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Crispy vegan “chicken” tenders, baked or fried, tossed in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and served with a trio of tasty dips. Need we say more? Didn’t think so.
This may be the best recipe we’ve ever created.
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Breaded tofu that’s crisped to perfection? You can bet these make a delicious snack. Add a few sauces into the mix and we’re in heaven!
These “chicken” tenders are seriously the perfect appetizer, and we love appetizers. You’ll find us out for dinner ordering 3-4 appies in place of our supper. We just love the idea of sharing lots of small items, and making food at home is no different.
Here comes the hard part.
Are you wondering if you should bake it in the oven or fry it on the stove top? It’s always a toss up between health and taste. Well not today. You can easily do both, and we’re going to show you how. You’ll have to try both, and tell us which one you like better. We’re split down the middle!
So, where did the inspiration for this recipe come from? We grew up eating chicken fingers. There’s something about finger food that takes us back to simpler times. We just wanted to create a healthier, more appetizing version of this comfort food.
And boy, we did just that.
Seriously, this recipe is to die for. We made it for our parents, and they wanted us to get in touch with our local vegan restaurants to get it on their menu.
Pair yours with vegan ranch, or even vegan tartar sauce for a flavor-packed snack!
🍲 Key ingredients
- Tofu: this ingredient contains a better protein-to-calorie ratio than chicken, along with more fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and folate per serving. So, why do we need chicken again? For real though, we’re not here to push a vegan agenda. But, if you can thrive on a plant-based diet, what’s the point of eating animals? If you read some of our other posts, you probably already know we’re obsessed with tofu. It’s such a great source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Once it’s crisped up with some batter on it, you will fall in love. We promise.
- Panko bread crumbs: made from crustless white bread, panko breadcrumbs are a game changer. They have a drier, flakier texture than traditional bread crumbs, which makes an even crispier end result. And for all you celiac’s out there, there are gluten-free breadcrumbs to substitute in this recipe too.
- Crispy rice cereal: if these “chicken” fingers weren’t crispy and crunchy enough, we decided to add some rice cereal to the breading mixture. Why? More crispy is better than less crispy. That’s just simple math. Although crushing them isn’t necessary, we find having huge chunks of puffed rice on the outside of the tender wasn’t a good look. We recommend pulsing them in a food processor or blender before adding them to the mixing bowl. This cereal is actually a great source of calcium and magnesium, which is helpful in the production and maintenance of bones.
- Nutritional yeast: it seems like we put nutritional yeast in everything. Probably because we do. It’s not only to add some tasty umami flavor to this dish, but it also bumps the nutritional value up. In just one serving, there are 4g fiber, 9g protein, and tons of B vitamins (just make sure your nooch is fortified).
To start everything off, wrap your tofu in a towel or paper towel, and put some weights over top. Press it for 15-20 minutes, then cut it into sticks.
Then, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Place the cornstarch in one bowl, the plant milk in a second bowl, and mix together panko crumbs, crushed crispy rice cereal, avocado oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and dried parsley in a third bowl.
Coat the tofu sticks in cornstarch first, then dip them in milk, and then roll them in the crumb mixture. Place each stick on the lined baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes on 400 degrees F. Make sure to flip them halfway through.
While you’re waiting for the tofu to bake, mix together some hot sauce with a little oil to help it stick to the tofu.
Next, remove the tofu from your oven, brush each one with hot sauce & oil mixture, and stick the pan back in your oven for another 10-15 more minutes, or until tofu is crispy on each side.
For the fried tofu, bread them the same way as the baked version. Then, heat a layer of neutral oil in a saucepan on medium. You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you stick a wooden spoon in and you see bubbling.
Add the breaded tofu to your pan, and fry them for approximately 1 minute per side, checking throughout to make sure you aren’t burning them.
When the tofu sticks are brown on each side, transfer each one to a plate lined with paper towel until all tofu is done frying.
Toss the fried tofu sticks in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and oil mixture, then place them on a cooling rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake them on 400 degrees F for another 5-7 minutes to crisp up the outside again.
Serve these vegan “chicken” tenders with a side of cool vegan ranch, zesty jalapeño nacho sauce, or spicy chili garlic aioli.
These vegan “chicken” tenders store well in the fridge for 4-5 days or in the freezer for 1 month. You can reheat them in the oven until they’re hot and crispy again, or just eat them cold throughout the day like we do. These are also great to use in wraps and burritos, or as a salad topping.
💭 Budget tips
We think everyone should be able to eat better for less, so here are a few tricks to make this recipe even more affordable:
- Use an oil like canola instead of avocado oil
- Skip the nutritional yeast
- Use half the optional buffalo sauce coating, or none at all
🍴 Tasting notes
This recipe is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Nutritious, plant-based “chicken” tenders. They’re:
If you try these, please rate them and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Crispy Vegan “Chicken” Tenders
- Baking sheets
- Parchment paper
- Tofu press or hard surfaces
- Medium sized bowls
- Frying pan (for the fried version)
- 2 bricks extra-firm tofu ($2.84)
- ⅓ cup cornstarch ($0.15)
- ½ cup plant milk ($0.14)
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs ($0.44)
- ¼ cup plain crispy rice cereal, crushed ($0.01)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil ($0.19)
- 1 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
- 1 tsp onion powder ($0.08)
- 1 tsp paprika ($0.10)
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast ($0.24)
- ½ tsp parsley flakes ($0.01)
- A pinch of sea salt & pepper ($0.02)
- ½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce ($0.76)
- 1 tbsp neutral oil ($0.12)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F, and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Wrap the tofu in a towel or paper towel, and put some weights over top. Press it for 15-20 minutes, then cut into sticks.
- Place the cornstarch in one bowl, the plant milk in a second bowl, and mix together panko crumbs, rice crispies, avocado oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and dried parsley in a third bowl.
- Coat the tofu sticks in cornstarch first, then dip them in milk, and then roll in crumb mixture. Place each tofu stick on the parchment-lined pan, and bake for 25 minutes on 400°F, flipping halfway.
- In the meantime, mix together Franks and oil in a bowl.
- Next, remove tofu from oven, brush with hot sauce & oil mixture, and place back in the oven. Bake on 400°F for 10-15 more minutes, or until tofu is crispy on each side.
- For the fried tofu, heat a layer of neutral oil in saucepan on medium. You'll know the oil is hot enough when you stick a wooden spoon in and you see bubbling.
- Fry the tofu for approximately 1 minute per side, checking throughout to make sure it isn't burning.
- When tofu sticks are brown on each side, transfer to a paper towel lined plate until all tofu is done frying.
- Toss tofu sticks in the hot sauce and oil mixture, then place on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.
- Bake on 400°F for 5-7 minutes to crisp up the outside again.
- Serve tofu sticks with creamy vegan ranch, zesty jalapeño nacho sauce, or spicy chili garlic aioli.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price of the recipe.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more snack and appetizer inspiration, check out our:
- Buffalo cauliflower wings for another spicy snack to dunk in our cool ranch.
- Guacamole and homemade tortilla chips to enjoy an authentic Mexican snack.
- Vegan ground beef if you’re ready to add lots of delicious plant-based protein to your next meal.
- Chickpea fries with rosemary aioli because potatoes aren’t the only ones who should have all the fry glory.
No, you don’t have to use panko breadcrumbs. If you can’t find any, just replace them with more crispy rice cereal.
Yes, you can choose either breadcrumbs or rice cereal. You don’t have to use both if you don’t have them. We just think using both adds a better texture to this recipe!
It’s a 50/50 split on our preferences! The baked version actually comes out crispier, but the flavor tastes more infused into the fried tofu.