With the rise of veganism in society, there are many plant-based alternatives that are reaching the shelves of supermarkets and on the menus of most restaurants.
However, sometimes there aren’t premade options out there for what you are specifically looking for and these premade foods often make quite a dent in your wallet, and sometimes, you may have a hankering for a fast food item from your previous, non-vegan life.
If you are looking for a delicious Vegan alternative to the famous Chick-fil-A nugget, this recipe by No Sweat Vegan is for you- it is so easy to make, oil-free (meaning that it is extra healthy), and won’t do too much damage to your wallet.
These nuggets combine sweetness from agave and the briny tang from pickle juice for a familiar sweet and tangy flavor. These delectable tofu nuggets are great for dipping in a vegan honey and mustard sauce and you won’t regret making these golden nuggets of joy!
We all know that fast food is always a better idea in your head than what impact it has on your body and not to mention the impact these fast food manufacturers have on the environment.
Tofu is a vegan staple but in days gone by it was totally underutilized as the soybean curd that is used to create tofu can be manipulated to give off a more meaty texture. The key to achieving a chicken-like texture is by freezing and thawing the tofu.
If you are using super-firm tofu from the store, you needn’t do this step in the process as the manufacturers have already manipulated the texture enough. However, if you can only get your hands on firm or extra-firm tofu, this method will help to achieve a “meatier” texture.
It is done by freezing the tofu in a suitable container overnight (or you could keep blocks of tofu frozen in your freezer ready to use) and then the morning of the evening you want to create this dish, place the tofu in the fridge to defrost for at least 6 hours.
You can repeat this process if you feel like the texture isn’t just right yet.
Throughout tofu, there are pockets of water that run through it. Freezing the tofu causes the water trapped inside the tofu to expand, enlarging these pockets. Once thawed, the moisture is drawn out and there are bigger holes left in the tofu, giving it a coarse, sponge-like texture.
This in turn will increase the surface area meaning that it will absorb flavors better and will crisp up easier.
Once your tofu has defrosted, you will need to press it to remove any excess water and you will need to start to mix the paste ingredients together. The paste should be sticky and thick enough to cling to the tofu but thin enough to coat the pieces of tofu evenly.
The next key step is to tear your tofu into chunks. Do not crumble the tofu but by making irregular shapes, this increases the surface area again making the tofu able to absorb more of the paste and crispier.
Nuggets made from chicken are also not super uniform and so the torn chunks make the dish feel more authentic.
The tofu then gently gets folded through the paste making sure that each chunk is evenly coated. Use tongs to shake off the extra paste and place the nuggets on a baking sheet lined with non-stick parchment paper.
Do not use aluminum foil as this can increase the temperature and cause the nuggets to burn. The nuggets are then cooked at 400℉ or 200℃ for about 30 to 35 minutes or until crisp and golden brown on the outside.
While the nuggets are in the oven, you can get to work on your vegan honey and mustard dipping sauce as well as any sides that you like. This dipping sauce is sweet and tangy and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.
These nuggets go well with coleslaw, potato salads, regular salads or if you are feeling like an extra junk-food-kick, oven-baked french fries.
As they are so versatile, they can act as a main course or as an added extra to a salad. Of course, due to their nature, they make for a great appetizer or party snack.
You will love these Chic-fil-A inspired nuggets for several reasons:
- They are quick and easy to make.
- They are versatile (you can use them to form part of a ramen dish or paired with any dipping sauce).
- Perfect size for dipping.
- Oil-free (less clogging up of those arteries).
- Flavorful and delicious (you will want to make more as soon as these are done!)
- PREP TIME: 5 mins
- COOK TIME: 35 mins
- FREEZING AND THAWING TIME: 12 hrs
- SERVINGS: 4
- COURSE: Main
- CUISINE: American
- CALORIES: 171 kcal
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowl
- Blender (if making the vegan mayo from scratch)
For The Nuggets And Paste
- 14 oz or 400 g of super-firm tofu or extra-firm tofu pressed
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ dill pickle juice
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable broth powder or poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ nutritional yeast
For The Dipping Sauce
- ½ cup vegan mayo
- 2 ½ tablespoons yellow or brown mustard (or dijon if you prefer)
- 2 ½ tablespoons agave syrup
- 2 tablespoons barbeque sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Optional Freezing/Thawing Technique
- Open the tofu to drain the water (optional) and place in a freezer bag or container. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Defrost in the refrigerator about 6 hours. (Place in the freezer the night before and take out on the morning you want to make the nuggets).
This step is optional but will give the tofu a more “chicken-like” texture.
Preparing And Cooking The Vegan Chick-fil-A Style Nuggets
- Preheat oven to 400°F or 200°C.
- Mix all the paste ingredients in a large bowl. The paste should be thick enough to coat the tofu. (If your paste doesn’t seem thick enough, add more nutritional yeast until you reach the right consistency).
- Break the tofu into thumb-sized chunks over the bowl with the paste.
- Lightly fold the chunks into the paste, being careful not to break the tofu too much.
- Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu onto a lined sheet pan and place in the oven. Try to avoid getting excess liquid on the baking sheet as it will cause sticking.
- Cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until the tofu is nicely browned on the outside.
- Add the mayo and all of the other ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine. Serve immediately as a dipping sauce or salad dressing.
- Serve with Vegan Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce (included below) or your favorite sauce, accompanied by your favorite sides or served as a party snack.
