Tupelo Honey Cafe is one of Asheville’s more well-known restaurants, but until this summer, we haven’t had a chance to go there. But when we saw they had Buffalo tofu wings, we knew we had to stop there for lunch. The wings were completely worth it—they weren’t really wings, just tofu cut into sticks and most likely deep-fried. As soon as we finished eating, I starting dissecting the dish in my head, figuring out how I could make it at home.
Deep-frying was out because I have deep-fryer-phobia, but I still wanted to get that chewy, crispy exterior, so I did a few different things to achieve that.
1) I froze the tofu. Freezing tofu changes its texture and makes it chewier.
2) I coated the tofu in cornstarch and pan-fried it in a little oil. Cornstarch is a great trick for making foods crisp without deep-frying. It works on sweet potato fries too!
3) The problem with the crispy cornstarch tofu is that once the tofu wings are tossed in the Buffalo sauce, the exterior gets soggy. The solution to this is to bake the wings until they crisp up again.
Buffalo sauce is typically made with a lot of butter. The butter helps cut the heat of the sauce a little bit. The thought of butter on tofu made me feel slightly queasy; I’ve read recipes using broth instead, but I opted to use melted coconut oil. Don’t worry—the wings don’t taste like coconut oil, but it makes these wings completely vegan.
The wings as I made them are spicy without being too spicy—I favor pleasantly spicy rather than painfully. You can toss the wings in additional sauce after they’ve baked or serve them with more sauce on the side if you prefer spicier wings. I whipped up a cashew-based ranch dressing to serve with the wings, but bottled works too if you want to save some time.
A meatless version of Buffalo wings made with tofu. Ranch Dip recipe adapted from Salad Samurai‘s Back at the Ranch Dressing.
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:35 minutes
Total Time:45 minutes
Yield:2 servings as a main dish, 4 servings as an appetizer
Creamy Ranch Dip
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons white miso
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (I like parsley and dill, but whatever you have on hand works!)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Buffalo Tofu Wings
1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, frozen and thawed, then pressed for at least 30 minutes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Make the ranch dip:
Combine all ingredients through onion powder in the smallest bowl of a food processor or high speed blender. (Note that if you don’t have a high speed blender, you’ll want to soak the cashews for a few hours.) Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides, and add more hot water if needed, a tablespoon at a time. Stir in the herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until the wings are done.
Make the wings:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the tofu into 6 slices, then cut each slice in half lengthwise so you have 12 sticks. Place the tofu sticks in a shallow dish and sprinkle them with cornstarch, salt and pepper. Gently roll them to coat—they’ll break easily, so be careful!
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tofu wings in the skillet and cook them on each side until lightly browned and crispy, 3-5 minutes on each side.
Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the hot sauce and coconut oil until the oil is fully incorporated. Drizzle the sauce onto the tofu and gently toss to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking time, until the tofu is crispy.
Arrange the tofu wings on a plate with celery sticks. Serve with additional hot sauce, if desired, and ranch dressing.