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Make the BEST fried tofu in 20 minutes (after pressing). It’s SUPER crispy outside, chewy in the middle, flavorful, & made with just 5 simple ingredients as the ultimate versatile plant-based protein!
If you thought you weren’t a tofu fan, prepare for ultra-crispy pan-fried tofu to blow you away! This recipe requires no special kitchen tools, produces far crispier results than baking, and is ready in a fraction of the time. Better yet, with a simple but versatile seasoning, a boring block of tofu is transformed into the perfect golden brown, crispy, crunchy, gluten-free, plant-based protein for any meal.
Table of contents
- Firm Tofu: Use firm or extra-firm tofu (I use homemade or store-bought organic, non-GMO tofu). Anything less firm falls apart during cooking and/or won’t be crispy.
- Cornstarch: DON’T skip this if you want crispy fried tofu.
- Seasonings: A simple combination of garlic powder, smoked paprika, and pepper makes a flavorful base that pairs well with tons of meals. Add salt if preferred, too. Feel free to experiment with other herbs and spices – like Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, onion powder, nutritional yeast, etc
- Cooking oil: You’ll need a neutral, high-heat cooking oil like vegetable oil, canola oil, avocado oil, etc. I don’t recommend olive oil.
How to make fried tofu
Prepare the tofu: First, you need to press the tofu. Wrap it in a lint-free kitchen towel or 2-3 layers of paper towels. Place a heavy object, like a cast iron pan or chopping board weighed down with cans/books over the top. Leave it to drain for 20-30 minutes.
Then, slice the tofu into even 1-inch cubes. If you want to extract any remaining moisture from the tofu cubes, place them over a towel and press them for another 5 minutes or so.
Coat the tofu: While the tofu is being pressed, combine all the seasonings and the cornstarch in a bowl and mix thoroughly. When ready, toss the tofu into the starch mixture, ensuring it’s coated on every side. Then, tap away any excess.
Fry until crispy: Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with about 1/4 inch of oil until it shimmers. Once hot, carefully add the coated tofu in a single layer and pan-fry it for 2-3 minutes per side until well browned and crispy.
Leave the tofu practically untouched while it cooks, so it sears properly. If it’s browning too quickly, adjust the heat. When ready, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove it from the oil and transfer it to paper towels to absorb any excess oil, then serve and enjoy!
How to serve fried tofu
Once cooked, enjoy crispy tofu as an appetizer, snack, or main protein:
- With dipping sauce like ketchup, mayo, BBQ sauce, sriracha mayo, buffalo sauce, garlic aioli, or whatever floats your boat.
- Make a tofu stir fry like with lo mein or alongside stir-fried vegetables.
- In salads, including leafy green ones and heartier quinoa salad.
- With a side of grains like noodles, rice, fried rice, or quinoa.
- With vegetables like roasted/sauteed broccoli, green beans, asparagus, carrots, etc.
- Sandwiches/wraps, including tortilla wraps/burritos, lettuce wraps, tacos, fajitas, etc.
- With stews and curries like vegetarian butter chicken, Thai green curry, and Thai red curry.
Have some leftovers?
- To Store: Leave the fried tofu cubes to cool thoroughly, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Note they will soften over time.
- To Freeze: If it hasn’t been previously frozen, you can technically freeze it for up to 3 months. Just note that the texture WILL change, becoming chewier and losing crispness.
- To reheat: To restore crispiness, reheat it back on the stovetop with a tiny swirl of oil OR in an air fryer/oven at 350ºF/175ºC until it is heated through and crispy (5-15 minutes). Avoid the microwave, which makes it very soft.
Top tips for fried tofu
- Press the tofu: This removes excess liquid, meaning extra crispiness.
- Slice it evenly: So that it cooks evenly.
- Use a non-stick pan: Otherwise, it can stick and fall apart while cooking. Make sure the pan is well pre-heated, too.
- Avoid overcrowding the pan: Otherwise, the tofu will steam, not fry. Work in batches, if needed.
- Don’t move it often: Give the tofu a chance to sear and become crispy on all sides rather than moving it around the pan too much.
- Drain the oil: This is the perfect last step for the BEST crispy tofu cubes.
Draining the excess liquid from tofu allows the tofu to soak up the flavors of a marinade, sauce, or seasoning blend and creates a crispier overall tofu. It also creates a firmer, chewier texture, so it’s less likely to crumble while frying.
Cornstarch is a wonder “crispy” maker. Just a little helps create an amazingly crispy outer shell.
Not necessarily, but you could. Pre-freezing firm tofu has become a popular step when preparing tofu because it not only helps to remove excess water (for extra crispy results), but the ice creates porous pockets that yield a chewier, “meatier” texture once thawed.
If you try this easy pan fried tofu recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
The Best Fried Tofu
- 11 oz firm tofu or extra-firm; don't use anything softer.
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/3 cup cooking oil like vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.
- Press the tofu. Wrap it in a lint-free kitchen towel or 2-3 layers of paper towels. Place a heavy object, like a cast iron pan or chopping board weighed down with cans/books over the top. Leave it to drain for 20-30 minutes.
- Slice the tofu into even 1-inch cubes. If you want to extract any remaining moisture from the tofu cubes, place them over a towel and press them for another 5 minutes or so.
- While the tofu is being pressed, combine all the seasonings and the cornstarch in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- When ready, toss the tofu into the starch mixture, ensuring it's coated on every side. Tap away any excess.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with about 1/4 inch of oil until it shimmers.
- Once hot, carefully add the coated tofu in a single layer and pan-fry the tofu for 2-3 minutes per side until well browned and crispy.Leave the tofu untouched while it cooks, apart from flipping it, so it sears properly.
- When ready, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove it from the oil and transfer it to paper towels to absorb any excess oil, then serve and enjoy!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.