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Healthy Popcorn Tofu Recipe

Popcorn Tofu — It's Just Like Popcorn Chicken But WAY Healthier

Looking for a healthier way to enjoy a classic chicken recipe? This recipe from Boards & Knives swaps chicken for tofu so you can enjoy these delicious golden nuggets guilt-free.

Crispy, golden nuggets of love. Love nuggets. This is popcorn tofu. This irresistible delicacy came into my life when Ross brought me to our local Wheatsville Co-Op Grocery where they sell popcorn tofu in the deli. The stuff is legendary in this town — it even has it's own Facebook page. We decided it was time to crack the code on this delicious treat and make some of our own.

Of course, the Wheatsville popcorn tofu recipe is a secret, as it should be, but there are a few things I know about it after conducting some research:

  1. It is comprised of tofu that has been frozen and then thawed for an extra chewy texture.
  2. The coating is a wet batter that contains both cornmeal and flour.
  3. Frank's hot sauce is involved, probably mainly in the "buffalo" version, but there are likely a few dashes in the regular version as well.

Based on that research, it begins by pressing and then freezing some good quality, organic, non-GMO tofu. Once frozen, the tofu is thawed, pressed again to remove as much liquid as possible, and then torn into non-uniform chunks.

We concocted our own thick batter, comprised of cornmeal and flour as a base, with plenty of paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder as seasoning, along with some nutritional yeast and grain mustard.

We were extremely tempted to use beer in this batter as the liquid component, and in fact I recommend you experiment with that because it's probably delicious, but we figured we should stick to plain water for this recipe.

The cooking method is a little bit of a variable, depending on your preferences and what equipment you have. We assume the original popcorn tofu is deep fried — we don't have a deep fryer (that would be very dangerous for us), and we don't usually deep fry in our dutch oven anyway because we think using all that oil for one dish is too expensive. If you have access to a fryer, or don't mind frying in a heavy-bottomed pot then feel free to go that route.

After deep frying, the remaining options are pan frying or oven baking.

Certainly, you could bake these in a hot oven and get a satisfactory result. You could also just give these little gems a quick turn in a layer of coconut oil in a cast iron skillet and be done with it. We decided to go for both.

I started by pan frying in a cast iron skillet in small batches. I noticed that the batter was taking longer to set and crisp than I expected, and that once crisp, the tofu inside was still quite soft. So I cranked my oven up to 400°F, and transferred the fully cooked, but still slightly squishy nuggets to the oven to firm up for 15 minutes. Then I reheated my pan oil and gave the tofu one last quick fry in the pan before draining them on paper towels and serving.

The result was exactly what I was looking for — firm and chewy on the inside, and crispy crunchy on the outside.

To make these popcorn tofu nuggets "buffalo" style, simply melt a few tablespoons of Earth Balance in a small bowl, and add as much Frank's hot sauce as you want, stir, then toss the hot tofu in the mixture.

Obvious uses for popcorn tofu include topping a salad, or in a wrap, or just eat them on their own. But since we had some fresh French Bread Baguettes just lying around that day, we took it to the next level and made some popcorn tofu po-boys with garlicky vegenaise. It was . . . divine.

But don't forget to eat a lot of kale with your popcorn tofu! You know, balance and stuff.

Popcorn Tofu

From Boards & Knives

Healthy Popcorn Tofu Recipe

Ingredients

  1. 1 package, extra firm organic tofu
    1/3 cup all purpose flour
    1/4 cup cornmeal
    3/4 cup water
    2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    1 tablespoon grain mustard
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    A few good shakes of Frank's Red Hot (optional)
    Coconut oil (or oil of choice) for frying

Directions

  1. Drain and press tofu for 30 minutes.
  2. Place the tofu in an airtight container and freeze for a few hours or overnight.
  3. Thaw tofu completely, and press again to remove as much liquid as possible.
  4. Tear the tofu into bite-sized chunks.
  5. Combine all batter ingredients in a bowl, whisk to incorporate.
  6. The batter will be very thick.
  7. Toss the tofu into the batter, stirring gently to completely coat.

Cooking options: the tofu can be deep fried, pan fried, baked or a combination.

  • Baking: Heat oven to 450°F and bake until tofu is crisp and golden, turning halfway through.
  • Deep frying: Heat oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer and fry until tofu is crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.
  • Pan frying: Heat a 1/4 inch or so of coconut oil in a cast iron skillet until shimmering, fry tofu in batches, turning tofu over to crisp all sides. Drain on paper towels.
  • Combination: Preheat oven to 400. Heat coconut oil in a cast iron skillet and fry tofu in batches until the batter is set and crisp, tofu will still be soft inside. Transfer tofu to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and briefly fry once again to crisp up the coating again. Drain on paper towels.
Image Source: Boards & Knives
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