This perfectly seasoned pan fried tofu is a quick and healthy way to cook this plant-based protein! It’s ready in minutes and so easy to customize.
Cooking tofu is an art, and a big reason why many have a love/hate relationship with it. The key to delicious and flavorful tofu is how you cook and season it. This pan fried tofu recipe ticks both those boxes and will convert even the biggest carnivore into a full- fledged tofu fan!
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
- Perfectly cooked tofu. Crispy and tender on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, pan frying tofu yields the best texture.
- High in protein. Made from bean curd, tofu is one of the best high-protein foods for vegans and vegetarians. Serve this pan-fried tofu with your favorite side dish for a healthy and balanced plant-based meal.
- Simple yet flavorful. This recipe only needs a handful of spices to make it taste incredible.
- Quick. It takes less than 5 minutes to make delicious and perfectly crispy pan-seared tofu.
- Versatile. Serve this tofu over rice bowls, noodles, or even a salad. You can also use it to make sandwiches and wraps.
As mentioned earlier, you only need a couple of ingredients and some spices for this delicious pan-fried tofu recipe.
- Tofu. Use extra firm tofu for this recipe. Medium and soft tofu contain too much water and will fall apart as you try to pan-fry them.
- Spices. The spices are what make or break this tofu dish. To make my pan-fried tofu extra flavorful, I use a blend of the following spices – salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and garlic powder. You can also add red pepper flakes for some color and heat.
- Soy sauce. Pan frying needs a liquid element to utilize the high heat and the soy sauce covers that base, while also adding some fabulous umami flavor. Use gluten-free soy sauce to keep this dish suitable for celiacs.
- Oil. To pan-fry the tofu. I like using vegetable oil, and for Asian-style dinners, sesame oil.
How to fry tofu in the pan
With little prep and less than 5 minutes cooking time, fried tofu makes the best quick and easy dinner. Ready to whip some up?
Step 1- Prep. Prepare the spice mix by mixing all spices together. Cut tofu into even-sized pieces and drain excess moisture on a paper towel.
Step 2- Pan fry. Dip one side of the sliced tofu in the spice mixture, dip it in the soy, then add it to the pan. Fry the tofu for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 3- Serve. Remove tofu from the pan and serve immediately.
Best tofu for pan frying
Not all tofu is created equal. If you go to any mainstream grocery store, you’d typically find at least 4-5 varieties of tofu, including firm, extra firm, and soft. For pan frying, certain types are better than others.
- Extra firm tofu. The MVP of tofu for frying, deep frying, or baking. This tofu has the least amount of moisture in it and is naturally firm to touch. It also holds onto seasonings well and doesn’t need much oil to crisp up.
- Firm tofu. The next best option, firm tofu has a little extra liquid in it but will yield a fluffier middle when pan-fried.
- Silken tofu. Also known as Japanese tofu, this is not the kind of tofu recipe you’d use this tofu for. It’s super fragile and breaks apart very easily. I like to use it for sofritas (crumbled tofu) or even blended to make a pudding.
- Smoked tofu. This tofu is already pre-flavored and ready-to-eat. You can pan-fry it if you want it a little crispy.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Start with a hot pan. Putting the tofu in a well-heated pan allows you to get it nicely golden in just a couple of minutes. As tofu is already cooked, your only task here is to make it crispy.
- Press the tofu before frying it. No matter what kind of tofu you are using, it is always a good idea to press it first to remove excess moisture. I like to use a tofu press, but I’ve also stacked it under some heavy pots and pans.
- Don’t use a lot of oil. Adding too much oil to the pan will result in greasy tofu. You only need 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil to pan-fry tofu.
- Use a non-stick pan. You must use a good non-stick skillet or pan to fry the tofu. These pans trap heat much better than a standard frying pan and will yield crispy tofu each time.
- Cut tofu into equal sized pieces. Or cubes. This will ensure they all cook evenly and at the same time.
Tofu is the ultimate blank canvas and I love experimenting with different seasonings and sauces. Here are some of my favorites for you to try:
Classic marinade. Our OG tofu marinade that works on any kind of tofu.
Honey sauce. Combine 1/4 cup of soy sauce with two tablespoons of honey and a pinch of cornstarch. Toss the tofu through the sauce, pan fry, then add more of the sauce back in to coat the sides.
Italian seasoning. If this Asian-style tofu is not something you think you will enjoy, use Italian seasoning instead. Mix dried oregano, thyme, and rosemary with cornstarch and salt.
Cajun seasoning. I love to coat the tofu with this when using it for burrito bowls or tacos. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more as needed.
Barbeque sauce. To flavor tofu with barbeque sauce, first pan-fry the tofu with salt and pepper. Once golden on the edges, toss through barbecue sauce and add back to the pan and fry for another minute or two, until the sauce caramelizes.
To store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. This tofu lasts up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
To reheat: Reheat leftovers in a pan over medium-high heat. You may add a few drops of oil to the pan to bring back the crispiness of tofu.
To freeze. Pan-fried tofu lasts up to 3 months in the freezer. Freeze fried tofu in zip-lock bags or in airtight containers.
More delicious ways to enjoy tofu
Frequently asked questions
As tofu is already cooked, the actual ‘cooking’ time in the pan is around 2 minutes per side.
You can make this tofu dish oil-free, but you will need to keep a firm eye during the entire cooking process as the tofu will burn easily.
Pan Fried Tofu
- Slice the tofu into 1/4-inch slices or 1/4-inch cubes. Place them on a paper towel to soak up excess moisture.
- In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. In a separate bowl, add the soy sauce.
- Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Moving quickly, dip the tofu in the spice mix, then a quick dip in the soy sauce. Add it to the hot pan and fry for 2 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
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