Vegan crispy tofu bites or nuggets are ideal to add to your favourite salad, Buddha or Poke bowl, add to a stir-fry, or to pack into a sandwich, tortilla wrap or pitta bread for lunch.
Alternatively crispy tofu bites are especially tasty coupled with a dipping sauce and enjoyed as a snack for movie or sports night, or just because they are so moreish and you want to finish off the whole lot!
Is tofu good for vegan and plant-based diets?
Tofu is an excellent addition to plant-based diets. It is a versatile and nutritious food that can be used in various dishes. Tofu is made from soybeans and is a good source of plant-based protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It also provides other essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, tofu is low in saturated fat and has been associated with various health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, improved bone health, and potentially reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
Tofu is also very adaptable, as it can be easily seasoned and cooked in a variety of ways to suit different recipes and preferences. This makes it a great addition to a plant-based diet, providing both nutritional value and versatility in meal planning.
Origins of tofu
Tofu is a Japanese word that means bean curd. To make tofu, soya milk is curdled with a coagulant and then the curds are pressed into a white brick mould and the result is the tofu we purchase from the shops.
Tofu's rich history dates back over 2,000 years to ancient China, where legend attributes its discovery to the Han Dynasty prince, Liu An. Ever since, this versatile and nutritious soybean product has been a staple in Asian cuisines, making its way to Japan, Korea, and beyond. Today, tofu's popularity continues to grow, finding its place in diverse recipes and diets around the world.
Which countries see tofu as a traditional food?
- China: Tofu is believed to have originated in China during the Han Dynasty, and it remains a staple food in Chinese cuisine. It is used in various dishes, such as mapo tofu, stinky tofu, and in hotpot.
- Japan: Tofu was introduced to Japan during the Nara period, and it has since become a prominent part of Japanese cuisine. Japanese tofu dishes include agedashi tofu, hiyayakko (cold tofu), and miso soup with tofu.
- Korea: Tofu has been a part of Korean cuisine for centuries. It is used in dishes like sundubu-jjigae (soft tofu stew), dubu-kimchi (tofu with stir-fried kimchi), and doenjang-jjigae (soybean paste stew with tofu).
- Vietnam: Tofu is widely used in Vietnamese cuisine, where it is known as "đậu phụ." Popular dishes include tofu in tomato sauce, fried tofu with lemongrass, and tofu spring rolls.
- Indonesia: Known as "tahu" in Indonesia, tofu is a common ingredient in Indonesian cuisine. Popular dishes include tahu goreng (fried tofu), tahu isi (stuffed tofu), and tahu telur (tofu omelette).
- Thailand: Tofu, or "taohu" in Thai, is also used in various Thai dishes such as pad Thai, tom yum soup, and Thai curries.
These little tofu nuggets would make an ideal vegan 'chicken' nugget replacement. Although the tofu nuggets do not have a breadcrumb coating this can actually be a bonus for those on gluten-free diets; gluten-free tofu nuggets! Yum!
Tofu makes it way to the US and UK
Tofu was introduced to the United States and the United Kingdom mainly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though the exact dates may vary.
In the United States, tofu was likely first brought by Chinese immigrants who arrived during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century. However, it remained a relatively niche food item, mainly consumed within Chinese communities. Although in 1878 the first US tofu company was formed.
Tofu began to gain wider recognition in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to the growing counterculture movement and increased interest in vegetarianism and health foods. By the late 20th century, tofu became more widely available in mainstream supermarkets and grocery stores.
In the United Kingdom, tofu was introduced through Chinese and Japanese immigrants and their respective cuisines. Similar to the U.S., tofu's popularity in the UK increased during the latter half of the 20th century, with growing awareness of vegetarianism, veganism, and healthy eating. The rise of specialized health food shops and an increase in Asian grocery stores contributed to tofu's accessibility and popularity in the UK.
In both countries, tofu's popularity and availability continue to grow as plant-based diets and demand for alternative protein sources increase.
Tofu in Australia
Tofu was introduced to Australia mainly through Chinese immigrants who arrived in the country during the 19th century. Chinese immigrants initially came to Australia during the Australian gold rushes in the 1850s, bringing their culinary traditions, including tofu, with them. Similar to the United States and the United Kingdom, tofu was initially consumed primarily within Chinese communities.
Tofu gained broader recognition in Australia during the latter half of the 20th century, driven by increased interest in vegetarianism, veganism, and health-conscious diets. The growth of Asian communities in Australia and the popularity of Asian cuisines further contributed to the availability and consumption of tofu.
