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The Best Crispy Tofu

Crispy tofu is easy to make if you know the secret method. If you’re wondering how to do it, you’ve come to the right place. Cracklingly crisp on the outside and tender inside, these nuggets are perfect for soaking up all of your delicious sauces.

crispy tofu nuggets with 5-ingredient peanut sauce

I may be a weirdo, but I love tofu. I totally get why most people have a hard time getting excited about it, but I love that it soaks up all the flavors of whatever it is cooked with.

And once you know how to prepare tofu the right way, it can be utterly crispy and delicious.

I love crispy tofu that acts like a sponge for savory dipping sauces. Fried tofu with spicy peanut sauce or a spicy Asian barbecue sauce is even better to me than chicken nuggets.

tofu cut into slabs on a cutting board

Tofu is also a great source of protein that is inexpensive. You can keep it in your freezer for months, so you always have the makings of a healthy meal.

In this post, I am going to tell you how to freeze tofu, thaw it, and how to cook it to crispy perfection, either in oil in a skillet or in an air fryer. Add sauces and seasonings and it can make a million different meals.

Freezing tofu and then thawing it before cooking changes the structure of it, giving it a sort of honeycomb texture. As a result, when you cook it at high heat, it develops a crispy, crunchy exterior while remaining tender inside.

How to freeze tofu

You can freeze tofu whole by just popping the container right into the freezer.

I generally like to open the package, drain it, slice it into ½-inch-thick slabs, and freeze it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, I pop the slabs into a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag.

Note that the tofu will turn yellow when it is frozen. This is completely normal and the color will return to the usual off white once it is thawed.

frozen tofu on a parchment paper lined sheet pan

How do you thaw frozen tofu?

There are two basic methods for thawing: simmering in water or just setting it on the countertop to thaw at room temperature.

For the first, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Place the tofu in the water (either the whole block or slabs), reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

For the second, just set the tofu on the countertop for 30 to 45 minutes.

Both of these methods work well and both produce crispy nuggets. But in my experiments, the simmering method produced crispier nuggets than the countertop thawing method.

I’m sure there is a good explanation for this, but I am not science-y enough to understand it.

How to drain the tofu

Once the tofu is thawed, cut it into slabs (if it isn’t already) and press out as much water as you can. I place the tofu slabs on a plate and press down with the flat bottom of a sturdy spatula.

Pour the water off the plate and continue pressing until no more water comes out. This is much quicker and easier than it is to drain tofu that hasn’t been frozen and thawed.

How to cook crispy tofu–deep fry or air fry

Once the tofu is thawed and drained, cut it into cubes.

To fry the tofu cubes, heat about ¼ to ½ inch of oil in a nonstick skillet. Once the oil is very hot, but not smoking, add the tofu cubes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

To air fryer tofu, spritz it with oil or toss it in a bit of oil. Place it in the air fryer basket and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through.

What kind of tofu should you use?

Firm or extra firm tofu is the best for these fried tofu cubes. Softer tofu may fall apart during thawing and pressing.

crispy tofu nuggets on a plate with peanut dipping sauce

What do you serve with crispy tofu nuggets?

I like to serve my crunchy tofu squares with 5-Ingredient Peanut Sauce or Sriracha Ranch Dressing.

You can toss them in the gochujang sauce from my Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken or the sesame sauce from my Air Fryer Sesame Chicken.

Homemade Buffalo Sauce makes them taste just like your favorite wings.

You can even use them as low-carb “croutons” for a Caesar salad!

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Yield: Serves 4

Crispy Tofu

crispy tofu nuggets with 5-ingredient peanut sauce

Crispy tofu nuggets soak up all of your delicious sauces. They're easy to make and once you learn how to freeze tofu first, you'll have not problem getting them perfectly crunchy!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • Cooking oil or cooking oil spray

Instructions

  1. Place your tofu in the freezer in the unopened package or drain the package, cut the block into 1/2-inch-thick slabs and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer.
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil (use a wide, deep skillet if the tofu is cut into slabs already).
  3. Place the tofu in the water and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain.
  4. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slabs if you haven't already.
  5. Squeeze the water out of the tofu by pressing on it with the bottom of a flat, sturdy spatula.
  6. Once the tofu is thawed and drained, cut it into cubes.
  7. To fry the tofu cubes.
  8. To pan fry, heat about ¼ to ½ inch of oil in a nonstick skillet. Once the oil is very hot, but not smoking, add the tofu cubes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  9. To air fry, spritz the tofu with oil or toss it in a bit of oil. Place it in the air fryer basket and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 156Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 0mgSodium 5mgCarbohydrates 1gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 11g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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