This is the BEST pan fried tofu recipe. This crispy tofu is coated in a simple chili garlic sauce and served with your favorite noodles & veggies. Perfect for a quick, healthy vegan and gluten free dinner.
Tofu gets a bad rap, but when done properly, it’s really so delicious. I love making tofu in the air fryer or baked in the oven, but sometimes you just need some good old fried tofu.
Crispy tofu is easy to make in a skillet and I promise it’s not the boring and bland stuff people commonly think it is!
Since this tofu isn’t deep fried, it’s definitely still healthy. You only need a small amount of oil to coat the pan so it doesn’t stick.
This simple recipe is ready in about 30 minutes and paired with rice noodles, veggies and my popular Thai peanut sauce. If you love this recipe, try my orange tofu or one of my favorite buddha bowls next!
How to make pan fried tofu
Remove the tofu from the package and drain off excess liquid.
If you have time, press for 30 minutes by wrapping in a towel and placing a heavy object on top. This will help it get crispier!
Once pressed, cut in half, then cut into cubes and add to a bowl. Toss with the cornstarch.
Heat a large skillet (I do not recommend cast iron as tofu sticks easily with cast iron) with the sesame oil and vegetable oil, then add in the tofu. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, whisk together all ingredients for the sauce.
Once the tofu is crispy on all sides, add the sauce into the pan and simmer until thick, stirring to ensure the tofu is well coated.
Assemble your bowls with a bed of rice noodles, then add the tofu and veggies and top with peanut sauce. Enjoy!
Air fryer instructions
For a more hands off approach, you can easily make this into crispy air fryer tofu! First, toss the tofu with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce or tamari. Then toss with one tablespoon of cornstarch until well coated.
Add to your air fryer basket and air fry at 370 for 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes or so.
While it cooks, make the sauce by whisking all ingredients on the stove until thick. Once the tofu is done, toss with the thickened sauce and enjoy!
The best pan to cook tofu
I highly recommend using a non-stick skillet for this fried tofu for best results.
Cast iron skillets and tofu generally don’t mix well, unless you’re making a simple tofu scramble that doesn’t stick as much.
If you don’t have a good non-stick pan, I suggest following the air fryer instructions to ensure nothing sticks!
Do I need to press tofu?
You can, but it’s not required. If you have extra time, I do recommend it since it will make the tofu crispier, but if you’re in a pinch and need dinner on the table quickly, just wrap it in a towel and very gently squeeze out the liquid.
Frequently asked questions
Does it keep?
While baked, pan fried and air fried tofu all do best when eaten right away, this recipe will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. However, the crispy texture won’t be all that crispy after a few hours, but the flavors will still be delicious.
Can I freeze fried tofu?
I don’t recommend it. Frozen fried tofu will lose its crispy exterior and the texture won’t hold up very well when it’s reheated or defrosted.
How can I add more flavor to tofu?
My personal favorite way is to use delicious sauces! I love baking, air frying or pan fried tofu and then tossing it in sauces like this chili sauce or teriyaki sauce.
However, if you don’t want to use a sauce, you can mix up some herbs into the cornstarch before tossing it with the tofu. I love paprika, garlic and onion, but feel free to use whatever you have!
Can I make it without cornstarch?
In the sauce, you can easily swap the cornstarch for arrowroot or tapioca with no problem.
However, the cornstarch definitely works better to get the tofu crispy than arrowroot or tapioca, though these are two options if you don’t have or want to use cornstarch.
More tofu recipes you’ll love!
If you make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on instagram so I can see your creation! Leave a comment and rating below and let me know how it turns out!
Fried Tofu Noodle Bowls
by: claire cary
- 1 14 ounce block extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
- ¼ cup water or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (sambal oelek)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 8 ounces rice noodles
- 1 avocado
- 1 large cucumber sliced
- 2 cups julienned carrots
- 1 batch peanut sauce click for recipe
- Remove the tofu from the package and drain off excess liquid.
- If you have time, press for 30 minutes by wrapping in a towel and placing a heavy object on top. This will help it get crispier!
- Once pressed, cut in half, then cut into cubes and add to a bowl.
- Toss with the cornstarch.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet (I do not recommend cast iron as tofu sticks easily with cast iron) with the sesame oil and vegetable oil, then add in the tofu.
- Cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Avoid touching the tofu while it's cooking on each side to ensure it actually gets crispy.
- Meanwhile, whisk together all ingredients for the sauce.
- Once the tofu is crispy on all sides, add the sauce into the pan and simmer until thick, stirring to ensure the tofu is well coated.
- Assemble your bowls with a bed of rice noodles, then add the tofu and veggies and top with peanut sauce. Enjoy!