You won’t believe how easy it is to make Perfect Fried Tofu! Tossed in a simple marinade, these golden nuggets are pan-fried and ready to eat in just 15 minutes (after pressing your tofu). I’ll teach you all the tricks you need to know to avoid tofu sticking to the pan!

If you are looking for more ways to enjoy tofu, make sure to check out my popular Marinated Tofu recipe.

golden brown fried tofu in a pan with oil

When you think of tofu, does a sorry image of a sad, white, gooey brick come to mind? Let this Perfect Fried Tofu recipe change that! Using simple ingredients and a skillet or air fryer, that boring brick of tofu quickly transforms into perfectly crispy and crunchy tofu nuggets.

Tofu is a staple in my house and for good reason! It’s a protein-packed delight you can slather in barbecue sauce, marinate in savory flavors, and even stuff into tacos. It’s amazing what you can do to tofu. And don’t forget tofu scramble for breakfast!

Crispy tofu is easy to make in a skillet, you just need to learn a few tricks. To ensure every bite is loaded with flavor and plenty of crunch, the tofu cubes are seasoned with a little soy sauce and garlic powder. And you can’t forget about the secret ingredient! Tossing the tofu in cornstarch gives it the most mouth-watering crispy, golden brown exterior.

Enjoy batch after batch of your fried tofu in teriyaki noodles, salads, stir fries, or on their own with dipping sauce!

Pan fry or air fry tofu?

Though I wrote this recipe specifically for pan frying, I’ve included both pan-fried and air fryer instructions here so you don’t have to choose! Both methods are easy and always produce delicious crispy fried tofu.

pan with tofu frying in it

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

  • Extra firm tofu – Extra-firm tofu is best, but regular firm will work. Unlike medium or soft tofu, extra-firm is made and packed with very little liquid (which is all pressed out before frying). The wetter your tofu is, the more it will fall apart.
  • Soy sauce – Or tamari for gluten free.
  • Cornstarch – This is the secret to the most perfect fried tofu. Cornstarch forms a protective layer around each cube of tofu, which crisps up when added to heat. If you don’t have cornstarch, arrowroot powder and tapioca starch also work.
  • Garlic powder – This is optional but adds a delightful savory, garlicky flavor.
  • Olive oil – Needed to pan fry the tofu. You can leave it out if you want to air fry instead.

How to make fried tofu

  1. Always press the tofu first. Wrap the tofu brick in paper towels and place a plate or skillet on top. Add a few heavy books on the plate/skillet and let it press for 30 minutes to 1 hour. A tofu press will always make this process easier! The only way to avoid pressing is to buy super firm tofu that comes in a vacuum package.
  2. Cut the pressed brick into 1-inch cubes. 
  3. Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle the soy sauce on top and gently stir to coat. Next, add the cornstarch and garlic powder.
  4. Gently stir to coat once more and get ready to fry!
4 images showing the process of pressing, cutting, and stirring white tofu cubes in a glass bowl with seasonings.

To pan fry the tofu: Pour the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer (working in batches if needed) and let it brown on all sides. You’ll know it’s ready when each cube is nice and golden brown.

To air fry the tofu: Place the tofu cubes in a single layer in the air fryer basket so they aren’t touching (work in batches if needed). Cook it at 400ºF for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally after 10 minutes. 

Check out my Air Fryer Tofu recipe for more helpful tips and tricks!

pan on stovetop frying tofu

Tips and variations

  • Always use a non-stick pan – Tofu is prone to sticking, but this can be avoided by cooking it in a quality non-stick pan coated with oil. 
  • Don’t touch the tofu – Once it’s in the pan, don’t touch the tofu cubes for a few minutes or until they form a layer of golden crust. This makes them easier to flip and cook.
  • Add more flavor – Toss the tofu in chili powder, paprika, onion powder, sesame oil, rice vinegar, etc.

How to serve fried tofu

If you love tofu as much as I do, you’ll want to make this recipe and add it to your meals. You can toss the crispy tofu into almost anything, like:

showing flipping tofu over in a pan with a fork

Frequently asked questions

  • Can you prepare it ahead of time? Once it’s fried, you’ll want to eat the tofu right away. Another way to save time is to press the tofu ahead of time in batches, then store in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 1 week. 
  • How long does it last? It’s best eaten right away but just in case you have leftovers, you can store the fried tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the air fryer, on the stove top or in the oven to crisp it back up again.
  • Can you freeze fried tofu? I don’t recommend it. Frozen fried tofu will lose its crispy exterior and you’d have to start all over!
fried tofu on paper towels, draining

More sensational tofu recipes

close up on golden brown tofu nuggets frying in oil in a black skillet.
4.84 stars (6 ratings)

