This is the perfect pan-fried tofu recipe! It's quick, easy, and extra crispy. Each piece is fried to golden-brown perfection, then generously coated in a flavorful soy marinade. Sit down to a protein-packed meal in 15 minutes or less!
Table of Contents
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- It's customizable. Tofu acts like a sponge, perfectly soaking up any marinade. It's like a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with your favorite flavors.
- High in protein. Tofu serves as a valuable plant-based protein source. A half-cup serving of tofu contains over 21 grams of protein.
- Time-saving. In just 15 minutes, you'll have a nutritious dinner on the table that the entire family will love.
- Suitable for all diets. Tofu is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, low-carb, and filled with vitamins and minerals suited for a balanced diet.
🥢 What is pan-fried tofu?
Pan-fried tofu is our go-to preparation method when we're in the mood for this delicious food. It's quick, affordable, and full of plant-based protein.
To make this recipe, all you have to do is open the package, drain the liquid, coat it with cornstarch, and start cooking! It's that simple.
If you're not a tofu fan, we urge you to give it one last shot with this cooking technique. Once you try a bite, it will quickly become a part of your weekly rotation!
What is tofu, anyway?
Tofu is a type of soybean product that comes in various consistencies and textures. Dried soybeans are first soaked in water, then crushed and boiled. The beginning stages are not unlike the process of making soy milk.
After it's boiled, the mixture is separated into okara (pulp) and milk (liquid). At this point, more coagulants are added to separate the curds from the whey.
Once the curds are formed, they are transferred into molds, and pressed into the tofu you see at stores! Easy-peasy.
🤨 Do I have to press tofu?
This is an age-old question. Many cooks will swear by pressing tofu while others say it isn't necessary. Here's our advice...
If you have an extra 20-30 minutes to spare, pressing the water out will make your tofu slightly crispier.
If you're using a firm or extra-firm tofu variety, pressing it will make a marginal difference. We prefer saving time when it comes to cooking, but it's ultimately up to you!
🌱 Is tofu healthy?
When it comes to tofu, there is a notoriously large amount of misleading nutritional information out there. However, you have absolutely nothing to fear about this abundant source of isoflavones (anti-cancer plant compounds), heart-protecting saponins, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Plus, tofu is filled with calcium, manganese, and iron, all of which are beneficial for those following a plant-based or vegan diet.
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Tofu — We prefer extra-firm tofu for this recipe since it holds up the best. You can also use firm tofu, but medium, soft or silken tofu will fall apart too easily.
Cornstarch — To coat the tofu pieces and create a crispy exterior. Cornstarch also helps thicken the sauce once it's added to the pan. Do not skip this ingredient!
Sesame oil — For frying the tofu. The toasted sesame flavor mixes really well with the soy sauce glaze to enhance this dish.
Soy sauce — We just use regular soy sauce, but you can use liquid aminos or tamari for a gluten-free option. If you use coconut aminos, go easy on the maple syrup or agave.
Rice vinegar — To add a tangy element, we love rice vinegar. If you don't have any, try white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lime juice.
Sweetener — Both maple syrup and agave work well to sweeten and balance out the flavor of the sauce.
Sriracha — To bring a little heat. We love Sriracha, but sambal also works really well. If you're sensitive to spice, omit this completely.
Garlic powder — Provides a nutty, toasty, and savory flavor to the sauce. You can also use fresh minced garlic instead.
Garnishes — We highly recommend serving this pan-fried tofu with slices of green onions and toasted sesame seeds for a pop of flavor and color.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — Drain the tofu and wrap it in a paper towel or a clean tea towel. Place a cutting board with a heavy object on top (like a cast-iron skillet) to press out the excess moisture. You can also use a tofu press.
Step 2 — While the tofu is draining, add soy sauce, rice vinegar, agave, Sriracha, and garlic powder to a small mixing bowl, and whisk everything together.
Step 3 — Remove the tofu and cut it into bite-size triangles or 1-inch cubes. Add the tofu to a large mixing bowl, then sprinkle cornstarch over top. Gently toss to combine.
Step 4 — Heat sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium until it starts to shimmer. Add the tofu pieces in, and cook on all sides until golden-brown and crispy.
Step 5 — Once the tofu is browned, pour all of the sauce into the skillet. Toss the tofu to coat it completely and allow the sauce to thicken.
Step 6 — Serve immediately while warm with a garnish of sesame seeds or sliced green onions. For a more complete meal, serve it with rice or noodles. Happy eating!
If you have questions about this pan-fried tofu recipe, check out our FAQs or leave a comment down below!
🍚 How to serve pan-fried tofu
Serving tofu this way is one of the most versatile ways to include plant-based protein in your diet. Here are a few of our favorite ways to serve it:
By itself — If you're low on time or ingredients, serving pan-fried tofu as-is makes for a great low-carb, high-protein meal.
