If you’re looking for the best vegan boneless wings with dairy-free buffalo sauce, you’ve found the right recipe, my friend! These vegan chicken wings made with frozen and defrosted tofu are marinated, breaded, and air fried before being tossed in a spicy tangy buffalo sauce and dipped into a vegan blue cheese dip. If you’re a buffalo sauce fan (or love someone who is!), you have to try this game-changing buffalo tofu recipe. Thank you to our friends at Elmhurst® for sponsoring this blog post!
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Full disclosure: I never had buffalo chicken wings (or any chicken wings for that matter) before going vegan. Growing up in Philadelphia – where we host an annual “wing bowl” that gets almost as much excitement as the Eagles in the Super Bowl – that’s a major sin.
But even before going vegan, I just couldn’t eat anything with a bone in it. That bone just reminded me I was eating an animal. (A little foreshadowing for the vegan I am today, I suppose).
But the first time I had vegan buffalo wings, it was from a little beloved bar in South Philly called Triangle Tavern. And once I had that first bite, I fell head over heels in love with buffalo sauce and vegan wings. Now they’re one of my favorite things!
Even the whiff of a little hot sauce and vinegar gets me craving those wings. Since we live in Northeast Philly and not around the corner from my beloved tavern wings, I knew I was going to have to come up with my own recipe.
That’s where this air fryer buffalo tofu recipe comes from! These cute buffalo tofu nuggets meet all my expectations for a fantastic buffalo wing: saucy, tangy, spicy. Tender and meaty with a chewy texture on the inside with a crisp outer edge. I dare say these are going to be your new favorite recipe for game day or movie night. The entire family is sure to love them – ours does!
Why You’ll Love This Vegan Wings Recipe:
- Amazing texture and flavor. We used our beloved “Tofu Freezer Trick” in this recipe to create the meatiest, tenderest, most flavorful tofu wings of all time. Bold statement? Yes, but we have the receipts to back it up! You’ve never eaten tofu like this before.
- They’re air fryer tofu wings. No vicious pot of hot oil to worry about spitting oil everywhere on the stove. And they still taste legit and not like some weird “healthy” version of wings. (But they are.)
- They’re a hit with both vegans and non-vegans alike! Make these buffalo vegan wings for your next football party or tailgate, and watch all your family and friends gush about how surprisingly delicious they are. (Let’s face it. Tofu gets a bad wrap, and this recipe should settle that!)
Ingredients in Vegan Chicken Wings
You’ll need a few plant-based kitchen staples + some common spices to make these incredible vegan buffalo wings!
For the tofu wings, you’ll need:
- Extra firm tofu – Make sure you get the kind that comes in water, not vacuum sealed. This is important for the texture when using the Tofu Freezer Trick.
- Olive oil – This will be the basis of our marinade. I like to use an oil marinade rather than a water-based one because it doesn’t add more water to the tofu (which can negatively affect the texture when cooked).
- Vegan chicken bouillon powder – We use our easy homemade bouillon powder which adds that perfect touch of chickeny flavor!
- Cayenne pepper hot sauce – Frank’s original hot sauce is the classic choice!
- Agave nectar – This is optional and softens the spiciness a bit.
- Lime juice – also optional, adds a fresh taste the the overall final product
- Spices: garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, sea salt, ground black pepper
- Vegan bread crumbs – Check the ingredients, as some contain milk / eggs. We used our homemade vegan Italian bread crumbs!
- Tapioca starch or cornstarch – We find tapioca starch adheres best, but it’s not as easily found and more expensive than the cornstarch version.
- Elmhurst® unsweetened oat, almond, or cashew milk – It is crucial you use an unsweetened and neutral-tasting plant-based milk here. That’s why we recommend Elmhurst’s unsweetened line for this recipe! See more on why it’s so important in the section below.
- Apple cider vinegar – For that classic buffalo tang!
To make the vegan buffalo sauce recipe, you’ll need:
- Cayenne pepper hot sauce – Use the same hot sauce you’re using for the marinade.
- Vegan butter – A key ingredient that differentiates hot sauce from true buffalo sauce!
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce – Optional, adds a dash of savory flavor
- Spices: Granulated garlic, salt
For the vegan blue cheese dip, you’ll need:
- Vegan mayo – Use your favorite store-bought or homemade vegan mayo!
