Today I am so excited to share a vegan, healthier take on a favorite childhood treat of mine – the classic dino bite nuggets. Guys! These baked tofu nuggets are the best! They’re crispy, savory, and perfectly spiced. And obviously much more fun in the shape of a dinosaur. All you need is 10 ingredients and less than an hour!
When I was a kid, I ate so many of the classic Dino Bites. So. Many. Dino. Bites. We all loved them. Lightly breaded, salty, and of course absolutely delicious dipped in ketchup. As a kid I was also known to dip my chicken nuggets in honey. Did anyone else do that or am I just weird?
I don’t know why eating nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs was so fun but it really was. We preferred the dino shaped ones over all other nuggets.
I also really loved bagel bites as a kid so maybe I’ll have to recreate that favorite soon, too. Does anyone else need a vegan bagel bite in their life?!
Basically, I loved all things salty and microwaveable. Not a very hard kid to please.
These baked tofu nuggets are a bit healthier than the classic option, but just as nostalgic! It’s weird how much they reminded me of the regular version.
Tips for Making Your Nuggets
Now, to make these dino bites, you do need some dinosaur shaped cookie cutters. I found a 5 Piece Mini Dinosaur Cookie Cutter set on Amazon for really cheap and it worked perfectly. The size would also be good for other small treats like animal crackers or fondant cut outs.
Of course if you don’t have dino cookie cutters and don’t want to buy them, you can make this recipe by cutting the tofu into bite sized pieces, too! It will work just as well.
You’ll also need 2 blocks of extra firm tofu. For this recipe I don’t recommend using frozen tofu. Usually I am a big fan of using frozen and then thawed tofu (check out my 30 Minute Crispy Peanut Tofu and Sticky Vegan Orange Chicken recipes) as it is a bit chewier and more reminiscent of the texture of real chicken, but this recipe is best with just regular tofu.
I tried it both ways and found that using regular pressed tofu made for the cleanest cut dinosaur shaped nuggets and was easier to work with. The frozen tofu is more prone to breaking when cutting into dinosaur shapes and the texture was not different enough for it to be worth the extra step.
Finally, for this recipe I recommend pressing the tofu for 15 minutes. You might have seen in other recipes of mine that I normally don’t do this. But for this recipe, you want the tofu to be as dry as possible. We do not want soggy nuggets!
Pressing tofu is very easy. Remove it from the package, drain the excess water, wrap it in a clean tea towel or paper towel and then place something heavy on it, like a cast iron skillet or cook book. After 15 minutes, the towel should be pretty wet and the tofu block should be much more dry!
Make the Breading
Classic dino bites have a pretty light, thin breading. I wanted to replicate that here by giving them a very light dredging.
One by one, lightly dip them in the flour/milk mixture, tap off the excess, and then lightly coat them in the panko bread crumb mixture.
This recipe makes enough breading mixture for you to bread the tofu odds and ends left over from creating your dino shaped nuggets as well so there is no waste here!
Or if you prefer, save the leftover tofu scraps and incorporate them in a stir fry or a tofu scramble!
Once all of your tofu nuggets have been breaded, spread them out between two large lined cookie sheets and spray them liberally with cooking spray. This is what will help them crisp up and give them that nice golden color!
Bake for 20 minutes, flipping half way through. Your house should be smelling amazing!
Once ready, serve immediately with ketchup!
How could you not love these?!
So fun and you won’t miss the chicken one bit.
I hope you give these a try. And if you like this kind of recipe, check out my Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with Tahini Ranch. We really love vegan nuggets of any kind over here!
Baked Dinosaur Tofu Nuggets
- 2 (14 ounce) blocks extra firm tofu
- ¾ cup unsweetened plant-based milk - unsweetened
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt - adjust to your salt preference
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- First, press the excess water out of your tofu. Remove tofu from packaging, drain excess water, wrap each tofu block in a clean tea towel or several paper towel sheets and place a heavy object on them, like a cast iron skillet. Allow to press for 15 minutes.
- Next, slice your tofu blocks long ways (think hot dog style, not hamburger) into thirds. You should have 6 tofu slabs total about ½" thick each.
- Using your dinosaur cookie cutters, cut out your dino tofu nuggets. I was able to make about 30 nuggets.
- Next, in a medium sized bowl, add the all purpose flour, ground flaxseed, garlic powder, and plant-based milk. Whisk to combine.
- In another medium sized bowl, add the panko bread crumbs, corn meal, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
- One by one, lightly dredge the tofu nuggets first in the flour/milk mixture, tap off excess, then lightly coat in the bread crumb mixture. There is enough dredging mixture to dredge the leftover tofu odds and ends from cutting out the shapes if you want to. Or save those pieces for a stir fry or tofu scramble.
- Add the breaded nuggets to the lined cookie sheets. Spray each nugget liberally with cooking spray to help them crisp up and brown.
- Bake for 20 minutes, flipping and spraying the nuggets with oil again halfway through.
- Serve immediately with ketchup or dipping sauce of choice.
- These really are best eaten fresh but you can store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. They will not be as crispy.
- Link to the mini dinosaur cookie cutters I used.
- I have not tried freezing these, but I think it would work well. I would first bake them per instructions, allow them to cool completely on cooling rack, then freeze in airtight freezer bag or container. Reheat by baking again for around 11-13 minutes. If you have good luck with this please let me know in the comments.
General note about salt
Please pay attention to the type of salt called for in the recipe (if applicable). Not all salts are made equal and cannot be substituted 1 for 1. If you are substituting table salt for kosher salt, you will need to cut the amount called for in the recipe by at least half.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.