Tofu is a delicious, nutritious, and versatile source of protein – when it’s been prepared correctly. Tofu gets a bad reputation from the many accidents that are just waiting to happen during the preparation process, all of which can leave it soggy or flavorless. But when made properly, tofu becomes crispy, well-seasoned, and impossible to put down.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu, or bean curd, is essentially condensed blocks of soy milk. Tofu is made in a process similar to making cheese, developed during the Han dynasty in China. It’s a popular vegan and vegetarian protein source, but carnivores and omnivores can readily enjoy it. One serving of tofu contains about 14 grams of protein. Tofu is also loaded with amino acids and healthy fats, as well as calcium and iron.
What Kind of Tofu Should I Get?
There are generally four kinds of tofu that you might find at a store:
- Silken tofu – This is the softest tofu, with the highest water content, and is also known as Japanese style tofu. It’s often used for blending into smoothies to add protein.
- Soft tofu – Soft tofu is delicious in soups and sauces, as it easily absorbs flavors. It can be scrambled, but shouldn’t be fried, as it crumbles too easily.
- Firm tofu – This tofu can also be easily scrambled to use as an egg substitute. It comes packaged in water, but once it is drained, firm tofu is one of the best choices for absorbing marinades while holding its shape in the pan.
- Extra-firm tofu – With the lowest water content and firmest mouthfeel, this is the most common tofu to use when preparing it as a meat substitute.
How to Make Crispy Tofu
If you’re making fried bean curd, you should opt for a firm or extra firm tofu. Extra-firm tofu is also the best choice for grilling, and it can be marinated to absorb more flavor. Even for extra-firm tofu recipes, you’ll still want to press it between clean paper towels or dishcloths for at least 30 minutes under something heavy to make sure it drains of any excess water.
How to Fry Tofu
Here are three delicious recipes for frying tofu that will take the mystery out of the process.
1) Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu
Pan-fried tofu is one of the best crispy tofu recipes that are as delicious as it is easy to prepare.
- 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil or other neutral oil for frying
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder or other seasoning powders like paprika or chili powder
- Pinch of salt
How to Prepare:
Press the tofu for about 30 minutes to drain it of water. Once drained, cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes. Heat the olive oil or neutral oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan.
Toss the tofu with soy sauce, then in the tofu seasoning mixture of the flour, cornstarch, and garlic powder, until evenly coated. You may repeat the coating process several times.
To pan-fry tofu, add it to the pan in a single layer, without the cubes touching. It should sizzle when it touches the pan and rest about 3 to 4 minutes before flipping. Try not to overturn your tofu to prevent the coating from falling off. Fry tofu until golden brown on all sides, then sprinkle lightly with salt if desired.
You can serve this tofu as is or toss it in a teriyaki or barbecue sauce for more flavor.
167 calories, 6g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 12g fat, 1g saturated fat, 314mg sodium, 171mg potassium, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 31mg calcium, 1mg iron
2) Crispy Baked Tofu
Baked crispy tofu uses less oil than pan-fried tofu does. This crispy tofu recipe is a healthier alternative to get that extra crunchy exterior.
- 1 block extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tamari, or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch
How to Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the tofu from sticking. Press and drain the tofu, and then cut into vertical sticks or bite-sized cubes. (Once cut, you can drain the tofu again for at least another 10 minutes to draw out any leftover moisture.)
Drizzle the tofu with olive oil and tamari. Toss the tofu in the cornstarch or arrowroot starch until coated and until there are no powdery spots remaining.
Arrange the tofu in an even, single layer on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning over the tofu halfway to brown both sides.
136 calories, 9.5g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 3.4g polyunsaturated fat, 4g monounsaturated fat, 179.9mg sodium, 3.4g carbohydrate, 1.2g dietary fiber, 0.8g sugar, 11.9g protein
3) Deep-Fried Tofu
This fried tofu recipe delivers consistently chewy tofu that’s perfect for adding to a stir fry, salads, sandwich, and more.
- 4 blocks of the firm or extra firm tofu
- 2 cups neutral oil
- Sprinkle of salt
How to Prepare:
Rinse the tofu in cold water, then pat dry. Press gently between your hands to rid the tofu of excess water.
Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or pot until it bubbles. Gently transfer one block of tofu into the oil until it is entirely submerged. Fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, and leave to drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat the frying process with the remaining blocks of tofu, one at a time.
214 calories, 0g sugar, 12.4g fat, 2.2g carbohydrates, 0.3g fiber, 13.5g protein
These fried tofu recipes are surefire ways to make a plant-based protein that’s crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, healthy, and tasty enough to please even the most devout carnivore’s palate.