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The Best Vegan Fried Chicken (gluten-free!)

Friends, this is the BEST vegan fried chicken recipe. It’s seriously crunchy on the outside with well-seasoned breading full of nooks and crannies. But the inside is what makes this vegan fried chicken different. You won’t believe how tender, juicy and meaty this vegan ‘chicken’ tastes and looks. Flavour bursts from layers of ‘meat’ as you bite into it. Click here for the printable recipe or pin this for later.

the white meaty inside of a piece of vegan fried chicken

I stumbled across the secret to creating this realistic, crispy and juicy vegan chicken last year (you might have seen it on my Instagram stories) and have since perfected it so you can make it easily at home. Make deep-fried vegan chicken on your stove top or deep-fryer for the absolute best vegan chicken you’ve ever had. Or, you can bake these golden pieces of juicy perfection in the oven for delicious oven-fried vegan chicken. And it’s gluten-free to boot!

Video tutorial for the Best Vegan Fried Chicken

 
This video was sponsored by Thrive Market. It’s a great place to get the dry ingredients and they’ve offered a coupon for 25% off your first purchase so go to the video page if you’d like to check that out.

What’s the secret? It’s so simple. Twice frozen medium firm tofu. You may have heard of the trick where you freeze extra firm tofu then let it thaw. The ice that forms in the tofu creates pockets so when it thaws, you can squeeze the water out like you would a sponge. Then when you marinate the tofu, it can absorb much more flavour than before. But it can be a bit grainy or gritty feeling. Using medium firm (or Traditional style) tofu produces a tender texture without that grainy feeling. However, it falls apart very easily. Freezing and thawing medium firm tofu twice makes the tofu more sturdy so you can press more water out without the whole thing disintegrating.

two blocks of twice-frozen medium firm tofu

Can you guess how I stumbled across this? If you have a hard time sticking to a meal plan like I do, you might have done this too. I had an unopened package of tofu in the fridge that was nearing the expiry so I stuck it in the freezer. Then when I thought I was going to use it the next day, I let it thaw. Of course, dinner did not go as planned, so I stuck it back in the freezer. A few weeks later, I thawed the block, went to press it and was blown away by the texture. Combined with five spice seasoning, an air fryer, and twenty minutes later, I had something that was crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It wasn’t the perfect vegan chicken yet. But it inspired me to develop this further. Now several months later, I’m confident that this will be the best vegan chicken you’ll make at home!

pieces of tofu that resemble chicken

Prepare the tofu by pressing it gently after you thaw it the second time. I used a tofu-making mould to help me and it did very well. You can also use a tofu press if you have one or squeeze your tofu gently between two cutting boards. See the video on how I did it. The tofu is still fairly delicate so use care. You can squeeze out the last of the water with clean kitchen towels. Then, you’ll see layers within the tofu. This is what creates the realistic vegan chicken effect. Carefully pull the layers apart into rough, large chunks; about eight pieces. Again, use a light touch. You’ll probably find that the tofu doesn’t need a lot of help to break into pieces; let them fall as they will. You’ll also have a bunch of bits leftover. Don’t worry; we’ll use them too.

After pressing the tofu, you can reintroduce moisture, but this time, in the form of flavourful vegan chicken-style broth. Use twice the amount of paste or powder to make the broth. If you’re using liquid broth, boil it down to 1/2 volume so the flavours are concentrated. When you have your bowl of broth, add the tofu to it. Try to make sure the layers sit flat, then press down and let go so the tofu pieces can soak up the broth. Some of the tofu will want to fall apart at this point so handle with care. You might end up with a few more pieces than you started with; I did!

By the way, if you skip the “chicken” broth step, the tofu will hold together better. However, the end result will not have that juicy flavour. So it will resemble dry chicken breast and have more of a pronounced tofu flavour. That said, if you’re going to add a very flavourful sauce afterwards, or you’re in a hurry or just want to get this done quickly with less mess, well, this is your vegan fried chicken and there are no rules!

pieces of chicken-like tofu in seasoned flour

Now the tofu is ready for the three-step dredge: seasoned gluten-free flour, vegan egg wash, and seasoned flour again with the addition of crispy rice puffs to add a bigger crunch.

