Let's take the mystery out of how to make pan-fried tofu! There endless ways to prepare tofu, but pan-frying is probably the quickest and easiest way to cook tofu. You can marinate your tofu first or just toss it into the pan and season it as it cooks, or even coat your tofu in breading before frying. Any way that you choose will produce delicious flavorful tofu in about 10 minutes.
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There are a few basics that you need to know about cooking tofu. If you get those right, you will have perfectly cooked tofu with endless choices of ways to pan-fry it.
- 🗝️ Keys to perfect tofu
- ❤️ Why you'll love pan-fried tofu
- 🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
- 🔪 Helpful tools
- 🧂 Flavoring tofu
- 🥄 How to pan-fry tofu
- ⭐ For crispy pan-fried tofu
- 👩🏻🍳 Pro Tips
- ❄️ Fresh or frozen tofu?
- 📖 Flavor variations
- 🍲 Pan-fried tofu with sauces
- ✨ Dipping sauces
- 🥡 Storage and reheating
- 🌟 Other methods for cooking tofu
🗝️ Keys to perfect tofu
Choose firm enough tofu that it will withstand pressing and cooking without crumbling. For this, you want an extra firm or high-protein tofu.
Drain your tofu and press out the liquid. You can do this by putting it between 2 cutting boards and putting a pan or something heavy on top or you can use a tofu press. You can learn more about pressing tofu in this article.
Use a nonstick pan or a well-seasoned iron skillet so it won't stick! Even though I've made tofu too many times to count, when I have made it on vacation or somewhere that only has a metal frying pan, it always sticks to the pan and falls apart even if I use lots of oil.
Cook it in a hot frying pan. One mistake that newbies make when frying tofu is to put it into the pan when it's cold and then heat it up. It sticks to the pan more this way.
❤️ Why you'll love pan-fried tofu
- The quickest and easiest way to make tofu.
- You can add seasoning while you cook, so you don't have to prepare it ahead of time.
- There are endless ways to flavor it so you never get bored!
🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
- Tofu - Extra firm or high protein tofu holds up best to pan-frying.
- Seasoning - you can season it with something as simple as salt, or use a variety of herbs and spices, or tofu marinades.
- Oil - Any neutral-flavored oil will work well. You will want to use at least a little oil to fry the tofu so that it doesn't stick to the pan. Oil also helps to brown and crisp the tofu.
🔪 Helpful tools
- Cast Iron Skillet or A Non-Stick Skillet - Tofu will stick to metal pans! It makes the tofu fall apart and you have a mess when you're done. To make nicely browned pan-fried tofu, you have to use a well-seasoned iron skillet or a non-stick skillet.
- Tongs - to make turning your tofu easier. You have to make sure all sides of your tofu are cooked evenly. Tongs make flipping easier, but you can also use a spatula.
🧂 Flavoring tofu
There are numerous ways to flavor your tofu, from something simple like salt to marinades like cilantro lime, teriyaki, or sweet Thai chili just to name a few. You can also simply sprinkle it with some herbs or spices like garlic powder, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, Old Bay, or Tony Chachere's creole seasoning.
🥄 How to pan-fry tofu
Step 1 - Drain and press your tofu to get out as much liquid as possible then cut into cubes.
Step 2 - Marinate your tofu in your choice of tofu marinades or sprinkle with some soy sauce.
Step 3 - Place oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium and allow the skillet to heat up for about 2 minutes before adding the tofu.
Step 4 - Place the tofu in the hot skillet and allow it to cook for about 2 minutes before giving the skillet a little shake. If the tofu moves freely in the pan, flip it to the other side.
Step 5 - Continue to cook the tofu on each side for about 2 minutes allowing it to get brown and crispy before flipping. (If you did not marinate the tofu ahead of time, sprinkle the tofu salt after you add it to the pan. Sprinkle with herbs and spices of choice towards the end of frying so that they don't burn during the frying process.
Step 6 - Once all sides of the tofu are browned and crispy, remove from heat and serve over rice, on salads, or as a side.
⭐ For crispy pan-fried tofu
If you want pan-fried tofu with a crispy coating, simply toss your pressed, cut, and seasoned tofu in a bowl of cornstarch and salt. The cornstarch gets very crispy when cooked and forms a delicious crunchy coating. I use this method in my deep-fried tofu recipe.
👩🏻🍳 Pro Tips
- Use firm, extra firm, or high-protein tofu so that it doesn't fall apart during the frying process.
- If you give your pan a little shake and the tofu is stuck to the pan, cook it a little longer and it should release on its own when it's ready to flip.
