Pretty healthy and ideal as dinner, as appetizers, and for parties (the babies are a hit at kids’ parties)
  • Feels and tastes like the real thing.

Key ingredients for making gluten-free vegan nuggets 

This tasty tofu nugget recipe requires only a few simple ingredients that are easy to get at most grocery stores. They are much more budget-friendly than the vegan chicken nugget brands available at the grocery store. They also come with some easy substitutes making them the best option for using the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. 

Main Ingredients for vegan tofu nuggets the whole family will love

  • One Block of Firm Tofu – or extra firm tofu. Using firm or extra-firm tofu in these tasty tofu nuggets is the best way to make the texture incredibly meaty and gives you that real nugget feeling. 
  • ½ cup Gluten free breadcrumbs or sesame seeds – for this recipe I like to use fine gluten-free bread crumbs (I usually make my own from leftover gluten-free bread that’s going stale.) you can get gluten-free bread crumbs at most well-stocked grocery stores, in your local grocery store gluten-free department and health food stores. Other good options for creating a crunchy gluten-free crust are coconut flour, coconut flakes, almond flour, and gluten-free blended oats. Any of these will work to create a crunchy golden nugget crust.
  • Corn Starch, Or tapioca flour – we’re working with simple gluten-free ingredients. You can also substitute the corn starch with potato starch if you prefer. If you don’t need the recipe to be gluten-free you can also substitute it with wheat flour 
  • Nutritional Yeast – adding nutritional yeast is optional but highly recommended. The nutritional yeast adds a rich cheese flavor that’s irresistibly good…plus, nutritional yeast is full of nutrients and vitamins, like vitamin B and more. 
  • Brown rice flour – or chickpea flour. For a non-gluten-free meatless nuggets recipe, you can use all-purpose flour. 
  • Plant milk – use your favorite non-dairy milk to coat the tofu nuggets. I like to use almond milk or oat milk. Other great options for dairy-free milk are; coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk, or cashew milk. Any type of milk will work, so just use your favorite.

Tasty Seasonings to jazz up nuggets

  • Lemon Zest – the lemon zest adds a fresh kick of flavor. You can leave it out for a more neutral gentle flavored nugget.
  • Seasoning – salt and Pepper. We’re using only basic seasoning to flavor the nuggets. For extra smoky flavors, you can add 1-2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, for a Mediterranean spice blend try mixing in herb de Provence or Italian spice blend to the tofu mixture. Other wonderful spices include garlic powder, onion powder, and even a little tomato paste. Have fun and try your favorite spices with these easy gluten-free nuggets!
  • Olive Oil or Coconut oil for frying – or your preferred vegetable oil. Other veggie oils that work great are avocado oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil. You can even use plant based butter if you prefer. There’s no going wrong.

Tips and tricks for making the best golden nuggets 

Here are some tips and tricks for making vegan nuggets:

  1. Choose the right base: Use a sturdy plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh, or seitan as the base for your vegan nuggets. We are using firm tofu for this easy recipe as our protein-rich plant-based nugget. 
  2. Add a flavor: Use a variety of spices and seasonings to add flavor to your vegan nuggets. Some popular options include garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and nutritional yeast. You can add any seasoning to these versatile nuggets and make them with your favorite seasonings, perfectly fitted for your taste buds. 
  3. Use a binding agent: A binding agent like plant milk and cornstarch can help hold your vegan nugget’s crust together. Dip in the right order, oat flour first, then milk, then the final crunchy breadcrumb layer for the best thick and crunchy golden nugget crust. Getting the right thick crust is all about the crust ingredients and binders.
  4. Coat in breadcrumbs: Coat your vegan nuggets in gluten free breadcrumbs or another coating like panko or cornmeal before baking or frying to help them get crispy and golden brown. For extra crunch you can add sesame seeds or coconut flakes (or crushed corn flakes) to your crust to make a thick and VERY CRUNCHY crust.
  5. Bake or air fry: For a healthier option, try baking or air frying your vegan nuggets instead of frying them in oil.
  6. Get creative: Experiment with different ingredients and flavors to come up with your own unique vegan nugget recipe. Once you have a great basic recipe like these tofu nuggets you can get creative and add your favorite seasonings to really make the nuggets your own. 

