How to make super crispy Air Fryer Tofu in just 10 minutes of cooking time, a handful of simple ingredients, and just enough oil for super crisp results! This air fried tofu recipe is not only super simple but makes for perfect plant-based meal prep protein and will impress even the tofu weary!
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Easy Air Fryer Tofu
If you’re looking for the quickest, easiest, crispy plant-based protein to add to your meals, you’ve officially found it with this air-fried tofu recipe! Learning how to air fry tofu is super simple and takes just minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook for super crispy, flavorful, versatile tofu cubes to add to a whole array of recipes!
I’ve previously shared a method for pan fried tofu, though I’ll admit that tofu isn’t the usual protein of choice in my omnivorous home. Most days we make chicken breast in air fryer. However, if you’ve not tried this air fryer tofu, you’re missing out. With minimal oil and a handful of simple seasonings, this tofu is packed with flavor and texture – managing to get ‘almost’ deep-fried results with just a fraction of the oil. You’ll never look at tofu the same way again!
When made incorrectly, I’ll admit, tofu CAN end up flavorless, mushy, or even rubbery and worse than lackluster. However, this air-fried tofu recipe provides crispy tofu that is anything but (and any tofu-lover will tell you that achieving perfectly crispy tofu can be challenging at best – but not with this crispy tofu air fryer method!
Keep reading for my top tips, air-fried tofu recipe, and serving suggestions. And, if you’re looking for more meat-free mains, you might like these recipes for cauliflower rice risotto, Instant pot mac and cheese, zucchini and tomato pasta, and this crustless spinach quiche!
Why This Air Fried Tofu Recipe Works?
- This air fryer tofu recipe produces super crispy results with just a fraction of the oil used for frying!
- All you need is a handful of ingredients, most of which are pantry staples and probably already in your kitchen!
- This air-fried tofu recipe makes for the perfect ultimate ‘base tofu’ – perfect for adjusting with your choice of seasonings and marinades!
- Learning how to air fry tofu is ridiculously simple and takes just 20 minutes from start to finish – and just 10 minutes of air frying!
- This crispy tofu air fryer method yields tofu that is wonderfully tender in the middle with a flavorful, super-crisp outer shell, perfect for adding to salads, noodles, stir-fries, and more!
Ingredients in Crispy Tofu Air Fryer
- Tofu: You can use firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes. Don’t use softer tofu, as it will release too much water and fall apart. I recommend using organic tofu to avoid GMOs.
- Cornstarch: This will help the air fryer tofu to become super crispy – don’t omit it! Alternatively, arrowroot will work but won’t be as crisp.
- Soy sauce: This will help to add depth of flavor, umami, and salty flavor. For a gluten-free option, use tamari or liquid aminos.
- Toasted sesame oil: This oil helps to add a toasty, nutty flavor. Alternatively, you could substitute it with another oil like olive oil or avocado oil.
- Spices: smoked paprika (though regular paprika will work but be less smoky), garlic powder, and black pepper (no salt is needed, thanks to the soy sauce).
Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on any add-ins and recipe variations!
How to Air Fry Tofu
- Prepare the tofu: First, remove the tofu from the package, draining the liquid. Then pat the tofu well with double-layered paper towels and cut into 1-inch cubes (no need to press). You can then pat them once more after slicing.
- Marinate the tofu: In a medium bowl, combine the cubed tofu, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Stir gently with a wooden spoon (metal may cause damage to the delicate tofu texture). Then set aside.
For more flavor, allow the tofu to marinate for at least 20 minutes with the soy sauce. However, if you plan to marinate the tofu, leave the oil off the tofu until the end of the process (as it can create a natural barrier and stop the marinade from soaking into the tofu as easily).
- Add the dry ingredients: Preheat the air fryer to 400F/200C for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and spices and mix together. Then sprinkle over the tofu and toss gently to thoroughly coat.
- Air fry the tofu: Add enough tofu to your air fryer basket in a single layer, with spaces in between. Then cook for 10 minutes, shaking once halfway.
It’s important to leave some space in-between; otherwise, the tofu will ‘steam’ rather than become wonderfully crispy.
