Fried tofu is yummy. It’s crunchy yet can also be smooth. It’s a great addition to stir fry, soups, or topping it with your favorite sauces. Also, if you know someone who is apprehensive, fried tofu is a great way to introduce them to it. A lot of the time, they won’t even notice they’re eating tofu.
Here, I break down how I fry tofu at home with and without flour and cornflour, along with suggestions on how to serve it. I’m using Firm Tofu and Soft Tofu but these tips can be used for other tofus of varying firmness, except for Silken tofu which may be more challenging due to its super soft texture.
Prepping the Tofu
To get the best fry, you will need to press as much water out of the tofu as you can. This helps for it to cook faster and crunchier, as well as reducing the amount of oil splash.
All you do is simply wrap the tofu in some kitchen towel, place it on a plate, and then place a weight on top of the tofu. For firm tofu, you can use a heavier weight. But for soft tofu, I recommend using smaller weights like plates and gently add more weight. You don’t want to squash all your soft tofu.
You want to allow the weight on the tofu for at least 20-30 minutes. You can also have it on for longer to get even more of the liquid out. I have even prepped my tofu in the morning and left it under a weight all day.
Then I recommend slicing the tofu in pieces that are at least 1 cm thick. You can slice it thinner, but with at least 1 cm thickness it makes it easier to handle the tofu when frying.
Frying the Tofu
In this experiment, I fried pieces of tofu without any coating directly and pieces of tofu coated in flour and cornflour. This helps to create a crispy battery-like crust on the tofu.
You want to fry your tofu on medium-high to high heat. You also want to use an oil with a high smoking point like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil. I do not recommend using olive oil. The smoking point for olive oil is much lower than vegetable or canola oil.
You can fry your tofu in a pan, make sure it is non-stick. However, a tip my mom gave me is to fry it in a pot or a pan with high sides. The oil will splatter as the water in the tofu comes into contact with the hot oil, so frying it in a pot or pan with high sides will reduce the amount of oil splatter and make for safer frying.
I am shallow frying the tofu, so you only need enough oil to coat your pan or pot with less than a ¼ inch or ½ cm of oil.
Then you carefully place your tofu into the hot pan. I recommend using tongs to place the tofu to reduce the risk of oil splattering on you.
When cooking the tofu, firm tofu will likely fry longer than soft tofu by 1-2 minutes, especially if you did not coat the tofu in anything. Frying the tofu will only take about 3-4 minutes on the first side. The plain tofu without any coating may take a bit longer.
You will know it is ready to flip once you can easily move the tofu off the pan. If your tofu is still sticking to the pan, it means you need to allow it to fry longer until it easily releases from the pan. This happens most noticeably when cooking tofu without any coating.
Then on the other side, it will take a minute less, so about 2-3 minutes of cooking. These are estimates, but what your tofu and cook it until golden brown or as dark as you like.
Once your tofu is done cooking, place it on a plate lined with a kitchen towel to help soak up the oil. If you are using vegetable oil or canola, you can strain your leftover oil and use it again. Otherwise, dispose of the oil in a jar or once cooked in the trash. Do not throw oil down the sink.
Suggestions for Serving Fried Tofu
You will find that the tofu coat in the flour will create a crispy batter layer around the tofu. The texture of the fried soft tofu will be a crispy and crunchy exterior with a soft, smooth, and slightly creamy interior. The firm tofu will likewise have the crunchy exterior but will have a more coarse interior. The difference in texture between the exterior and interior will not be a great as the soft tofu.
If you want a bit of a battery-like crust, I would recommend coating the tofu, either soft or firm, with the cornflour over the regular flour. The cornflour creates a crispier crust.
If you plan on using the fried tofu over the week, I recommend frying the tofu without any coating. The tofu fried without a coating won’t have a flour batter that may get soggy. It is also easier to reheat while keeping the crunchy texture.
When adding fried tofu to a stir fry, I recommend using firm tofu, both coated and uncoated, and fried soft tofu without a coating. They have a firmer texture that won’t break when mixing it into a stir fry.
The soft tofu coated in flour and cornflour would be a great addition to soups like ramen or udon. Also, I would serve them with a sweet yet savory sauce like a thick teriyaki or with a tempura dipping sauce.
In the end, I prefer frying the tofu, both firm and soft, without any coating. I find it has a nice crunch without creating a separate crispy battery layer, and its easier to keep in the fridge.
However, frying tofu, like all cooking, is subjective. So fry the tofu away to your liking. I hope these tips help make the process easier and less daunting. Do let me know how you find the tips and how you like to serve your fried tofu.