Your kids will call this 20 minute easy Fried Tofu Recipe “chicken”. It’s that good! Once you learn how to fry tofu until crispy with no pressing required and coated in simple marinade, you will be making this tofu recipe over and over again.
Our other vegetarian family favorites include air fryer tofu, vegetarian quesadillas and easy spaghetti recipe.
I’m not vegan but this crispy fried tofu is one of our family favorite healthy dinners. Did I mention kids call it “chicken”? It’s that good and a great source of plant based protein!
And I’m convinced to convert you as well with this best fried tofu recipe in the world. You will never say “I hate tofu” again! My crispy pan fried tofu recipe is simple, utterly delicious and easy.
I fry tofu in pan on the stove often to reduce our meat consumption. If last night was shrimp tacos and tomorrow it’s lamb roast, I try to “squeeze in” this fried tofu in between for a meatless option. Balance and moderation just like with salad and dessert.
Why This Fried Tofu Recipe Works?
- Tofu provides the perfect blank slate for soaking up flavors: What is tofu exactly? Tofu is made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into blocks. Raw tofu has zero flavour and a spongy texture but when combined with some seasonings it suddenly can turn savory, “meaty” and wow worthy!
- Healthy: According to Healthline, tofu is a great source of plant-based protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.
- Quick and easy: You do not have to press tofu to remove extra moisture with my crispy fried tofu recipe. “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. It’s ready in 20 minutes.
Fried Tofu Ingredients
- Firm or extra firm tofu: You cannot use soft tofu or medium tofu as it will release more water and fall apart.
- Soy sauce: I used liquid aminos, you could also use gluten free tamari.
- Cornstarch: A must ingredient for crispy fried tofu. Cornstarch is almost all completely starch which is essential to getting that crispy and browned tofu we desire for this fried tofu recipe.
- Garlic powder: For flavour otherwise tofu is very plain. Remember tofu is a like a sponge and soaks up flavor!
- Olive oil: For frying.
- Green onion and sesame seeds: For garnish when serving. Adds another layer of flavour, so good!
How to Fry Tofu for Crispy Results
1. Cut Tofu into Cubes
- Unpackage the tofu: Remove tofu from its plastic package. Then dump the liquid it’s packaged in. Remember no need to pat dry or press.
- Cube the tofu: Cut tofu block in half lengthwise into two thinner slabs. Then cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. Quickly Marinate the Tofu Cubes
- Combine tofu and soy sauce: In a large bowl, add cubed tofu and drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce on top. Helps to stir less.
- Stir and let sit: Stir gently with silicone or wooden spoon. Set aside.
Tofu is delicate! Metal spoon will do more damage to the tofu texture. Use a wooden spoon.
3. Make the Fried Tofu Breading
- Make cornstarch coating: In another large bowl, add 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and ground black pepper to taste. Stir well with a fork.
- Combine wet tofu with cornstarch: Add tofu pieces to a bowl with cornstarch breading. Gently stir to coat.
Marinade leftovers: Tofu will be coated in sticky wet cornstarch mixture. Perfect! Don’t discard this marinade at the bottom of the bowl. We will use it when frying tofu.
4. Pan Fry Tofu Until Crispy
- Preheat oil: Swirl half the olive oil or toasted sesame oil onto preheated skillet. It should be hot enough to make tofu sizzle right away.
- Cook in 2 batches: Add half the tofu to a pan in a single layer. Stir fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Don’t disturb to get that crispy coating on.
- Flip tofu once and add marinade: Flip each cube with a spatula and pan fry for a few more minutes or until crispy. You can add half of the soy sauce mixture now too. Transfer crispy fried tofu to a plate.
- Repeat with remaining tofu.
5. Garnish and Enjoy!
- Suggested garnishes: Garnish crispy fried tofu with sesame seeds and green onion. Adds another layer of flavour.
- Serving suggestion: This tofu recipe is best served immediately as it loses its crispiness after half an hour, I would say. Or if you cover it. Still delish!!!
How Do I Know When Tofu Is Cooked?
Tofu does not pose a risk of eating undercooked like meat does. You can tell that fried tofu bites are ready when they are nicely golden and look crispy.
Tips for Best Results
Here are the top tips how to cook tofu in a pan on the stove until crispy and fall in love with it!
- Hot skillet: Heat pan first, then add oil and heat it until you hear a sizzle when one cube of tofu is added. This means your tofu is ready to be pan fried. Also a hot skillet gives the fried tofu a better chance to not stick when trying to flip it.
- Use a non stick pan: It’s worth repeating that a cast iron pan or stainless steel pan will cause your fried tofu to stick.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan: Cook tofu in two batches, so each piece gets a chance to be fried in the oil.
- Cool on wire rack: When frying tofu in batches, remove the first batch to a wire rack to cool down. Placing it on a plate will steam the side that is faced down and you will lose some of the crispiness.