- Repeat: Remove the first batch of crispy tofu from the air fryer, then repeat with the remaining tofu and enjoy.
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Other spices: The main way to vary this air-fried tofu recipe is by using a different combination of marinade and seasoning ingredients; add nutritional yeast for a slightly nutty, cheesy flavor, chili/cayenne for some heat, onion powder, etc.
- Seasoning blends: You can also experiment with other seasoning blends, like:
- Italian seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
- Taco seasoning
- Curry powder
- BBQ seasoning
- Other marinades: To experiment with different marinades, you could browse through this list of 5 easy ‘chicken’ marinades.
- Add vegetables: Broccoli or brussels sprouts could even be cooked at the same time, as long as you don’t overcrowd the basket.
Tips for Best Tofu Air Fryer Results
- For super-crispy air-fried tofu: You can press the tofu before mixing it with any other ingredients. I’ve tried this recipe with and without pressing with good results, but I know some tofu-users would find not pressing it blasphemous. Pressed tofu will naturally soak up more marinade, and the dryer pieces will crisp up better. You can press the tofu as a large block or after slicing it into cubes. To do so, line a cutting board with either paper towels or a clean tea towel, then add the tofu, another layer of paper towel/cloth, and top with a heavy item like a cutting board topped with a heavy pan. Allow it to press for 15-20 minutes.
- Optionally, freeze the tofu: When frozen, the tiny natural pockets within the tofu will expand, thanks to the expanding frozen liquid within the product. However, upon thawing and pressing the tofu, you’ll be left will the larger pockets and firmer, spongier tofu that has a good texture, soaks up flavor better AND becomes wonderfully crispy.
- Increasing the air fryer time: If you increase the cooking time by just a few minutes, the tofu can become chewier and even more ‘meaty.’
- Make sure to use firm or extra firm tofu: This method won’t work with silken or other softer tofu – they contain too much water and will simply fall apart.
- Air fryer size: All models and sizes vary and can cook slightly different, for reference I use a large 8-quart Cosori air fryer.
The time will vary based on the size of the tofu. For these 1-inch cubes, all it takes is 10 minutes at 400F/200C. In comparison, the tofu would take 25-30 minutes when baking in the oven.
Deep frying? not so much! Air frying, though? Much better! You can get super crispy results with the same amount of oil needed to bake tofu.
Of course, as long as the ingredients used are vegan, there’s no reason why you can’t use an air fryer for this tofu recipe and many other recipes.
Soy products, in general, have been quite controversial for some time, especially with many of the tofu products in America containing GMO soybeans. Luckily, however, organic tofu tends to be GMO-free, for those that are worried about that side of things. I’ve looked at several arguments listing the pros and cons of soy products, though most link any issues to animal studies and not humans. All that said, I tend to simply eat tofu in moderation and have never had any issues with it.
While technically you could, the results won’t be as wonderfully crispy (or flavorful, since I use toasted sesame oil for extra flavor). Rather than omitting it entirely, I recommend using a little cooking spray to spray the bottom of the air fryer basket and top of the tofu cubes for the least amount of oil while still achieving super crispy results.
There are several reasons that tofu can become rubbery, including improperly coating the pieces, cooking them incorrectly or undercooking the pieces, etc. Luckily, following this recipe and my top tips you should never have to deal with flavorless, rubbery tofu! (yay!)
You can freeze the tofu directly in its packaging for several months. For this recipe, you could leave it to freeze overnight then thaw in the fridge the following day until you’re ready to press, marinate, and air fry the tofu.
Also, note that frozen tofu can turn yellow. This is normal.
Yes, though the results usually aren’t quite as crispy. Toss the pressed and cubed tofu with a little cornstarch and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and toss with the remaining marinade ingredients. Then bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until golden and crispy.
Serving Recommendations for Tofu Air Fryer
This crispy air fried tofu makes for the perfect all-purpose plant-based protein, meaning there are tons of ways to enjoy the air fryer tofu, including:
- With a dip: In this post, I’ve served the air-fried tofu with a mayonnaise (dairy-free if needed) and sriracha sauce. You could also serve it with BBQ sauce, Thai sweet chili sauce, peanut sauce, healthy ranch dressing, honey mustard, ketchup, curry sauce, cilantro avocado sauce, or even the lemon-dijon sauce from air fryer salmon!
