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This vegan buttermilk tofu fried chicken is perfectly seasoned, double breaded with panko or cornflakes, and fried into a perfectly crispy, utterly satisfying vegan fried chicken alternative!

completed Tofu Fried Chicken on a white surface
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Utterly Crispy Vegan Fried Chicken Recipe

If you find yourself craving KFC, Popeye’s, or other takeout chicken and battered cauliflower wings just aren’t hitting the spot this time (sorry, cauliflower wings—we still love you!), then it’s time to learn how to make tofu taste like chicken in this easy tofu fried chicken recipe.

Tofu is already a wonderfully cost-effective, sponge-like ingredient you can flavor and adapt endlessly. But did you know it can make convincing vegan fried chicken? It’s tender and juicy inside, coated with a crunchy, crackly, panko or cornflake-crusted, buttermilk-battered, crispy shell (double dipped for extra crunch!).

It’s fairly simple to prepare, too, and using this one recipe, you can make tofu nuggets, tenders, chunks, or tofu chicken breast pieces – perfect for game days, potlucks, parties, and fakeout Fridays. Looking for other vegan takeout favorites? Try tofu sushi, tofu pad Thai, and sticky sesame tofu.

The Ingredients and Substitutes

ingredients for Tofu Fried Chicken on a white surface
  • Tofu: Use a block of super-firm tofu, which doesn’t require pressing (or extra-firm, in a pinch, but drain and press it) for the best vegan fried chicken.
  • Oil: Use a high-heat neutral oil, such as canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil, to deep-fry the vegan tofu chicken.

Chicken Fried Tofu Marinade

  • Soy sauce: (regular or reduced sodium) To add savory, salty, umami flavor. If gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos.
  • Seasonings: (optional) To boost the flavor, add garlic powder and/or smoked paprika.
  • Oil: Any neutral oil, like avocado oil, canola oil, etc.
  • Water: For more flavor, use vegetable stock or vegan chicken bouillon/stock.

Dry Coating

  • Flour: Use regular or gluten-free all-purpose flour. Chickpea flour may work, too, for gluten-free vegan chicken.
  • Cornstarch: This lightens up the flour coating and helps achieve the crackly, puffy, crispy coating when fried. Potato starch may also work.
  • Breading: Use panko breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes, regular or gluten-free, for crunchy fried breaded tofu.
  • Baking powder: For a lighter, puffy, crackly vegan crispy chicken fried tofu.
  • Seasonings: At its most basic, you need sea salt and black pepper. For more flavor, add garlic powder and smoked paprika.

Wet Coating

  • Vegan buttermilk: Make a plant-based buttermilk alternative with dairy-free milk (soy milk works best) and apple cider vinegar.
  • All-purpose flour: Regular or gluten-free.
  • Sea salt

Flavor Variations

Just like regular chicken, it’s easy to adapt this chicken tofu recipe with different herbs, spices, or seasoning blends, including:

  • Homemade seasoning blend: Combine the garlic and paprika with onion powder, cayenne pepper, and optional dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, or Italian seasoning.
  • Spice: Add chili or cayenne pepper to the dry coating or a tablespoon of hot sauce/sriracha to the vegan buttermilk coating and/or the marinade.
  • Nutritional yeast: To add to the marinade for ‘cheesy’, umami-rich flavor.

How to Make Tofu Fried Chicken

Marinate The Tofu

  • First, cut the tofu into:
    • Slabs (optionally shape into more ‘chicken breast’ like shapes)
    • Sticks (or shaped into vegan tenders)
    • Larger cubes or torn pieces (for vegan chicken nuggets/chunks)
    • Smaller cubes (for vegan popcorn chicken)
  • Then, combine all the marinade ingredients in a lidded Tupperware container, mix well, and add the tofu. Close the lid, shake the container, and then leave it to marinate for 30 minutes (overnight for the best flavor).

