A delicious vegan, crispy tofu "chicken breast" that's dipped in ranch dressing and panko breadcrumbs, then baked to golden-brown perfection.
This healthy plant-based recipe is oil free, dairy free and gluten free. And you won't believe how freezing and marinating tofu can make it taste--and chew--a lot like chicken!
I'm not sure why, but I've been on a bit of a vegan chicken kick lately. From my soy curl chicken and dumplings to a creamy chicken soup I'm still working on.
And who doesn't love a tasty tofu recipe?! From quick and easy no-cook Asian inspired tofu and tofu sofritas to silken tofu pasta sauce or even mayonnaise--this versatile ingredient is a vegan's (and vegetarian's) best friend.
What I love about this baked tofu chicken breast recipe
First, I love how simple this recipe is!
When I was in my 20s--a VERY long time ago--I clipped out a magazine article with several 5-ingredient recipes. A chicken breast, dredged in ranch dressing and bread crumbs, was one of the recipes, and I made it for years--back when I wasn't vegetarian or vegan 🙁 .
It was so easy, I didn't need to even look at the recipe once I'd made it a couple of times.
And the garlicky, herby ranch dressing adds a ton of flavor and helps make the panko breading crispy without oil. You just pop it in the oven on a sheet pan, and it bakes up golden brown.
Second, I love that this vegan chicken recipe is incredibly versatile! Make sure to check out the recipe variations below for ideas on how to mix it up. And I'm sure you'll come up with some of your own.
Of course, making a healthy, whole food, plant-based chicken substitute that's both oil free and gluten free takes a bit more effort. But the result is delicious and SO worth the few extra steps.
How to make tofu taste like chicken
The biggest difference in this tofu chicken recipe is that, in order to get the very best flavor and texture, we're going to freeze (and thaw), then marinate our tofu before we cook with it.
Freezing tofu and marinating it not only helps diminish that bland, tofu taste, but also let's us infuse it with the flavors in our marinade--in this case, 'chickeny' poultry seasoning and ranch dressing
If you're skeptical about the benefits of freezing your tofu, check out this article at Bon Appétit. I did, and I'm sold. And jump to the Pro Tips below for all of the details on how (and why) to freeze your tofu.
- Extra firm tofu - frozen, thawed and drained.
- Oil free ranch dressing - I used the cashew version of my ranch dressing recipe. Or sub your favorite ranch dressing.
- Poultry seasoning
- Panko bread crumbs - I used Ian's Gluten Free.
- Low sodium vegetable broth
- Onion powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Italian seasoning - herb blend without salt
- Fresh parsley - optional, for garnish.
Follow these photos and instructions to help make it great, every time. Please also see the full recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Step 1. Start with a block of extra firm tofu that has been frozen and thawed. Stand the block on its end and cut in half width-wise.
Step 1 (continued). Cut each half in half again lengthwise.
Step 1 (continued). You will end up with 4 blocks -- each about the size of a chicken breast.
Step 2. Use paper towels (or clean kitchen towels) and a heavy object to press the tofu slices. Or use your tofu press if you have one.
Step 3. Whisk together the marinade.
Step 4. Place the tofu pieces and marinade in a shallow dish or Ziplock bag. Thoroughly coat the tofu in the dish or bag, and allow to rest.
Step 5. Dredge a tofu piece in ranch dressing. Remove some of the excess.
Step 5 (continued). Then dredge the piece in bread crumb mixture. Coat thoroughly, including the ends and sides. Repeat with the other pieces.
Step 6. Place the breaded tofu pieces on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake.
Breading technique. Use one hand to dip the tofu in the dressing and the other hand to dredge it in the breadcrumbs. This helps keep things a little less messy, and avoids getting too much dressing in your breadcrumbs.
I used to HATE breading things before I learned this awesome tip!
Freezing tofu. Freezing tofu creates little pockets that will soak up a marinade better than tofu that hasn't been frozen, which actually does not absorb marinade very well. It also gives it a firmer, chewier texture.
You can freeze (and thaw) the tofu right in the package. If you slice it first, it will freeze and thaw more quickly. But I usually put a block or two directly into the freezer right after I buy it, so I always have frozen tofu ready to thaw and use.
You can also refreeze tofu in marinade, so you can skip the marinating step when you want to use it.
Pressing thawed tofu. You can skip this step, but I like to press out the liquid the tofu was packed in before marinating it. This helps it soak up more of the marinade flavor.
