This recipe for air fryer tofu nuggets is so easy that you won’t ever go back to deep-frying, pan-frying or baking tofu again! The air fryer cooks the tofu so quickly and uses so little oil, and this is perfect for days when you want some quick protein in your meals. Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan too.
- What is Tofu?
- The Air Fryer Works Miracles
- Why This Recipe Works:
- Ingredients You’ll Need + Notes/Substitutions:
- How to Cook Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets (Step by Step):
- Dish by Dish Tips/Tricks:
- Recipe FAQs:
- Other Asian-Inspired Recipes to Enjoy:
- Gluten-Free Air Fryer Recipes
- Easy Air Fryer Tofu (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
What is Tofu?
Tofu, the food which seems to be increasingly popular, is also known as beancurd. It is prepared by coagulating soy milk, and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying firmness. The most common types of tofu you might find at the supermarket are silken tofu, soft tofu, firm tofu, or extra-firm tofu.
By itself, tofu generally doesn’t have much of a taste, and many may find it bland without any additional seasonings. Due to its very subtle taste, tofu is a versatile ingredient that can be used in both sweet or savory recipes.
The good thing about tofu is its spongy texture which allows it to absorb flavors well, and can be easily seasoned and flavored to suit the dish it is to be used in.
Tofu is a very common ingredient in Asia, and back home in Singapore where I’m from, tofu is part of everyday cuisine.
From stir fries, to soup, to tofu cheesecake – tofu is everywhere. It seems that tofu is also gaining popularity in the West as more and more people adopt vegetarian or vegan diets.
In fact, soy protein is a great way for vegans or vegetarians to get their source of non-animal protein. Nutritionally low in calories, tofu is high in plant-based protein, which makes it perfect for a meat substitute.
Different Methods of Cooking Tofu
There are various ways to cook tofu – from deep-frying it in copious amounts of oil, pan-frying it, steaming it, or baking it. For most savory recipes, the main aim is to get the tofu to be as crispy on the outside as possible – and why deep-frying produces delicious results, it also uses the most amount of oil, which is very unhealthy.
Here’s where air-frying tofu comes in extremely handy. The air fryer acts like a convection oven, blowing hot air all over the food and cooking and crisping it up as it does so. As a result, very little oil (if you use it at all) is required to cook and get crispy golden brown tofu!
The Air Fryer Works Miracles
The air fryer is really quite amazing. I love how you can get a crispy exterior while using so little oil.
Since getting our air fryer, we’ve been using it for so many different foods, and some of our favorites are:
- Air Fryer Chickpeas
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Plantains
- Air Fryer Kale Chips
- Air Fryer Hasselback Potatoes
Why This Recipe Works:
- Simple Ingredients: The ingredients required for this crispy air fryer tofu recipe are easily accessible at the grocery store, and you might already have most of them on hand.
- Super Easy: Cooking the tofu nuggets in the air fryer simplifies everything – all you need to do is let the air fryer do the work and just toss the tofu halfway through. Plus, there are no oil splatters (which you might otherwise have if you deep-fried the tofu.)
- Crispy Texture: The air fryer cooks the tofu with the hot air that circulates around the basket, and creates a crispy exterior that makes the tofu deliciously good!
- Totally Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan: The best part is that this air fryer tofu is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, which means that even those with Celiac disease, and gluten or lactose intolerances can enjoy them without issues.
Ingredients You’ll Need + Notes/Substitutions:
Here’s a quick overview of the ingredients required for this air fryer tofu nuggets recipe.
(For exact measurements and quantities, please scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.)
- Tofu: I recommend using extra-firm tofu in this air fryer tofu nuggets recipe so that the tofu pieces keep their shape (softer tofu may disintegrate while cooking).
- Seasonings: This air fryer tofu nuggets recipe is meant to be a very basic and simple tofu, so the seasonings used are simple: sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. The idea is that you can later add sauces over (such as Teriyaki sauce) or for dipping in sauces like gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, or homemade sriracha. If you prefer to eat the tofu directly without any additional sauces (such as in a salad or in a poke bowl), you can try marinating it in gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and ginger powder for at least 15 minutes or even overnight. Cooking method is the same.
- To Accompany: I like serving the vegan tofu nuggets with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, spring onions, and a side of gluten-free soy sauce (tamari). However, feel free to serve it with chopped cilantro and sriracha chili sauce if you prefer.
How to Cook Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets (Step by Step):
1. Cut Tofu into Cubes
Cut the tofu into small evenly-sized cubes.
2. Remove Excess Water
A chef in professional kitchen may use a tofu press (especially if cooking tofu in large quantities), but I’m assuming that you don’t cook a huge ton of tofu at one time. Which is why I’m going to show you a super simple method for quick pressing a big block of tofu.
Start off by cutting the tofu block into small, uniform-sized cubes (or rectangles). Place the cut tofu on a plate lined with paper towels, and then place a few sheets of paper towels on top of the tofu. Place a cutting board on top and let it press the tofu for the next 15 minutes. Any extra moisture will released from the tofu and be absorbed by the paper towels.
(This is an important step, so make sure you don’t skip it!)
3. Season Tofu Cubes
Once tofu is pressed, toss the tofu pieces together with the sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.
