By Vegan Buffalo “Chicken,” I really mean this flaky tofu, marinated in strong vegan chicken-y flavours, breaded and baked to golden loveliness and coated in rich, buttery-tasting vegan Buffalo sauce. This recipe for extremely-chicken-like buffalo tofu is made for one. Don’t feel the need to share if you don’t want to. This Vegan Buffalo “Chicken” is glorious and it’s made just for you!
More vegan “chicken” recipes using the twice-frozen tofu method:
Video tutorial for Vegan Buffalo “Chicken” for One
skip to 8:00 for this recipe
What is vegan tofu “chicken”?
Flaky vegan tofu “chicken” doesn’t just look like chicken. The layers that resemble white meat also allow you to press it easily while staying tender. It no longer tastes like tofu because all the water has been pressed out of it and replaced with strong broth that’s made to taste like chicken broth.
Creating this vegan tofu “chicken” starts with medium firm tofu which is much more delicate than firm or extra firm tofu. You may find it labelled as medium or traditional tofu. Since it’s more common in Chinese cuisine, you’ll find it more often in Chinese grocery stores or at a supermarket where there are many Chinese customers.
What this is NOT: Commonly in vegetarian/vegan cooking, freezing tofu is done to make tofu firmer, denser and meatier. Sometimes I do this for recipes like Fennel and Sage Baked Tofu and Gogugaru Tofu Subs. These types of recipes start with extra firm tofu because the goal is to have a meaty, chewy texture. That’s not what we’re going for here.
Medium firm tofu starts out smooth and delicate but after two rounds of freezing and thawing, the texture changes. The water in the tofu creates sheets of ice when frozen, separating the block of tofu into thin flat layers. When the block is thawed, that ice turns back into water which could be squeezed out. However, I find at this stage, the tofu is too delicate and the block doesn’t press very well. The layers break apart into little pieces. Don’t ask me why, but a second round of freezing and thawing (without ever opening the package of tofu) makes the tofu more stable and easier to press. At this stage, the tofu is easy to press and the water just gushes out of it like a sponge.
Careful though, not all brands of tofu work this way. I’m still investigating the differences and why some medium firm tofu behaves this way and why some do not. When I have more answers, I’ll share them with you.
Recommended brands/varieties of tofu for making flaky vegan tofu “chicken”:
- Sunrise Soy Foods | Medium Firm
- Sunrise Soy Foods | Traditional
- Superior Tofu | Medium Firm
- T&T | Medium Firm
Brands that readers/viewers have reported success with:
- House Foods | Medium Firm – works only some of the time. Sometimes the flaky texture results, sometimes it’s more of a crumbly-sponge texture
- House Foods | Soft – not visually verified by me
It bears repeating, firm and extra firm tofu does NOT result in flaky layers after freezing. Silken tofu also does NOT work; it turns to mush. If you cannot find medium firm tofu near you or the brands you’ve tried do not work, you can try soft tofu. Soft tofu packed in water can be frozen and thawed twice in its unopened package to create the layered effect. However, in my tests, the layers of soft tofu mashed together and did not hold up well. Not as much water was released from them so they could not soak up as much marinade. So the final result was not as flavourful, held on to more tofu-flavour, and the texture was kind of mushy; not great. Of course, different brands may vary in their water content, ingredients, and processing method so don’t be afraid to experiment for yourself. If you do, I’d love to hear about it!
OMG STOP Can I just use firm/whatever tofu I have?
Hey, there are no rules. While you won’t get the same textural result using other types of tofu, you can still create a really delicious version using firm or extra firm tofu. For firm or extra firm tofu, you can freeze and thaw just once to make it easier to press out the water. Press between a couple cutting boards (or use your tofu press) to squeeze out the water as best you can, rip the tofu into pieces, then squeeze them as best you can in some clean kitchen towels so they get as dry as possible. Then continue with this recipe. The flavour on the inside of the tofu may be more tofu-ish than what I’ve made here, but it can still be really tasty.
Get on with the Vegan Buffalo Chicken Recipe, will ya?
OK, OK — so you have your 10z /454g package of twice thawed tofu all drained and dried as much as possible. Preheat your oven to 425¯F. If you’re using an air-fryer you can skip the preheating step. Now, mix up some double strength vegan “chicken” broth. Use any kind you enjoy or try my DIY Vegan Chicken Broth Powder. I usually just use a vegan bouillon cube/powder/paste. Use 1 teaspoon of that and mix with 1/2 cup of water until totally dissolved. Soak the tofu in the double strength “chicken” broth. If your tofu is dry enough, it will soak up all the liquid. If not, just drain out the excess broth (maybe save it for another time) and make a mental note to dry the tofu even more for your next batch.