I marinate thawed tofu for at least 30 minutes, but you can do it overnight or longer if desired.
Substitutions and variations
- Ranch dressing. You can use any thick creamy dressing with some fat in it. (The fat helps make the panko coating crispy.)
- Breadcrumbs. Any breadcrumbs will work here, including whole wheat. Buy gluten free if needed.
- Herbs and spices. You could mix it up here with good results by using whatever you like.
Variations - Tofu Chicken Recipes
- Buffalo Ranch Chicken Tofu. Add some hot sauce to your ranch dressing for a spicy kick.
- Tofu Chicken Parmesan. Add vegan parmesan cheese to the breading and serve with vegan mozzarella cheese, red pasta sauce and pasta.
- Chicken Fried Tofu. Serve it with your favorite gravy and mashed potatoes for a comfort food favorite.
- Old Bay Crispy Tofu. For a baked fish variation, replace the poultry seasoning with Old Bay seasoning and add lemon juice to the marinade instead of broth.
- Vegan 'Fried' Chicken Sandwich. Slap your soy chicken breast on a bun, slather on extra ranch or BBQ sauce, top it with some slaw, and serve it with a side of creamy potato salad.
How to serve vegan chicken breasts
I love to serve this with a simple, fresh, green salad like arugula and mint with thinly sliced red onion or this wedge salad with ranch dressing.
Or, for a comfort food dinner, add a side of mashed potatoes or cheesy potatoes, and some steamed green beans or mixed veggies.
Dousing your tofu cutlets in some healthy vegan gravy wouldn't be crime, either. 🙂
In this recipe, the fat in the ranch dressing helps make the bread crumbs crispy, without using oil. It's baked rather than fried, for a healthy plant-based tofu chicken recipe.
Tofu--aka fermented soybean curd--has a reputation for being quite boring and bland. It helps to impart flavor into the tofu using a variety of techniques.
For example, freezing and marinating tofu allows it to soak up flavors while giving it a firmer, chewier, more meat-like texture.
Yes! Tofu is a minimally processed, healthy staple in a whole food, plant-based diet. And baking rather than frying in oil is certainly a healthier option.
Store baked tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To freeze, I recommend completing all of the steps and freezing EXCEPT the breading for the best result. However, you can freeze the breaded cooked leftovers, but it won't be as crispy as it will be if you bread, bake and eat.
Happy, whole food plant-based cooking, y'all!
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More whole food, plant-based entrees
Crispy Tofu Chicken Breasts [Vegan]
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu frozen, thawed, drained, sliced into 4 pieces, and pressed for 30 minutes. See notes.
- ½ cup oil free ranch dressing divided into ¼ cups (Plus ½ cup more for dipping, if desired. This recipe uses the cashew version-see notes.) Or sub your favorite ranch dressing.
- ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning divided into ¼ tsps
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon low sodium vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning herb blend without salt
- fresh parsley optional, for garnish
- Prepare the tofu. Freeze the tofu in the package overnight. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator (this can take a day or more) or place in a large bowl of cold water. When thawed, drain the tofu, cut into 4 pieces (see pics in the article above) and press for 30 minutes.
- Make the marinade. Whisk together ¼ cup of ranch dressing, 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth, and ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning.
- Place the tofu pieces and the marinade in a plastic ziplock bag, and gently move around to thoroughly coat the tofu. Allow the tofu to rest in the marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes (or in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.)
- Remove the tofu pieces from the marinade, and gently wipe off any excess liquid from the tofu.
- Get out two small, shallow dishes. Add ¼ cup of ranch dressing to one dish. In the other dish, mix together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
- Using one hand, dredge a tofu piece in the dressing. With the other hand, dredge the tofu piece in the breadcrumbs mixture. Flip it around and press breadcrumbs onto the tofu to make sure it's well covered, including the sides and the ends. Repeat until all of the tofu is breaded.
- Place the tofu evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, carefully flipping the tofu over halfway through the cooking time.
- Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with extra ranch dressing on the side if desired.
This looks easy and delicious! I've been craving tofu and have a block in my freezer so might try this over the weekend. Any suggestions for air frying it?
Thanks, Amber! Unfortunately, while I own an air fryer, I've only used it once. I should probably pull it out and give it another chance (first time was a bit of a disaster), but for now, I can't offer any tips. 🙁 I can say that compared to most tofu recipes, this one bakes quite a long time, so keep that in mind if you attempt to convert.