- Apple cider vinegar – For that classic blue cheese tanginess.
- White miso paste – Adds a fermented taste to our blue cheese dressing (without having to do any aging ourselves!)
- Dijon mustard – Rounds out the cheesy tang of the dip!
- Elmhurst® unsweetened plant milk – For thinning the dip as needed. How much you use will depend on the vegan mayo you’re using.
- Spices: onion powder, granulated garlic, sea sat, white pepper
The Best Non Dairy Milk for Savory Cooking
There are a lot of plant-based milks out there – everything from the original soy milk to almond, cashew, oat, and beyond. I see a lot of articles on the internet about which vegan milks are best for cooking. A lot of them go with one overarching kind of milk – like, soy milk or oat milk – without talking about the importance of the brand of milk you’re using.
This is a huge mistake because one soy milk from one brand is not the same as another. And the results of using the wrong plant milk (for savory cooking like this) can be a total nightmare. If you don’t want your vegan buffalo wings to taste like some kind of weird, sweet, vanilla-scented tofu nuggets, read on!
Elmhurst® is our go-to for cooking milks – especially for savory recipes like this. I cannot over stress the importance of this here. You want a milk that is neutral-tasting and entirely unsweetened, and that’s exactly what Elmhurst® provides!
For this recipe, you can use any of Elmhurst’s unsweetened line of milks (clearly marked with that classic emerald green “unsweetened” banner and top!). They have a variety of choices from cashew milk to oat milk to almond milk, even walnut milk!
Here’s why we love Elmhurst®:
- The unsweetened line from Elmhurst® has zero sugars which means you won’t be left with weirdly sweet tofu wings.
- With only 2 ingredients (and only 3 in the oat milk!), there are no added gums or emulsifiers.When it comes to cooking, these ingredients can interfere with the chemistry and leave you with a result that is vastly different from dairy-based versions.
- Also on that point, Elmhurst’s non-dairy milks can be used as a 1:1 sub for milk or cream in savory pastas, soups, sauces, and breading! This is different from other popular plant-milks which may need things added or tweaked to get the same effect as dairy milk (and even then, it may not taste right).
- Elmhurst’s entire line of milks come in shelf-stable packaging in a smaller 32-oz size. This has been a huge game-changer for us when it comes to avoiding food waste! We can buy in bulk (which saves us $$!) and leave them in the pantry until ready to use. Then, we don’t have an entire gallon or half gallon of milk in the fridge that needs to be used, it’s just a manageable size!
And bonus points for this recipe: Elmhurst® makes its milks in Buffalo, NY – home of the first buffalo sauce! Can it get any more perfect than that?!
If you don’t have or can’t tolerate one of the above ingredients, here are our best substitution tips. Remember though, substituting any of the ingredients may lead to a varied degree of difference in the final product. Let us know in the comments if you try any subs and how they work out for you!
For the bouillon powder: You can grind up 1 vegan-friendly chicken bouillon cube. Or cut the amount in half and use your favorite store-bought bouillon paste.
For the cayenne pepper hot sauce: This is classic hot sauce for buffalo sauce, but feel free to experiment with your favorite sauces!
For the olive oil: You can sub avocado oil, sunflower oil, or safflower oil in this recipe. I would not recommend using coconut oil because it hardens when chilled. I would also not recommend substituting water or broth for the oil because this will add excess water in the tofu and throw the texture off. Check out more about this in our Tofu Freezer Trick guide.
For the bread crumbs: Feel free to use gluten-free bread crumbs here. I’ve also seen people make bread crumbs out of dried chickpeas or quinoa which could be a fun twist for gluten-free eaters. This would take a little testing though!
For the extra firm tofu:
We have not tried this recipe with other tofu textures. Firm tofu could work, but there’s more water in it which will make it a little more porous than extra firm. Super firm tofu could also work, but we have not tried this with the freezer trick yet. Chickpea tofu may work for a soy-free version, but we have not tested that either.
For the vegan blue cheese dip:
Feel free to sub your favorite store-bought vegan blue cheese or ranch dressing for this recipe to speed things up a little. If you don’t like blue cheese, try our vegan buttermilk ranch dip!
