A healthy alternative to crispy chicken fingers

Despite the fact that I eat a vegan diet, I’ve never been a big fan of tofu, until recently. My fear of the squishy white block only got stronger after my first attempt at making tofu years ago. I baked the tofu in a creamy almond butter sauce and instead of it getting crispy like I hoped, I was left with soft and squishy tofu with a spongy texture. I wasn’t very impressed nor was I motivated to make it again for a long time.

Angela Liddon 0
Tofu breaded crispy fingers

Angela Liddon

Despite the fact that I eat a vegan diet, I’ve never been a big fan of tofu, until recently. My fear of the squishy white block only got stronger after my first attempt at making tofu years ago. I baked the tofu in a creamy almond butter sauce and instead of it getting crispy like I hoped, I was left with soft and squishy tofu with a spongy texture. I wasn’t very impressed nor was I motivated to make it again for a long time.

A few months ago, my friend invited me over for dinner. At first, I was a bit nervous about tofu being on the menu, but since she’s an excellent cook, I knew I was in good hands. Sarah treated me to a sweet and sour tofu with sautéed greens and black rice. A heavenly sweet and sour glaze coated crispy tofu chunks and with my fist bite, I was sold. This meal was all I could think about for days! Soon enough, I was in my own kitchen experimenting with tofu. Without a doubt, I prefer tofu crispy with a nice texture, so I decided to make a meat-free version of crispy, breaded chicken strips, inspired by a cornmeal tofu recipe in the wonderful vegan cookbook, Veganomicon.

My husband has always been a huge fan of deep-fried breaded chicken fingers and fries, so I created this meal to see if he would enjoy it as a healthier alternative. I really didn’t know how this recipe was going to turn out, but it’s now one of our favourite easy meals. The tofu gets crispy in the oven (thanks to the wonderful cornmeal/breadcrumb coating) and the spices and seasonings create a tofu that’s anything but bland. From then on, we’ve made it a couple times a month for an easy dinner that feels much more indulgent than it really is. For all of you tofu skeptics out there, I encourage you to give it another try if you don’t mind a bit of soy in your diet.

Crispy breaded tofu strips
These crispy strips could turn anyone into a believer…even my chicken finger-loving husband. Serve with sweet potato fries and a green salad to round out the meal.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu (preferably organic, non-GMO tofu)
1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp onion powder

1. Press tofu: Gather 4-5 old kitchen towels. Rinse the tofu with water and place a couple kitchen towels on the counter. Wrap the tofu with another kitchen towel, set it on the towels on the counter, and place another towel on top of it. Now place several heavy cookbooks on top of the wrapped tofu, making sure it doesn’t fall off. Let the tofu sit for at least 20-30 minutes to soak out the water. Alternatively, you can use a tofu press if you have one.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and cornstarch in a shallow dish. In another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, and spices. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400F.

3. After draining, slice tofu into 8 strips, lengthwise, depending on how thick you want it. With one hand dip the tofu strip into the milk mixture and then into the cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture. Use other hand to sprinkle dry mixture all over the tofu. Coat both sides entirely and then place on baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the tofu strips.

4. Bake tofu on middle rack at 400F for 20 minutes. Flip the tofu and bake for another 15-20 minutes until crispy. Serve with ketchup and enjoy! I also like to add these into wraps or sandwiches or chopped up over a salad.

Note: The tofu strips will lose their crispness once refrigerated. You can reheat them in the oven to crisp them back up again, if desired.

Angela Liddon is the creator of Oh She Glows — a popular healthy vegan recipe website receiving over 1.6 million page views a month — and one of Chatelaine‘s Women of the Year 2011. Angela’s passion for healthy vegan food is contagious and she’s eager to show others that vegan (and often gluten-free) food can blow your taste buds away.

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