Your kids will call this easy 20 minute Crispy Pan Fried Tofu “chicken”. It’s that good! Tofu is cooked in a skillet on the stovetop with a simple marinade and no pressing required. You will fall for this delicious fried tofu recipe full of plant based protein.
Our other vegetarian family favorites include vegetarian quesadilla, green lentil curry and this crazy easy spaghetti recipe!
Reading: how to make pan fried tofu
Crispy Pan Fried Tofu
I’m not vegan but we all love this crispy pan fried tofu for a healthy dinner! Did I mention the 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 tofu recipe is simple, utterly delicious and requires no extra steps. Like to press the tofu or pat with paper towels – “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. It’s ready in 20 minutes and perfect for those weeknights when life is busy and you forgot to plan ahead for dinner. I even like to make it for a quick lunch, along with these other quick lunch ideas.
I make it 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 flavor and a spongy texture but when combined with some seasonings it suddenly can turn savory, ‘meaty’ and wow worthy!
- Plant based protein: Tofu is a great plant-based source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids (just like chia seeds!). We all should eat less meat and more salad for health reasons!
- Organic: To avoid GMO soy I recommend to buy organic tofu. Mine is from Costco, yours might be in the refrigerated section of your produce department.
- No extra steps: You do not have to press tofu to remove extra liquid with my crispy pan fried tofu recipe. I don’t even own paper towels. You don’t need to use cast iron skillet either – any skillet and stovetop works!
Pan Fried Tofu Ingredients
- Firm or extra firm tofu: You cannot use soft 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 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
- Unwrap: Remove tofu from plastic package.
- Drain: Dump the liquid it’s packaged in. Remember no need to pat dry or press.
- Two thinner slabs: Cut in half lengthwise.
- Cube: Then cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. Quickly Marinate Tofu Cubes
- Cubed tofu: In a medium bowl, add cubed tofu.
- Soy sauce: Drizzle evenly with 2 tbsp soy sauce on top. Helps to stir less.
- Stir and let sit: Stir gently with silicone or wooden spoon. Set aside.
3. Make Tofu Breading
- Cornstarch coating: In another medium bowl, add 3 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp garlic powder and ground black pepper to taste. Stir well with a fork.
- Skillet has to be hot and non-stick: Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Tofu has to sizzle and I highly recommend to use skillet you know food doesn’t stick to. No cast iron or old skillet that lost its non-stick qualities.
4. Combine Both
- 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 use it in frying tofu.
5. Pan Fry 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 once and add marinade: Flip each cube with a spatula and fry for a few more minutes or until crispy. You can add half of the soy sauce mixture now too. Transfer crispy pan fried tofu to a plate.
- Repeat with remaining tofu.
6. Garnish and Enjoy!
- Suggested garnishes: Garnish crispy garlic tofu with sesame seeds and green onion. Adds another layer of flavour.
- Serving suggestion: 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!!!
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Rice wine vinegar: Add a splash of rice wine vinegar with soy sauce for a sweet, tangy flavor profile.
- Ginger: Minced fresh or ground ginger could be mixed in with sauce during the quick marinade.
- Sesame oil: Adds a depth of flavor, replace all or part of your olive oil.
- Liquid smoke: Replace a small amount of your soy sauce with liquid smoke for a savory smoky flavor.
- Spices/seasonings: Ground cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice powder, onion powder – really any savory spice works!
- Arrowroot powder: If you are sensitive to corn starch, 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!
Tips for Best Results
- Hot skillet: Heat half your oil first in skillet until you hear a sizzle, this means your tofu is ready to be pan fried! Also a hot skillet gives the tofu a better chance to ‘not stick’ when trying to flip it to cook evenly.
- Don’t overcrowd your skillet: Cook tofu into two batches so each pieces gets a chance to be fried in the oil.
- Cool on wire rack: When cooking the 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!
Crispy Firm Tofu FAQs
Pan Fried Tofu Serving Recommendations
- Side dish: Quinoa or brown rice – both are made in a pressure cooker. Prepare to be amazed!
- Meat substitute: On top of cauliflower fried rice, substitute for crispy cod in these best fish tacos, shrimp in pad thai zucchini noodles or shredded chicken in tostadas. Swap it or use it in addition to any protein in any stir fry such as this salmon stir fry or shrimp.
- Sauces: Drizzle it with Asian salad dressing, peanut sauce or even healthy ranch.
- Salads: With cucumber and tomato salad, soy sauce based dressing spinach salad for super oriental dish, or try with sweet strawberry spinach salad.
- Veggies: Pick one of these zucchini recipes as a side dish, or make roasted cauliflower or roasted asparagus.
- Got Instant Pot? Serve tofu with Instant Pot mac and cheese, Instant Pot beets, Instant Pot steamed vegetables or use as meat substitute after cooking in many of these Instant Pot recipes.
Making Fried Tofu Recipe in Advance
Make ahead: Crispy tofu is best fresh as it starts to lose its crispiness after 30 minutes. You could cube and marinate tofu with soy sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to cook. You could also combine cornstarch, garlic powder and pepper ahead of time and store covered in a cool dry place. Proceed with recipe as follows when ready.
Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Leftovers will not be as crispy, but will still taste delicious.
Freeze: Although, not recommended because tofu will be softer vs. the desired crispy taste, it is possible. Place cooked tofu cubes on a lined cookie sheet – ensure they are not touching. Freeze until solid. Transfer to a storage bag, freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Read more: Chicken Stir Fry Recipe | Family Cuisine
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