Crispy Pan Fried Tofu is a fabulous vegetarian snack or appetizer. The crunchy golden exterior is the perfect complement to the soft texture of the tofu. Paired with a bold & spicy dipping sauce, you’ll want to eat these straight out of the skillet!
This post and step-by-step photos were updated March 3, 2019
I’m all about texture when it comes to food. So I have no problems writing off an entire ingredient, simply based on how it feels when I take a bite.
That’s the way I was with tofu…you couldn’t pay me to even try it until a few years ago. My first taste was at a restaurant, only because it was fried and my server raved about it. It was then another 18 months before I bought it at the grocery store, and only because my parents (who are vegetarian) were in town.
I’m working to expand my recipe collection for my readers who follow different food lifestyles. I mastered Homemade Falafel, my first vegan recipe. I have a number of vegetarian recipes on the blog. And I’m including more tips on ingredient swaps.
While tofu isn’t limited to a specific food lifestyle, it is a major shift from my typical recipes. And since nothing is bad when it’s fried, I jumped in head-first with Crispy Pan Fried Tofu.
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE
- It’s perfect as a snack or appetizer
- Panko bread crumbs add a fabulous, light and crunchy bite to the tofu
- It’s easy to make
What is tofu? Tofu is made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into solid blocks in a process similar to making cheese. It originated in China and is used predominantly in Asian and vegetarian cooking. Tofu is high in protein, iron and calcium, and low in calories. It’s also vegan and gluten-free.
PICKING THE RIGHT TOFU
Most of the tofu I’ve seen at restaurants was soft, and kind of jiggly. The only jiggly food I eat is jello. But I’ve since learned that there are several options
Types of Tofu
- SILKEN – Smooth texture, kind of gelatinous
- REGULAR – Denser texture, spongy feel
Both types come in Soft, Firm, and Extra Firm. And there are specific ways to use each one
- Soft or soft silken – dishes with a soft, creamy texture
- Firm or silken firm – for stir fry
- Extra firm tofu – when the tofu needs to stay together without crumbling
INGREDIENTS FOR THE PERFECT CRISPY PAN FRIED TOFU
- Extra Firm Tofu
- Seasonings – Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Cayenne Pepper, coarse sea salt and black pepper.
- Panko Bread Crumbs
- Avocado Oil or Canola Oil
NOTE: Tofu is naturally vegan and gluten free. To keep Crispy Pan Fried Tofu gluten free, use Gluten Free Panko Bread Crumbs. To keep them vegan, use soy milk or water rather than egg wash. I have not tried this egg wash substitute method.
PREPARING YOUR TOFU
Regular tofu comes packed in water (silken does not) and you can discard the water. If you’re not immediately using all of the tofu, reserve the water and store the remaining tofu and water in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Tofu needs to be “pressed”. Cut the tofu into about 1″ x 1.5″ pieces. A 14oz package will yield 40-44 pieces. Place a couple of paper towels on a plate. Top with tofu pieces. Top with more paper towels. Finish with a weighted object like 28oz tomato sauce cans or a baking dish
Press tofu for at least 30 minutes. I like to replace the paper towels at 30 minutes and press for another 20. But that is personal preference.
EASY PROCESS FOR CRISPY PAN FRIED TOFU
Create a breading station in 3 separate containers. Cornstarch & seasonings; Egg wash; Panko bread crumbs
- Toss tofu well in cornstarch mixture.
- Dip tofu in egg, and make sure each piece is fully coated.
- Toss tofu in bread crumbs, and use your hands to press bread crumbs firmly into tofu
Pan-Fry the Tofu
- Add enough oil for a depth of 1/4″ in a large skillet. Make sure oil gets hot, or tofu will steam and not fry.
- Carefully add tofu to oil and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.
- Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain, and immediately sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt
MORE TIPS FOR CRISPY PAN FRIED TOFU
- Tofu has no flavor on its own, so do not skimp on the seasoning!
- Whip up a delicious dipping sauce. I make an incredibly easy sauce, using ingredients already in my pantry
- Don’t make Crispy Pan Fried Tofu too far ahead. It won’t taste good at room temperature, and it will start to get soggy. Nobody wants soggy fried food
MORE DELICIOUS VEGETARIAN RECIPES
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Crispy Pan Fried Tofu
- Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in small bowl, and mix well. Set aside
- Take tofu out of package and discard water. Slice tofu into chunks about 1"x1.5". For one package, you will get 40-44 pieces.
- Line a large plate with 2 paper towels, and place tofu pieces on top. Cover tofu with 2 more paper towels. Place a small baking dish on top of the paper towels, and press down lightly.
- Press tofu for 30 minutes. If desired, replace paper towels and press for another 15-20 minutes
- While tofu presses create a breading station. Add cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper in one bowl, and mix well. Combine eggs and water in another bowl. In third bowl, add bread crumbs
- Toss tofu pieces first in cornstarch mixture, then egg wash, then bread crumbs. Make sure to fully coat all sides of each piece. Press the bread crumbs firmly into tofu
- Add enough oil for a depth of about 1/4" in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add tofu. Don't overcrowd the skillet, or the tofu will steam and not fry. I use a 10" skillet, and fry the tofu in 2 batches. Once one side is golden brown, flip tofu and fry on other side
- As tofu finishes cooking, remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little more sea salt as they come out of the oil. Serve immediately