By following these tips and tricks, you can make delicious and satisfying vegan nuggets that are perfect for snacking or serving as a main course.

How to make these easy Vegan Chicken Nuggets 

  • Prepare the tofu by pressing the excess water out of it. (Optional but recommended)
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Start by cutting the tofu into 12 squares and use your fingers to gently press them into nugget shapes.
  • Next, pour the breadcrumbs, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and lemon zest into a bowl and mix together until everything is combined.
  • Pour the oat flour into a second bowl and finally pour the plant milk into a third bowl.
  • Next, dip each nugget into the oat flour, then the plant milk, and finally dip it into the breadcrumbs, making sure that all sides are covered. Once all the nuggets have been dipped and covered in breadcrumbs, heat the oil in a frying pan.
  • Cook the nuggets at medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are golden and crispy.
  • Once the nuggets are golden, put them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (turning the nuggets over halfway through).
  • Serve hot and enjoy.

Simple way to cook vegan chicken nuggets in an air fryer

  • Preheat the air fryer by running it at 390°F (200°C) for 5 minutes. 
  • Bring out the air fryer basket and brush it with a small amount of oil. Then spread out the vegan chicken nuggets in a single layer. 
  • Air fry at 400°F (205°C) for 20-25 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway. When the nuggets are golden brown they are ready to serve. 
  • Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy. 

Easy way to reheat vegan chicken nuggets from frozen in an air fryer 

I love making a big batch of these tasty nuggets and freezing half for later. You can grab them directly from the freezer and reheat them in the air fryer or microwave from frozen. It makes it easy to get a tasty healthy meal ready in no time on busy days. 

To reheat frozen vegan chicken nuggets in an air fryer just follow these simple steps. 

  1. Place the frozen vegan chicken nuggets in the air fryer basket and spread them out into a single even layer. No oil spray is needed when reheating.
  2. Air Fry at 400°F/205°C for 8 minutes. Flip the nuggets over. 
  3. Continue to Air Fry at 400°F/205°C for another 2-4 minutes or until heated through and crispy.
  4. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, or try one of my suggestions below.

How to reheat frozen nuggets in a microwave

Reheating nuggets in a microwave is simple and quick. You can reheat from frozen or refrigerated. 

Microwave nuggets time and amount (Frozen nuggets):

Heat on HIGH: 

  • 5 nuggets for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, 
  • 10 nuggets for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, 
  • 15 nuggets for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

How to reheat frozen vegan nuggets in a microwave:

  • Place a single layer of frozen nuggets on a microwave-safe plate or dish. 
  • Microwave on HIGH for 3 ½ to 4 ½ minutes for up to 30 nuggets – only microwave for 2 to 2 ½ minutes for 15 nuggets. Flip the nuggets if they need extra heating time. 
  • Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes before serving.

How to press tofu and make it extra crispy for the best meaty texture in your crunchy vegan chicken nuggets 

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide for pressing tofu. It’s a lot easier than you might think. I remember being intimidated by the process before I tried it, but now it’s second nature. Pressing the tofu removes the excess liquid and gives the best vegan chicken nuggets an extra meaty texture. You can fry or bake the tofu nuggets, but I like the way the tofu becomes extra golden and crispy when it’s fried.

Getting the tofu right

There’s a trick to getting tofu right. Tofu is one of the best meat substitutes when prepared properly. Usually, when I hear people complain that they don’t like tofu it’s normally just a case of them not knowing how to prepare tofu. The first couple of times I made dinners with tofu, I wasn’t impressed. Little did I know, that I wasn’t impressed because I was cooking tofu wrong.
Well, lesson learned and now tofu is one of my favorite easy and healthy meat substitutes. It can almost mimic any type of meaty flavor you want, just add the right spices and cook it in the right way, and it always turns out amazing.

Cooking tofu:

To get the deliciously flavor-packed tofu bites, that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, you first need to press the tofu. If you’re into fancy kitchen gear, you may already own a tofu presser, but if you don’t, fear not. I make tofu all the time simply by using a skillet with 1-2 cans of beans placed in it to press the tofu.