Nowadays, tofu is quite rightly appreciated globally!
How to prepare crispy tofu bites
It's ridiculously easy to prepare your own crispy tofu nuggets at home. Guaranteed you'll be roasting tofu every week once you have a bite! My kids were unsure of the texture of tofu at first but once they tried crispy tofu they were truly converted!
First press or pat the tofu to remove excess moisture.
Next, slice the tofu into cubes and sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast flakes, soy sauce and olive oil [or coconut oil] over to coat.
Leave to marinade for at least 10 minutes before coating in cornflour [cornstarch]. Bake for 25 minutes until nice and crispy.
That's all there is to the best crispy tofu bites or nuggets.
Recipe notes and frequently asked questions
Leftover tofu bites can be stored within the refrigerator for up to 3 days, keep covered within an airtight container or on a plate with a piece of Aluminium foil [kitchen foil] tightly covering to maintain the tofu's texture.
Or freeze the tofu cubes for 2-3 months.
Add the crispy tofu to a non-stick pan, such as a wok or fry pan, and over a medium-high heat stir the tofu until its piping hot. If preferred add a teaspoon or two of olive oil or coconut oil, as this can help crisp the tofu up again.
Or place on a baking tray, and reheat at the cooking temperature for 5-10 minutes. Turn the tofu bites around half-way through reheating.
Yes. It is easy to prepare these little tofu nuggets as free from gluten. The main consideration is to use a gluten-free Tamari soy sauce, also check your cornflour [cornstarch] just to be sure that it does not contain any added gluten ingredients.
The oil does provide the crispness and I have purposefully kept the oil to a minimum by only using one tablespoon so I do recommend using the oil.
However, if you don't mind the difference in texture then a few tablespoons of aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas) can be used instead of oil.
Also I have found that any bean water from canned beans can be used to help crisp up tofu bites, so you don't have to stick with just chickpea water.
Of course not! Aquafaba can be saved each time you use a can of chickpeas by freezing the aquafaba within ice cube trays.
Once frozen pop these out and place in a freezer-proof container or bag. This way you can build up a good store of aquafaba for whenever you need it.
Also, as aquafaba can be purchased at the store or supermarket as a product in its own right, by saving the aquafaba from our cans of chickpeas we can get it for almost free!
Of course. Simply pan fry the tofu until it is crispy and brown. Stir frequently so that the tofu gets evenly golden.
Our vegan Tofu in a Sweet and Sticky Satay Sauce recipe stir fry's tofu cubes in coconut oil, so do check the recipe out for extra tips.
Also within the recipe notes and FAQ section of our Tofu Satay post we also have a helpful guide on pressing firm tofu, so if you're new to cooking tofu go and have a look, as its vital to press tofu to remove excess liquid which if left in may affect the tofu texture and prevent it from going crispy.
Making crispy tofu bites in an air fryer can be a more convenient and budget-friendly alternative to pan frying or roasting in an oven. Here's a simple method to prepare your crispy tofu bites using an air fryer:
Press the tofu: Start with 350 grams of firm tofu. Drain the tofu and press it between paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to remove excess liquid. You can also use a tofu press if available. Let the tofu sit for about 20-30 minutes, occasionally changing the towels if they become too saturated.
Cube the tofu: Cut the pressed tofu into bite-sized cubes.
Marinate the tofu (optional): If you'd like to add more flavor to your tofu, marinate it in a mixture of soy sauce or tamari, garlic powder, onion powder, and any other desired seasonings for 15-30 minutes.
Coat the tofu: In a bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon cornstarch or cornflour, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes. Gently toss the tofu cubes in the mixture, ensuring they are evenly coated. Alternatively, you can place the mixture in a large zip-lock bag, add the tofu cubes, and shake gently to coat. Add a tablespoon of oil for a crispier tofu or omit if preferred.
Preheat the air fryer: Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for a few minutes.
Air-fry the tofu: Lightly spray or brush the air fryer basket with a little oil to prevent the tofu from sticking [although this step may not be required depending on your air-fryer]. Arrange the tofu cubes in a single layer in the basket, leaving some space between each piece. You may need to cook the tofu in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
Cook the tofu: Air-fry the tofu for 12-15 minutes, gently shaking the basket or flipping the tofu cubes halfway through cooking to ensure even browning.
