Salt and pepper tofu is firm tofu tossed in a simple salt and pepper batter, and fried to perfection! Super crispy and seriously addictive, this tastes better than the restaurants!
Salt and Pepper Tofu
When it comes to Chinese restaurant dishes, I would always go for the salt and pepper tofu. While I am a huge fan of baked tofu, there is something special and addictive about the fried variety.
I first tried salt and pepper tofu at a popular Melbourne restaurant earlier this year. I loved the simplicity of it- Deep fried tofu cubes that had the most addictive salty flavor. The chef was kind enough to tell me what the spice mixture was, and I was floored by the simplicity of it- salt, pepper, and Chinese five spice!
However, he did let me in on a secret- The key to achieving restaurant style salt and pepper tofu is using Szechuan ground pepper. This doesn’t have as much of a spicy kick, but more of a salty, almost sweet one, which lends itself perfectly to this dish!
Ready in under 15 minutes and perfect to serve as an appetizer or even a main dish, you will LOVE enjoying tofu with this recipe!
How do you make salt and pepper tofu?
- Firm tofu– Also known as momen tofu. You can use silken tofu or a softer variety, but you’ll need to be extremely fragile as they break apart very easily. Slice the tofu into equal rectangular pieces.
- Potato starch– To toss through the tofu to keep it intact and act as a mock batter. You can also use cornstarch.
- Salt– Added to both the batter and to coat the tofu with after it has been fried.
- White Pepper– If possible, I recommend using freshly ground Szechuan pepper for the authentic Chinese flavor.
- Chinese five spice– The secret ingredient that makes this tofu taste like the restaurant-style version!
- Oil– To fry the tofu in!
In a mixing bowl, mix together the starch and spices, until combined. Set it aside and slice up the tofu into bite-sized pieces. Place the tofu in a ziplock bag and add the dry mixture over it. Shake it up until all the tofu is covered in it. Heat up the oil in a deep pan. Once hot, add several pieces of the covered tofu and cook for 3-4 minutes, before flipping over and cooking for a further 3 minutes until crispy. Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath, for the oil to drip off. Repeat until all the tofu has been cooked.
Can I make this in the air fryer?
I’ve tried making this tofu in the air fryer, and I wasn’t a fan of it. While it did become crispy, it was dense and firm, instead of crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
What if my tofu is too soft?
If your tofu is too soft, you can easily firm it up by removing the excess liquid.
Either use a tofu press or press it yourself using a heavy object, like a frying pan or saucepan.
To press it yourself, wrap the tofu in a paper towel and place it on a chopping block. Next, place the heavy object on top of it and let it sit on top of it for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the heavy object and discard the now soaked paper towel. You’ll find your tofu is now much firmer and easier to bake!
Tips to make the best tofu
- For even cooking time, ensure your tofu is sliced evenly.
- Test your hot oil by dropping a tiny bit of the batter into it. When it begins to sizzle and rises up to the top, your oil is perfect to start cooking with!
- Do not over fry the tofu. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, before flipping and cooking for a further 2 minutes. It continues to cook and remain crispy while it is cooling down.
- Serve tofu with some delicious bbq sauce or ketchup.
- Feel free to add extra salt, pepper, and Chinese five spice to the fried tofu, as often the spices can be lost in the mixture.
Storing and Freezing Tofu
- To store: Leftover tofu can be stored in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
- To freeze: Place tofu in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- To reheat: Tofu is best enjoyed hot and crispy, so reheat in a hot pan with a little oil.
More meat free recipes to try
- General Tso’s Cauliflower
- Kung Pao Cauliflower
- Buffalo Baked Cauliflower Bites
- Baked Tofu
- Sweet Potato Tots
Salt and Pepper Tofu
- 8 oz firm tofu
- 1/2 cup potato starch can use cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice also known as 5 spice powder
- 1 serving oil to deep fry
- Slice your tofu into equal sized pieces. In a small mixing bowl, mix together your potato starch, salt, pepper, and five spice until combined.
- Transfer your tofu into a ziplock bag. Add the spice and starch mixture and shake the bag up, until all the tofu is completely covered in the spice/starch mixture. Prepare a cooling rack and place a piece of parchment paper under it, to catch any oil that drips off.
- Heat a large pot or deep pan with 2-3 inches of oil. Prepare a cooling rack and place a piece of parchment paper under it, to catch any oil that drips off. Once hot, place a single layer of tofu in it and cook for 2-3 minutes, before flipping and cooking for a further 2 minutes. Transfer the tofu onto a cooling rack and repeat until all the tofu is cooked.
- Sprinkle extra salt, pepper, and five spice over the tofu and serve immediately.