Vegan Chicken Francese (Tofu Francese)

This recipe for Vegan Chicken Francese is made with bite-sized pieces of delicious vegan buttermilk battered tofu. The tofu is lightly fried and then tossed in a tart but creamy vegan lemon-butter sauce.

A pan of vegan chicken francese with a lemony butter sauce and a parsley garnish. Deliciously browned tofu bites are soaking up the lemony sauce.

Growing up, one of my favorite recipes from my mom was her chicken francese. If you’re not familiar with chicken francese, it’s chicken cutlets that are dredged in flour and fried in a lemon-butter sauce.

This recipe for Vegan Chicken Francese uses extra-firm tofu as a substitute for the chicken in my mom’s recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make and comes together quick.

This recipe was so much fun to create because of how close it came to the flavors I was looking for. Francese sauce is a buttery lemon sauce and can be found on the menu at most Italian restaurants. This vegan chicken francese recipe is made with extra-firm tofu. It’s surprisingly easy to make and comes together quick.

When Life Gives You Lemons….

If you like tart lemon sauce then this is the perfect recipe for you! I personally LOVE lemon flavor.

Disclaimer: this recipe is SUPER tart and lemony – I love it! but if you’re not sure, you may want to start with a bit less lemon and add more to your liking.

Delicious browned tofu bites, dredged in flour and pan-fried, are resting in a lemony-butter sauce to make Vegan Chicken Francese.

The Best Way to Press Tofu for this Vegan Tofu Francese Recipe:

Make sure to use extra-firm tofu and press out as much moisture as you can.

This allows the tofu to stay together and not crumble as easily when you’re marinating it or frying it. We use this tofu press by Tofuture to make the process a little bit easier.

You can also wrap the tofu block in paper towels and balance a few books or pans on top.

You’ll need to change the paper towels a few times to make sure most of the moisture gets absorbed.

Pan-frying Your Vegan Chicken Francese in Oil – Hot Tips 😉

When pan-frying the tofu, make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the tofu. You want to prevent the tofu from sticking and sometimes it may stick if the pan isn’t hot enough.

Always use an oil that has a high smoke point (above 375°F) such as vegetable oil, refined coconut oil, refined light olive oil, or refined avocado oil.

Try one piece first to see if the oil is a good temperature, you also want to be sure it doesn’t burn. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be frying up tofu like there’s no tomorrow.

Vegan chicken francese on a fork with spaghetti twirled around it.  Plate with spaghetti and tofu francese on it below.

Can I bake the tofu instead?

You can — but it won’t be quite as delicious. We did a test batch of tofu baked instead of fried, but we ultimately decided the fried version was better.

The tofu browns a lot nicer when fried, and there is more flavor. However, you can still bake the tofu if that’s what you prefer.

We baked the tofu at 400°F (200°C) for around 20-25 minutes (until they were firm and crispy). Add parchment paper to ensure they don’t stick to the baking sheet.

Close up photo of crispy fried tofu.

How to Serve Vegan Chicken Francese:

White or Brown Rice – Growing up, my mom would always serve this dish with white rice. The rice absorbs the lemony sauce creating something almost like a risotto.

Pasta – And of course another amazing pair for this Tofu Francese recipe is PASTA! I love to use a spaghetti with this dish, but I’m farfalle, orrechiette, or penne would go very well too.

Roasted Asparagus – Asparagus always goes well with lemon. Roast some in your oven and serve the vegan tofu francese together. Another good roasted veggie to use here is brussels sprouts.

Don’t forget the garnish! Garnish with fresh parsley, cracked black pepper, and vegan parmesan cheese.

An overhead view of two white bowls on a marble table. One bowl rests on top of a linen cloth. Inside the bowl is Vegan Chicken Francese made of browned tofu bites and a lemony-butter sauce. Also in the bowl is garlicky spaghetti with a garnish of vegan parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.
4.43 from 7 votes
Vegan Chicken Francese
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

Vegan Chicken Francese. Bite-sized pieces of delicious vegan buttermilk battered tofu, lightly fried and tossed in a creamy and tart lemon-butter sauce.

Course: Dinner, Entree, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: lemon, tofu, tofu francese, vegan, vegan italian recipes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories per Serving: 291 kcal
Ingredients
  • 14 oz extra-firm tofu pressed
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lemon-butter sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1.25 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
Instructions
  1. Press the moisture out of the tofu block with a tofu press for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together almond milk and lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes to create a buttermilk.

  2. Drain and slice tofu into one-inch chunks. Add tofu chunks to buttermilk and gently coat. Marinade for 10 minutes.

  3. In a large bowl, mix flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Drain excess buttermilk from the tofu. Add tofu into flour mixture and stir gently to coat.

  4. In a large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add tofu chunks in one layer without overcrowding the pan. Gently fry and turn each side of the tofu chunks until browned around each side. Line a plate with paper towels and transfer each tofu piece once ready to absorb any excess oil.

To make the lemon-butter sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Mince 3 cloves garlic and add to oil, sautéing until browned. Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir for a minute. Add vegetable broth and whisk to combine, breaking up any chunky flour pieces.

  2. Add lemon juice and whisk to combine. Turn up the heat until the sauce starts bubbling and comes to a low boil. Stir for about 2 minutes, until the sauce starts getting thicker.

  3. Remove saucepan from heat and add 2 tablespoons vegan butter. Mix to melt the butter. Add tofu chunks into the sauce to warm up before serving. Serve over pasta or rice and garnish with fresh parsley.

Recipe Notes
  • This recipe is super tart and lemony, I love it! If you’re not sure, reduce the amount of lemon and add more to your liking.
  • If your tofu is sticking to the pan, it may be due to several reasons. The most common reason is that your pan might not be hot enough, or the oil isn’t hot enough. Also, make sure to use vegetable oil, refined coconut oil, or another oil with a high smoke point. Another culprit could be that you didn’t use the right pan – use a nonstick pan for best results.

Nutrition Facts
Vegan Chicken Francese
Amount Per Serving (3.5 oz)
Calories 291 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Sodium 568mg25%
Potassium 214mg6%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 425IU9%
Vitamin C 15.4mg19%
Calcium 54mg5%
Iron 1.9mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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5 Comments

  1. Reply

    Linda McClintock

    August 23, 2019

    5 stars
    I LOVE your recipes… Thank you for brighening up my day and for helping me meal plan each evening x

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      August 27, 2019

      So great to hear that Linda! Thank you, it means a lot.

  2. Reply

    Sarah

    July 30, 2020

    5 stars
    We love this recipe so much that we have it about twice a month. My 5 year old eats it like a champ. To make this recipe even better, we have steamed artichokes as a side. We also like to put just a bit more lemon juice than what it calls for.

    I put the spaghetti in a shallow large bowl, place the tofu nuggets and put the artichoke leaves like a flower that is opening and put sauce over everything.

    • Reply

      pasta-based

      August 7, 2020

      We are so happy you and your kiddo love this recipe! Sometimes we use more lemon too when we want that extra zing 😛

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. Reply

    Kristina

    January 21, 2021

    5 stars
    Egads! I made this with some homemade seitan chicken cutlets and it was PHENOMENAL! Better than Nonnie’s!

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