- Added to salads: You can add the air fryer tofu to leafy green salads, pasta salads, Asian chopped salad, peanut slaw or serve alongside a side salad.
- Alongside other veggie sides: Roasted, grilled, steamed- the options are endless. I particularly like broiled asparagus, roasted brussels sprouts, and steamed mixed vegetables. You could even air fry broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or sweet potato fries alongside the tofu (in batches).
- Served over grains/grain bowls: Serve with your favorite grain (like brown rice, quinoa, or even cauliflower rice) or as part of a grain bowl/salad – like this Mediterranean quinoa salad, quinoa tabbouleh, or Southwest quinoa salad.
- Mixed into pasta dishes: There are absolutely TONS of ways to introduce this air fryer crispy tofu to homemade pasta dishes, like this zucchini tomato pasta, broccoli and penne pasta, or pesto pasta with broccoli. Browse through all my pasta recipes for more inspiration.
- With stir-fries: like this cabbage stir fry, broccoli mushroom stir fry, or swapping out the chicken in this healthy chicken stir fry.
- Added to wraps: fajitas, burritos (or a burrito bowl), and more.
- With curries: Like this Thai chicken curry or regular chicken curry.
- Pad Thai: Swap pan fried tofu for air fryer tofu in this zoodle pad Thai recipe.
Alternately, find a new healthy side your family will love in this list of healthy sides!
Making Air Fryer Tofu in Advance
Make ahead: You can store uncooked pressed tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for several days (3-4).
Storing: Store the air fryer crispy tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Note that it will be less crispy the more it sits. However, you can crisp it up more when reheating (instructions below).
Freezing: You can store the air fryer tofu in an airtight container or Ziplock bag in the freezer for up to three months, though I prefer to make it fresh for the crispiest results.
Reheat: Simply pop the tofu back in the air fryer for several minutes (4-6) until warm and crispy. Alternatively, you can pan-fry the leftover air fryer crispy tofu with a bit of oil. Be careful not to overcook the tofu, or it can become tough and rubbery.
More Vegetarian Recipes to Try
- Tex Mex rice and beans
- Black bean quinoa casserole
- Mushroom stroganoff
- Vegetable frittata
- One pot chili mac
Crispy Air Fryer Tofu
- Remove tofu from the package, drain and pat dry with double layered paper towels. No need to press. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
- In a medium bowl, add cubed tofu, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Stir gently with silicone or wooden spoon (metal will do more damage to tofu’s delicate texture) or toss in a bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
- While air fryer is preheating, in another small bowl, add cornstarch, smoked paprika, garlic powder and pepper. Stir well, sprinkle over tofu and stir gently or toss to coat.
- Add half of the tofu to air fryer basket (tight but with some space in between), close and cook at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, shaking once after 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a plate and repeat this step with remaining tofu.
Make ahead: You can store uncooked pressed tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for several days (3-4).
Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Freezing: Store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag in the freezer for up to three months.
Reheat: Pop the tofu back in the air fryer for several minutes (4-6) until warm and crispy. Alternatively, you can pan-fry the leftover air fryer crispy tofu with a bit of oil.
- Air fryer size: I have this 8 quart Cosori air fryer and it fits a lot, I love it! With smaller air fryer, just cook in more batches.
- Do not pile up: If you add all tofu at once, it will not get crispy. You have to air fry in batches for favorable results.
- Has to be firm or extra firm tofu: You cannot use soft or medium tofu as it will release more water and fall apart.
- Substitute for toasted sesame oil: You can use any other oil like olive oil or avocado oil in place of toasted sesame oil. Toasted oil just adds another layer of flavor.
- Substitute for smoked paprika: Regular paprika will work, just air fryer tofu will have less smoky taste.
- To avoid GMO soy: I recommend to buy organic tofu. Mine is from Costco.
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