Fried tofu or pan-fried tofu is crisp, tender, flavorful, and ready in just 15 minutes. It’s a protein-rich add-in for salads, wraps, stews, and curries, and it’s delicious as a snack.

It has a thin outer shell that is slightly crisp and packed with flavor. You can think of it as a tasty, healthy, nutritious chicken replacement.

Fried tofu with silver fork

Check out our best tofu recipe collection!

Fried tofu with a silver fork

You can expect fried tofu cubes that are soft inside, lightly crispy outside and super flavorful thanks to the spices in the coating.

Don’t worry; this is not a deep-frying recipe, and you can make it with little effort and time.

We cook it on a non-stick pan with little oil to keep this recipe relatively healthy and suitable for most people.

It’s a perfect last-minute dinner saver because you can use it as your main protein and add it to salads of all kinds, wraps, grain bowls, stir-fries, curries, and even pasta.

To make the tofu tasty, we coat it in a flavorful seasoning of cornstarch mixed with spices. Of course, you can change the seasoning based on your preference, and we will show you some options in our variations chapter below.

Honestly, we make fried tofu ALL the time, and we hope you like it as much as we do.

It’s become our favorite last-minute recipe to add flavor, texture, and plant-based protein to our meals. Oh, the recipe is vegan and gluten-free.

Ingredients

Fried tofu ingredients

Tofu

Pick a firm tofu or extra-firm tofu for this recipe.

We do not recommend using silky tofu or soft tofu unless you make a dish that specifically calls for it.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch has three functions: it keeps the moisture inside the tofu, makes it crispy outside, and makes the seasoning stick.

We haven’t tried substituting arrowroot powder for cornstarch, but some readers have and it seems to be working for them.

You CANNOT substitute all purpose flour for cornstarch.

Salt

Tofu is bland on its own, and it needs salt. You can adjust the quantities based on your dietary preferences and sodium reuirements. You can add more salt once the fried tofu is cooked.

Spices

To make pan-fried tofu that goes well with most dishes, use garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, and black pepper.

For Indian-inspired fried tofu, use curry powder, turmeric powder, and ground cumin.

Use garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and dried rosemary for Italian-inspired fried tofu.

What’s essential is mixing the spices with the cornstarch first so they stick to the tofu.

Oil

We recommend using extra virgin olive oil because it adds a nice fruity flavor and is packed with polyphenols that are good for our health, and that make the oil stable at high temperatures.

You can substitute avocado oil, regular olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil for EVO oil.

Tofu salad with tahini dressing
Creamy tofu salad with tahini dressing.

Instructions

Step 1: Make the seasoning

Add cornstarch, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder to a medium-sized dish with low edges.

Mix the ingredients with a fork till they are well distributed.

Tip: If you like a different spice mix, feel free to change it. Check out our “variations” chapter for more seasoning ideas.

Tip: a baking dish is perfect for this. Bowls are not the best for tossing the tofu in the seasoning because the tofu doesn’t have enough space and will crumble as you toss it.

spice mix in a baking pan

Step 2: Dice and toss

Take the tofu out of the package and drain its liquid.

Cut the tofu into small cubes. We like our tofu cubes relatively small. A little less than 1/2 an inch (1 cm). This way, they get more flavorful.

Tip: For this pan-fried tofu recipe, do not pat dry the tofu with a towel or with a paper towel. On the contrary, try to keep the tofu slightly wet outside. The coating will stick better this way.

Also, do not press the tofu with a tofu press. I know most recipes call for it, but we don’t want dry, chewy, and jery-like tofu here.

We want soft, almost silky cubes that are slightly crispy on the outside, not rubbery and chewy.

diced tofu on a cutting board

Add the diced tofu to the cornstarch mix and move the dish left and right, so the tofu gets coated in the seasoning. You might need to use your hands to get all the pieces evenly coated.

tofu in spice mix

Step 3: Pan-fry it

To a large non-stick skillet, add the olive oil. Let it warm up for a minute on medium heat, then add in the tofu.

Flip the cubes every couple of minutes using a fork or chopsticks. Cook for around 12 minutes or until the tofu is crisp and golden on most sides.

Tip: you could try using a well-seasoned cast iron pan, but in our experience, tofu sticks pretty badly on cast iron, and you’d have to use a lot more oil.

tofu frying on a pan

Your crispy pan-fried tofu is ready when golden brown, with a deep orange hue and a thin, crisp crust.

Fried tofu on a white plate

Serving Suggestions

Add it to a salad. You’ll love it in:

Kale quinoa salad with tofu
Kale quinoa salad with pan-fried tofu.

Add it to grain bowls and pasta. You’ll love it in:

garlic and oil pasta with tofu
Garlic and oil pasta with tofu.