Next, mix up 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free is fine), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons of panko (or other breadcrumbs or crunchy cereal) and a small handful of fried onions for extra flavour. Crush the fried onions in your hands as you mix all the dry ingredients. Then toss the tofu pieces in the mixture until they are all lightly coated. The tofu will be delicate and sopping with liquid so handle gently and don’t squeeze them. Shake off excess flour before laying the tofu out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If some of the tofu has crumbled into little bits, just a couple tablespoon’s worth and place them together on the baking sheet in clumps. They will stick together as they bake.
Bake the tofu for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges of the tofu are starting to brown. If you’re using an airfryer, check on the tofu at 10 minutes. Then take out the baking sheet and spray the tofu with a light mist of oil or brush a thin layer on. The oil will help the tofu achieve a really nice golden colour. Flip the pieces and spray/brush the other side as well. Then return the tray to your oven and bake until the tofu is golden brown; about 14 minute (less if you’re using an airfryer).
While your vegan “chicken” is baking, mix up some Buffalo sauce using 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted 1/4 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot) 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon onion powder. Just whisk everything all together and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
Finally, toss the baked tofu with the sauce and you have Vegan Buffalo “Chicken”! My favourite way to have this is with some celery sticks or other fresh veggies and some vegan ranch sauce on the side.
Printable recipe for Vegan Buffalo “Chicken”
Start this recipe by freezing and thawing 16oz (454g) Traditional or Medium Firm tofu twice. *See the notes for brands that have been tested and which have been reported NOT to work* 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 a few days days to complete.
Please see my video tutorial (skip to 8:10) on how to make this Vegan Buffalo 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.
- 16oz (454g) medium firm tofu, frozen twice (DO NOT USE FIRM/EXTRA FIRM/SILKEN - see note for tested brands)
- 1/2 cup double strength vegan "chicken" broth
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (any kind)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons panko
- small handful fried onions
- 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 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 chicken. You can hasten the last thaw by defrosting in the microwave like I did in this video or use another fast-thaw method. Then drain, and let the tofu sit on clean kitchen towels. Tofu that has been thawed the second time should be consumed within one or two days.
- 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. Pat them gently with the towel to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Prepare a wide bowl with your double strength chicken-style broth. Add the tofu pieces. Press down gently, then let go so the tofu can soak up the broth. All of the broth will be soaked up if your tofu was dry enough. If not, just drain away excess.
- Mix the seasoned flour ingredients Toss the tofu in the flour and shake off any excess. Place the floured tofu on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- When you only have small pieces and bits left, place those in the seasoned flour. Toss them to coat evenly and be even more diligent about shaking off excess flour. Place them together in clumps; they will stick together as they bake.
- In a preheated 425°F oven, bake the tofu for about 20 minutes or until the edges are starting to turn brown. If you are air-frying, you can use the same temperature and check on the vegan "chicken" early - about 10 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet and lightly spray/brush the tofu with oil. Flip and spray/brush the other side. Return to the oven about 14 minutes or until the tofu is golden brown all over.If you're using an air-fryer, check them at 6 minutes.
- While your vegan "chicken" is baking, make the sauce by whisking together all the sauce ingredients.
- When the vegan "chicken" is done baking, toss it with the vegan buffalo sauce quickly. Serve immediately with celery or other fresh vegetables and vegan ranch sauce. Enjoy!
- This recipe was tested with Superior Tofu, T&T brand, and Sunrise Tofu; all worked when using medium firm or traditional. Not firm, not extra firm. Firm + extra firm will still taste ok but you can't call it "the best!" They don't develop the layered effect and retain more water. The soft or smooth (not silken) versions may develop the layered effect as well but are just a tad softer. But it's not as good as using medium firm or traditional. The soft/smooth ones taste more tofu-ish.
- I'm in western Canada and have no access to other brands. Please let me know in the comments if you try other brands and how it worked out for you. TIA! 🙂
- FIRM AND EXTRA FIRM DO NOT CREATE LAYERS. This bears repeating 🙂
- Brands that DON'T work in Medium (try going one step softer)
- House brand DOES NOT WORK CONSISTENTLY with medium firm. I've seen photos from readers who have tried with this brand and it works only sometimes. IE, sometimes it comes out spongy but other times it comes out flaky. You can also try soft; some people have reported that House Brand in SOFT works.
- Sprouts Brand DOES NOT WORK with medium.
- Stay tuned for a DIY medium firm tofu that will create those layers for you if you don't live in a place where the ideal tofu is available.