Tofu is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in many delicious ways. When cooked properly, tofu transforms from a plain, soft food into a crispy, flavorful treat.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to make crispy tofu at home with various quick and easy methods.
What is Tofu?
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food made from condensed soy milk. It originated in China over 2000 years ago.
Tofu is made from soybeans that are soaked, ground, cooked, and precipitated to form a solid white block. It has a mild flavor and can be used to absorb accompanying sauces and seasonings.
Tofu is rich in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a good source of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Due to its nutritional value and versatility, tofu has become popular worldwide as a meat substitute.
Benefits of Crispy Tofu
Crispy tofu has a satisfying crunchy texture on the outside while remaining soft and silky on the inside. Frying or baking tofu gives it a delicious golden exterior that provides an excellent contrast to sauces and glazes.
Crisping the tofu increases the protein absorption from the soybeans. The Maillard reaction also generates new aromatic compounds and intensifies flavor.
Overall, crispy tofu is tastier, has more texture, and is healthier than plain soft tofu.
Baking Crispy Tofu
Baking is a simple, hands-off way to make crispy tofu in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Drain the block of tofu and gently press out the excess water using paper towels. Cut tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices or cubes.
- Place tofu pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan.
- Brush or drizzle tofu generously with oil on all sides. Season with salt and any additional spices.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes, flipping halfway, until the tofu is lightly browned and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and toss with any desired sauces or glazes. Enjoy!
Baked tofu gets a crunchy crust from the hot, dry heat of the oven. The key is oiling and spreading out the tofu so it cooks evenly. Bake in a thick single layer and flip halfway for crispy texture on all sides.
Pan-frying Crispy Tofu
Pan frying is a quick and easy stovetop method for crisping tofu.
- Drain and cut the tofu into cubes or slices. Lay out paper towels and gently press out the moisture.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
- Once the oil is shimmering, add the tofu pieces in a single layer. Do not overcrowd the pan.
- Fry for 2–3 minutes per side until tofu is lightly browned. Flip gently with a spatula.
- Remove the tofu from the pan and season with salt and desired sauces. Enjoy hot!
Pan-frying adds crunchy, browned edges while keeping the inside smooth and silky. Use a nonstick skillet to prevent sticking. Fry in batches to avoid steaming instead of crisping.
Air Frying Crisp Tofu
Air-frying creates super crispy tofu without deep-frying.
- Drain, pat dry, and cut tofu into 1-inch cubes.
- Toss or spray tofu with a small amount of oil to lightly coat each piece.
- Arrange tofu in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Do not overfill.
- Air fry at 370°F for 15–18 minutes, shaking the basket occasionally, until tofu is browned and crispy.
- Season with salt and desired sauces. Enjoy!
The hot, circulated air of the air fryer quickly dehydrates the surface and crisps up the tofu. Air-frying gives all-around texture without flipping. Just be sure not to overcrowd the tofu.
Broiling Crisp Tofu
Broiling is the quickest way to give tofu a crispy crust by using direct top-down high heat.
- Drain, pat dry, and cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slices or cubes.
- Place tofu in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
- Position the oven rack 6 inches from the top and preheat the broiler to high.
- Broil tofu for 3-5 minutes until lightly charred and crispy. Watch closely to avoid burning.
- Flip and broil the other side for 1–2 minutes until browned.
- Season with salt and desired sauces. Enjoy immediately!
The intense direct heat from the broiler gives tofu a nicely seared exterior. Keep a close eye to avoid over broiling. Broiling is a great, quick cooking method that is best for smaller batches.
Tips for Extra Crispy Tofu
- Press or freeze: Remove excess moisture for crisper results. Freeze the slabs overnight, then thaw and press out the water.
- Cut small: Cubes or thin slices get crisper than large slabs.
- Toss in cornstarch: Lightly coat tofu in cornstarch for extra crispiness. Tap off the excess.
- Double breadcrumbs: dip in cornstarch, then egg, then breadcrumbs twice for a crispy shell.
- Sear, then bake: Pan fry until browned, then finish cooking through in the oven.
- Pat dry: Ensure the surface is dry before cooking to help browning.
- Don’t crowd: Allow space between pieces for even crisping.
- Blot oil: Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil after cooking.
FAQ: Making Crispy Tofu
What type of tofu works best?
Firm or extra-firm tofu works best to achieve a crispy texture. Soft or silken tofu is too delicate and will fall apart when fried or baked.
Does pressing the tofu make a difference?
Yes, pressing or freezing the tofu helps extract moisture for a crisper exterior when cooked. Be gentle when pressing to avoid crumbling the block.
What is the best oil for crispy tofu?
Neutral oils with high smoke points like vegetable, grapeseed, avocado, or peanut work well. Olive oil can also be used. The oil helps facilitate browning and crisping.
How long does the tofu need to cook?
15–30 minutes, depending on the amount and thickness of tofu as well as the cooking method. Test a piece to ensure the center is heated through.
Yes, a light coating of cornstarch or double-dipping in breadcrumbs adds extra crispiness. Just be sure to remove any excess coating.
What sauces go well with crispy tofu?
Crispy tofu pairs great with Asian sauces like soy, hoisin, sweet and sour, or peanut sauce. It also enjoys glazes, salsa, BBQ sauce, gravy, and creamy dips.
How to Make Crispy Baked Tofu
- 1 block extra-firm tofu (14 to 16 ounces)
- 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
- Remove tofu from the package and press between paper towels for 20 minutes. Cut into 1⁄2-inch thick triangles.
- Pat the tofu dry once more with paper towels to remove any excess moisture on the surface.
- Mix cornstarch and seasonings in a shallow dish. Dredge tofu pieces lightly in the cornstarch mixture.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan.
- Carefully add half the tofu triangles in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 4 minutes.
- Flip the tofu and cook another 3–4 minutes until crispy and golden.
- Transfer the tofu to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining tofu.
- Serve crispy tofu immediately while it is still hot and crispy. Enjoy as desired!
- For best results, use extra-firm or super-firm tofu. Regular, firm tofu may not get as crispy.
- Make sure to press the tofu before marinating to remove excess moisture. This helps the tofu get extra crispy when baking.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes or smaller pieces to increase the crispiness.
- Let the tofu marinate for at least 15–20 minutes to allow the flavors to soak in. But no longer than 30 minutes, so the tofu doesn't get mushy.
- Use cornstarch for coating, not flour, for the crispiest texture.
- Bake the tofu on a lightly greased baking sheet in a single layer, not touching, so all sides get crispy.
- Flip the tofu halfway during baking to ensure even crisping on all sides.
- For extra crunch, broil the baked tofu for 1-2 minutes at the end. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
- Serve the crispy tofu immediately for maximum crispness. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or air fryer.
- Try using the crispy tofu in stir-fries, Buddha bowls, salads, or on its own as a snack!
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.