Crispy Tofu Sticks Recipe with Homemade BBQ Sauce

Please welcome Stephanie of The Recipe Renovator, who graciously agreed to guest post for me today. I can't wait to try her recipe for these yummy kid-friendly crispy tofu sticks, a healthier alternative to chicken nuggets. I asked her to guest post because I am a huge fan of her blog and I am inspired to think outside the box when it comes to feeding my kids. This recipe might take a bit of fore thought and prep, but in the end I think you might be surprised by how your kids might like it. This is a great recipe for any family who eats vegan, or wants to try something different. 
I was so excited when Michelle asked me to write a guest post for Muffin Tin Mom, which I think is about the cutest blog ever. I don't have kids, but I used to work at a children's museum and taught cholesterol education to kids, so I thought back to successful recipes that are kid-friendly.

This recipe, in my mind, is a "Sunday night" recipe. I grew up in a traditional Lutheran home, where we always had Sunday dinner after church. That meal involved some kind of roast, a starch, side vegetable, and dessert. Everyone was expected, required actually, to attend and sit still for the entire meal.

Sunday nights were different. They were the only time we had unusual food, fun food, and frankly, unbalanced meals. Meals like Welsh rarebit (tomato soup with Velveeta cheese melted into it, poured over toast), Velveeta-stuffed hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough, and fish sticks. Oh, how I loved fish sticks! Sometimes my mom would even buy these little frozen crab cakes, which were absolutely the best treat. Sunday night was toaster oven night, and we could eat when we wanted. These crispy tofu sticks remind me of those fun Sunday night dinners, but are far healthier. And as shown, a much more balanced meal than one of my Sunday night memories.

I had made tofu "hot wings" for the Super Bowl and they were a big hit. I adapted the basic technique, mellowing out the spices on the tofu sticks and creating a less spicy version of my home-made barbecue sauce for dipping.

You could make these in place of fish sticks or chicken nuggets. Tofu is much lower in fat than fish sticks or nuggets (and has no saturated fat), there are no fillers or additives, and these are baked, not fried. You can feel great about feeding these to your family. If you have thought about trying Meatless Monday (one day a week without meat), you could serve these for dinner.

The sauce comes together easily and can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to a month. I've explained the basic tecnique below, and suggest quicker alternatives in the notes at bottom. I hope you enjoy these! If your kids like ranch dressing, you can try my home-made recipe here.

Thanks to my recipe testers Erik, Don, Ruby, Austin, and Kai, who gave these the thumbs up. They are also husband tested and approved! All five kids loved the tofu sticks. Half of the kids liked the barbecue sauce, and half liked the ranch dressing.

Crispy tofu sticks with mild barbecue sauce
Makes 16 sticks and about 1-1/2 cups of sauce

Crispy tofu sticks
  • 16 oz. super-firm tofu
  • 1/2 C. home-made barbecue sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 C. garbanzo bean flour or almond meal
  • 1 T. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 t. smoked salt
  • pinch of white pepper, optional
  • 1/8 t. garlic powder
  • 1/8 t. onion powder

Press the tofu for at least 30 minutes (overnight if possible) using weights or a TofuXpress. If using weights, wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel and place between two cutting boards. Put a heavy frying pan or pile of cookbooks on top. Pressing the tofu removes more water from it, giving it a meatier texture and allowing it to absorb more flavor.

Cut the tofu into 16 sticks, using the short side as your length, and making the pieces as even as possible.

Prick the pieces all over with a fork to help the tofu absorb the marinade. (Kids could help with this!)

Put some of the barbecue sauce in the bottom of your marinating dish (something with a tight-fitting lid), add the tofu sticks, then pour the rest of the sauce over. Cover, shake well, and marinate in the refrigerator, overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a shallow bowl, stirring with a fork. (Kids can do this step too!) Take each piece of tofu and wipe off extra sauce with your fingers. Roll each piece of tofu in the breading, making sure it sticks to each side evenly and isn't too thick.

 It should be a nice even coating. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray, and flip over, making sure all the breading is thoroughly coated with spray. (If it's too thick then you need to add more spray and therefore more oil.)

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip all the pieces over. Lightly spray any dry patches with more cooking spray. Bake another 18-20 minutes, until the sticks are crispy and golden brown. Serve with barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, or ketchup.

Kid-friendly Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

  • 1/4 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. real maple syrup
  • 2 T. Bragg's liquid aminos, wheat-free tamari, or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 C. tomato sauce (made from just tomatoes, no salt added)

Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth.

Some important tips:

There are three specialty ingredients you will need to buy: smoked salt, nutritional yeast, and garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour. If your family can have regular wheat flour, you can use that instead of the bean flour. The bean flour does add a nice heartiness and thickness to the coating, and makes these gluten-free. The nutritional yeast can be found in the bulk foods department at health food stores so you don't have buy a whole package. You can use regular salt, but the smoked salt adds some meaty flavor and I love using it in soups and stews as well.

If your kids can have nuts, you can pulse almonds into meal in the blender and use that instead of the garbanzo bean flour. This makes the coating even crispier and heartier.

If these are a hit, you can mix up the dry coating in bulk and store it in an airtight container, pulling out what you need. (If it includes ground nuts, store it in the fridge.) You can also use this same method to coat firm fish like mahi-mahi or tuna, chicken tenders, or pork strips.

You can use store-bought barbecue sauce or ketchup thinned with water to marinate the tofu. Note that both do have a lot of sugar (high-fructose corn syrup) in them.

**Stephanie Weaver blogs at The Recipe Renovator She has a Master’s degree in Public Health in nutrition education and has been cooking delicious, healthy food for friends and family for more than three decades. She is also a recipe contributor to Meatless Monday,Earth Eats, and Bob’s Red MillGojee, andBlogHer Food


  1. Those look really delicious!!!

  2. We love tofu if it's done the right way, and I can't wait to try this!

  3. i had no idea you were supposed to press the tofu! thanks so much for the tip!

  4. I am happy to answer any and all tofu questions. Just leave a comment on my blog! You don't HAVE to press tofu, but it sure makes it taste better! You wouldn't want to press it if you were using silken tofu in a dessert recipe.