Pan-fried crispy tofu is as decadent as its takeout cousin but at a fraction of the price. And it couldn't be simpler to make!
I. Love. Crispy tofu! That crunchy coating around piping-hot, pillowy tofu has called my name from many a Chinese restaurant menu.
And I love that, even when eating out isn't in the budget, it's easy to make equally-delicious pan fried tofu at home!
Ingredients & substitutions
- Soy sauce is the base for your marinade, and it's fine to use low-sodium soy sauce.
- Rice vinegar adds acidity to the marinade and a lovely, light flavor.
- Garlic powder is going into both the marinade and the breading for an umami boost.
- Extra firm tofu is your protein, though you can use this same marinade and coating on other plant based proteins, like tempeh or seitan.
- Cornstarch or potato starch help the breading stick to the tofu.
- Flour is the base for your breading. You can use white, wheat, or gluten-free flour.
- Onion powder adds even more flavor to the crispy tofu coating.
- Sunflower oil or your favorite neutral oil for pan frying.
How to make crispy tofu
Start by marinating the tofu. While it marinates, you have time to prep any side dishes that you're serving.
The coating for this tofu uses a shake-and-bake-style method. Toss the tofu with cornstarch in a large bowl, then add seasoned flour and toss again.
You can use all purpose, white wheat, or whole wheat flour to coat your tofu. Gluten-free flour will work, as well.
Now, it's time to fry! Heat that oil. You can check if your oil is hot enough by getting your hand wet, then flicking some water into the pan. When the drops sizzle off immediately, the oil is ready.
Add your tofu, and let it cook for around seven minutes, then flip the cubes over and cook for about seven minutes more.
Drain your tofu on a plate lined with paper towel or a clean kitchen towel, and you're ready to serve!
- Use a nonstick pan. I have made this tofu in my cast iron skillet, and the results just aren't as good. Doable, but not ideal.
- Place the tofu pieces into the pan one at a time. Don't dump the bowl in! You want to arrange these so they aren't touching, and one by one is the best way.
- Leave them alone. Don't mess with the tofu until it's time to flip. If you do, you can mess up the coating. Trust the process.
This tofu recipe is incredibly versatile. It's a great salad or bowl topper! I love it with my strawberry salad dressing in the crispy tofu salad, pictured here:
Serve it with your favorite steamed or sautéed veggies over your favorite grains or salad greens. Top it off with different sauces for all sorts of mix-and-match meals!
Here are a few sauce and salad dressing ideas that you can drizzle over your crispy tofu to make it extra special:
- 5-minute peanut sauce
- magical tahini dressing
- all-purpose coconut curry sauce
- chili-ginger tahini sauce
- creamy strawberry vinaigrette
- hoisin sauce
- soy sauce
- BBQ sauce
- chili garlic sauce
Need some side ideas to go with your tofu? I've got you:
- rice or quinoa
- sesame noodles
- ginger-sesame kale stir fry
- steamed or roasted broccoli
- stovetop collard greens
Truly, the sky's the limit, so get creative and build your perfect crispy tofu bowl.
How to store and reheat
Your crispy tofu will keep for four to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To reheat it, I do not recommend the microwave, because your tofu won't crisp back up in there. Instead, toss it onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 350° F for 10 minutes. Or, you can reheat it in the air fryer at 350° F for five minutes.
Vegan crispy tofu
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce low-sodium is OK
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 block extra firm tofu pressed and sliced into 24 "fingers"
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
- ¼ cup flour white, wheat, white wheat, or gluten-free flours are all fine
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder. Pour over the tofu cubes in a shallow dish, then set aside to marinate for 15-30 minutes. Whisk together the flour, salt, remaining garlic powder, and onion powder, and set that aside.
- Transfer the tofu to a large bowl, discarding any extra marinade. Add the cornstarch to the bowl, and toss together until the tofu is well coated. Then, add the flour mixture to the same bowl, tossing to coat evenly.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat, making sure that the pan is hot before adding the tofu. To check, wet your fingers under the tap, and flick a few drops of water into the oil. If it sizzles off immediately, the pan is ready. Add the tofu to the pan making sure that the pieces don’t overlap.
- Cook the tofu for 7-8 minutes, until you can see that the bottoms have turned golden brown. Use a spatula to flip the cubes over, and cook for another 6-7 minutes, so they’re browned on the other side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or a clean cloth napkin to drain for a few minutes, then serve immediately.