Add it to soups, on top, as if it were croutons:

  • Potato leek soup: a creamy soup to warm you up on the coldest winter days.
  • Broccoli soup: you’ll love this one; it has a beautiful green color and a pleasant broccoli taste.
  • Butternut squash soup: so easy and tasty you’ll want to make it every day.
  • Eggplant soup: light and aromatic; the fried tofu adds a nice protein kick to this one.

Variations

Curry Fried Tofu

curry tofu in a bowl

Not sure if you noticed by looking at our curry selection, but we adore Indian food.

So we could not try spicing our fried tofu with an Indian twist. It’s delicious with our lentil curry, tofu curry, and most curries.

Mix the cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin.

Turmeric-Black Pepper Fried Tofu

Do you want an antioxidant boost for your meals? Add two teaspoons turmeric powder and a few twists of black pepper to the cornstarch. This is so tasty and healthy. We love serving this with our one-pot chickpea stew.

Italian Fried Tofu

Believe it or not, tofu is delicious with an Italian spin. Add dried oregano, thyme, and rosemary to the cornstarch to get pan-fried tofu that tastes like Italy.

We love this with our couscous with vegetables or our Italian bean stew.

Air fryer tofu

air fryer tofu with parsley

Got an air fryer? Try this chewy air fryer tofu; it’s an easy, hands-off recipe you can make in less than 15 minutes with simple ingredients. You can expect tasty, chewy, and crispy tofu bites.

Tips

  • Don’t dry the tofu: the seasoning will stick much better if your tofu is a little wet on the surface.
  • Don’t press it: pressing the tofu makes it dry and rubbery and ruins its texture. We don’t want that. Instead, we want fried tofu that is soft, almost silky on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
  • Mix the cornstarch with the spices: make seasoning with cornstarch and plenty of spices and some salt. Kind of like KFC style. We kept it simple with garlic powder, chili, and paprika so that anyone can do it, but you can freestyle and add your favorite spices.

Questions

Do you have to press the tofu before pan-frying?

No. You don’t have to press the tofu before pan-frying. On the contrary, pressing the tofu will make it dry, chewy, and jerky-like. So, in most cases, we do not recommend pressing tofu before cooking.

Learn more about this topic here; it’s a super interesting Reddit conversation about Cultural differences in preparing tofu.

Is pan-frying tofu healthy?

It depends. Pan-frying can be unhealthy if you use low-quality oil, overheat it, so it burns, or use a lot of fat.

We have three tips to make pan-fried tofu healthier:

1) Use good quality extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has more antioxidants than most oils. Antioxidants protect the oil while it cooks, making it healthier for you.

2) Use lower heat. High heat will damage the oil, making it unhealthy. If the oil smokes, it means it’s been damaged by the heat. Keep the heat to medium for healthier pan-fried tofu.

3) You don’t need a lot of oil, but you do need some. Start with 1.5 – 2 tablespoons and add more if you think the pan is too dry or want tastier fried tofu.

Is it better to pan-fry or bake tofu?

Pan-fried tofu preserves more moisture, gets crispier on the outside, and stays softer inside. It also takes less time, and we find it has more flavor.

Oven-baked tofu tends to get chewier, dryer, and jerky-like, so it really depends on your taste.

How long should you fry tofu?

Fry tofu for 12 minutes, flipping it every couple of minutes. Use a non-stick pan with a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil.

Can I fry tofu without pressing it?

Yes. You can fry tofu without pressing it, and we recommend not pressing it before cooking.

We think it’s better not to press the tofu to keep it moist, soft, and silky inside and crispy on the outside. Pressed tofu can be dry, chewy, and rubbery.

Make ahead & Storage

Make ahead: this is not the best recipe to make ahead because the tofu loses its outer crispiness.

However, if you’d like to make it in advance, you can certainly do so, and we often do this, especially when we do meal prep for a few days. The tofu is still tasty, just not as crisp. A trick that helps is to reheat it on a non-stick pan with a bit of oil for a couple of minutes.

Refrigerator: store pan-fried tofu leftovers in a bowl, covered with a plate, or in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. Remember that the coating absorbs moisture as it sits in the fridge and will lose its crispness.

Freezer: we don’t recommend freezing fried tofu because the coating won’t thaw and reheat well.

Reheat: you can warm leftovers in the microwave for 2 minutes or on a non-stick skillet or cast iron pan with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes.

More Tofu Recipes

If you like this fried tofu recipe, check out our other easy tofu recipes:

  • Pan-fried lemon: a great alternative to lemon chicken and is ready in just 15 minutes.
  • Tofu curry with a fragrant Indian-inspired spice mix and a dreamy creamy curry sauce.
  • Tofu cacciatore: baked tofu in a rich and rustic sauce, a great Sunday dinner idea.
  • Tofu soup: with seasonal veggies and an Asian-inspired broth, ready in just 20 minutes.
  • Vegan egg salad with vegan mayo and tofu, a creamy salad idea for sandwiches!
  • Marinated tofu: cubed and perfectly roasted, a chewy and jerky topping for rice and salad!

