Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets with Smoky Broccoli

published Aug 23, 2021
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Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets with Smoky Broccoli Recipe

This easy family dinner is the ultimate choice for Meatless Monday. Serve the nuggets with ketchup for the kids and sweet chili sauce for the adults.

Serves2 to 4

Prep30 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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air fryer tofu on plate
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

As if we needed another reason to use our favorite small kitchen appliance, these crispy air fryer tofu nuggets make for the tastiest Meatless Monday supper. The crispy panko coating is seasoned with nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder, ensuring each two-bite nugget is packed with flavor. The broccoli gets a similar seasoning treatment and air-fries up into deliciously crispy florets.

Serve with ketchup for kids and a sweet-and-spicy chili sauce for the adults (my favorite), and you’ve got a meal worth making every Monday.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

The Best, Crispiest Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets

The secret to these extra-crispy, perfectly golden nuggets? Pressing the tofu to release excess moisture, then coating them using a three-step breading process. First, you’ll toss the cubes in cornstarch, which is the key to crispy tofu no matter how you’re cooking it. Next, dunk them in buttermilk for a little moisture and flavor, then coat them in the seasoned panko coating, which will fry up super crispy. For vegan nuggets, replace the buttermilk with a mixture of non-dairy milk and lemon juice. Air fry in a single layer (cooking in batches if needed) until golden-brown.

When the tofu is done, you’ll quickly air fry the smoky broccoli —it only takes 3 minutes to crisp to perfection.

What If I Don’t Have an Air Fryer?

No air fryer? No problem! You can bake everything in the oven. Arrange the breaded tofu nuggets on one sheet pan and the seasoned broccoli on another. Bake at 400°F until the tofu is golden-brown and the broccoli is crisp tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Can I Make These Tofu Nuggets in Advance?

Yes! I like to prep big batches of the nuggets in advance, then pop them in the air fryer when I need a quick dinner. Just transfer the coated, uncooked nuggets to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight, or freeze solid on a baking sheet and then store in a zip-top bag for up to two months. You can air fry the nuggets for the same amount of time directly from frozen — no need to thaw.

Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets with Smoky Broccoli Recipe

This easy family dinner is the ultimate choice for Meatless Monday. Serve the nuggets with ketchup for the kids and sweet chili sauce for the adults.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the tofu nuggets:

  • 1 (about 14-ounce) package

    extra-firm tofu

  • 1 cup

    cornstarch

  • 3/4 cup

    buttermilk, or 3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  • 1 1/2 cups

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    nutritional yeast

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

For the broccoli and serving:

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon

    nutritional yeast

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Pinch red pepper flakes

  • 1 pound

    broccoli

  • Ketchup or sweet chili sauce, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Drain 1 package extra-firm tofu. Place on the towels, then cover with another few layers of paper towels. Weight it down with a heavy object such as a skillet, saucepan, or large can. Let drain at least 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dredging mixtures. Place 1 cup cornstarch in a small bowl. Place 3/4 cup buttermilk in a second small bowl (or stir 3/4 cup non-dairy milk and 2 teaspoons lemon juice together). Place 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

  3. When the tofu is ready, heat an air fryer to 400ºF. Meanwhile, cut or tear the tofu into 16 pieces and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Dredge the tofu one piece at a time: Toss in the cornstarch until completely coated, then dip in the buttermilk to completely coat and shake off any excess liquid. Repeat coating in the cornstarch and buttermilk. Dip in the panko mixture until completely coated and place on a baking sheet.

  4. Air-frying in batches if needed, place the tofu in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air-fry, flipping the tofu halfway through, until golden-brown, 13 to 15 minutes total.

  5. Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Cut 1 pound broccoli into 1 1/2-inch florets (reserve the stems for another use). Add the florets to the bowl, and toss to coat.

  6. When the tofu is ready, transfer to a serving platter. Air-frying in batches if needed, place the broccoli in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Air-fry until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the serving platter and serve with ketchup or sweet chili sauce for dipping if desired.

Recipe Notes

Roasting in the oven: The tofu and broccoli can be baked directly on ungreased baking sheets in a 400ºF oven until the tofu is golden-brown and the broccoli is crisp-tender, 15 to 20 minutes total. Flip the tofu halfway through cooking.

If you would like to cook the tofu and broccoli at the same time, roast the broccoli in the oven while air-frying the tofu.

Make ahead: The tofu nuggets can be coated and refrigerated for up to 1 day ahead, or frozen solid on the baking sheet and then stored in a freezer zip-top bag for up to 2 months. Air-fry refrigerated or frozen tofu nuggets for the same amount of time.

The broccoli can be seasoned up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 400ºF air fryer or regular oven for 3 to 5 minutes.