Fried Tofu Variations
- Rice wine vinegar: Add a splash of rice wine vinegar with soy sauce for a sweet, tangy flavor profile.
- Ginger: Minced fresh ginger or ground ginger could be mixed in with the sauce during the quick marinade.
- Sesame oil: Adds a depth of flavor. Replace all or part of your olive oil with it.
- Liquid smoke: Replace a small amount of soy sauce with liquid smoke for a savory smoky flavor.
- Seasonings: Ground cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice powder, onion powder will be great instead of garlic powder in this fried tofu recipe!
- Arrowroot powder: If you are sensitive to cornstarch, this is an acceptable substitute. Although it may cause your tofu to stick.
- Tofu triangles: Want to switch up the cubed tofu? Cut into fun triangles.
If you love tofu as much as we do, there are a million options where to add this fried tofu to. Prepare to be amazed!
- Side dish: Serve simply with Instant Pot brown rice.
- Meat substitute: On top of cauliflower fried rice, substitute for crispy cod in these fish tacos, or shredded chicken in chicken tostadas.
- Sauces: Drizzle it with Asian salad dressing, peanut sauce, healthy BBQ sauce or even healthy ranch.
- Salads: On top of cucumber and tomato salad or spinach salad.
- Vegetables: Pick one of these healthy zucchini recipes as a side dish.
- Got Instant Pot? Serve fried tofu with Instant Pot mac and cheese.
How Long Will Fried Tofu Last?
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Leftovers will not be as crispy but will still taste delicious.
Can I Freeze It?
Although, not recommended because tofu will be softer vs. the desired crispy taste, it is possible to freeze this fried tofu recipe. Place cooked tofu cubes on a lined cookie sheet and ensure they are not touching. Freeze until solid.
Transfer to a storage bag or airtight container and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Can I Make Fried Tofu in Advance?
Fried tofu tastes best fresh as it starts to lose its crispiness after 30 minutes. You can cube and marinate tofu with soy sauce ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to pan fry.
You can also combine cornstarch, garlic powder and black pepper ahead of time and store covered in a cool dry place. Proceed with recipe when ready.
More Popular Vegetarian Recipes
Crispy Fried Tofu Recipe
- 2 x 12 oz packages firm or extra firm tofu cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- Green onion finely chopped
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- In a medium bowl, add cubed tofu and soy sauce on top. Stir gently with silicone or wooden spoon (metal will do more damage to tofu’s delicate texture). Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, add cornstarch, garlic powder and pepper. Stir well with a fork and set aside.
- In the meanwhile, preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add half of the olive oil. It should be hot enough to make tofu sizzle right away.
- Add tofu cubes to a bowl with cornstarch mixture and gently stir to coat. Tofu will be coated in sticky wet cornstarch mixture. Perfect!
- Add half of the tofu to a pan in a single layer. Cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Flip each cube with a spatula and pan fry for a few more minutes or until crispy (you can add half of the marinade now, from step 1 & 2 – it will collect at the bottom of the bowl, and the other half with next batch). Transfer to a plate and repeat this step with remaining tofu.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and green onion. Crispy tofu is best served immediately as it loses its crispiness after half an hour I would say. Or if you cover it. Still delish!!!
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Has to be firm or extra firm tofu: You cannot use soft or medium tofu as it will release more water and fall apart.
- Skillet has to be hot and non-stick: No cast iron or old skillet that lost its non-stick qualities.
- Type of oil: You can use toasted sesame oil in place of olive oil.
- Utensils: It’s best to use wooden or silicone spatula or spoon to handle tofu. Metal would damage its delicate texture and the skillet.
- Don’t throw away marinade: The marinade of soy sauce, cornstarch etc. doesn’t have to be thrown away. You can pour on top of cooking tofu for more flavor.
I made this for a Thai curry soup, it was so crispy and delicious. We ended up throwing them in the air fryer for about 4 minutes after we fried them. This will be my go to tofu recipe.
I’m so happy to read this! Thanks for your positive feedback!
Really easy and excellent!!!
I’m so happy to read this! Thanks for your positive feedback!
Followed recipe exactly, came out 10x better than expected. Didn’t think you could fry tofu at home, quite easy too. Wife loved it. Will definitely add this to the regular rotation.
So glad you loved it!
Love it! Crispy and flavorful. My first time trying it and it turned out great! Easy to make this while my bfs chicken is cooking in another pan for any dish!
So glad you enjoyed it!
Thought it was excellent; glad to finally find an easy method for fairly crispy tofu:)
So glad you liked it!
This recipe is amazing! I have made breaded tofu before but it wasn’t nearly as crispy as your recipe.
No one in my family would eat tofu before but that sure has changed. Thank you so much for sharing.
So glad you enjoyed it!
This is my favourite method to use for cooking tofu. Great recipe!
So glad you enjoy it!
I have never tried Tofu. I’m trying to eat healthy now and tried your recipe. All I can say is oh my gosh!! Delicious and give me more!!! Thank you Olena!
So glad you enjoyed it!