Do you know how to make crispy tofu? It took me a long time after I went vegan to perfect my tofu making skills. I wanted that perfect crispy tofu like I would get at an Asian restaurant! After many years, I have figured out some tricks to make tofu perfectly.
What type of tofu should I use?
There are so many types of tofu out there, it can make your head spin. For making crispy fried tofu, you want a very firm tofu. Extra firm or high protein tofu work the best. The high protein tofu comes vacuum sealed instead of in the plastic tubs. It is very dense and firm. You do not want silken tofu. This is the type that comes in little cardboard boxes. Even the extra firm variety of silken tofu will fall apart when you try to cook it. The silken tofu is great in things like my vegan sour cream recipe when you want a very soft smooth tofu for pureeing, but not for this one.
Do I have to press the tofu?
Yes! You have to get out as much excess liquid as you can. Use a tofu press, two cutting boards with something heavy on top, or just your hands, but you NEED to press the water out of it.
How do I coat the tofu?
Cut tofu into small, even cubes and place in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the cornstarch, salt and pepper and then pour over the tofu. Shake the bowl to toss the tofu until it is covered with the cornstarch mixture. Don’t stir it or you will break up the tofu and it will no longer be in nice neat cubes.
I’ve heard some people freeze their tofu. What does freezing do to the tofu?
The freezing process makes the tofu spongier; this way you can squeeze out more liquid. The tofu that has been frozen also soaks up more flavors when you cook it. Freezing your tofu does give it a different texture. Some people love it and others do not. You just need to give it a try and see if you like what the freezing process does to it.
Do I have to fry it? This sounds like too much fat!
If you want it to taste like the tofu that you love from restaurants, then, yes, you have to fry it! You can bake your tofu, but it will not have the same taste or texture as the fried tofu.
Should I deep fry or pan fry it?
If you have a deep fryer, it is a little easier since you don’t have to flip the tofu. It also cooks it very evenly on all sides. If you don’t have one, you can get a very similar effect by pan frying it in a generous amount of oil. (Remember, just because you use that much oil in the pan, you are not eating all that oil. Most of it is still left in the pan when you are done frying). If you chose to pan fry it, be sure to wear long sleeves and use a long handled spatula to flip the tofu. It will spatter when it cooks.
Tips for how to make crispy tofu:
- If you have time, freeze the tofu for a few days before making. Then thaw completely and squeeze out all the excess water.
- Press your tofu. Use a tofu press, two cutting boards with something heavy on top, or just your hands, but you NEED to press the water out of it.
- Coating your tofu with a mixture of cornstarch, salt and pepper will give it a crunchy coating with great flavor. You can also use regular flour or even gluten free flour instead of the cornstarch, but the cornstarch crisps up the best.
- You can bake, pan fry or deep fry your tofu. All methods work well, but if you want it truly crispy like the kind you may get at your favorite Asian restaurant, you need to deep fry it or at least use a lot of oil while pan frying. (I’m not claiming that this is health food here. Just being honest about how you need to cook it to give it that taste and crunch).
What is a good dipping sauce for crispy tofu?
My kids love crispy tofu dipped in ketchup or barbecue sauce. We also love Thai chili dipping sauce. I used to buy it it pre-made, but I discovered that I can whip it up myself with much less sugar and preservatives. I have included the recipe for you to make up your own as well.
How to make perfect crispy tofu like you get in restaurants! Dipped in a Thai chili dipping sauce
- 1 lbs. firm tofu
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper (fresh ground)
- 1/4 cup oil for frying (neutral flavored)
Press fresh (or pre-frozen then thawed) tofu squeezing out as much liquid as possible.
Cut tofu into even 1/2 sized cubes and place in a large bowl.
In another bowl, mix the cornstarch salt and pepper and then pour over the tofu. Shake the bowl with the tofu until all of the tofu is covered with the cornstarch mixture.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or on medium high in large frying pan, and add coated tofu once the oil is hot.
If pan frying, shake the pan every minute or two until the tofu begins to move freely, then use a spatula to flip the tofu to the other side. continue to do this until all sides of the tofu are golden and crispy.
If you are using a deep fryer. Turn the oil heat to 374° F or 190° C. Add the tofu in small batches so they have room between pieces and don't stick together. Cook until they float to the top and get slightly golden. (This will take about 4 minutes).
Place the cooked tofu on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil and then serve immediately.
Add the rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, sugar, and salt to a small sauce pan and heat to a slow boil for about 1 minute and then turn off heat.
- If pan frying - Be careful to wear long sleeves and use a long handled spatula. The oil will spatter.
- Cook the tofu in 2-3 small batches to give more room in the pan or fryer so it doesn't clump and stick together.
Add this crispy tofu to this vegan summer noodle salad for the perfect combo!
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