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Vegan Chicken Balls

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Vegan Chicken Balls | These Chinese-inspired vegan chicken balls are a must! They’re soft and moist on the inside and crispy and golden on the outside. Made with wholesome ingredients like tofu, sesame oil and nutritional yeast, these are a nutritious plant-based alternative. Serve with homemade sweet and sour sauce.

Sweet and sour sauce being drizzled over vegan chicken balls.

I love Chinese takeout and usually, I’m fine with rice, veggies, and a spring roll or two. But the one thing I am a bit peeved about not eating is the chicken balls with that silky sweet and sour sauce. So I made this vegan chicken balls recipe and it’s exactly what I needed in my life, not to be dramatic.

These vegan chicken balls are delicious and soft on the inside. They’re flavoured with sesame oil, nutritional yeast and vegan chicken stock powder for a super comforting and cozy taste. Add my homemade sweet and sour sauce in the mix and this combo is mouthwateringly delicious.

The meat replacement in this recipe is grated tofu. I used grated tofu because it is more textured than crumbled tofu. It doesn’t feel mushy when you eat it. And if you freeze and thaw it beforehand, it will have a more meaty texture to it but that’s totally up to you.

Flavouring

To mimic the savoury taste of chicken, I used dried vegan chicken powder, as well as salt, pepper, paprika, and nutritional yeast. This combination of seasonings offers a nice earthy chicken-like taste.

I also add some sesame oil which is often used in Chinese cooking, and some all-purpose flour which binds the tofu so it can be formed into balls.

I buy my vegan chicken powder from Bulk Barn here in Canada, but you can likely find it at any large grocery store or any bulk food store. If you can’t find specific ‘vegan chicken’ powder, you can use veggie stock powder and it will work just as well.

What makes crispy batter?

To make a really crispy batter, I recommend using cornstarch. When you use flour and starch together, the starch molecules prevent gluten development by attaching to water molecules first, before they can bind to glutenin proteins.

In short, this means a crispier coating lol.

A vegan chicken ball cut in half.

Ingredients

More about the ingredients in this recipe. The exact measurements are below.

  • Extra firm tofu: Extra firm tofu is the easiest tofu for deep frying as it doesn’t fall apart easily. It also keeps its form after shredding or grating it. You can find extra firm tofu in your local grocery store.
  • Seasoning for tofu: Salt, pepper, paprika, nutritional yeast, veggie stock powder, and sesame oil. I get my vegan ‘chicken’ stock from Bulk Barn, but large supermarkets likely sell it as well. I use sesame oil to replicate the flavour of your typical Chinese takeout chicken balls.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is added to the shredded tofu to help it stick together so it can be formed into balls.
  • For the batter: All-purpose flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, corn starch, baking powder, and water. The cornstarch makes the batter nice and crispy and the baking powder makes the inside of the batter airy and soft.
  • For the sauce: This is a sweet and sour inspired sauce. Ketchup, white vinegar, brown sugar, soya sauce, and a cornstarch slurry. All of these ingredients add sweet, salty, and sour flavours. The cornstarch slurry is just a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to water and it thickens the sauce.

Instructions

Prep Tips

  • Shred the tofu, you can use a box grater, hand grater, or even a food processor if you have
  • You can make the sweet and sour sauce beforehand and store it in the fridge. It can be reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan on medium heat. Just add a bit of water to thin it out as it will become very thick in the fridge.

To make the sauce:

Add all ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to a pot on medium/high heat. Stir the mixture until combined and bring it to a rapid simmer. It doesn’t need to come to a boil, just a simmer.

Then make the cornstarch slurry, which is 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. Add the slurry to the simmering sauce and whisk it together. Then let the sauce continue to simmer until thick.

Remove from the heat. You can serve the sauce immediately or refrigerate it until needed. Then you can heat it in the microwave or in a saucepan. Just add a bit of water to thin it out as it will become very thick in the fridge.

To make the chicken balls:

First, press the tofu by wrapping it in some paper towel and placing a heavy object, like a cast iron pan, on top. This gets all the excess liquid out and makes it easier to handle. Leave for 10-15 minutes, then unwrap and it’s ready to use.

Using a hand grater or a food processor, shred a block of extra firm tofu. Then add it to a large mixing bowl.

Add the salt, pepper, paprika, nutritional yeast, vegan chicken stock powder, and sesame oil to the tofu. Gently mix to combine.

Grated tofu in a bowl.
Adding spices and ingredients to grated tofu.

Then add the flour and mix again. You should be able to form tofu balls now without them falling apart. The mixture should be slightly sticky.

Divide the tofu into 12 portions and mold each portion into a ball, making sure to squeeze the mixture so it stays together.

In a medium mixing bowl add flour, cornstarch, baking powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and water. Whisk together until fully combined.

Forming the vegan chicken balls.
Whisking batter together.

Now, on medium heat, heat a large cast iron pot with about 4 cups of neutral oil.

Check if your oil is hot by sticking a wooden cooking utensil, such as a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil, touching the bottom of the pot. If tiny bubbles float up from the wood, the oil is hot enough.