How to prepare and press tofu

Lay your firm tofu on a clean paper towel and cover it with one more clean paper towel. Place the skillet on top of the tofu and add 1-2 cans of beans (or a few books can also do just fine). Let the tofu be pressed like that for 20 minutes.
It removes the excess liquid in the tofu and makes it easier to cook just the way you want.
After pressing the tofu for 20 minutes, it’s ready to cook. Just remove the skillet and the paper towels and it’s ready to use.

Seasonings and ways to jazz up tofu nuggets with extra flavors

Dried cranberries, garlic, and parsley – mince the garlic and chop the parsley and dried cranberries. Stir the mixture into tofu until everything is combined before coating the nuggets in the crust dry ingredients.

Lemon zest, sea salt, rosemary, and garlic – mince or finely chop the garlic and rosemary. Add the lemon zest, garlic, sea salt, and rosemary to the tofu mixture and combine.

Smoked paprika, tomato paste, and basil – chop the basil (or use dried basil) and combine all the seasonings with the meat-like tofu mixture. 

Sun-dried tomatoes, basil, sea salt, and garlic – chop the sun-dried tomatoes and basil and mince the garlic. Mix the seasonings with the tofu mixture until everything is completely combined.

Olives, garlic, and herb de Provence – chop the olives and garlic finely and mix them with the tofu along with the herb de Provence.

10 ways to serve plant-based chicken nuggets

Here are 10 ways to serve vegan chicken nuggets:

  1. Plain with ketchup or another dipping sauce: This classic option is always a crowd-pleaser.
  2. In a salad: Chop up some tofu chicken nuggets and toss them with some greens, veggies, and dressing for a protein-packed salad.
  3. On a skewer: Thread crunchy veggie chicken nuggets onto skewers with some veggies for a fun and easy party snack.
  4. As a sandwich: Place some vegetarian chicken nuggets between two slices of bread or a bun with some lettuce, tomato, and mayo for a quick and easy sandwich.
  5. With waffles: Chicken and waffles is a classic combination that’s always a hit. Try replacing the classic chicken nuggets with this tasty tofu nugget recipe. It’s a delicious new take on the original recipe classic. 
  6. On a pizza: Crumble some vegan chicken nuggets and scatter them over a pizza crust with some cheese and other toppings for a fun twist on pizza night. You can use a gluten-free flour blend to make the pizza dough or get ready-made pizza dough at the grocery store. They usually have lots of gluten-free options. 
  7. In a wrap: Wrap some tofu chicken nuggets with some lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing for a tasty and portable meal.
  8. With mac and cheese: Combine two kid-friendly favorites for a comforting and delicious meal that can easily rival regular chicken nuggets.
  9. In a quesadilla: Add some of these vegan chik’n nuggets to a cheese quesadilla for a quick and easy lunch.
  10. With sweet potato fries: Serve tofu nuggets with some sweet potato fries for a tasty and nutritious meal. The sweetness of the fries pairs well with the savory flavor of the ‘chicken’ nuggets.

These are just a few ideas for serving vegan chicken nuggets, but you can get creative and come up with your own unique ways to enjoy them!

Health Benefits of tofu

Tofu, a plant-based protein, offers several health benefits. Here are some of them:

  1. Rich in protein: Tofu is an excellent source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that the body needs to build and repair tissues.
  2. Low in calories: Tofu is low in calories, making it an excellent choice for those who are watching their weight.
  3. Lowers cholesterol: Tofu is rich in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the gut.
  4. Reduces the risk of heart disease: Tofu is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats, which can help lower the risk of heart disease.
  5. Promotes bone health: Tofu is a good source of calcium and magnesium, which are both essential for building and maintaining strong bones.
  6. Regulates blood sugar: Tofu has a low glycemic index, meaning it can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
  7. Supports the immune system: Tofu is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which can help boost the immune system and fight off disease.

Overall, tofu is a nutritious and versatile food that can be a great addition to a healthy balanced plant-based diet.

The best sauces and dips to serve with vegan gluten-free nuggets

More nuggets and vegan patties and meatballs you might enjoy

Ways to serve vegan chicken nuggets

Tofu nuggets can be served as a snack, appetizer, or main course. They can be dipped in a variety of sauces, added to salads or sandwiches, or served with a side of veggies or rice. Some popular dipping sauces for tofu nuggets include sweet chili sauce, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, or sriracha mayo. You can also get creative with your toppings and try adding some sesame seeds, scallions, or diced avocado for some extra flavor and nutrition.