How to Make Vegan Hot Wings
These vegan hot wings take a little preparation, but they are oh so worth it, especially when you really want to impress a crowd!
Step 1: Prep the tofu.
We have a full post on how to use the Tofu Freezer Trick and the science behind it, but here’s a brief description of the steps!
First, freeze and defrost your tofu. Place the whole package of extra firm tofu (do not open it) in the freezer overnight. In the morning, remove it from the freezer and place tofu in a shallow dish on your counter to thaw. This will take several hours.
When the tofu is thawed, squeeze it gently over the sink and press it with a tofu press or on paper towels to remove any excess liquid. The block of tofu will be tougher and a little spongey. That’s a good thing and exactly what we want!
Step 2: Marinate the tofu.
Place your tofu on a cutting board and use your hands to gently rip wing-shaped pieces off of it.
Alternatively, you can also cut tofu into tofu strips or sticks, triangles, or flat rectangles for other shape options. We have experimented with all these cuts of tofu and they all work pretty much the same, save for some minor adjustments in cook time.
We liked the way the ripped pieces looked the best, but all of the ways we tried were delicious! You can also tear the tofu block into bite-sized pieces for delicious buffalo “popcorn” tofu bites.
In a medium bowl or large bowl, mix all the ingredients for your tofu marinade and pour it over your tofu wings, making sure they are all nice and coated. Place them in your fridge for at least an hour or overnight for best flavor results!
You can even freeze these again in the marinade for an even deeper flavor.
Step 3: Bread the tofu.
We are using a basket-style air fryer for this recipe, so if yours is a different style you may need to adjust some of these instructions or cooking time. It should work just fine in any air fryer though!
Remove the tofu from the marinade and place it on a plate or cutting board or the lid of the container.
Order these dishes from left to right like this: the tofu pieces, starch, marinade / milk mixture, bread crumbs.
Dip each tofu wing in the starch, then in the marinade/plant milk mix, then in the bread crumb mixture. Be sure to coat the tofu completely during each phase. Repeat for each wing.
Step 4: Air fry the tofu wings
Add half of the tofu wings to your air fryer basket, just filling the bottom in an even layer. If they’re stacked on top of each other, save those for the next round of cooking.
Air fry for 10 minutes at 350F. Stop to shake gently, just enough to loosen them from the bottom of the basket and air fry another 10 minutes. Then, repeat that gentle shake and cook for another 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Step 5: Make the vegan blue cheese dip.
Step 6: Make the buffalo sauce.
Combine hot sauce, vegan butter, vinegar, vegan Worcestershire, cayenne, garlic powder, and salt in a pot over medium heat. Stir until the vegan butter is fully melted. Then, bring to a low simmer while stirring with a rubber spatula. As soon as the liquid begins to bubble on the sides of the pot, remove from heat, stir with the spatula, and set aside for use.
Step 7: Bring it all together!
Add the cooked tofu wings to a large mixing bowl and drizzle on half the vegan buffalo sauce. Toss to coat all the wings evenly. Then, drizzle the remaining Buffalo sauce over the tofu and continue tossing to coat.
How to Serve Air Fryer Tofu Wings
Serve these air fried crispy tofu wings immediately on a platter with vegan blue cheese dip, celery sticks, and carrots.
You can also turn these incredible wings into a buffalo tofu sandwich or buffalo tofu salad for a buffalo-lover’s meal prep dreams.
How to Store This Buffalo Tofu Recipe
In the fridge: Store leftover buffalo tofu wings in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
In the freezer: We have not yet tried freezing this particular recipe (mostly because we eat them so quickly!), but I think they would do great in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Let the wings cool fully before freezing. If you’re making them specifically to freeze, I would cook them fully but wait to toss in the vegan buffalo sauce until time to serve! Do not freeze the vegan blue cheese dip.
Reheating: We like to reheat leftover vegan hot wings in the air fryer at 350° or oven 10-15 minutes until crispy again. Toss in more buffalo sauce after reheating for best (and sauciest) results!
Air Fryer Tofu Wings FAQ
Have more air fryer tofu / vegan wing questions? Here are some of the most common questions we get about these subjects and our best answers!
It sure does! Especially when properly dredged in a nice coating of breadcrumbs!
