Air Fry Tofu is an easy variation of my Baked Tofu Nugget Recipe. Using the same ingredients, you can make these crispy vegan nuggets in the air fryer with the same delicious flavor and texture but in half the time.
Baked tofu nuggets have long been one of my family's favorite go-to meals. Several readers asked about making these in the air fryer, so these Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets were one of the first recipes I tried when I got my new air fryer a few weeks ago. And the results were amazing. Using an air fryer means you can get the same flavor and texture of the tofu nuggets in about half the time! That sounds like my kind of recipe.
You'll love this recipe because it's:
- Quick & Easy
- Crispy & Delicious
- Perfect for Kids!
- Vegan / Vegetarian
- Dairy-Free / Lactose-Free
- Simple to make Gluten-Free
- Ready in Half the Time of a Traditional Oven
- A Yummy Alternative to Store-Bought Vegan Nuggets
- An Easy Way to Make Crispy Tofu Without Cornstarch
How to serve
In my family, we love to eat these nuggets with a side of ketchup, BBQ sauce, or Vegan Buffalo Sauce. They make an easy dinner main and go great with a side of vegan mashed potatoes! But you can also add them to salads, wraps, and more. In addition to serving warm, they are also great to eat cold!
Can this recipe be gluten-free
To make this air fryer tofu recipe Gluten-Free you just need to make sure you use a soy sauce or tamarind sauce that's gluten-free.
Can I use an oven instead?
If you don't yet have an air fryer, you can easily make this tofu nugget recipe in a traditional oven following this recipe for Easy Baked Tofu Nuggets. It will take about twice as long to bake, but the results are just about the same. The only real difference is that the side of the nuggets facing down on the baking sheet gets a bit darker and could potentially burn if your oven is too hot. The air fryer tends to cook the nuggets a bit more evenly due to the way the hot air circulates.
What air fryer do you recommend?
There are several great brands and styles of air fryers on the market. When choosing an air fryer you should consider size, cost, and reliability. I chose the Ninja Foodie Grill because I have a family of four and wanted a larger basket size. I also like that this air fryer can grill, dehydrate, and more. It's somewhat large, though, and on the more expensive side (I got a great Black Friday deal on it!). If you're in the market and want info on various models, check out this review of the best air fryers of 2020.
Why do you freeze and then thaw the tofu?
The freeze/thaw method is an optional step that helps give the tofu a meatier, more "chicken-like" texture. If you're new to eating tofu or if you're cooking for omnivores, this could help the dish go down better.
When I busy packs of tofu, I just pop them in the freezer (still in the packaging). On the evening before or morning of the day I want to make a recipe with tofu, I place the tofu in the refrigerator to defrost. If you forget to do this, you can use a microwave or bowl of hot water.
Whenever using this method, you definitely need to press the tofu before cooking to remove excess water. You can also do a second freeze and thaw, which improves the texture even more, but to be honest, I rarely remember to do this. It's all up to you!
- Firm or Extra Firm Tofu-- This is the star of the show!
- nutritional yeast This will be the base of the paste and will help make the tofu crispy without using cornstarch.
- soy sauce -- Instead of salt, I like to make this with soy sauce for a richer, deeper flavor as well as color. You can substitute with light soy sauce or tamarind sauce.
- water -- This will help make the paste.
- garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and poultry spice or veggie broth powder -- To season your tofu.
How to make tofu in the air fryer
- Optional Freeze/Thaw Method: Freeze the tofu in the packaging. Place it in the refrigerator to defrost the night before or morning of making. This will give the tofu a more "chicken-like" texture.
- Remove the tofu from the packaging. Wrap in a paper towel and press for 10 to 30 minutes under heavy plates or use a tofu press.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400F or 200C.
- In a large bowl, mix together the paste ingredients.
- Break the tofu into craggy chunks over the paste bowl.
- Fold the tofu and paste together until each piece is evenly coated.
- Use tongs to place the nuggets in the basket of the air fryer (this is especially important if you have a lot of leftover paste--which could burn if you just dump the whole bowl into the air fryer). Try to space the nuggets evenly in one layer on the basket.
- If you have a smaller air fryer you might need to make this recipe in two batches.
- Cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
- About halfway through cooking, open the air fryer and shake the basket.
- Serve and enjoy right away or store for later.
How to Store
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
More tofu recipes that can be made in the air fryer
- Chick-fil-A Style Tofu Nuggets
- Sticky Orange Tofu
- Vegan Street Tacos
- Southwestern Salad with Chili-Lime Tofu Nuggets
Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets (Vegan & Oil-Free)
- 14 oz extra firm tofu (or firm tofu)
- If you are using the freeze/thaw method, be sure the tofu is fully thawed. (I transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning of the day I want to make it.)
- Press the tofu for 10 to 30 minutes. (Exact time will depend on how firm the tofu is.)
- Preheat the Air Fryer to 400°F or 200°C
- In a large glass mixing bowl, combine all of the "Paste" ingredients and stir to combine. If the mixture is too thin, add more nutritional yeast. If the mixture is too thick, add water in small increments.
- Break the tofu into bite-sized chunks over the bowl. As you do this, use your thumb to create craggy, rounded edges. (The pieces will hold the paste better and take on a more nugget-like shape if they're rounded and have craggy edges.)
- Lightly fold the chunks into the paste, being careful not to break the tofu too much.
- Use tongs to add the tofu to the air-fryer basket. (Avoid adding extra paste to the basket, as it could burn.) For best results, the tofu should sit in a single layer along the bottom of the basket. (See photo above.)
- Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stopping halfway to shake the basket. Serve right away or store for later.
- Do *NOT* use silken tofu for this recipe.
- If you want to reduce the sodium, you can use light soy sauce or halve the soy sauce and replace the difference with water.
- Don't have an air fryer? You can make this recipe in a standard oven. See the full recipe, linked below.
- The exact cooking time will depend on the size of your tofu chunks and the size of your air fryer.
- If you have a smaller air fryer, you might need to cook this recipe in two batches.
- Different air fryers might require slightly more or less cook time.