FAQs – all your gluten-free nuggets questions answered

How to store vegan leftover nuggets

You can store any leftover vegan nuggets for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

What are tofu nuggets?

Tofu nuggets are bite-sized pieces of tofu that are typically seasoned, coated in breadcrumbs or other coatings, and fried or baked until crispy.

Are tofu nuggets healthy?

Tofu nuggets can be a healthy alternative to traditional chicken nuggets, as they are typically lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Especially homemade tofu nuggets are a great healthy alternative to regular nuggets. However, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients and preparation method of store bought nuggets, as some brands or recipes may be higher in sodium or other additives.

Can tofu nuggets be made gluten-free?

Yes, tofu nuggets can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free breadcrumbs or coatings in the recipe.

More Frequently asked nugget questions

How do I cook tofu nuggets?

Tofu nuggets can be cooked by baking them in the oven, frying them in oil, or air-frying them for a healthier option. Cooking times and temperatures may vary depending on the recipe. You will find air fryer and more cooking instructions below.

How to freeze tofu nuggets?

To freeze tofu nuggets, follow these steps:
Allow the tofu nuggets to cool completely. This will prevent them from sticking together in the freezer.
Place the tofu nuggets in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Make sure they are not touching each other.

Place the baking sheet or plate in the freezer and freeze the tofu nuggets for 1-2 hours, or until they are solid.
Once the tofu nuggets are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. Label the container or bag with the date and contents.

Return the tofu nuggets to the freezer and store them for up to 3 months.

How to reheat gluten-free tofu nuggets

When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen tofu nuggets, simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and reheat them in the oven or air fryer until heated through and crispy.

Vegan “Chicken” Nuggets

This Vegan "Chicken" nuggets recipe is the easy recipe dreams are made of. It's so crispy and crunchy on the outside, yet chewy and very chicken like on the inside thanks to the firm tofu. It can be completely gluten free if you want – and best of all, it's so easy even your kids can make them.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword vegan
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 nuggets
Author Simone – Munchyesta.com

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Block of Firm Tofu
  • ½ cup Gluten free breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes
  • 2 tbsp Corn Starch or tapioca
  • 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • ¼ cup Brown rice flour or other gluten-free flour
  • cup Plant milk almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk or your preferred choice
  • ½ Lemon Zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of Pepper
  • Olive Oil or Coconut oil for frying

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Start by cutting the tofu into 12 squares and use your fingers to gently press them into nugget shapes.
  • Press the nuggets with paper towels to remove any excess liquid.
  • Next, pour the gluten-free breadcrumbs, corn starch, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and lemon zest into a bowl and mix together until everything is combined.
    Pour the gluten-free flour into a second bowl and finally pour the plant milk into a third bowl.
  • Next, dip each nugget into the flour, then the plant milk and finally dip it into the breadcrumbs, making sure that all sides are covered. Once all the nuggets have been dipped and covered in breadcrumbs, heat oil in a frying pan.
    Cook the nuggets at medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are golden and crispy.
  • Once the nuggets are golden, put them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (turning the nuggets over halfway through).
    Serve hot and enjoy.

Simple way to cook vegan chicken nuggets in an air fryer

  • Preheat the air fryer by running it at 390°F (200°C) for 5 minutes and prepare the nuggets as described above.
  • Bring out the air fryer basket and brush it with a small amount of oil. Then spread out the vegan chicken nuggets in a single layer.
  • Air fry at 400°F (205°C) for 20-25 minutes, flipping the nuggets halfway. When the nuggets are golden brown they are ready to serve. 
    Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy.

Notes

You can store any leftover vegan nuggets for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
To freeze tofu nuggets, follow these steps:
  1. Allow the tofu nuggets to cool completely. This will prevent them from sticking together in the freezer.
  2. Place the tofu nuggets in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Make sure they are not touching each other.
  3. Place the baking sheet or plate in the freezer and freeze the tofu nuggets for 1-2 hours, or until they are solid.
  4. Once the tofu nuggets are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. Label the container or bag with the date and contents.
  5. Return the tofu nuggets to the freezer and store them for up to 3 months.

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