4. Preheat Air Fryer
Preheat the air fryer to 375F and spray the surface of the basket with cooking spray or olive oil spray.
You can also brush the basket with a bit of oil such as avocado oil, sunflower oil or olive oil.
5. Place Tofu Cubes in Air Fryer Basket
Place the tofu cubes in one single layer in your air fryer basket so the cubes don’t touch each other.
(Tip: Do not overcrowd your air fryer basket as the tofu needs the space for the hot air crisp it up on all sides. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may need to do this in 2 batches.)
6. Cook Tofu Nuggets
For tofu that’s softer inside and lightly golden outside:
Air fry tofu for 10 to 12 minutes at 375F, tossing halfway through.
(See the picture below – this is how tofu with a softer inside will look.)
For tofu that is super crispy outside and chewier inside:
Cook the tofu for 14 to 15 minutes at 375F, tossing halfway through.
(See the picture below – this is how crispy tofu with a chewier inside will look.)
Dish by Dish Tips/Tricks:
- Make Sure You Press the Tofu: For recipes where you want the tofu to keep its shape, you’ll be better off pressing the tofu (even if it’s an extra step). You definitely don’t want the tofu to disintegrate while cooking, and that’s why it’s super important to press the tofu first before cooking it. Pressing the tofu beforehand helps to remove some of the excess water, as too much moisture can result in a mushy texture later on. Pressing it also enables to tofu to absorb more of the marinate and flavors so it isn’t bland and boring. Most importantly, getting rid of the extra moisture allows the tofu to crisp up better.
- What to Eat with Air Fryer Tofu: If eating the air-fried tofu as a snack or an appetizer, I usually like serving it with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, chopped spring onions, and gluten-free soy sauce (tamari). You could also serve it with my homemade sriracha chili sauce, or this super easy 5-minute garlic aioli. Alternatively you can also serve the tofu with barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce or even honey mustard. You could also eat it as part of a rice bowl, or as part of a warm quinoa salad, or in a vegetable noodle stir-fry!
If you don’t plan on eating the tofu straightaway, place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. When planning on eating, simply pop the tofu in to the air fryer at 350F for a couple of minutes to heat it up before enjoying!
Other Asian-Inspired Recipes to Enjoy:
- Healing Vegetable Noodle Soup (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- Easy Vietnamese Chicken Pho (Gluten-Free)
- Rainbow Vegetable Rolls and Spicy Peanut Sauce (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- Crispy Baked Yuca Fries (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
Gluten-Free Air Fryer Recipes
Since getting our air fryer, we’ve been using it multiple times a week, and it is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, shorter cooking time, less oil, and crispy food? What’s there not to love? Here are some of our favorite air fryer recipes:
P.S. If you try this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating below, and/or a review in the comment section further down the page. I always appreciate your feedback. Be sure to check out my entire Recipe Index for all the recipes on the blog. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram! Sign up for my Email List to get fresh recipes in your inbox each week!Print
- Cut Tofu into Cubes: Cut the tofu into small evenly-sized cubes.
- Remove Excess Water: Place the tofu cubes on a paper-towel lined plate and cover with more paper towels to press out as much water as possible (don’t skip this step, it’s essential)!
- Season Tofu Cubes: Once tofu is pressed, toss the tofu cubes together with the sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 375F.
- Place Tofu Cubes in Air Fryer Basket: Place the tofu cubes in one single layer in your air fryer basket so the cubes don’t touch each other. (Do not overcrowd your air fryer basket as the tofu needs the space for the hot air crisp it up on all sides. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may need to do this in 2 batches.)
- Cook Tofu Nuggets: For tofu that’s lightly golden outside but still soft inside, cook for 10 to 12 minutes and toss halfway through. For crispy air fryer tofu nuggets, cook for 14 to 15 minutes and toss halfway through (this will result in a slightly chewier inside).
Tofu: I recommend using extra-firm tofu in this air fryer tofu nuggets recipe so that the tofu pieces keep their shape (softer tofu may disintegrate while cooking).
Why Press Tofu: Pressing tofu helps to remove some of the moisture and makes it easier to cook with, as too much moisture may result in a bland mushy texture. In particular, where you want tofu to keep its shape while cooking, pressing the tofu before cooking helps the tofu absorb more of the marinate later on, and to crisp up better on the outside.
Do Not Overcrowd The Air Fryer Basket: Make sure you leave space between each tofu cube so they are not touching. This will ensure that they cook evenly on all sides, and that they crisp well and turn a nice golden brown on every side. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook the tofu in 2 different batches, but it’s totally worth the effort.
Seasonings: This air fryer tofu nuggets recipe is meant to be a very basic and simple tofu, so the seasonings used are simple: sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. The idea is that you can later add sauces over (such as Teriyaki sauce) or for dipping in sauces like gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, or homemade sriracha. If you prefer to eat the tofu directly without any additional sauces (such as in a salad or in a poke bowl), you can try marinating it in gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and ginger powder for at least 15 minutes or even overnight. Cooking method is the same.
To Accompany: I like serving the air fryer tofu nuggets with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, spring onions, and a side of gluten-free soy sauce (tamari). However, feel free to serve it with chopped cilantro and sriracha chili sauce if you prefer.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Category: Appetizers
- Method: Air Fryer
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: air fryer tofu nuggets