To get a really nice crispy texture to the coating, it takes about 25-30 minutes or so at 350°.
Vegan wings can be made from a variety of items including but not limited to seitan, jackfruit, or like ours, tofu.
I’ve seen everything from sugar sticks to cauliflower stems to pretzel sticks and rods used as “bones” in vegan wings. There are also inedible, reusable drumette “bones” available on the internet made by Faux Bones.
Our vegan wings are made from tofu using our tofu freezer trick for a denser, meatier texture. I’ve also seen vegan wings made using seitan or jackfruit, or a combination.
More Vegan Tofu Recipes
I really hope you’ll make these vegan tofu wings for yourself, your partner, or an entire party of friends and family! And when you do, I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks – our friends at Elmhurst® too!
When you do make this tofu buffalo wings recipe, let us know by leaving a star rating and review below. This will help more people find this fun vegan recipe, and we just love celebrating your kitchen wins with you!
Now, get that tofu in the freezer, my friend. You’re not going to want to wait any longer to try these vegan wings!
For the wings/marinade:
- 1 (16-oz) package extra firm tofu
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp veggie bouillon powder
- 2 Tbsp cayenne pepper hot sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar
- 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (optional)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
For the breading:
- 3/4 cup vegan seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt (Optional, if you're not using seasoned bread crumbs)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup tapioca starch or cornstarch
- 1/4 cup Elmhurst® unsweetened cashew milk*
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
For the vegan buffalo sauce:
- 1/3 cup cayenne pepper hot sauce
- 2.5 Tbsp vegan butter
- 1/2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
For the vegan blue cheese dip:
- First, prep the tofu: Freeze and defrost your tofu. Place the whole container (do not open it) in the freezer overnight. In the morning, remove it from the freezer and set it in a shallow dish on your counter to thaw. This will take several hours. When the tofu is thawed, squeeze it gently over the sink and press it with a tofu press or on paper towels to remove any excess liquid.
- Marinate the tofu: Place your tofu on a cutting board and use your hands to gently rip wing-shaped pieces off of it. Alternatively, you can also slice the tofu into sticks, triangles, or flat rectangles for other shape options. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and pour this over your tofu wings, making sure they are all nice and coated. Place them in your fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
- Set up the breading station: Preheat the air fryer to 350F and spray the basket gently with oil. Remove the tofu from the marinade and place it on a plate or cutting board or the lid of the container. To the container where the tofu was marinating, add the Elmhurst® unsweetened cashew milk and apple cider vinegar. Swish the mixture gently to combine. Get out two shallow bowls or pie plates. To one, add the starch. To the other, add the breadcrumbs, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix with a whisk.
- Bread the tofu wings: Dip each tofu wing in the starch, then in the marinade/plant milk mix, then in the bread crumb mixture. Be sure to coat the tofu completely during each phase. Repeat for each wing.
- Air fry the vegan wings: Add tofu wings to the air fryer basket, enough to fill the bottom but not so many that they’re on top of each other. We do it in 2 rounds. Air fry for 10 minutes at 350F. Stop to shake gently, just enough to loosen the pieces from the bottom of the basket, and air fry another 10 minutes. Then, stop to shake gently again and air fry for a final 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Make the vegan blue cheese dip: While that cooks, make the blue cheese dip by blending all ingredients in a small blender or food processor until totally combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use!
- Make vegan buffalo sauce: Combine hot sauce, vegan butter, vinegar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and salt in a pot over medium heat. Stir until the vegan butter is fully melted. Then, bring to a simmer while stirring with a rubber spatula. As soon as the liquid begins to bubble on the sides of the pot, remove from heat, stir with the spatula, and set aside for use.
- Bring it together: Add the cooked tofu wings to a large mixing bowl and drizzle on half the vegan buffalo sauce. Toss to coat all the wings evenly. Then, drizzle the remaining Buffalo sauce over the tofu and continue tossing to coat.
- To serve: Serve these air fried tofu wings immediately on a platter with vegan blue cheese dip, celery sticks, and carrots.
Serving Size:1/4 the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 726Total Fat: 47gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 42gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1927mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 6gSugar: 10gProtein: 9g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.
Watch our Buffalo Tofu Nuggets web story!