There are a couple of special ingredients in this recipe: Vegan Egg by Follow Your Heart (Earth Island Foods in Canada), and Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour. These two ingredients really did make a better vegan fried chicken coating compared to using the usual flax or starch-based vegan egg alternatives and all-purpose wheat-based flour. The flax egg test was ok but not as good as FYH’s Vegan Egg. I haven’t tested other gluten-free flour blends (mostly because I already hate them and am tired of wasting food) so it’s possible that there are others out there that will work. Personally, I’ll stick to this particular flour from Bob’s Red Bill because it works well and doesn’t have any odd flavours.

I find it easiest to do the first dredge first with all the “chicken” pieces. Let them sit on a plate or baking sheet. Toss the bits and smaller pieces into the flour as well and shake off the excess very well. Then grab a handful and squeeze gently. Some of the moisture will come out and help the bits clump together. Let these pieces sit a few minutes before continuing with the vegan egg wash and the final coating of seasoned flour; this will help them set.

Finally, you can heat up oil in a large pot or wok and hold that heat steady at 350°F so you can fry the pieces in small batches. You’ll want five whole minutes for the pieces to turn golden brown and perfectly crispy-crunchy! Let them rest for a few minutes before digging in or saucing up.

rack topped with several pieces of vegan fried chicken

To oven-fry, drizzle or spray oil generously over the breaded vegan chicken pieces that you’ve laid over a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 30 minutes, flipping the pieces at the halfway mark. Oven-fried vegan chicken is still really delicious; it’s crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. However, it doesn’t get the same satisfying flavour and crispness that only comes with frying in oil.

piece of fried vegan chicken in thick red gochugaru sauce

I loved them without anything extra but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for some dipping action. So I also made a thick gochugaru dip and a yogurt-y dill dip (without yogurt). What will you have the best vegan fried chicken with? Let me know in the comments!

Printable recipe for the Best Vegan Fried Chicken (gluten-free)

The Best Vegan Fried Chicken Recipe (gluten-free)
Serves 4
Vegan fried chicken that's beautifully golden brown, well seasoned, crispy and crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside with an amazing meaty texture you must see to believe!

Start this recipe by freezing and thawing 24oz (700g) Traditional or Medium tofu twice. Do not open the package(s). Make sure to freeze the tofu completely until it is solid and then let it thaw completely each time. This can take up to two days. Trust: this gluten-free vegan fried chicken recipe is worth the wait!

Please see my video tutorial on how to make this vegan fried chicken so you get a good idea of how to treat the tofu. It's a simple recipe but you do need to be mindful of some details.

If you really don't want to deep fry, you can oven-fry this recipe. See the directions for more details.