More Easy Pan-Fried Recipes

Get more stovetop recipe ideas from these wholesome and easy veggie favorites:

For many more tofu ideas, check out our tofu category page.

Fried tofu with fork

Fried Tofu

By: Nico Pallotta
4.95 from 18 votes
Fried tofu or pan-fried tofu is crisp, tender, flavorful, and ready in just 15 minutes. It's a protein-rich add-in for salads, wraps, stews, and curries, and it's delicous as a snack.
It has a thin outer shell that is slightly crips and packed with flavor. You can think of it as a tasty, healthy, nutritious chicken replacement.
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Add-in, Main-protein
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 14 – 16 ounces tofu firm or extra firm
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions 

  • To an oven dish, add cornstarch, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
    Mix until well combined and set aside.
    spice mix in a baking pan
  • Drain tofu block and cut it into ½ inch or 1 cm dice. Don't pat dry and don't press the tofu.
    diced tofu on a cutting board
  • Toss tofu cubes with seasoning. Shake the dish left and right till the tofu is fully coated.
    Tip: you might need to use your hands to fully coat the tofu.
    tofu in spice mix
  • Warm the olive oil on medium heat in a large nonstick pan. Add tofu cubes and fry for about 12 minutes.
    Flip tofu with a fork every 2 to 3 minutes.
    tofu frying on a pan
  • Your fried tofu is ready when it's crisp and golden-brown on most sides.
    Fried tofu with a silver fork
  • Serve as an add-in for salads, soups, curries, wraps, pasta dishes, and much more. See our "serving suggestions" chapter above.
    Tofu salad with tahini dressing

Video

Fried Tofu - Crispy, soft and great for salads!

Notes

Nutrition information is for 1 portion of fried tofu out of 4 portions.
SUBSTITUTIONS
– Extra virgin olive oil: sub with avocado oil, coconut butter, canola oil, sunflower oil, or regular olive oil.
– Spices: you can use most spices such as curry, turmeric, dried herbs, cumin, coriander, onion powder, and more.
– Cornstarch: we haven’t tried replacing the cornstarch but some readers had success with arrowroot powder.
VARIATIONS
– Curry fried tofu: sub 1 tsp of curry powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder, and 1/2 ground cumin for paprika and chili powder.
– Italian fried tofu: sub 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried thyme, and 1 tsp dried rosemary for paprika and chili powder.
– Turmeric-black pepper fried tofu: sub 2 tsps of turmeric and 1/2 tsp black pepper for paprika, garlic, and chili powder.
MAKE AHEAD & STORAGE
– Make ahead: this is not the best recipe to make ahead because the tofu loses its outer crispiness. However, if you’d like to make it in advance, you can certainly do so, and we often do this, especially when we do meal prep for a few days. The tofu is still tasty, just not as crisp. A trick that helps is to reheat it on a non-stick pan with a bit of oil for a couple of minutes.
– Refrigerator: store pan-fried tofu leftovers in a bowl, covered with a plate, or in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. Remember that the coating absorbs moisture as it sits in the fridge and will lose its crispness.
– Freezer: we don’t recommend freezing fried tofu because the coating won’t thaw and reheat well.
– Reheat: you can warm leftovers in the microwave for 2 minutes or on a non-stick skillet or cast iron pan with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 170kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 23mg, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0.4g, Vitamin A: 265IU, Vitamin B6: 0.02mg, Vitamin C: 0.01mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 4µg, Calcium: 136mg, Folate: 1µg, Iron: 2mg, Manganese: 0.03mg, Magnesium: 2mg, Zinc: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.


Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

Easy right?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’m fairly new cooking with tofu and this is a great recipe. Quick, easy, tasty and crispy. It’s a keeper. Going to try the Italian version next. Thank you, Nico and Louise!

    1. Hi Janet,

      That’s fantastic, YAY! I’m so happy you like the tofu 💪

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. All the best,

      Louise

  2. 5 stars
    WOW. I’ve made a lot of tofu, but always pressed it. I’ve also tried the freezer technique to make it more chewy. I was so skeptical that the tofu would get crispy without pressing. But it DID! And the inside was such a great texture. I ate the entire batch in one sitting because it was so delicious. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I’m so happy you like the tofu without the pressing and the freezing 🙂
      It’s our pleasure, thanks so much for leaving a comment.
      Best, Louise

    1. Hi Geneva,
      Fantastic, I’m very happy you liked the tofu. Thanks for leaving a comment here 🙂 /Louise

  3. 5 stars
    This is the best recipe for pan fried tofu that I have ever made. Not having to press and dry the tofu makes this recipe so easy and the taste is wonderfully moist but crispy on the outside. I am going to try the Curry Tofu recipe next. Thank you for this delicious recipe!

    1. Hi Ingrid,
      I’m very happy to hear you liked the spicing, process, and omitting of pressing in this recipe 🙂
      Thanks so much for leaving a comment, and happy cooking!
      All the best,
      Louise