Optional Vegan Mayo
This oil-free vegan mayo or aioli is rich and creamy and far superior to any store bought version, even though it takes a little more effort than adding vegan mayo to your supermarket haul.
This vegan mayo is made with silken tofu, has a bit of garlic and a hint of lemon to balance out the creaminess just a little. It can be used in many ways; as many ways as you would use regular mayo: spread on a sandwich for work, adding to potato salads or as a dip for vegetables, fries or tapas.
Traditionally, mayonnaise is made from egg and oil and it is the emulsified result that we know as mayonnaise.
The silken tofu achieves the texture of mayonnaise without the egg or the oil as the blending action and addition of lemon juice denatures the proteins enough to achieve the desired consistency.
If you are after a soy-free version, you can swap out the tofu for cashew nuts, water and nutritional yeast which are also just thrown in a blender and whizzed together to form a mayonnaise.
Vegan Mayo With Silken Tofu
- 350 g silken tofu
- 1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- fresh cracked pepper
- Peel garlic cloves and add all ingredients to a high-speed blender until all ingredients are combined.
- Serve and enjoy right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Vegan Mayo With Cashew Nuts
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- ¾ cup water
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoon lime (or lemon) juice
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
- Either soak the cashews in a bowl of water overnight or place the cahsews in a small sauce pot, cover with water, and boil for ten minutes. Drain and rinse the cashews. Peel the garlic cloves.
- Add the drained cashews, peeled garlic, and all of the other ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth (30 seconds to 1 minute).
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve and enjoy! Store in an airtight jar or container up to one week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.
Recipe Notes And Tips
- Be sure to use parchment paper to line the tray instead of just using the plain tray (even if it is non-stick) as the nuggets will stick to the surface. Also be sure not to use aluminum foil as this can increase the temperature of the oven and cause the nuggets to burn.
- If you do not have time to do the freeze/thaw method, this recipe still is great for tofu straight from the store. (It will still be delightful!).
- Try not to get any excess liquid on the baking sheet from the paste as this will burn and you want to keep all the flavorful paste on the tofu.
- If when the tofu is placed in the paste and the nuggets aren’t being covered properly, then add a bit more nutritional yeast or corn starch to it.
- If you are using the freeze/thaw method then you have to press the tofu to remove the excess liquid. After the tofu is defrosted, it must be removed from any packagingand wrap it into a paper towel or a clean material kitchen towel or muslin. Place the wrapped tofu on the kitchen counter and press it down with the heel of your hand applying enough weight and pressure to it to release some of the water- not too hard to break the tofu into pieces. Another way to do it is to place the wrapped tofu on a plate and stack heavy plates on top of it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Very important: do not use silken tofu for this recipe.
- If you want to reduce the amount of sodium in the dish feel free to replace the soy sauce with water.
- The recipe is suitable for air frying. A good metric is for 12-15 minutes at 400°F or 200°C. The time-temperature combination is dependant on the type and brand of airfryer so maybe try lower temperatures or shorter times at first- you can always cook it for longer but cannot go back once it is burnt!
- If you do not like the taste of nutritional yeast, you can substitute it with corn starch. Using regular plain flour is not suitable for this recipe.
- Make sure to break/ tear the tofu into irregular pieces. This increase the surface area allowing the pieces to take on more of the coating and to crisp up more easy!
- However, if you like to have more uniform pieces you can add a bit of cornmeal or breadcrumbs into the paste to ensure coverage.
- If you forget to thaw out the tofu overnight in the fridge, you can thaw the tofu in a hot water bath or even a microwave, just be sure to press out all of the water.
- If you do not like the pickles that come in the pickle juice, and you see no sense in buying and wasting food, you can make your own version of pickle juice. This is done by heating up some vinegar, dill (fresh or dried), salt, and water into a small saucepan, bringing to a boil. Alternatively, you can leave it out altogether and just add a bit extra lemon juice or water as a replacement.
- Leftovers of the finished dish can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container. However, this recipe’s leftovers havent been frozen so the impact freezing has on the overall quality and flavor of the dish is unknown.
- The paste itself can be stored up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container or frozen in a suitable container and taken out when ready for use.
- If you are creating your own mayonnaise, addition of roasted garlic or use of garlic powder instead of fresh garlic will give a more subtle, less pungent garlic flavor.
- The vegan honey dipping sauce can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- You can sub out the agave for any liquid sweetener although agave does have a distinct taste that brings a level of flavor to the dish.
- For a thinner consistency of the dipping sauce, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the sauce.
- This recipe is good to double up and save for another day, stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They are great cold or reheated in the oven for a few minutes. These left overs arre perfect additions to salads and even stir-frys. The honey and mustard dipping sauce acts well as a dip and a dressing over salad or fries or even roasted vegetables- the sky is the limit.
- This dish works well with any number of other dishes. You can have these nuggets with Vegan Mac and Cheese as the crunchiness sets off the creamy goodness that is Mac and Cheese. It is also good as a main dish as pointed out before and can be served with vegan coleslaw or mashed potatoes. Other dishes this will work well with these tofu nuggets are great in stir-fry and ramen bowls or as part of a buddha bowl.
So there you have it, Chic-fil-A style Vegan Tofu Nuggets- perfect appetizer, snack and main meal suitable for any occasion or a great weeknight meal.