Perfect Fried Tofu

You won’t believe how easy it is to make Perfect Fried Tofu! Tossed in a simple marinade, these golden nuggets are pan-fried and ready to eat in just 15 minutes (after pressing your tofu).
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Tofu pressing time: 30 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 3 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 14.5 ounce extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions 

  • Press the tofu: Press the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels (or a clean dry tea towel). Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books or cast iron pan on top of that. Let the tofu press for 30 minutes to an hour. Alternatively, use a tofu press (link). You can press tofu ahead of time in batches, then store in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 1 week.
  • Cut the pressed tofu into 1 inch cubes and add to a large bowl. Drizzle the soy sauce on top and stir gently with a silicone spatula or small spoon. Be careful not to rip the tofu.
  • Now sprinkle on the cornstarch and optional garlic powder. Gently stir to coat the tofu. This is what makes the tofu super crispy and delicious!
  • Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil so it coats the pan.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer (you might need to do this in batches, depending on how big your pan is). Let the tofu brown on all sides, it should be a nice golden color all over. I use a fork to gently flip each piece over. TIP: When you place the layer of tofu in the pan, don't touch or move it at all for a few minutes, so a crust can form, making it easier to flip without ripping.
  • If working in batches, transfer fried tofu to a plate, and continue frying until all the tofu is cooked.
  • Serve immediately. To store leftovers – Keep in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the air fryer, oven or stovetop to crisp it back up. You can simply microwave it, but it won't be crispy anymore.

Notes

  1. Tofu – Extra-firm is best here, but firm will work as well, as long as it’s pressed. Do not use soft or silken tofu. To skip pressing, buy super firm tofu in a vacuum package.
  2. Gluten free – Substitute gluten free tamari for the soy sauce.
  3. Alternative to cornstarch – Use arrowroot or tapioca starch. Cornstarch works best though.
  4. Pan type – Make sure you use a quality non-stick pan! This is KEY to the tofu not sticking. 
  5. Air fryer option – Place in a single layer in the air fryer basket, and cook at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 3 servings | Calories: 182kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 422mg | Potassium: 224mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian-inspired
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. I was hesitant to use this recipe because I am lazy and don’t like to spend a lot of effort on a dish. I decided to pan fry this time with an eye on using the oven next time. I just haven’t had any luck with pan fried tofu before. And I only had tapioca starch, so my expectations were very low. Incredibly excited to say this is delicious. The tofu turned out super crispy, almost like they had been battered and fried. So good! 

  2. I made this again using your suggestion for oven frying. It worked just fine! I think if I had baked it a little longer then the tofu would have been more crunchy. My husband and I really enjoyed this tofu. Thanks for all the incredibly delicious recipes!!

    Jackie

    1. I’m glad it worked for you, Jackie! I’m glad you and your husband enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for sharing your great comments, and for using my recipes!

    2. This is so delicious and easy. I pair it with fried rice from my local Japanese restaurant and egg rolls. So yummy with sweet and sour sauce. I’ve made it numerous times so it’s becoming a staple.

      1. Hi Debbie. Thanks for your terrific feedback! I can’t get enough of this tofu myself! I’m glad you are loving it!

  3. You’ve done it again, Nora!
    This tofu is soooo good.  You are my go to person for all things vegan.  Every recipe I have made of yours has been outstanding!

    This tofu is perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and perfectly seasoned.  Love everything about it!

  4. I made this last night using the shelf stable extra firm tofu in a box. Everything worked just as you described and was delicious. Don’t have an air fryer, so as you can imagine I had a big stovetop greasy mess to clean up. That is why I only gave the recipe  4 ⭐️.

    How could I make this crispy tofu in the oven?

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! I wrote the recipe with the stovetop version in mind, but you can easily cook it in the air fryer or oven. It won’t quite be the same as the pan fried version though. To bake, spray a baking sheet with oil (or line with parchment paper). Add the tofu that has been tossed in the cornstarch/soy sauce and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, flip and cook 10 more minutes. I’d also spray the tofu with oil before baking. Hope that helps.

  5. Hey! I love all your recipes and when I’m cooking I always check your site first and wanted to thank you for all you’ve taught me. I’ve heard that freezing tofu and then thawing it and then pressing it and then frying it makes it different/better and was wondering whether you recommend this or have any thoughts about it. I’ve been doing it but obviously if it isn’t making it better (or maybe its making it it worse) I’d want to stop as it adds an extra step. Thanks again!!!!

    1. Thanks so much Patrick! I appreciate your words of encouragement. You can absolutely freeze the tofu first, then thaw and press it. Honestly, I’m usually too lazy to do this lol. But I do like the texture freezing gives tofu, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t think it’s necessary though, not at all. Hope that helps!

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