This Crispy Pan Fried Tofu is going to be your new favorite way to cook tofu. With just 7 ingredients, 25 minutes and no tofu pressing required, this recipe is easy, delicious, & packed with flavor!
We pretty much make this tofu without fail one night a week. Sometimes even two. Or three if we're counting the times I make it as a midday snack.
It's really that good.
Not only can this golden tofu make a great snack, but it's the perfect topping for salads, wraps, or pasta if you want to add a punch of protein. With a thin & crispy outer shell and soft interior, this vegan & gluten-free fried tofu recipe truly is a winner!
Ingredient & substitution notes:
- Extra Firm Tofu: Extra firm tofu is really going to give you the best texture here, but firm tofu also works.
- Do not use soft or silken tofu in this recipe.
- Unlike many of my tofu recipes, we are not pressing the tofu. While we want to remove some of the moisture by drying the tofu, we still need some moisture for the coating to stick.
- Cornstarch: Keeps the moisture inside this tofu and is the key ingredient to making it SUPER crispy!
- While I haven't personally tried it, arrowroot powder may work as a substitute.
- I do not recommend substituting with all-purpose flour.
- Nutritional Yeast: Gives this tofu a "cheesy" and rich flavor. There isn't a good substitute for it and I don't recommend skipping it for the best flavor.
- Oil: I used a mix of avocado oil & olive oil to pan-fry the tofu. However, using just one oil works.
- You can also substitute for other neutral oils, but I find avocado and olive oil give this tofu the best flavor.
How to pan fry tofu
Step 1: Lightly dry the tofu (no pressing required!)
Since we want a slightly moist outside, we are actually NOT pressing the tofu. Instead, we are just lightly drying it off with a towel (or paper towels) to remove some of that excess moisture.
It's important the tofu stays moist but not super "wet" so that it can really absorb the dry seasoning.
Step 2: Make the dry tofu batter
Add the cornstarch, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, & garlic powder to a mixing bowl and whisk together. If you want to add any additional spices, go ahead and add them at this time!
Step 3: Slice & Dunk the tofu
Cut the tofu into 12 evenly sized rectangular pieces.
Then, dip each tofu nugget into the dry batter until it is completely coated.
If you have any excess batter after each tofu has been dunked once, go ahead and dunk the slices twice to get extra batter on them.
Step 4: Pan-fry the tofu
Add the oil to a pan and let it warm for a minute or two. Then, add in the tofu slices.
The key to extra crispy pan-fried tofu is to not touch the tofu too much while it cooks.
You want to let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side before carefully rotating it with a spatula. Do this 4 times to get all of the sides crispy.
The pan-fried tofu will be ready when it is a golden brown color all around and has a nice crisp exterior.
P.S.- It is very important to use a non-stick pan for this tofu.
Otherwise, chances are it will stick and the coating could come off. I highly recommend the Caraway Pans (you may notice I use them in pretty almost every recipe where pan frying is required these days!).
How to serve crispy tofu:
When it comes to this crispy tofu my absolute way to enjoy it is as a salad, grain bowl, or pasta topping.
Here's a few salads & bowls I love adding it to:
- Vegan Cobb Salad
- Quinoa Arugula Salad (I usually swap it for the chickpeas)
- Mediterranean Hummus Bowls
- Pesto Quinoa Bowl
Here are a few pasta recipes it works well in as a topping:
- Caramelized Onion & Roasted Garlic Pasta
- Spinach Artichoke Pasta
- Miso Mushroom & Spinach Pasta
- Green Goddess Pasta Salad
Lastly, it's great as a snack! In fact, sometimes I whip up these fried tofu nuggets in the middle of the day when I'm hungry, but want something that is a bit healthier.
It's always so satisfying and is guaranteed to hold me over until dinner.
FAQ & Tips:
How do I store pan-fried tofu?
Pan-fried tofu truly is best right after it is made as that's when it is crispy. However, it can be stored in a closed container in the fridge for 2-3 days, but will lose it's crispy outer texture over time.
Can I prep this tofu ahead of time?
Honestly, I wouldn't recommend it. This tofu is crispy right after making it but will lose it's outer crispiness over time. While it still tastes great several days after it's made, it's not a good recipe to prep ahead of time.
Can I make this recipe without oil?
Not exactly. This recipe is truly meant to be made with oil to get that crisp golden texture.
If you are looking for an oil-free tofu recipe, I'd recommend trying out the baked tofu I made in my Vegan Pesto Tofu. The tofu still gets really crispy, but is a bit more tough & chewy inside if you bake it vs. pan fry it.
I can't wait for you to try this easy 7-ingredient Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu! It's a staple in our house, and I truly hope you love it just as much as we do. Enjoy!
More tofu recipes you will love:
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Crispy Pan Fried Tofu
- Start by removing the tofu from its container and lightly dry it with a paper towel. You want the tofu to be moist, but not soaking wet. Set aside.
- Then, add the cornstarch, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a mixing bowl and whisk togehter.
- Cut the tofu into 12 evenly sized rectangular slices and dunk each slice individually into the bowl of batter. Mix until coated. If you have excess batter after dunking the tofu once, go ahead and dunk them in the batter again.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Once it has warmed for about 1 minute, add in the dry coated tofu slices.
- Pan-fry the tofu slices for about 5 minutes on each side until crispy and browned. Then, carefully rotate each slice with a spatula to cook on the next side. Do this 4 times to get all of the sides browned and crispy.
- Remove the tofu slices from the pan and serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Please see the blog post for substitution ideas and more recipe tips.
- It's very important to use a non-stick pan for this recipe so the tofu does not stick. I highly recommend using the Caraway Pans.
- While I kept the spice mix simple, feel free to add other spices such as paprika to give the tofu a different flavor.