If you have a cooking thermometer, 350°F (180°C) is a good temperature for frying.

Coating tofu balls in batter.
Removing the cooked vegan chicken balls from oil.

Place a tofu ball into the batter and, using a fork, lift it out of the batter and let some of the excess drip off. Then gently submerge the tofu ball in the hot oil. Be careful not to burn yourself. This is why I find a long metal fork the most useful.

Repeat the process, adding more tofu balls to the oil. But don’t overcrowd the pot or the temperature of the oil will drop and the tofu balls won’t cook evenly.

Cook each tofu ball for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Make sure to flip them halfway through, so they are evenly coloured and cooked.

Then using chopsticks or deep frying spider scooper, transfer the tofu balls to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat the process for the rest of the tofu.

Serve with rice and the homemade sweet and sour sauce!

A plate of vegan chicken balls and rice.

Tips for Making Tofu Chicken Balls

  • Oil temperature: A quick way to check if your oil is hot enough to start frying is by sticking a wooden chopstick into the oil, touching the bottom of the pot. If tiny bubbles float to the surface from the base of the chopstick, the oil is ready.
  • Frozen tofu: If you prefer a meatier texture to your tofu, freeze it the day before and thaw it an hour or two before making this recipe. Freezing the tofu causes it to expand and then retract when thawed, resulting in a spongier texture.

Substitutions

  • This recipe is vegan.
  • This recipe uses vegan chicken stock powder, which I buy at Bulk Barn. You can purchase vegan chicken stock powder or veggie stock powder at your local supermarket.

What to serve with vegan chicken balls

Serve these vegan chicken balls with rice, or stir fried noodles, to fit with the Chinese cuisine inspired theme.

Don’t skip on the sauce! Make the sweet and sour sauce to serve with the tofu balls, or try a lemon sauce.

For similar tofu recipes, try Panko Tofu or Air Fryer Tofu Nuggets.

Storage

You can store this tofu in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, pop in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway.

The sweet and sour sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat just add a bit of water to thin the sauce, and then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop in a pot.

A plate of vegan chicken balls and rice

FAQ’s

Can you substitute chicken for tofu?

Tofu makes an excellent alternative to chicken as it absorbs flavour very easily. I recommend extra firm tofu as it is sturdier than other types. You can also freeze and thaw the tofu for a meatier texture.

How does freezing affect tofu?

Since tofu is 85% water, freezing it causes it to expand. It then retracts when thawed and tons of little holes are scattered throughout the tofu, resulting in a spongier meat-like texture that absorbs flavour and marinade very easily.

A plate of vegan chicken balls and rice.

Vegan Chicken Balls

5 from 8 votes
Author: Erika Piper
If you're craving Chinese takeout, these vegan Chinese-inspired chicken balls are a must! They're soft and moist on the inside and crispy and golden on the outside. They're served perfectly with rice and my homemade sweet and sour sauce.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3 servings

Equipment

  • 2 mixing bowls
  • 1 large heavy bottom pot

Ingredients
 
 

For the sweet and sour sauce

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water

For the vegan chicken balls

  • 350 grams extra firm tofu
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon vegan chicken stock powder
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil

For the batter

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

For the sweet and sour sauce

  • Add all of the ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to a pot and heat on medium-high heat.
  • Whisk to combine and bring the liquid to an active simmer.
  • Mix the cornstarch and water and add to the sauce.
  • Whisk together and simmer for a couple more minutes until thick.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the vegan chicken balls.

  • Drain the tofu, wrap it in paper towel, and place it under a heavy object bowl or pan. Set aside for 10 minutes to press out the excess moisture.
  • Grate the tofu using a hand grater or food processor.
  • Add the grated tofu, salt, pepper, paprika, utritional yeast, vegan chicken stock powder and sesame oil to a medium sized bowl. Gently mix to combine.
  • Add the flour and mix to combine. The mixture should be slightly wet and sticky. You should be able to form the mixture into balls.
  • Divide the tofu mixture into 12 portions and form each portion into a ball. You can gently squeeze the mixture together to help it stick.
  • Whisk the batter ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  • Heat about 4 cups of neutral oil in a large heavy bottom pan over medium heat. If you have a cooking thermometer, 350 degrees fahrenheit is ideal for deep frying.
  • Once the oil is hot, dip each tofu ball into the batter. Let the excess batter drip off and gently place in the hot oil. Make sure to use a long heat-safe utensil to do this. You can do this in 2 batches, so as not to overcrowd the pot.
  • Cook each tofu ball for 4 minutes per side. They should be golden brown and crispy.
  • Remove the vegan chicken balls from the hot oil using chopsticks or a deep frying spider scooper. Transfer to a dish lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  • Enjoy with rice or noodles and the sweet and sour sauce,

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 4gCalories: 521kcalCarbohydrates: 105gProtein: 17gFat: 4gSodium: 1708mgFiber: 3gSugar: 46g
Tried this recipe?Mention @theveggieyaya or tag #theveggieyaya!

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means I get a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.

Vegan chicken balls in a bowl with rice and a sauce drizzle.

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Vegan chicken balls in a bowl with rice and a sauce drizzle.

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