Click here to pin this for later.
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Prep Time
48 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
48 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. neutral frying oil, such as canola
  2. 24oz (700g) traditional or medium tofu (do not use silken tofu)
  3. 1 cup double strength chicken-style broth
seasoned flour
  1. 1 cup gluten-free flour (Bob's Red Mill 1-1 Gluten-free baking flour)
  2. 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 teaspoon onion powder
  5. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  7. 1 cup crispy puffed rice (ie rice crispies)
vegan egg
  1. Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg powder (Earth Island brand in Canada)*
  2. 3/4 cup ice cold water, divided
Freeze and thaw the tofu
  1. Place the whole unopened package or packages of tofu in the freezer and freeze until solid (about 6 hours to overnight). Thaw completely. I do this quickly and safely by thawing on the counter until mostly thawed but still cold (about 4 hours) then letting it thaw the rest of the way in the fridge. Once you believe the tofu is completely thawed, freeze it solid again. Then, take it out of the freezer at least 5 hours before you want to start making your vegan fried chicken. You can hasten the last thaw by letting it sit at room temperature until the water in the package has mostly turned to liquid. Then drain, and let the tofu thaw on clean kitchen towels. Tofu that has been thawed the second time should be consumed within one or two days.
Turn tofu into "chicken"
  1. Press the tofu gently but thoroughly to remove most of the water within. See my video tutorial for a demonstration. You should see some natural layers and cracks where the tofu can break into realistic looking meaty chunks. Using a light touch, divide the tofu into eight to 10 chunks. You will have some bits leftover; save them. Let the tofu rest on a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the seasoned flour and vegan egg wash.
  2. Mix the seasoned flour ingredients together but leave out the rice crips; they will go in later. Separately, mix two tablespoons of vegan egg powder with 1/2 cup of ice cold water. Whisk until smooth. Add the remaining water and whisk. The mixture should resemble thin crepe batter. When these dredging mixtures are done, go back to the tofu.
  3. Prepare a wide bowl with your double strength chicken-style broth. Add the tofu pieces, placing them with layers flat; perpendicular to the table. Press down evenly and let go so the tofu can soak up the broth. Drain away excess broth, if any.
  4. Gently transfer a few pieces of the tofu to the seasoned flour. Cover them gently, then scoop them up with loose fingers, shaking the excess off. Place on a plate or baking sheet. Repeat with all of the tofu chunks. When you only have small pieces and bits left, place those in the seasoned flour again. Toss them to coat evenly and be even more diligent about shaking off excess flour. Grab a small handful of them and squeeze gently to help them clump together. Place them on the plate or baking sheet as well. You will have lots of seasoned flour left in the plate. Add the crispy rice puffs to the seasoned flour. crushing about half with your hands.
  5. Starting with the tofu you coated first, dip the pieces in vegan egg wash and let the excess drip off. Place the vegan-egg-coated pieces into the seasoned flour with rice crisps, cover gently and lightly pat so the rice crisps stick on well. Place the coated piece back on the plate or baking sheet. Repeat with the rest.
Deep-fry
  1. Heat a few inches of oil to 350°F in a wok or large heavy-bottomed pan. Use a frying thermometer to help keep the oil temperature stable between 350°F and 360°. Fry your coated vegan 'chicken' in small batches, turning them occasionally for even cooking, until they are a deep golden colour. They should take 5 whole minutes to cook. If they cook too fast, make sure the temperature has not exceeded 360°F. If they do not cook fast enough, make sure the temperature is hot enough. Temperature is key to creating the perfect crispy yet crunchy crust without too much greasiness. Drain on layers of paper towel or a rack.
Oven-fry
  1. Deep frying creates the best flavour, but you can oven-fry this recipe. Place the coated vegan 'chicken' on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray or drizzle generously with oil to create a crunchy exterior and oven-fried effect. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 30 minutes, flipping the pieces at the 15-minute mark.
Enjoy!
  1. Oven-fried or deep-fried vegan chicken should rest for 5 minutes before digging in. This recipe is best enjoyed fresh. Eat them plain or with your favourite sauces. Try my quick and easy thick gochugaru sauce or instant yogurt-y dip.
Notes
  1. *This vegan egg powder is the best performing egg replacement for this recipe. I don't recommend others as none I've tried have come out as nicely. However, many other vegan egg alternatives will do the job; just not with the same amazing crispy, crunchy results. Feel free to use flax eggs (2 tbs flax meal + 1/2 cup lukewarm water) and keep this in mind.
Mary's Test Kitchen http://www.marystestkitchen.com/
The BEST Vegan Fried Chicken

Showing 40 comments
  • Susan
    Reply

    Looks wonderful Mary! I have a few blocks of tofu in the freezer right now, just need to gather the other ingredients, so I’m practically half way there 😄
    Do you think this would work in an air fryer? I don’t own one yet, but hope to soon.

