Crispy Nashville Hot Tofu Recipe

If you have spent any time in Nashville, no doubt you are familiar with classic Nashville hot chicken dish that has long been a staple in Southern cuisine, celebrated for its bold flavors and spicy kick. This tofu version is a delicious twist on the classic favorite, offering a plant-based alternative without compromising on that spicy flavor profile. Served as a hearty lunch or dinner, crispy Nashville hot tofu promises to satisfy cravings for comfort food with its crispy exterior and tender, flavorful interior.

"I love using tofu in my recipes because it can easily transform to any flavor type," recipe developer Miriam Hahn says. "Tofu itself has a very mild taste, which makes it an excellent base for many different types of cuisines and dishes. Whether it's marinated in soy sauce, spices, or herbs, tofu effectively soaks up these flavors, which enhances its taste when cooked." Even if you don't follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you might just find this Nashville hot tofu to be a new dinnertime favorite in your household.

Gather the ingredients for crispy Nashville hot tofu

To make this recipe, start by picking up some extra firm tofu. This dish is flavor packed so check your cabinet for brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.

For the tofu marinade you'll need pickle juice, nutritional yeast, and liquid smoke. For the dredging stations you'll need soy milk, hot sauce, all-purpose flour, and baking powder. The liquid smoke is a key ingredient to getting that deep, smoky flavor in the tofu — in fact, tofu aside, you should always have liquid smoke in your pantry. Finally, the cooking process comes together with vegetable oil, and you'll want to serve the tofu with white bread and dill pickles.

Step 1: Press the tofu

Press the tofu either by using a tofu press or by placing it into a shallow bowl and putting a flat plate on top, then stacking something heavy on top of the plate. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then discard the water that has collected on the plate.

Step 2: Make the Nashville seasoning

Make the Nashville hot seasoning by combining the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, pepper, and salt.

Step 3: Make the tofu marinade

Make the tofu marinade by combining the pickle juice, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, ¼ cup water, and 1 ½ tablespoons of the Nashville hot seasoning.

Step 4: Slice the tofu

Slice the tofu into 8 slices (crosswise) and place into a container with a lid.

Step 5: Marinate the tofu

Pour the marinade into the container and marinate for 1 hour, shaking a few times.

Step 6: Make the wet dredging mixture

In a shallow bowl, combine the milk with the hot sauce.

Step 7: Make the dry dredging mixture

In another shallow bowl combine the flour, 2 teaspoons of Nashville hot seasoning, and baking powder.

Step 8: Dredge the tofu in both mixtures

Dredge the tofu slices in the milk mixture then in the breading mixture, setting each dredged slice onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Step 9: Add oil to a skillet

Add the oil to a skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 10: Cook the tofu

Place the tofu slices in the skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Work in batches if necessary.

Step 11: Make the spice paste

Add the leftover cooking oil to a glass bowl along with the remaining hot seasoning and stir to form a paste.

Step 12: Spread the paste on the tofu

Spread the seasoned paste over the tofu.

Step 13: Serve the tofu with bread and pickles

Serve the Nashville hot tofu with white bread and pickles.

What type of tofu is best for making Nashville hot tofu?

Extra firm tofu is ideal for making Nashville hot tofu due to its dense and sturdy texture, which holds up exceptionally well when fried. Super firm tofu is an excellent choice for making Nashville hot tofu as well, particularly because it doesn't require pressing. This variety of tofu is even denser than extra firm tofu and contains very little moisture, making it ready to use straight out of the package.

If extra firm and super firm tofu aren't available, firm tofu can also be a good alternative. Although slightly less dense, firm tofu can still withstand frying with good results. It's crucial to press firm tofu adequately to remove excess water, which enhances its ability to crisp up and take on the desired flavors of the seasoning. Softer tofu varieties like silken or soft tofu are not suitable for this dish due to their high moisture content and delicate texture.

Can you bake Nashville hot tofu instead of pan-frying?

You can bake Nashville hot tofu instead of pan-frying it, which is not only a more hands-off option but it requires less oil. To bake Nashville hot tofu, steps 1-8 will remain the same but when the tofu has about 15 minutes left on marinating time, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 F. Then when it's time to cook the tofu, place it on a lined baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the tofu is crispy and golden brown.

You can also cook the tofu in your air fryer. After marinating, arrange the tofu in a single layer in the air fryer basket and cook at 400 F for about 15-20 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through. Baking or air-frying Nashville hot tofu gives it a crunchy texture while preserving the spicy flavor, making it a delicious and less oily option. Of course, if you want that super-crunchy exterior, it's best to stick with the pan-frying method.

Crispy Nashville Hot Tofu Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
Put a vegan twist on classic Nashville hot chicken with this tofu version, which still packs in the same level of flavor and heat.
Prep Time
1.58
hours
Cook Time
8
minutes
Servings
8
Servings
hand grabbing plate with tofu
Total time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 (16-ounce) package extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dill pickle juice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ¾ cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 slices white bread
  • ½ cup sliced dill pickles
Directions
  1. Press the tofu either by using a tofu press or by placing it into a shallow bowl and putting a flat plate on top, then stacking something heavy on top of the plate. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then discard the water that has collected on the plate.
  2. Make the Nashville hot seasoning by combining the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, pepper, and salt.
  3. Make the tofu marinade by combining the pickle juice, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, ¼ cup water, and 1 ½ tablespoons of the Nashville hot seasoning.
  4. Slice the tofu into 8 slices (crosswise) and place into a container with a lid.
  5. Pour the marinade into the container and marinate for 1 hour, shaking a few times.
  6. In a shallow bowl, combine the milk with the hot sauce.
  7. In another shallow bowl combine the flour, 2 teaspoons of Nashville hot seasoning, and baking powder.
  8. Dredge the tofu slices in the milk mixture then in the breading mixture, setting each dredged slice onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  9. Add the oil to a skillet over medium-high heat.
  10. Place the tofu slices in the skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Work in batches if necessary.
  11. Add the leftover cooking oil to a glass bowl along with the remaining hot seasoning and stir to form a paste.
  12. Spread the seasoned paste over the tofu.
  13. Serve the Nashville hot tofu with white bread and pickles.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 328
Total Fat 20.1 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 25.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.8 g
Total Sugars 5.5 g
Sodium 385.1 mg
Protein 15.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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