With noodles — If you're a noodle fan like us, tofu is the perfect companion for noodles like rice vermicelli, ramen noodles, glass noodles, soba noodles, or udon noodles.
🌡️ Storage & reheating
Pan-fried tofu is definitely best eaten immediately for the most crispy texture. However, here are a few storage tips if you end up with leftovers:
Fridge — Store the cooked tofu pieces in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. It will lose some crispiness but not the flavor!
Freezer — We don't recommend freezing this recipe once it's cooked. However, you can freeze uncooked tofu without the marinade.
Reheating — We recommend sautéeing the tofu in a skillet of oil over low-medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Alternatively, reheat your pan-fried tofu in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until it's hot.
Cubes — Even though we love making tofu triangles, you can also cut the block into cubes for an equally delicious recipe.
Arrowroot powder — If you don't have cornstarch, toss the tofu in arrowroot powder instead.
Spices & seasonings — Cumin, coriander, garlic powder, turmeric, or onion powder all make great seasonings.
Orange glaze — Mix together orange juice, zest, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and agave for a citrus-infused tofu marinade.
Barbecue — Try cooking the tofu in barbecue sauce for a more American flavor.
🧑🍳 Top tips
Heat your pan — Adding tofu to a hot skillet gives you the best chance for the perfect crisp while also limiting the amount of sticking that can happen.
Non-stick pan — For tofu, we always suggest a non-stick skillet to eliminate the frustration experienced when scraping pieces of tofu off the bottom!
Firm or extra firm — Ensure the tofu is firm or extra firm because soft and medium will contain too much water.
Prep garnishes beforehand — If you're making rice or vegetables to go with the tofu, make them in advance or at the same time to prevent your tofu from turning cold and soggy.
Cool on a wire rack — If you're cooking it in batches, cool your tofu on a wire rack to prevent it from losing its crispiness.
If your tofu isn't crispy, you likely chose the wrong firmness, didn't cook it long enough, or you flipped it too frequently. If your tofu contains excess water, ensure you press it before cooking. Also, give it at least 3-4 minutes before flipping so each side has time to brown.
Although you don't need as much oil when baking tofu, we prefer the flavor and texture of pan-fried tofu the most. It's a personal preference!
Pan-frying tofu on the stove takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much tofu you're cooking.
🍴 More recipes with tofu
If you enjoyed this pan-fried tofu, be sure to check out these other recipes where it's featured:
- Vegan Thai red curry: Spicy red curry with kabocha squash and tofu cubes.
- Teriyaki tofu stir fry: Sweet homemade teriyaki sauce, vegetables, and tofu.
- Sesame ginger tofu: Sticky sesame ginger marinade on oven-baked tofu.
- Spicy peanut noodles with tofu: Creamy, spicy, and flavorful noodles infused with peanut butter and protein-packed tofu.
Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu Recipe
- Tofu press
- Large non-stick skillet
- Mixing bowls
- 14 ounces extra-firm tofu ($3.42)
- 3 tablespoons corn starch ($0.08)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil ($0.26)
- ¼ cup soy sauce ($0.20)
- 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar ($0.17)
- 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup or agave ($0.12)
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha ($0.12)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.02)
For serving optional
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Sliced green onions
- Rice or noodles
- Drain the tofu and wrap it in a paper towel or a clean tea towel. Use a tofu press or place a cutting board with a heavy object on top (like a cast-iron skillet) to press out the excess moisture. This takes around 20-30 minutes.
- While the tofu is draining, add soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup or agave, Sriracha, and garlic powder to a small mixing bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- Remove the tofu and cut it into bite-size triangles or 1-inch cubes. Add to a large mixing bowl, then sprinkle cornstarch over top. Gently toss to combine.
- Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium until it starts to shimmer. Add tofu and let it cook for approximately 3-4 minutes before flipping it. Flip and repeat this step until all sides are browned.
- Once the tofu is browned, pour all of the sauce into the skillet. Toss the tofu to coat it completely, and cook for another 1-2 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Serve immediately while warm with a garnish of sesame seeds or sliced green onions. For a more complete meal, serve it with rice or noodles. Happy eating!
- Heat your pan — Adding tofu to a hot skillet gives you the best chance for the perfect crisp while also limiting the amount of sticking that can happen.
- Non-stick pan — For tofu, we always suggest a non-stick skillet to eliminate the frustration experienced when scraping pieces of tofu off the bottom!
- Firm or extra firm — Ensure the tofu is firm or extra firm because soft and medium will contain too much water.
- Prep garnishes beforehand — If you're making rice or vegetables to go with the tofu, make them in advance or at the same time to prevent your tofu from turning cold and soggy.
- Cool on a wire rack — If you're cooking it in batches, cool your tofu on a wire rack to prevent it from losing its crispiness.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.