    • Mary
      Reply

      Thanks, Susan 🙂 Yes, this could work in an air fryer but you’ll have to figure out the timing. I’ve air-fried at 390°F, using just a little oil, but I don’t recall the timing. Just make sure to take them out as soon as the outside is crispy. Otherwise, it’s easy to dry out the inside.

  • Deborah
    Reply

    Do you have gluten free flour?

  • Deborah
    Reply

    Sorry, that should read, do you need to have gluten free flour.

    • Mary
      Reply

      Great question, Deborah. This particular gluten-free flour mix is highly recommended. It’s not just because it’s gf but because it contains a good starch heavy balance which creates a really good texture; crunchy and crispy at the same time. But if you don’t mind it being a bit heavier, you can use about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and a couple tablespoons of cornstarch.

  • Kristi
    Reply

    Where’s the recipe for the vegan chicken broth?

    • Mary
      Reply

      I just use vegan chicken-style broth bouillon cubes or paste.

      • Kristi
        Reply

        Thanks! What brand do you use?

        Can’t wait to try your recipe!! 🙂

        • Mary
          Reply

          Currently, I use mushroom seasoning with a little nutritional yeast sprinkled in. I’ve also used Better than Bouillon no-chicken paste before with good results 🙂

    • Becky
      Reply

      I tried this method as I didn’t have gluten free flour and it worked so perfectly! I changed up the seasonings a bit to try to emulate KFC. It was SO GOOD! My omni boyfriend was so impressed. We tried them on their own and also in a vegan chicken n’ waffles plate. Thank you for sharing your wizardry! 🙂

  • ori
    Reply

    Hey Mary,
    i’ve been following your youtube channel for a while now and I love your videos!
    and this recipe looks amazing!
    I wonder- can I make the “chicken” (double the amount) and then, after i fried it, to freeze it?
    and then just warm it in the oven for a quick lunch?

    • Mary
      Reply

      Great question, Ori. I haven’t tried reheating these from frozen so I’m not too sure. In the past, I’ve done this with deep fried cauliflower: let cool to room temp, spread out on a sheet pan to freeze solid, then transfer to freezer bags. Then I’d bake them at 425°F until they were hot and crispy. Worked perfectly. Please let me know how it goes if you decide to try this. Good luck!

  • Diana
    Reply

    Hi Mary! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! It is very dificult in my country to find firm or medium firm tofu, so I use your recipe to make my own firm tofu ( with lemon as a coagulant) I press it for about 45 minutes…Can I use it to make this? And if I can, how should I freeze it? Thank you again

    • Mary
      Reply

      I’m not sure, Diana. I haven’t tried this recipe with homemade tofu before. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it. If anything, I’m sure you’ll end up with something tasty even if it doesn’t have the same texture. Good luck!

  • Ness
    Reply

    Hey Mary, I’ve been subscribed to you on YouTube for a while, I’m a big fan! I was so excited to get the notification for this recipe as I’ve just recently gone gluten free and am missing seitan. Your food experiments amaze me, thank you so much for this! I can’t wait to try this out. 😀

    • Mary
      Reply

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for the kind words 🙂 Have fun with this!

  • kikind
    Reply

    Tofu is soy based?

    • Mary
      Reply

      Yes! It’s made from soy beans. Check out my post on how to make tofu to see how it’s really made 🙂

      • kikind
        Reply

        This is listed with the soy free section ???? Thanks for the great recipes and youtube demonstrations.

        • Mary
          Reply

          Whoops! Thanks so much for pointing that out, dear. Much appreciated 🙂

  • Maxine
    Reply

    I made this yesterday. It tasted just like fried chicken to me, my mom and my sister. The only thing I found was that it didn’t have enough seasoning. If you are not going to use a dipping sauce it definitely has to be well seasoned. Otherwise, it was crispy and crunchy. That made it so much fun to eat. Going forward I will only prep my tofu in this manner. Thank you for the research and allowing me to use it.

