I’ll be honest, vegan drumsticks, 素鸡腿 (sù jī tuǐ) made from tofu skin (yuba) does take time but it’s Doable! If I can do it, you can too!
You may have seen vegan drumsticks available at the store made from soy protein, or wheat gluten, or tofu skin on sugar cane sticks. The latter is what I had growing up. They are always available at vegetarian food stall as one of the options or cooked in sauces. Because this product is really accessible, I never thought of making it at home.
Vegan drumsticks made from tofu skin are usually pricier than those made from soy protein. It’s because of the work and the amount of tofu skin used in each.
Since I love to cook with tofu skin a lot, I figured it’s great to make drumsticks out of it. The ingredients are really simple and the most time-consuming part is molding it into the drumstick.
Vegan Drumsticks key ingredients
1. Tofu skin (yuba) of course! – This can be found in the freezer section at fully stocked vegan food Asian stores. I got mine from Cali Saigon, Richardson. I love to use the frozen version compared to dry as it’s easier to handle and I can control the softness.
2. Seasoning – I used mushroom seasoning but if you have no-chicken cubes, this is the best recipe to include it.
How to make Vegan Drumsticks
Part 1: Prepare the seasoning and sauce
Mix together the tofu skin seasoning in a bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sauce mixture until the sugar has melted. Set them both aside.
Part 2: Prepare the tofu skin
Tofu skin comes in either a circular or half-moon shape. It’s usually pliable with no thawing needed. Cut into 1- to 2-inch wide long strips with scissors.
Place them in a large bowl and add in the water. I used 3 cups of water per 1 lb of tofu skin. Massage the strips with your hands so the strips are covered with water. Alternatively, you can rinse them quickly over running water.
You should see the strips turn from yellow to pale yellow and turn softer.
Take a small pile with your palms and squeeze out the water. Place them in a clean bowl.
Pour in the prepped seasoning mixture. Using your hands again, massage the strips until all is coated with the seasoning.
Part 3: Assemble the drumsticks
Now comes the fun part – molding it! To support the drumsticks, I repurposed my sugar cane sticks from the drink I made the other day. The stick is about 4- to 5-inch long with 1- to 1.5-cm wide. Please check other options below.
Next, divide the tofu strips into 10 equal portions, about 80g per drumsticks. For smaller drumsticks, divide into 12 portions. You don’t want the drumsticks to be too huge as they will take a long time to cook through.
Dip 3/4 of the stick in a thick cornstarch slurry. This will secure the first layer.
Take a tofu strip and start wrapping the stick like how you wrap a mummy. To get the drumstick look, I turn the drumsticks while wrapping and crisscross the layers randomly towards the top.
Tip: Tuck the shorter strips inside and leave the larger perfect strips towards the end. This way you’ll have a nice complete layer to seal the drumsticks.
Cut a 6’X9′ rectangle or larger plastic wrap. Place drumsticks at the center of the rectangle. Fold one side of the wrap over the drumsticks, then overlap it with the next side. Twist both ends several times to secure the wrap like candy.
Transfer the wrapped drumsticks to a small tray and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This allows the tofu skins to set in the wrap.
Part 4: Cook the vegan drumsticks
When ready, remove drumsticks from its wrap and brush them with a layer of prepped sauce. Let them sit for 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the air fryer to 325°F for 2 minutes. Grease the air fryer inner rack and place in the drumsticks, slightly apart. Since my air fryer is small, I could only fit about 3-4 drumsticks in one sitting.
Air fry the drumsticks for 6-8 minutes with a flip in between. To get a darker outer layer, you may brush another layer of sauce before you flip the drumsticks over. Note: it will be slightly saltier, so adjust the taste accordingly.
The drumsticks will look wrinkle once cooled. Serve them with a side of Thai sweet chile sauce.
How to store vegan drumsticks
With all the work that goes into this recipe, I bet you want to make a big batch and store it. The good news is that you can double up the recipe and freeze the drumsticks for later use. To store, simply place them in an airtight container, then freeze for up to 1 month.
Vegan Drumsticks Cooking Tips
1. Tofu skin texture – This product is available at fully stocked Asian grocery stores, in the freezer section. I prefer the frozen version compared to the dried ones as the former is usually a bit more elastic and less fragile. If you can only find the dried ones, please soak them in cold water until soft. They will turn from yellow to pale yellow when ready.
2. Why soak in the water? – There are many ways to rehydrate the tofu skin. You can rinse them over cold water or massage them in water like the steps below. The water needed is just enough to hydrate the skin because too much water will dilute the seasoning. To give you an idea, I used 3 cups of water and had 1.5 cups excess after I squeezed out the skin.
3. Seasoning – This is meant to be chicken drumsticks so you can use no-chicken seasoning in this recipe. Once you’ve made the drumsticks, feel free to brush them with other sauces such spicy buffalo, char siu sauce, or your favorite ones. The possibilities are endless.
4. I can’t find a sugar cane stick – As mentioned above, I repurposed my sugar cane drink. Some alternatives include raw carrot sticks (which will turn softer after cooking), lemongrass stalk (the white part), ice cream sticks, or lotus roots. Please note if you use carrot or lemongrass stalk, they will turn softer after cooking.
