Tofu gets a bad rap for being bland or boring. However, this protein-packed powerhouse – often a component of a plant-based diet – is anything but dull! Its adaptability makes tofu work well in many recipes as a good substitute for meat. Tofu can take on almost any flavor, seasoning or sauce, and it has a flexible texture.

Plant-based diets are becoming more and more mainstream, which fortunately, even if you’re not strictly vegetarian or vegan, has resulted in many tofu recipes, including some that make tofu taste very like chicken. Tofu is low in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol, so you can eat comfort staples such as fried “chicken” tenders, nuggets and more, sans the guilt!

Tofu 101

Tofu has many health benefits. This soybean super-food is an excellent source of nutrients such as iron and calcium, and it contains all nine of the essential amino acids and minerals, such as manganese, selenium, copper and zinc, as well as vitamin B.

Tofu has long been a staple in Asian cuisine. And now, soy is more popular than ever, with consumption up 14% between 2011 and 2016, according to the 23rd annual survey conducted by United Soybean Board. It’s heart healthy and protein-rich, which makes it appealing to those with various nutritional interests.

Sub Soy for Chicken

Even a kitchen novice can transform tofu to a taste that’s nearly identical to classic chicken dishes (think: fried chicken, chicken nuggets or tenders, skewers, and stir-fries). Achieving the correct seasoning and texture are the two top keys to recipe success when it comes to making tofu taste like chicken.

The easiest way to texturize tofu for a “chicken” sensation is to freeze it prior to cooking. Or, for an almost instant method, use an air fryer to quickly cook tofu to give it a crispy, fried finish without all the unhealthy oil and fat.

As for seasoning, tofu can take on any taste, so consider marinating tofu in a classic barbecue or chimichurri sauce for chicken-inspired flavor. You can also opt to create a batter to make a tofu dish that's reminiscent of fried (or Nashville hot-fried) chicken, chicken nuggets or chicken tenders. To do so, you’ll need to dredge the tofu through a flour or dry batter before coating the pieces in breadcrumbs and seasoning, such as oregano, paprika or other spices. Include ground poultry seasoning if desired. For a “Nashville hot fried chicken” take, melt butter and hot sauce and season to taste.

Tempting Tofu Recipes

Swap the meat for tofu in your next meal for a healthier-but-just-as-delicious dish. Try any of these four recipes ‒ you won’t miss the meat!

Crispy Baked Tofu Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu

Batter:

  • ½ cup of soy milk
  • ¼ cup gluten free flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 minced garlic clove or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Coating:

  • 1½ cups of gluten-free panko crumbs
  • ¼ cup of yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray the sheet with oil.
  2. Drain the tofu. Wrap it in several paper towels and place it

    in the sink. Place a heavy object on top of the tofu to press out the water. Letit drain for 10 minutes. Or, press the tofu carefully with your hands to remove excess liquid.3. Cut tofu into rectangles that are about 1/3 inch thick and 1 inch long. 4. In a medium-sized bowl, mix all the batter ingredients until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. 5. In a separate bowl, mix the coating ingredients together. 6. Dip one of the tofu rectangles in the batter mix to fully coat. 7. After it's fully coated in the batter, roll the tofu around in the coating mixture. 8. Transfer tofu to oiled baking sheet. 9. Repeat until all the tofu pieces are coated and arranged on the baking sheet. 10. Spray the tofu pieces lightly with oil to coat their tops. 11. Bake for 10 minutes. 12. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully flip the tofu pieces. Spray the tofu pieces again lightly with oil. 13. Bake for another 10‒15 minutes until they're golden and crispy. 14. Cool slightly and serve with sauces.

Tofu Waffle Cone

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup of soft tofu
  • 1/3 cup of soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon of chia flour or ground flaxseed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of an egg replacement or additional chia flour

Directions

  1. Blend soft tofu in food processor until smooth.
  2. Mix chia/flaxseed with 1/3 cup of soy milk.
  3. Mix chia/flaxseed mixture with blended soft tofu.
  4. Add vegetable oil and mix well.
  5. Add sugar and salt and beat mixture for 1 minute.
  6. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Plug in a waffle cone maker and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Buffalo Tofu Wings

Total Time: 40 minutes | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Servings: 32 wings

Ingredients

  • 1 package extra-firm tofu  
  • ¼ cup hot sauce  
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch    
  • ½ cup water    
  •  ½ teaspoon garlic powder   
  •  ¼ teaspoon onion powder    
  •  ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

         Salt and pepper, to taste     4 drops monk-fruit sweetener or 8 drops liquid stevia extract     * 1½ teaspoon cornstarch plus 1 tablespoon water 

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, add the hot sauce, sprinkle cornstarch over the tofu, and toss gently until evenly coated and no dry cornstarch is visible.
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat (or spray a non-stick frying pan with cooking spray).
  3. Cook tofu for 3–4 minutes (until bottom is golden brown), flip and cook the other side for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. While tofu is cooking, heat oven to 425F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. Whisk all additional coating ingredients in saucepan and heat on medium heat. Allow to thicken until desired consistency is reached, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  6. When tofu is completely cooked, place it back in a large mixing bowl, add in 1/2 of the additional coating mixture, and stir.
  7. Place tofu on prepared baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes on each side.
  8. Remove from oven; coat with remaining additional coating and serve with vegan ranch dressing, if desired.

Chimichurri Grilled Tofu

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Servings: 4–6

Ingredients

  •      1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  •      1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  •      ¼ cup fresh oregano
  •      ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  •      ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  •      2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  •      4–5 cloves garlic, peeled
  •      1 small shallot, minced
  •      Pinch red chili flakes
  •      1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

  •      ½ cup olive oil

  •      Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the tofu in half down the middle width-wise.
  2. Cut 2-inch-wide chunks, and place onto wooden skewers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place in a large zip-lock bag and set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the parsley, oregano, cilantro, the two types of vinegar, garlic, shallot, poultry seasoning and chili flakes until well chopped.
  6. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour ¾ of the chimichurri into the bag with the tofu and set in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  8. Reserve the rest of the sauce for dipping on the side.
  9. Over medium-high heat, oil a grill pan thoroughly. Once hot, place the tofu skewers on the grill, and char on all sides. Serve with the remaining sauce.

Swap out the chicken or beef for tofu the next time you want to lighten up your meal without sacrificing taste. These recipes are sure to be a hit at your next party or in a dish to impress a date!

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