    • Mary
      Reply

      Great to hear! It’s well seasoned enough for me but everyone is different 🙂

  • Benjamin Drews
    Reply

    Hey Mary!

    I tried this recipe out, but unfortunately my tofu didn’t work out like the one in your recipe. Rather than pulling apart in fabulous flakes, it came apart in crumbly bits, so I ended up cutting the tofu into nugget sized chunks with a knife instead.

    Everything else worked out very well, the seasoned flour and the crunchy bits were delicious! I chose to bake my nuggets to cut down on the amount of oil, and the result was still delicious, albeit without the delicious ‘fried’ flavour.

    I made some minor adjustments to the seasonings, adding paprika and old bay seasoning to the flour mixture to add a little more oomph to the taste.

    Both my and my boyfriend really enjoyed this recipe, so I’m going to give it another go with another brand of tofu in hopes that I can get that ‘flakiness’ in my next attempt! 🙂

    • Mary
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience! Did you use medium/traditional tofu? Firm and extra firm tofu tends to get grainy and crumbly.

      • Benjamin Drews
        Reply

        The one I used wasn’t labeled as anything besides the brand name and “SUPER!”, hahaha, but I could guess and say that it was firm/extra firm tofu given that it was grainy and crumbly and it was pretty dense.

        I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the ‘medium/traditional’ label next time I’m at my Asian supermarket.

        • Mary
          Reply

          haha the adventures of shopping! Next time 😉

  • Deborah
    Reply

    I’d love this on my Vegan Pinterest board but can’t figure out how to get it there. Can anyone help please?

  • Maurine Khouri
    Reply

    I just made this exactly as recipe except I used firm tofu instead…it was THE BEST FRIED TOFU I HAVE EVER HAD!! We all kept eating it right off the rack as soon as it came out of the wok….OMG what a great recipe- a new family favourite for sure! Thank you so much for this!

    • Mary
      Reply

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! <3

  • Robin Hartman
    Reply

    This recipe turned out perfectly! I didn’t have the puffs but it was just like the fried chicken I grew up with. I used the drippings to make country gravy. Thank you Mary!!!

    • Mary
      Reply

      Sweet! Nice touch with the country gravy! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Robin <3

  • Deborah
    Reply

    Thank you! I have it pinned now. I shared it with my daughters too. ☺

    • Mary
      Reply

      Fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing <3

  • Oliver
    Reply

    Can we use flax eggs instead of that egg replacer?

    • Mary
      Reply

      Yes, Oliver. But please see the note at the bottom of the printable recipe. 🙂

  • Shelley Reynolds
    Reply

    I made this and it turned out fabulous!! Used some vegan chick’n broth tabs so it was juicy and didnt taste like tofu. It didnt come out quite so layery as yours but im going to try different tofu brands. But it was so satisfying and not heavy and greasy like real chicken is. And it is great cold too! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!! (And it helps me to stay vegan because i grew up loving fried chicken)

  • Christine Ta
    Reply

    I tried to use this method on the House Foods medium firm tofu and instead of getting layers and a meaty-like texture, it all fell apart and was crumbly/grainy :(. I wonder what went wrong because I froze it and defrosted it twice like your directions! It might be the brand because I believe House Food’s tofus are softer than other brands. I will try this again on a different brand though. Thanks for posting this amazing recipe!

  • Rebecca August
    Reply

    I just realized I forgot the nooch! Well, no matter – this is AMAZING! LOVED it! Super easy, too. I will be making this often! <3. The best vegan fried chicken indeed!

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    Best recipie ever. I was hoping someone had mentioned how it turned out after they froze the pieces after the breading? Or reheated then after they had cooked and then frozen?

    I had left overs and refried them again and they were great, but not as chicken layered texture as the first time.

    Thank you Mary for this Amazing recipe. Any other recipe that tries to copy a meet like texture, usually uses vital wheat gluten. This is the best recipe because it is pure tofu, and that’s not junkfood

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