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Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu

This delicious, perfectly crispy tofu is made using an easy pan fry method. Only 6 ingredients needed!

A bowl of crispy tofu!

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Like many people, I was totally intimidated by tofu for a long time. It has a reputation for being bland and tasteless.

The truth? It can be those things – just like many foods…without seasoning! But knowing how to make tofu crispy and flavorful has changed my world. Even my picky eater loves it. We make this tofu (or baked BBQ tofu) at least twice a week with rice and veggies or potatoes!

Tofu is a great meat replacement with a high protein count. We add it to many dishes we used to add chicken to like our vegetable fried rice and vegan fajitas.

Those stories about tofu and soy being dangerous and messing with human hormones? A total myth spread by the animal-farming industry. Always do your own research (this article is a great start!)

Okay, ready to learn how to make crispy tofu? Let’s go! First, we need to prep it.

A package of organic, extra firm tofu.

Tofu Guide: How to Press Tofu
In this resource, you’ll learn 2 easy methods.

How to Press Tofu

Pressing tofu has two main purposes: to improve the texture and add flavor. It is a really important step for crispy tofu!

Tofu is packaged in water and therefore, has a high moisture content. Removing the water allows the tofu to hold its shape and have a more substantial texture and bite to it. It also helps the tofu get crispy! (Too much liquid = soggy, right?)

And because we are getting rid of a lot of water…there is room for the flavor to move into the tofu! This recipe calls for adding soy sauce for flavor. You can also marinate tofu after pressing to add even more deliciousness. For crispy tofu though, I don’t recommend marinating as we are removing as much moisture as possible to achieve those crispy edges.

The best tofu to use to achieve crispy tofu is either extra firm or firm! Soft or silken tofu will just get mushy when pressed.

There are two main methods to press tofu:

  1. A store-bought tofu press
  2. A DIY tofu press

I used a makeshift tofu press for a long time…no shame! But it doesn’t always get even results, nor does it get the most liquid out.

Tofu being pressed over a dish using a store-bought tofu press.

Store-bought tofu press

I bought this tofu press and love it.

  1. Place a block of firm/extra firm tofu in the press, then twist the screws to apply pressure (just not too much or the tofu will break apart).
  2. Then, lay the press on its side to allow the liquid to freely drain out. Make sure to place it over some kind of dish to catch the water.
  3. After about 15 minutes, tighten the screws a little more, then flip the press to the other side.

DIY tofu press

  1. Wrap the tofu loosely in a clean kitchen towel or a bunch of paper towels.
  2. Place a cutting board or sturdy plate that can handle weight on top of the tofu.
  3. Next, add the weight! I use a cast-iron skillet, then place another cast-iron dutch oven inside that after 15 minutes. You could also use a stack of cookbooks or heavy pantry goods like cans.
Ingredients for crispy tofu laid out on a wooden tray in small bowls: oil, flour, cornstarch, garlic, soy sauce, and extra firm tofu.

Ingredients

A combination of flour and cornstarch is my favorite way to create crispy tofu “breading” (I use that term lightly because it isn’t a true heavy breading – just enough for a crunchy edge!)

You can add more seasonings depending on the dish you are creating! Sometimes I love to use paprika or cayenne pepper for a little spicy kick.

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed like described above
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons oil for frying
  • salt, optional
Cubed tofu on a cutting board with a knife.

How to Make Crispy Tofu

(Please refer to the recipe card at the end of the post for additional notes and the printable recipe!)

Meal prep tip: Press and cube the tofu on Sunday (or whenever you prep) and store in a container in the fridge to make lunch or dinner time a breeze.

A collage of two images: the first is cut up tofu in a bowl, the second has flour, cornstarch, garlic, and soy sauce tossed in.
  1. Cut the pressed tofu into 1/2 or 1-inch cubes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat. A seasoned cast-iron skillet or good non-stick skillet are the best pans to use.
  3. Toss tofu with soy sauce, then with flour, corn starch, and garlic powder until pretty evenly coated.
  4. Add tofu to the hot pan in a single layer (the tofu should sizzle when you put it in!) You may have to do this in two batches if your pan is not large enough.
  5. Cook until browned (3-5 minutes) then flip and cook again until that side is browned (another 3-5 minutes.)
  6. Sprinkle with salt if needed or desired, then enjoy!

I love crispy tofu just as is, but it’s also delicious tossed with teriyaki sauce or BBQ sauce!

Pan fried crispy tofu cubes in a large non-stick skillet.

Top Tips

  • Make sure to use either FIRM or EXTRA FIRM tofu. Pressing softer tofu will result in mush.
  • While I typically press tofu for 30 minutes, you can press tofu days in advance (just make sure to keep in the fridge!)
  • Freezing tofu totally changes it, in a good way! It results in an even firmer texture (the tofu featured in the images is thawed out tofu – you can notice the color is more yellowish as well.) After thawing, press as usual.

Storage and Reheating

This tofu is definitely best right out of the pan, but you can absolutely store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days!

Leftover tofu loses the crispiness, though, so I recommend reheating in a skillet, similarly to how it is originally made. You may not need to fry in oil again if you have a good non-stick pan. Cook on each side until crispy again!

Variations

  • Gluten-free: You can make this recipe gluten-free by using 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and omitting the flour.
  • Oil-free: I do not recommend making pan-fried tofu without oil. Try baking tofu instead!
  • Flavors: As noted above, feel free to change up the spices for different flavors! Toss in your favorite sauce (like teriyaki) before serving.

Meal Ideas Using Crispy Tofu

Crispy tofu is a wonderful main star at dinnertime, and it’s also great as an add-in to many classic dishes.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Please leave a comment and a ⭐ star review below!

A pan of crispy tofu

Crispy Tofu (Pan-Fried)

Karissa Besaw
The best crispy tofu made easy using a simple pan-fried method.
4.67 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Tofu Press Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Salad Topping
Cuisine Vegan
Servings 4
Calories 167 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 block extra firm tofu pressed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil for frying
  • salt optional

Instructions
 

  • Cut tofu into 1/2 or 1-inch cubes.
  • Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat.
  • Toss tofu with soy sauce, then with flour, corn starch, and garlic powder until coated.
  • Add tofu to the hot pan in a single layer (the tofu should sizzle when you put it in!)
  • Cook until browned (3-5 minutes) then flip and cook again until that side is browned (another 3-5 minutes.)
  • Sprinkle with salt if needed or desired, then enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • Use a good non-stick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet for this recipe.
  • Firm tofu can be used in a pinch if you cannot find extra firm. Do NOT use regular or silken.
  • Learn how to press tofu here.

Nutrition

Calories: 167kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 8gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 314mgPotassium: 171mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
Did you try this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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