- Add the dry herbs and spices towards the end of cooking so that you don't burn them.
❄️ Fresh or frozen tofu?
If you want spongier, firmer tofu, you can freeze the tofu and then let it thaw again before cooking it. This gives the tofu a denser meatier texture and allows you to press more water out of it. Tofu that has been frozen is not necessarily better, just different. You may want to test it both ways to see which method you prefer.
To freeze tofu - simply place the block of tofu in the freezer in its original packaging. Leave it in there for at least 24 hours or up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the fridge, then drain and press as you would fresh tofu. (I always keep a couple of packs of tofu in the freezer and then move them to the fridge a day or two before I'm planning on making something with them.) Tip - Use a sharpie to mark the package so you know which ones have been frozen.
📖 Flavor variations
Tofu Fries - My kids love tofu cut into long strips and then pan-fried with a little salt until crispy. They love to dip them in ketchup and we call them tofu fries.
Spicy Southwest Tofu - For spicy southwest-flavored tofu, sprinkle the tofu with 1/2 teaspoon of taco or fajita seasoning towards the end of cooking. Stir well to coat the tofu in the seasoning and cook for 1 more minute. (You probably won't need any additional salt if your seasoning blend already contains it.)
Cajun Tofu - For spicy Cajun-style tofu, sprinkle the tofu with 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun-style seasoning towards the end of cooking. Stir well to coat the tofu in the seasoning and cook for 1 more minute. (You probably won't need any additional salt if your seasoning blend already contains it.)
Chicken Flavored Tofu - This is one of my family's favorite ways to season pan-fried tofu. Simply fry the tofu in 2 tablespoons of oil with a sprinkle of salt until all of the sides are crispy. Then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and some fresh ground pepper and toss well and cook for 1 more minute.
Tofu Scrambled "Eggs" - crumble the tofu and sprinkle with some black salt, turmeric, and nutritional yeast for an eggy flavor. Check out my post on vegan scrambled eggs for more details.
🍲 Pan-fried tofu with sauces
BBQ Tofu - To make pan-fried BBQ tofu, simply fry the tofu in oil and sprinkle with a little salt. After the tofu is cooked, turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup of vegan BBQ sauce and stir well. Serve over rice or on a sandwich bun.
Buffalo Tofu - Pan-fry the tofu in oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Fry until crispy on all sides and turn off the heat. Drizzle 1/2 cup of vegan buffalo sauce over the tofu. This is delicious made into a sandwich or on a salad with vegan ranch dressing.
Orange Tofu - Pan-fry the tofu with a sprinkle of salt or use the extra crispy corn starch method. Toss with 1/2 cup of vegan orange sauce and serve over rice with veggies.
✨ Dipping sauces
🥡 Storage and reheating
Refrigerate: Pan-fried tofu will keep well in the fridge for 3 - 5 days in a sealed container.
Freeze: You can freeze the tofu in an airtight bag for up to 3 months.
Reheating: Reheat the tofu in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes, pan-fry in a little oil, or bake at 350° F for about 10 - 15 minutes until warm.
🌟 Other methods for cooking tofu
📌 Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!
- 1 (14 oz) block tofu (firm, extra firm, or high protein)
- 1/2 cup tofu marinade (optional)
- 1 tablespoon light olive oil (or any neutral flavored oil)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon spices of choice (if not using a marinade)
For tofu with a crispy coating
- 1/3 cup corn starch (you can also use potato starch)
- Drain and press your tofu to get out as much liquid as possible then cut into cubes.
- Marinate your tofu in your choice of tofu marinades or sprinkle with some soy sauce.
- Place oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium and allow the skillet to heat up for about 2 minutes before adding the tofu.
- Place the tofu in the hot skillet and allow it to cook for about 2 minutes before giving the skillet a little shake. If the tofu moves freely in the pan, flip it to the other side.
- Continue to cook the tofu on each side for about 2 minutes allowing it to get brown and crispy before flipping. (If you did not marinate the tofu ahead of time, sprinkle the tofu salt after you add it to the pan. Sprinkle with herbs and spices of choice towards the end of frying so that they don't burn during the frying process.
- Once all sides of the tofu are browned and crispy, remove from heat and serve over rice, on salads, or as aside.
For tofu with a crispy coating
- Mix 1/3 cup of cornstarch with 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl and toss in marinated tofu.
- Pan-fry in 2 tablespoons of oil. (The coating will absorb more oil than uncoated tofu.)
- Turn the pieces every 2 minutes until they are golden brown on all sides.
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