Serve: Once the tofu bites are crispy and golden brown, remove them from the air fryer and serve with your desired dish.
Although, do adjust cooking time as needed based on your air fryer model and personal preferences for crispiness.
The secret is simply to ensure that the tofu is well pressed to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Some brands of tofu pre-press the tofu which means we don't have to press it rather simply pat it dry before cooking.
Another tip for crispy tofu is to coat the tofu in cornflour [cornstarch] or an alternative such as potato starch or a plain flour [all-purpose flour]. A gluten-free plain flour can also be used. As the tofu cooks the flour coating helps the tofu to become much more crispier.
Lastly, a coating of oil is the best way to achieve a crispy tofu nugget as the hot oil works with the flour to create the best crispy tofu possible. Although for those on an oil-free diet the oil can be replaced with aquafaba or canned bean water, but the result will be a less crispy tofu.
Asian-inspired salads: Combine crispy tofu bites with mixed greens, shredded cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and a sesame-ginger or peanut dressing for a delicious and nutritious salad.
Grain bowls: Serve crispy tofu bites over cooked grains like quinoa, rice, or faro, along with sautéed or roasted vegetables, and drizzle with your favorite sauce, such as teriyaki, Thai peanut, or a spicy sriracha mayo.
Stir-fries: Add crispy tofu bites to your favorite stir-fried vegetables, noodles, or rice, and toss with a flavorful sauce like soy sauce, hoisin, or black bean sauce. This Stir-Fry Soup recipe would be ideal with a few crispy tofu bites as a topping.
Tacos or wraps: Use crispy tofu bites as a protein source in tacos or wraps, combined with fresh vegetables, avocado, and a suitable sauce or dressing, such as a spicy vegan mayo, cashew cream, or salsa.
Buddha bowls: Create a balanced meal by combining crispy tofu bites with a variety of colorful vegetables, a grain, and a protein-rich legume, such as chickpeas or black beans. Finish with a drizzle of your favorite dressing or sauce.
Noodle dishes: Add crispy tofu bites to your favorite noodle dish, like soba, rice noodles, or udon, and toss with vegetables and a flavorful sauce like peanut sauce, soy sauce, or a spicy chili sauce. A few crispy tofu bites would be an amazing accompaniment to this tasty Vegan Mongolian 'beef' and Broccoli.
A Buddha bowl is a filling, well-balanced meal that often consists of a variety of healthful grains, vegetables, plant-based protein, healthy fats, and a tasty dressing or sauce. It is offered in a bowl and makes for a vibrant, eye-catching, and fulfilling meal. A Buddha bowl is designed to give a balanced and nutrient-dense meal and is founded on the ideas of healthy eating, portion control, and mindfulness.
The phrase "Buddha bowl" doesn't directly relate to Buddhism or the actual Buddha, and its origins are unclear. The term is probably derived from the image of a bowl overflowing with healthy nutrients, resembling the round belly of a smiling Buddha statue. It might possibly be influenced by the Buddhist custom of collecting alms, wherein monks would accept food gifts in their alms bowls.
Choose a base: Start with a layer of cooked whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, faro, or barley. Alternatively, you can use cauliflower rice or spiralized vegetables for a lighter, low-carb option.
Add vegetables: Incorporate a mix of raw, roasted, steamed, or sautéed vegetables for different textures and flavors. Think leafy greens (kale, spinach, arugula), crunchy veggies (cabbage, carrots, bell peppers), and roasted or grilled vegetables (sweet potatoes, zucchini [courgette], broccoli).
Include protein: Add a plant-based protein source, such as your crispy tofu bites, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, or tempeh.
Don't forget healthy fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats to add richness and make your Buddha bowl more satisfying. Examples include avocado, nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia), or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Top with something crunchy: Enhance the texture of your Buddha bowl with something crunchy, like nuts, seeds, toasted coconut flakes, or baked chickpeas.
Add flavor with a dressing or sauce: A flavorful dressing or sauce is key to tying all the components together. You can use a simple vinaigrette, a creamy tahini or peanut dressing, a spicy sriracha mayo, or even just a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.
Garnish and season: Finish your Buddha bowl with fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil), a sprinkle of spices (paprika, cumin, chili flakes), or a touch of salt and pepper to enhance the flavors.
Remember, a Buddha bowl is all about customizing to your taste preferences and dietary needs. Feel free to mix and match ingredients, try new combinations, and enjoy a delicious, wholesome meal in a bowl!
