Skip The Chicken And Give Tofu The Nashville Hot Treatment

Nashville hot tofu on bread with pickles
Nashville hot tofu on bread with pickles - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

The Nashville hot chicken craze has taken over the nation with local restaurants and national chains adding the super-spiced formula for brining and breading to their fried chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, and whole birds. The Nashville hot treatment doesn't just apply to chicken, and tofu is the perfect plant-based ingredient to prove it.

While oyster mushrooms and cauliflower are often used to imitate chicken, tofu's meaty texture, thickness, and neutral flavor are best equipped to showcase the textural and flavorful characteristics of the Nashville hot treatment. Tofu is sturdy enough to hold its shape through the marinating, dredging, and frying. Its absorption capabilities and neutral flavor mean that tofu will soak up all the spices and juices in the marinade and allow the hot frying oil to infuse it with spicy and aromatic ingredients in the breaded coating. Plus, tofu is the best chicken swap because it is just as hearty and protein-packed.

Tofu is an affordable product sold at any major grocery, and a single tofu block will make several cutlets to stuff into sandwiches or serve in a blue-plate special format with a side of coleslaw and potato wedges.

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Tofu Preparation And Frying Tips

Nashville hot tofu slabs on a wood cutting board
Nashville hot tofu slabs on a wood cutting board - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Nashville hot chicken is so good because it involves an elaborate preparation process, and the same goes for our tofu variation. Tasting Table recipe developer Miriam Hahn provides a detailed blueprint to guide you through the various steps of marinating, dredging, and frying tofu in her crispy Nashville hot tofu recipe. She asserts that the best type of tofu for this recipe is extra firm or super firm tofu because it has the meatiest texture and strongest structure.

Another tip that's integral for instilling flavor and crispness in any tofu recipe is eliminating as much water as possible from the block. Not only do you need to drain the container your tofu comes in, but you also need to press your tofu. The more water you extract from the tofu, the better it will absorb the marinade. Hahn's pickle brine and nutritional yeast-spiked marinade will bring a savory and mouthwateringly tangy flavor and juiciness to the tofu flesh.

For the crispiest breading, add a dash of baking powder to the dry breading ingredients. The baking soda will react with the water content in tofu as it fries to create a crackly, bubbly fried skin. While Hahn pan-fries the breaded tofu in a cast iron pan over the stove, you can also bake tofu in the oven for crispy results with less oily mess. Air-frying tofu will yield the crispiest results, but you'll have to work in smaller batches.

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