If you’re in a rush, marinate the tofu for a minimum of 5 minutes. Score the tofu to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper.

  • In a separate medium bowl, combine all the dry coating ingredients (flour, cornstarch, panko/cornflakes, baking powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder/smoked paprika if using). Mix well and set aside.
  • In another bowl (wide enough to dip the tofu pieces), combine all the wet coating ingredients (plant milk, apple cider vinegar, flour, and salt), mix well, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes to curdle into ‘buttermilk.’

Batter It

  • Working one piece at a time, remove the tofu from the marinade, shaking off excess.
  • Then, dip it into the bowl of dry coating, flipping it to cover all sides evenly. Shake off any excess.
  • Next, dip the tofu fully into the wet batter and lift it to drop off any excess.
  • Place it back in the bowl of dry ingredients to coat it fully once more and transfer it to a plate. Remove the entire process with all the remaining pieces of tofu chicken.

To make things less messy, use one hand for the dry ingredients bowl and one for the wet.

Fry The Tofu Chicken

  • In a heavy-based skillet, add 1 inch of oil and heat over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until it reaches 325-350F/163-180C.

If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by dropping a bit of wet batter (or a piece of the tofu) or the end of a wooden chopstick into it. It should sizzle immediately but not be so hot that it’s smoking.

  • Carefully lower pieces of the tofu chicken into the oil in a single layer. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan (as it can reduce the heat of the oil).
  • Fry the tofu for about 2 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.
  • Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu fried chicken from the pan to a cooling rack with a plate beneath. This will help remove any excess oil.

To keep the vegan chicken warm, loosely tent the rack with foil or keep it in the oven at 200F/93C until ready to serve.

  • Repeat the process with the remaining fried chicken tofu, then enjoy immediately!

FAQs

Can I air-fry battered tofu chicken?

Prepare the battered tofu and spread it in a single layer in your air fryer basket, leaving space in between.

Then, air fry at 400F/200C for between 10-14 minutes, flipping halfway.

How to reheat vegan fried chicken to make sure it’s crispy?

Baking or re-frying are the best ways to reheat the vegan fried chicken until crispy.

You can bake the vegan chicken from frozen (for 15-20 minutes at 450F/230C) or chilled (15-20 minutes at 350F/180C). Air frying also works – for about 5-7 minutes at 400F/200C.

Alternatively, bring the fried tofu chicken back to room temperature and re-fry it in the oil until hot and crispy once more.

Can I use frozen tofu?

Some recipes use a twice-thawed method, freezing and fully thawing the tofu twice in its packaging before pressing out the remaining liquid for a more tender texture. We love the results even without the added time and effort, so usually omit these steps, but try it if preferred.

Pro Recipe Tips

  • Marinate the tofu: We recommend 30 minutes at a minimum, though several hours or overnight is best for the most flavor.
  • Don’t crowd the pan: This can reduce the oil temperature, which then leads to the batter soaking up additional oil for soggy results.
  • Leave it to drain: Transfer the vegan crispy chicken from the pan to a wire rack to drain. This allows air to circulate for the crispiest vegan buttermilk chicken.
  • Don’t skip the baking powder or cornstarch: This helps to make the super bubbly, crackly, crispy tofu fried chicken, similar to KFC.
  • Cooking time varies: Based on the exact size of your tofu pieces. So keep an eye.
completed Tofu Fried Chicken on a white surface

Serving Suggestions

Just like regular fried chicken, vegan fried chicken is a versatile vegan protein to enjoy in a plant-based burger, wrap, or sandwich (like vegan KFC), or with:

Storage Instructions

This tofu fried chicken will be crispiest immediately after frying. However, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

You can also freeze the vegan fried tofu. First, spread it across a tray to flash freeze until solid, then transfer it to a Ziplock/Stasher bag for 3-4 months.

completed Tofu Fried Chicken in storage container

More Tofu Recipes

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Tofu Fried Chicken

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4
This vegan buttermilk tofu fried chicken is perfectly seasoned, double breaded with panko or cornflakes, and fried into a perfectly crispy, utterly satisfying vegan fried chicken alternative!

