Give the stereotypically bland plant-based protein a golden and crispy upgrade. This crispy tofu recipe is an everyday foolproof technique for extra-firm tofu. Make it a meal by serving the crispy tofu pieces over pasta, salads, tacos and more.
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Extra-firm tofu is what you want for making crispy tofu pieces. The firm texture is ideal for frying thanks to its denser and lower wanted content than other varieties of tofu. In the test kitchen we like to press tofu very well before cooking to get even more of a meaty texture.
Coating tofu in some kind of starch is absolutely essential to getting a nice golded crust on pan-fried tofu. In the test kitchen we prefer to use cornstarch but feel free to play around with arrowroot starch, potato starch, rice flour or tapioca flour.
For any pan-frying you do in the kitchen we recommend you use a high-heat cooking oil such as avocado oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil or vegetable oil. We prefer refined avocado oil, but use what you like and have on hand.
Test Kitchen Tips
- We recommend lightly seasoning the cornstarch mixture minimally with some kosher salt. Black pepper, cayenne, curry powder, garlic powder, onion powder and dried ginger are all great options for kicking up the flavor of your crispy tofu.
- Try not to forcefully flip the tofu pieces if they’re stuck to the pan. Treat tofu like you would chicken or scallops—you’ll know they’re ready to flip when they readily release from the hot skillet.
Crispy tofu is best eaten right away. However, if you’ve got leftovers store them in an airtight container and reheat in a skillet over medium-low heat.
How To Press Tofu
Excess liquid in tofu can be removed through pressing, which creates a meaty texture. The best types of tofu to press are medium, firm, and extra-firm tofu. There are two easy ways you can press tofu, using a tofu press, I recommend using this tofu press, or with a few kitchen essentials you already have on hand!
How to use a tofu press
- Drain the liquid from the block of tofu and place it in a tofu press.
- Use the knobs on the tofu press to create pressure on both sides of the block of tofu, you should be able to see additional moisture drip into the bottom of the tofu press.
- Press the tofu for 20–30 minutes.
- Pat the tofu dry with paper towels and use as directed.
How to press tofu using kitchen towels or paper towels
- Drain the liquid from the block of tofu and wrap it in a clean dishcloth or a few layers of paper towels.
- Place the wrapped tofu between two cutting boards or sheet pans and set a heavy object on top (canned goods are great for this).
- Press the tofu for 20–30 minutes, switching out towels if needed.
How to Serve Crispy Tofu
- We love to pile these crispy tofu sticks onto a bed of spicy ramen or gochujang noodles (and zoodles).
- Season the tofu with your favorite chili powder and pile them into tortillas with a scoop of slaw, slices of avocado, pickled onions and salsa verde.
- Serve these as “tofu fries” with our Parmesan Aioli, Green Goddess Dressing, or burger sauce (coming soon).
- Give the crispy tofu a light drizzle of rice vinegar then top with sliced scallions. Serve with kewpie mayo on the side for a quick and healthy appetizer.
- For a quick vegan dinner, toss the tofu with our favorite sweet and tangy gochujang sauce then serve over rice with scallions. For a bit more nutty savoriness, try a peanut sauce with a touch of low-sodium soy sauce.
- Add the crispy tofu to a stir-fry of vegetables.
We haven’t tested this recipe in the air fryer but if we were to, here’s what we’d do: prep the tofu as directed in the recipe. Once coated in cornstarch, arrange the tofu in an even layer in the basket of an air fryer. Spritz the tofu with nonstick spray. Cook for 10 minutes at 400ºF, flipping halfway through. Repeat in batches if needed.
We don’t recommend you skip pressing the tofu. This step is essential for drawing out excess moisture. If you skip this step, you won’t get crisp tofu.
You can cut the tofu however you like. We prefer strips both texturally and visually, but cut the tofu however you like.
- 1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, cut widthwise into ¼-inch thick slabs
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- Morton kosher salt
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- Line a baking sheet with three layers of paper towels. Arrange tofu on paper towels then top with three more layers of paper towels. Set a second baking sheet on top and weigh down with something heavy, such as a Dutch oven or a few cans; let press for 15 minutes.
- Whisk together cornstarch and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a shallow dish. Cut tofu into ¼-inch thick strips. Dredge tofu in cornstarch to coat.
- Heat ¼ cup oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Add tofu in an even layer and cook, without moving, until browned and crisp and naturally releases from skillet, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip pieces and continue cooking until golden brown, on bottom side, about 5 minutes more. Flip again and cook 5 more minutes until lightly golden browned all over.
- Transfer tofu to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.