Introduction: Fried Tofu

Picture of Fried Tofu

Fried tofu is the only way I've been able to get perfect tofu stir-frys, amazing pad thai, and even a really excellent Italian-herb-breaded tofu awesomeness. Fried tofu is even super yummy all by itself - and I own up to making it and then dipping it in buffalo sauce.

While it might seem like it'll be tricky or take too much time, it's really quite simple when you do it right, and those few extra minutes of frying the tofu are worth the crispy exterior and creamy inside. :D Plus, you don't use very much oil for the frying, which is excellent, and you can use the same oil to cook veggies after!

I've been trying to perfect fried tofu for about six months now, and I am utterly in love with the way I'm doing it currently. I have finally been able to fry tofu as perfectly as my favorite Thai place back in Louisville! HOORAY!

There are a few important things to remember when making fried tofu, but when you get the process down it's nearly foolproof!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:
  • 1 package firm/extra firm tofu
  • a few tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
  • paper towels or lintless towels or some sort
  • salt
I've done this with medium tofu but it didn't work quite as well - it breaks apart much easier. You can also use a different sort of oil if you like - just make sure it has a high smoke point!

You'll need the towels for drying the tofu - I've used cloth towels before and it works great. Just make sure whatever you're using won't leave part of itself on the tofu.

Step 2: Drain and Press the Tofu

Picture of Drain and Press the Tofu
Open the tofu package and drain the tofu well. :)

Now, there are two ways to go about pressing it:
  1. Press it in one big block - will need 15-20 minutes
  2. Cut it and then press it - best for when you're trying to get food on the table quickly
Before you do either of these, put a couple paper towels down on the surface the tofu will be sitting on and then sprinkle the tofu with salt - the sat is essential! It will help pull the moisture out of the tofu and season it. :)

If you're pressing it as a block:
lay down a couple sheets of paper towels, put down the tofu, sprinkle with salt, and cover it with a couple more paper towels. Put a plate with something heavy on it on top. (Not too heavy though - anything heavier than a 14 oz can is too much - I've had tofu burst. :P) I like to use a ramekin. Leave for at least 15 minutes and then blot the tofu dry with more paper towels.

If you're cutting then pressing:
cut the tofu to the size you like! Lay it down onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Then cover with more paper towels and press down gently with the palm of your hand. Press all over until the top layer of paper towels begins to get wet. Now let this sit for a few minutes. :) If you have a cutting board or something similar that will cover the cut up tofu, feel free to use that to press it!

Step 3: Use the Pressing Time As a Prep Break!

Picture of Use the Pressing Time As a Prep Break!

I cut up lots of veggies and started a stir fry sauce while the tofu was finishing. :D

Step 4: Frying!

Picture of Frying!

Add a few tablespoons of oil to a pan - nonstick is best, but I've done this in stainless steel too. :D

Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers - I tend to go with 7 on my gas stove. At this point, make sure that your tofu is REALLY dry. Blot it again with paper towels. If it's wet your kitchen will get dangerous very fast.

Add the tofu to the pan and let it cook on the first side for about three minutes. Don't overcrowd the pan or it won't fry, it'll steam instead! When you see that the bottom of the sides are nice and brown it's time to flip. (see the second photo for what this should look like)

Once it flips, give it another 2-3 minutes. The tofu should be nice and golden brown and smell slightly nutty when done! Keep in mind that cooking times will vary depending on your heat, so just be patient and keep checking the color.

When the tofu is done, set it aside and let the oil drain on paper towels.

Make sure to not fry it too much - if the tofu goes a darker brown color it's going to be crunchy all the way through and you'll miss out on the lovely creamy bits inside. :(

Step 5: Eat + Additional Recommendations

Picture of Eat + Additional Recommendations

On this tofu frying day I made a veggie stir fry to go with it and a sauce. If you have time when cooking with tofu, it's always best to fry it and then let it simmer in a sauce. It'll be much more flavorful.

I've also coated the tofu in beaten egg and cornstarch, but it came out quite egg-y and it wasn't worth the extra work. Same goes for egg and soy sauce.

Though I do recommend marinating the tofu and then frying - that's turned out quite well. Soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil was quite yummy. :D

Comments

TuanL11 (author)2015-11-10

It makes my hungry just by looking at the pictures---yummy. Just to kick it up a notch you can try to fry marinated tofu and eat like appetizer - mixture of chopped lemon grass, hot/mild pepper, little bit of honey, salt (fish sauce if you dare). Let it soak around for 15 min then fry. It's lunch time for me now.

thegrendel (author)2015-11-01

Yes, of course, fried tofu is great. We've been doing it in a frying pan for quite a number of years -- drained, cut into cubes, and sprinkled with one of the commercial Tofu Scrambler mixes. It's easy enough to concoct your own scrambler mix from scratch, too.

LisaB52 (author)2015-08-23

that looks really yummy, I would love to try you stir- fry recipe. Please

Jjjacki11 (author)2013-07-25

Been a vegetarian for 11 years and I have never learnt how to cook tofu! so I decided to try this...except the only tofu we had was silken tofu. Turns out that stuff is really super wet! I drained it on the paper towels for ages but then we ran out of paper towels. I figured it would be okay to throw on the frying pan anyway...and I very quickly discovered what you meant by the kitchen becoming a dangerous place! I had to throw the tofu on then run for cover in order to not get burnt by flying hot oil, but it turned out pretty good in the end. :D

jessyratfink (author)Jjjacki112013-07-25

Hahaha! I'm happy you made it out alive. :D

TheGarrison89 (author)2012-12-10

Hi Jessy,

This looks amazing! I'd love to give it a try. Can you please post/add the stir fry sauce recipe?

Months late on this one, sorry! :D

I'm using the sauce from here:
https://www.instructables.com/id/general-tsos-chicken/

topazz2511 (author)2012-12-09

Looks YUMMMMM... can you share the stir fry sauce recipe please? Thankssss

cerberustugowar (author)2012-12-02

I also fry my tofu, but I do it the lazy way in the toaster oven. Drizzel with oil, oven to 400, about 25 mins a side and you get tofu that people really like. This gives me enough time to prep and cook all the vegies.

Once again this is a prime example of things I do on a regular basis but never think about putting an instructable together for it. ugh.

kenbob (author)2012-12-02

Yum!

sath02 (author)2012-12-02

Yummy :) Fried Tofu is one of my favorite.
And I like to slice them into triangle before put them into fried.
Thanks for the post.

imtyler (author)2012-12-01

Oh wow this looks amazing. I've tried stir fry tofu a few times but I've never been able to achieve results that are as savory as chicken or beef. This definitely looks like it will do the trick. Thanks for sharing!

kmkennedy88 (author)2012-11-30

what was your favorite thai place in louisville? (i live here lol)

jessyratfink (author)kmkennedy882012-11-30

Oh awesome! Simply Thai in St Matthews - I lived just a few blocks from there for years and was always stuffing my face with pad thai :D

ChrysN (author)2012-11-29

Wow, that looks really good!

Wilmette (author)2012-11-29

Thanks, especially for the timing and indicators of correct temperature.

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