Ingredients 

  • 1 (16-ounce) block of super firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • High heat neutral oil, for deep frying

Marinade

  • ¼ cup of soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of neutral oil
  • 3 tablespoons of water

Dry coating

  • ½ cup of flour
  • ½ cup of cornstarch
  • ½ cup of panko or crushed cornflakes
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Wet coating

  • 1 cup of unsweetened plant-based milk (soy milk works best)
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Instructions 

  • Cut the tofu into sticks, cubes, or slices.
  • In a tupperware with a lid, mix in the ingredients for the marinade: the soy sauce, garlic powder (if using), smoked paprika (if using), oil, and water. Mix well and place the tofu in the tupperware. Close the lid and give it a gentle shake to coat the tofu. Allow it to marinate for 30 minutes or overnight for a lot more flavor. If in a rush, allow it to marinate for at least 5 minutes.
  • While the tofu marinates, in a medium bowl, mix the dry coating ingredients: the flour, cornstarch, panko or cornflakes for more crunch, baking powder, garlic powder and paprika if using, black pepper, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, big enough to dip each piece of tofu, mix the wet coating ingredients: the plant-based milk, apple cider vinegar, flour, and salt. Mix well and allow it to sit for 5 minutes until it becomes like buttermilk. Set aside.
  • One by one and while taking your time, remove the tofu from the marinade, shake it to drop any excess marinade, place it in the bowl with the dry coating and move it around to coat well, lift it and gently shake it to remove any excess flour mixture. Fully dip it in the wet coating bowl, lift to drop any excess, and place it back in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Coat well with the dry mixture, lift it and gently shake it to remove any excess and loose flour mixture. Place the coated tofu on a plate. Repeat the process until all the tofu is prepared and ready to be fried.
  • Once every step is ready, in a small sauce pan or deep pan, add in enough oil to be about 1-inch deep. Heat over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until hot. To test, place the tofu on a slotted spoon or fork and carefully dip it in the oil, if it immediately sizzles, it is ready. Carefully drop the tofu pieces in the oil, but do not overcrowd the pan.
  • Cook until golden. Then, carefully flip the tofu and cook the other side until golden. Carefully remove the tofu and place them on a cooling rack with a plate under. This will help drip any excess oil. Repeat the process until all of the tofu is fried. Serve immediately.
  • Enjoy hot with your favorite sauces.

Notes

  • Marinate the tofu: We recommend 30 minutes at a minimum, though several hours or overnight is best for the most flavor.
  • Don’t crowd the pan: This can reduce the oil temperature, which then leads to the batter soaking up additional oil for soggy results.
  • Leave it to drain: Transfer the vegan crispy chicken from the pan to a wire rack to drain. This allows air to circulate for the crispiest vegan buttermilk chicken.
  • Don’t skip the baking powder or cornstarch: This helps to make the super bubbly, crackly, crispy tofu fried chicken, similar to KFC.

Nutrition

Calories: 782kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 31gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 15gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.1gSodium: 4289mgPotassium: 223mgFiber: 6gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 744IUVitamin C: 0.05mgCalcium: 839mgIron: 8mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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Comments

  1. Thanks but sharing so many amazing recipes!

    Trying to eat oil-free. Any suggestions on how to make this recipe in an oven instead?

    1. Hi! We at Plant-Based on a Budget haven’t tried it in the oven just yet. However, if you have an air fryer, you can prepare the battered tofu and spread it in a single layer in your air fryer basket, leaving space in between.

      Then, air fry at 400F/200C for between 10-14 minutes, flipping halfway.

  2. 5 stars
    I love tofu and I’m on a mission this year to try to become good at cooking it! I definitely have to try this.