While a poke bowl and a Buddha bowl are not identical, they do have several things in common. Both are prepared in bowls and frequently contain a variety of foods, including cereals, veggies, and proteins. However, there are important distinctions between the two, namely in the ingredients and their respective cultural backgrounds.
The main protein in a poke bowl is typically raw, marinated fish (such as salmon or tuna), which is a native of Hawaiian cuisine. The fish is often served over a bed of rice with a variety of vegetables, fruits, and toppings including avocado, seaweed, and sesame seeds. The fish is typically marinated in a soy sauce-based concoction. Poke bowls frequently include both traditional Hawaiian and ingredients with a Japanese influence.
A Buddha bowl, on the other hand, is unattached to any one cuisine or culture and concentrates on serving up a nutritious, well-balanced meal with a variety of cereals, veggies, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. Buddha bowls can be made in a variety of ways and with a wide variety of ingredients, frequently to accommodate vegetarian or vegan diets.
You can definitely create a vegan poke bowl using our crispy tofu bites as a substitute for raw fish.
To make a vegan poke bowl, you can follow the general structure of a traditional poke bowl while replacing the fish with your crispy tofu bites and choosing plant-based ingredients for the other components.
Here's a general guideline for assembling a vegan poke bowl:
Base: Choose a base of cooked rice (white or brown), sushi rice, or other grains like quinoa or cauliflower rice.
Protein: Use your crispy tofu bites as the main protein source.
Vegetables: Add a variety of vegetables, such as cucumber, edamame, avocado, shredded carrots, radish, or thinly sliced cabbage.
Fruits (optional): Include some fruits like mango, pineapple, or pomegranate seeds for a touch of sweetness.
Toppings: Add toppings like seaweed, pickled ginger, toasted sesame seeds, green onions [spring onions], or chopped nuts.
Sauce or dressing: Prepare a vegan-friendly sauce or dressing using ingredients like soy sauce, tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, or a plant-based spicy mayo.
This crispy tofu recipe is super versatile and can be used to create the best crispy chickpeas. So switch it up and use chickpeas next time!
More easy vegan tofu recipes
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Crispy Tofu Bites
- Baking tray parchment/baking paper to line if necessary
- Mixing bowl
- 350 grams firm tofu Press between some kitchen towel paper to remove excess liquid.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use tamari if needing gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cornflour [cornstarch]
- Preheat the oven to 180 Fan/ 200 C/ 400 F/ Gas 6.
- After pressing the tofu to remove excess moisture, slice the tofu into cubes or the desired size.350 grams firm tofu
- Mix all the ingredients, except the cornflour, and leave to marinade for a few hours if possible, if not at least 10 minutes is fine.1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Mix the cornflour through the marinated tofu.Lay out the tofu onto the baking tray.1 tablespoon cornflour
- Bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway, or until the tofu is golden and crispy.
- Enjoy hot or chilled.
- Nutritional data is provided for guidance only and is not intended as an exact calculation as ingredients may vary.
- Crispy tofu bites will keep fresh in the fridge for 3 days. Enjoy hot or chilled.
- Reheat by adding to a non-stick pan and over a medium heat stir and reheat until piping hot. Add a few teaspoons of oil if preferred.
- Or place in the oven at the cooking temperature for 5-10 minutes. If preferred cover the tofu bites with some kitchen foil.
- The tofu I used for this recipe is from The Tofoo brand.
- Try using a smoked tofu for this recipe. No other flavourings need to be added, just add the olive oil and cornflour and bake until crispy! Smoked tofu is also tasty sliced thin and enjoyed on sandwiches.
- If you have an air fryer try cooking these little tofu nuggets in the air fryer, see the recipe notes above the recipe, for an easy method.
- Mix up the spices and herbs for different variations. Try some BBQ spice mix, curry powder, garam masala, chilli powder or some drops of hot sauce.
Thank you for trying out our easy crispy tofu bites! We hope you enjoyed making and savoring it as much as we do.
If you tried this recipe, please let us know in the comments below how it turned out for you, or if you made any modifications.
If you share your creations on social media, don't forget to tag us (@traditionalplantbasedcooking) and use the hashtag #traditionalplantbasedcooking, so we can see your scrumptious dishes!
Lastly, if you found this recipe helpful, please share it with your friends and family, so they can enjoy it too.
Thank you, and happy cooking!
Love, Jacq x