Tofu can be a great substitute for meat in vegetarian diets – but it’s not typically because of its flavor and texture. Straight out of the tub it isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking it’s a piece of sautéed meat. However, if you make crispy tofu and pump up the flavor, then you have a very suitable alternative that adds more plant protein to your diet.
If you need a good recipe for this tofu, you could make this Basil Chicken and Cashew Stir Fry with Tofu instead…
(Updated for Air Fryers! See below….)
How to Prepare Crispy Tofu
Getting the tofu ready is pretty straightforward. The typical block of extra firm tofu is about 2″ thick. So I’ll slice it horizontally into two 1-inch thick slabs. Place each slab between a kitchen towel, apply pressure to squeeze out excess water and then finish cubing it up individual pieces.
Be careful not to press too hard as the tofu is still a bit fragile. It’s going to smash easily, even if it’s extra firm. Some firm pressure for a few seconds will extract quite a bit of water.
If you plan on marinating your tofu, then you’ll want to place something heavy on top of the tofu block for at least 30 minutes to really get the water out. Then you can make any number of soy-sauce based marinades that will really give the tofu a meaty flavor
Make a Crispy Coating for Tofu
Next you want to make a simple coating that will crisp up on the outside of the tofu. Rather than using flour, a typical dredging for things like fried chicken, I use cornmeal. Below is the base recipe for cornmeal and some simple seasoning (onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper)
You can take this in any number of directions. Like it spicy? Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and some crushed red pepper.
How about a little smokey? Smoked paprika would be a great addition.
Place the cubed tofu in a shallow dish and lightly coat it with your seasoning just prior to cooking.
How to Air Fry Crispy Tofu
Since getting a Cosori Air Fryer about a year ago, I’ve been gradually updating all of my regular oven recipes into air fryer recipes. This is really straightforward.
You can make crispy tofu in the air fryer in 20 minutes at 390 degrees
Crispy Baked Tofu or Crispy Fried Tofu?
Without a doubt, the crispy fried tofu is going to have the best overall texture. But who needs all that extra oil and fat? You can achieve a very, very similar result in just 30 minutes in a toaster oven.
|Extra Firm Tofu Cubes before Baking||Extra Firm Tofu Cubes after Baking|
Recommendation: I’m a huge fan of Kitchen Aid Countertop Ovens (link takes you to Amazon), especially their convection models, because they heat very evenly and are great for small dishes like this. You can fit an entire cast iron skillet inside of one!
Transfer the tofu to a sheet pan that you’ve sprayed with non-stick spray and put it in a preheated oven. After about 10 minutes, turn them over. You should do this again about 10 minutes later.
And that’s all there is to it. One block should be plenty for 4 people. Whenever I cook tofu like this, I usually make two batches from two tofu blocks and refrigerate the leftovers for later in the week. They also are great in salads as a sort of crouton if you are low carb.
Take a box of extra-firm tofu to the next level by baking it until it is nice and crispy in the oven or in an air fryer
- 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
- 1 Tablespoon Cornmeal
- 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Cut the brick of tofu in half horizontally to create two slabs
Place the tofu slabs between a kitchen towel and carefully, but firmly, press out the water. Slice the tofu into cubes
Mix the remaining ingredients together and coat the tofu in a shallow pan
Bake the tofu for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn each piece over about every 10 minutes.
Air Fry the tofu for 20 minutes at 390 degrees