Check out my other appetizers
Why You Need these Vegan Drumsticks
- Perfect for make-ahead meals
- A great family gathering activity
- Allium free
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Drumsticks – 素鸡腿
- 1 lb frozen fresh tofu skin yuba
- 3 cups water
- neutral oil for cooking
- 10 sugar cane sticks or use carrot/lemongrass stalk/ice cream stick
- 1 teaspoon mushrooms seasoning or no-chicken seasoning
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon 5-spice powder
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1½ tablespoon soy sauce
- a drizzle of thick caramel sauce (for color) or dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar or 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Mix together the tofu skin seasoning in a bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sauce mixture until the sugar has dissolved. Set them both aside.
- Remove tofu skin from its packaging. (The tofu skin should be pliable and slightly softer than paper).
- Cut into long strips, about 1- to 1.5-inch wide. Place cut strips in a large bowl and add the water. Massage them in water until soft, about 2 minutes. The color will change from yellow to pale yellow. The texture will turn softer and stretchier.
- Take a handful of the strips and squeeze them in between your palms to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a clean bowl and continue until you have finished with all the strips. (Aim to keep them moist but not too wet or they won’t able to absorb the seasoning)
- Now, add the seasoning and massage the strips with your fingers to ensure an even coating.
- Prepare the drumsticks holder: I used sugar cane sticks that I cut into 4- to 5-inch long and about 1cm wide. Alternatively, you can use carrot sticks or lemongrass stalk, or ice cream sticks.
- Make a thick cornstarch slurry – Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water, then stir to combine.
- Next, divide the strips into 10 equal portions, about 80g for one drumstick.
- To mold the drumstick, take a stick and cover 3/4 of the surface with the slurry. Wrap a tofu strip around tightly, overlapping each layer. Continue wrapping around the first layer until all strips are used. To get the drumstick look, I tried to move the drumstick around and crisscross the layers randomly towards the top.
- Place the wrapped drumstick on a 6’X9′ rectangle wrap. Fold one side of the wrap over the drumsticks, then overlap it with the next side. Twist both ends several times to secure the wrap.
- Refrigerate the drumsticks for at least 30 minutes until slightly harden.
- When ready, remove drumsticks from its wrap and brush a layer them with a layer of the prepped sauce. Let them sit for 1-2 minutes
- Meanwhile, preheat the air fryer to 325F for 2 minutes.
- Grease the air fryer inner rack and place in the drumsticks, slightly apart. You may need to cook it in batches.
- Air fry for 6-8 minutes with a flip in between.
- The drumsticks will turn wrinkle once cool. Serve them with a side of Thai sweet chile sauce.
I’ve just finish your homemade tofu skin recipe, it did require a lot of patience like you said but I’m so happy with the results! And I was wondering if I could make the drumsticks with them or you recommend using store bought yuba for this recipe and try something else with the homemade. Thanks for everything you are the best!
I’ve made these a few times now!! AMAZING totally worth the work!! Took a while to find the right tofu and also experimented with the top layer putting a spiced marinated tofu skin. So great!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
Thanks a lot, Catie. I’m so happy you gave this a try. Greatly appreciate it. 🙂 Have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
Would this work in an oven, as I don’t have an airfryer? Thanks!
Yes 👍🏻 at 350 F for 20-30 mins. I read a previous question and she answered it there. I have not made this although I will(very excited). That was my question when I started ready the comments. Hope that helps!
2 questions: could you use this method but leave it the sticks to make other shapes, and so you the no you could batter it dredge them to make more of a Southern Fried Chicken?
Sorry–Google voice was not cooperating!!! Didn’t notice till after I hit ”send”!😂
Hello Lola, that’s a great question! If you like to make southern fried chick’n, you can either not cut the yuba into strips or try my lemon chick’n recipe: https://woonheng.com/vegan-lemon-chicken/
I am amazed! I ever knew vegan drumsticks were readily available 30 years ago! Is it a traditional staple? Like seitan and tofu?
You recipe is incredible, more people need to know about this!!
Thank you for sharing !
Thanks a lot, Carine. We used a lot of yuba in vegetarian/vegan cooking. This was one of the dishes I looked forward to at a shop/restaurant. Hope you give it a try too. Best, WoonHeng
These drumsticks were absolutely fantastic! My hubby and made them together. So much fun. Cooked in the air fryer they’re like eating crispy chicken skin. Without of course eating chicken skin. We’ve made them twice now and they will be a staple!
Many thanks, Andrea. Yours looked amazing! I love it. Thanks a lot for making and sharing your pic with me. 🙂 Best, WoonHeng
I love all of Woon Heng’s recipes, but these are a new favorite! I use yuba in a lot of other recipes, but never knew of the use of them in drumsticks!!! Amazing! Not to mention, cheap and easy to make! I used dried yuba sheets and it still was awesome! Wrapping takes some practice, but it’s super fun and tasty practice! Highly recommend!!!
Thank you so so much, Evan. I’m really happy you tried this recipe, that just made my day. 😉 I’m so happy you liked my recipes too – yay! Hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead. Best, WoonHeng
These look incredible! Thank you for posting the recipe. I’ve purchased the necessary ingredients but realized after the fact that you use an air fryer. Do you have recommendations for cooking in a conventional oven for those who don’t have an air fryer?
Hey there, no worries at all. You can bake them. Once you remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, then place them on a greased baking pan. Brush the sauce on the top, and then bake at 350F. It takes about 20-30 minutes to crisp up (you can also add a layer of thin oil before baking). Thanks!!