How to Cook Crispy Tofu

Crispy tofu in a frying pan.

Tofu: people dig it or slam it. And no matter how long you press it or marinate it, one of the biggest complaints is the dull flavor and wet, spongy texture. Both of these things are a total bummer—especially when you’ve done everything you can to try and attain that crispy outside and flavor-packed inside. The good news is this trick will teach you how to cook crispy tofu.

Start by freezing your tofu.

As soon as you get home from the store, slice a small incision into that tofu package, drain the water from inside, and throw it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it (but at least three hours). Freezing an extra firm block of tofu removes the excess moisture from within the brick resulting a heartier, chewier texture. Additionally, it makes the tofu way better for frying it to a nice golden crisp. I’ve read that it’s also great for marinating, but I haven’t marinated my tofu after discovering this method; I haven’t felt the need. If you give it a shot, let me know in the comments below.

When you’re ready to cook it, boil your tofu.

Brick of frozen tofu

This sounds ridiculous, I know. But giving your brick of tofu a hot bath prior to frying it is a game changer. Fill a saucepan that is large enough to submerge your entire brick tofu about 3/4 of the way with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Carefully place the tofu in the boiling water and let the water return to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer and let the tofu boil for about 15 minutes. (Note that frozen tofu has a yellow tint to it, but don’t fret. That’s normal. Once it hits the water, it will slowly fade back to it’s natural color.)

When the tofu is done, carefully remove it from the water with a steady spatula and set it down on a paper towel-lined plate or cutting board to cool.

Tofu being removed from boiling water.

Once the tofu has cooled, pat it down with paper towels to get rid of any extra moisture hanging around. Then, transfer the tofu to a cutting board and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

Frying the tofu.

Tofu being pan-fried to a crisp.

Heat your choice of cooking oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Let the oil get hot before adding the tofu to the pan, but don’t let it reach the point where it’s smoking or your tofu will likely taste burnt. Transfer the cubed tofu to the skillet and allow them to simmer for about five minute, checking on the browning process here and there. Once that side is golden brown, gently flip the tofu and continue to brown each side of the tofu. This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes depending on your heat and your skillet, but be patient—it’ll be worth it.

Once your tofu is golden crisp on all sides, remove the cubes from the pan and set them aside until you’re ready to toss them into whatever it is you want to toss them in, be it a curry or a rice dish. You can totally enjoy them on their own,  too; these Crispy Buffalo Tofu Bites are a great place to start.

Flavor it up.

When you bring your tofu to the pan, feel free to add some soy sauce, grated ginger, hot sauce, or other seasonings you’re into. If you add fresh garlic, add it near the end of the frying time since garlic burns quickly. You can also toss the tofu into a sauce right after it’s been cooked, or serve it with a dip.

Interested in other meat replacements? Find some here!