Many people have been asking me for vegan recipes to cook in an air-fryer. This “recipe” is more of a guide on how to bread and air-fry pretty much anything, from vegetables to tofu to mock meats. I give you a basic binder recipe, made from chickpea flour, and I talk you through using panko bread crumbs to create a crispy coating. I have created two recipes for you, General Tso’s and Nashville Hot, that showcase how you can use this breading and turn veggies into delicious, healthy, crispy meals.

Basic Chickpea Binder:

  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • ½ to 1 cup of water or plant-based milk
  • A pinch of salt.

In a shallow dish, or pie pan, combine the ingredients. Start with the chickpea flour in the dish, and then slowly add water to incorporate. Continuously stir and work out any lumps using a fork. You’re looking for the consistency of thin pancake batter. You don’t want it super thick, but you do want it to coat the tines of the fork.  Stir in a pinch of salt.

Basic Panko Breading:

  • 1 cup of panko crumbs
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • A pinch of salt.

In a shallow dish, combine the oil and the bread crumbs. Use your hands to make sure the oil is distributed evenly. Toss in a pinch of salt.

How to Bread:

Prepare your vegetables or tofu into pieces the size of your choosing. They could be bitesize, nugget shaped, cubes…. Frozen vegetable work great because they are already tender, and cook quickly (Work with them while they are still frozen). Add your pieces to the chickpea mix and coat completely. Transfer the pieces to the breading mixture. Lightly press the panko onto your pieces, and then remove them to a tray while you complete the rest of the batch.

Air-Frying:

Follow the directions on your particular air fryer. Each brand, model, and style are different, and reach different temperatures affecting the cookin times. For the ones I used (Philips Airfryer and Breville Smart Oven Air), the temperature ranged from about 390 to 400 Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, you’re looking at about 10 to 20 minutes of cooking time. The key is golden brown and crispy. Don’t be afraid to toss them or turn them as the cooke to make sure they are browning evenly. When they’re golden brown and crispy, they’re done.

General Tso’s Variation:

This sauce makes enough to coat about 1 block of super firm or extra firm tofu, cubed, breaded and air fried. Or about one half of a head of cauliflower, pieced, breaded and air fried.

  • 3 tablespoons of liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar, or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup veggie stock or water with enough bouillon to make ¼ cup of broth.
  • Dried chili or chili flakes to taste
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Green onion, thinly sliced

Combine all of the ingredients down to the chili flake in a bowl or measuring cup. Stir until the cornstarch is blended in. Pour the mixture into a pan, on medium heat, and allow to come to a simmer. Stir constantly. Do not walk away. When the sauce has thickened, is bubbling all over, and appears to no longer be cloudy from the cornstarch, add the chili. Stir and allow to bubble for another minute. Turn off the heat. Add your breaded and air fried pieces, toss to combine. Serve with a sprinkling of green onion and sesame seeds.

Nashville Hot Variation:

The seasoning you are about to make is normally mixed with a cup of oil and then poured over the top of the dish. Instead of making an oil, I suggest adding the seasoning to the chickpea batter so that the flavor is on the inside, and you’re saving yourself a ton of calories from the oil. Note: this recipe is for a“hot” food. If you don’t like hot, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  • 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper  (You could go more or less.)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, making sure to fully incorporate and remove any lumps of brown sugar.

For a full recipe of chickpea batter, I would suggest about half of the above seasoning blend. Stir until fully combined.You could add more or less depending on your taste. I do suggest tasting the batter, even though it will be quite off putting due to the raw chickpea flour. But you’re just testing for heat. The nasty flavor will cook away.  

Toss your veggie or tofu pieces in the spiced chickpea batter. Then transfer into the panko mixture. For added flavor, you could add some seasoning mix to the panko. Air fry according to your machine’s directions. Serve hot with cooling ranch dressing.

Vegan Ranch Dressing:

  • 1 cup vegan mayonnaise ( I use Vegenaise)
  • ½ cup plain vegan yogurt or ½ cup soy milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mushroom broth powder (very optional)
  • Black pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a pint sized jar. Screw on the lid and shake until well combined. Add more soy milk if it is too thick. Refrigerate for a couple of hours for best flavor.