Friday, January 16, 2015

Baked ranch tofu 'chicken' nuggets

Healthy baked ranch tofu nuggets have all the meatiness and flavor of a traditional chicken nugget. A meatless entree or appetizer that even the pickiest eater will love!

baked ranch tofu "chicken" nuggets

So, if you knew me 20 years ago, you're probably laughing hysterically at the fact that I'm posting about tofu. Suffice it to say, I have not always been a healthy eater (I lived on Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies and Cool Ranch Doritos in college). In fact, I was pretty reliant on processed and packaged foods until I started reading more about where my food came from and making the effort to read and decode food package ingredient labels.

Even as a healthy eater, espousing The Way of Better Eating, I'm pretty new to tofu, not being vegetarian or vegan (remember -- I have been known to call myself The Meatasaurus). But I've been giving tofu more of a chance lately as a way to enjoy meatless meals during the week.

If you've seen but never tried a tofu nugget recipe before, you're not alone. I was super skeptical, especially of the ones that claimed to have a meaty texture. How the freak could jiggly tofu ever seem meaty? But Cheryl of 40 Aprons did a pretty good job of convincing me, once she revealed the secret: Freeze the tofu.

Yes! It's totally freakish but it works! Something all science-y about the freezing and thawing process changes the tofu's texture so that it's meaty. Seriously: meaty. I kid you not. Even Mr. Ninj, who gave me his you-haven't-hidden-some-nasty-pureed-vegetables-in-this-have-you sideways-stink-eye, gobbled them up and praised the meaty, genuinely nugget-ish texture.

baked ranch tofu "chicken" nuggets

The only thing about the freezing and thawing of the tofu is that it does take some time, so you'll probably want to start the process the day before you actually want to cook the tofu nuggets.

Once your tofu is frozen, thawed, drained and marinated, the recipe gets super simple. For the coating, just whisk together some flour and ranch seasoning mix, as well as a little nutritional yeast. If you're not familiar with nutritional yeast, it's pretty cool. It's a non-dairy, vegan way to get a little cheesy taste into your food (and without all the extra calories, if you're a Detox Januarian). I recently saw a magazine refer to nutritional yeast as "hippie Parmsesan", which was not only hilarious but pretty darned accurate. (Tip: Try sprinkling it on hot air-popped popcorn!)

These tofu "chicken" nuggets are great when served with a dipping sauce. I made one (pictured) by mixing a big squeeze of Sriracha into some mayonnaise, as suggested by Cheryl; straight-up ranch salad dressing would also be easy and yummy, especially for the wee ones.

So, have I turned you on to tofu? Will you try some faux chicken nuggets for your next meatless dinner? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

baked ranch tofu "chicken" nuggets

Baked Ranch Tofu "Chicken" Nuggets

(inspired by 40 Aprons)
Note: These nuggets are great when served with a dipping sauce. I made one by mixing a big squeeze of Sriracha into some mayonnaise; straight-up ranch salad dressing would also be easy and yummy.

1 12-14 ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained and frozen (I use Mori-Nu tofu)
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ranch seasoning

Drain the tofu and place it into a covered freeze-safe container; freeze for about 8 hours. Remove tofu from freezer and thaw completely, draining off whatever water is emitted (this can take quite a while). Place the tofu block between several layers of paper towels and press out any remaining water, using a book or other flat object as a weight, for about an hour. Place the tofu into a bowl and cover it with the chicken broth. Let the tofu marinate in the broth for several hours in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to make your nuggets, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, nutritional yeast, salt and ranch seasoning. Cut the tofu block into small bite-sized squares. Dredge each square through the flour mixture and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the tofu squares for 10 minutes and then, using tongs, turn each square over and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the squares are browned and crispy. Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.
-- print recipe --


  1. Ah man, now I want to eat these and I'm stuck at work. Great recipe!

  2. It sounds good, and I always have tofu in the freezer!

    1. Then you're way ahead of the game, Kalyn -- great idea!

  3. I have my tofu in the freezer and I'm going to make these this week. How long do you think it takes to thaw in the fridge?

    1. In the fridge, Kristin, it can take all day -- best to let it start overnight. Let me know how they turn out for you!

    2. Hmmm. I wonder if I needed to drain and press the tofu afer marinating in the chicken broth. They didn't seem to really crisp up much. Otherwise, maybe I needed to cook them longer.

    3. Sorry they didn't crisp up to your liking, Kristin. I'd advise cooking them longer (you don't want to absorb the marinade out of them.) You could also try the "trick" of spritzing them with a little cooking spray before popping them in the oven (although mine in the photo were not spritzed).