Whether you're a vegetarian or not, crispy tofu is a delicious and savory snack or appetizer to enjoy fresh out of the pan with this homemade tomato-roasted red pepper sauce!
Crispy Tofu, a Delicious Vegetarian Snack
I learned to prepare crispy tofu many, many years ago when I was the personal chef to clients who were dabbling in vegetarianism.
I had to find delicious, healthy and filling substitutions for animal-based proteins, and tofu seemed like the most obvious option to get creative with and to become good at preparing in order to make the meals substantial and hearty.
I would use tofu—the curds made from soy milk which are then pressed into blocks that come in various textures such as silken, firm, extra firm, etc.—in the Thai-inspired dishes that I prepared, and in vegetable curries, among other recipes.
But I found that making crispy tofu was exceptionally tasty, and it quickly became my personal favorite way to prepare and enjoy tofu!
And even though I am not vegetarian, I really enjoy this golden, crispy tofu recipe as a savory and flavorful snack, and find it quite irresistible when paired with a tasty homemade dipping sauce—so good!
How to Make Crispy Tofu
Preparing a crispy tofu recipe is very similar to preparing any other kind of lightly fried food whether it be chicken, or fish, or veggies.
It is a basic “breading” set-up with flour in one bowl, whisked eggs in another, and the crispy coating in a third.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing tofu (pretty much for any preparation, crispy or otherwise), is to season it very well.
On its own, tofu is incredibly bland; and if it isn't liberally seasoned, it's not very enticing, which is why most people are not the biggest fans of it. Totally understandable!
But when extra firm tofu (or any texture of tofu) has had a chance to mingle with and absorb some extra flavors for a little while, then your end result is truly delicious and enjoyable; and, a great alternative to meat on “meatless Monday” or any other time a vegetarian option is what you're looking for.
Here's my personal method:
- I cut two blocks (16 ounces each) of extra firm tofu into square or rectangular slices, then cut those into triangle shapes, and add them to a bowl. (You can alternately cut the tofu into strips, or small cubes, etc.)
- I add fresh garlic cloves pressed through a garlic press to the triangles, and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper, smoked paprika, granulated onion, and herbs de Provence. I allow them to marinate for at least an hour, or even overnight (ideal!) if prepping ahead.
- When I'm ready to coat the tofu, I lightly toss it in the flour (you can sub rice flour or corn starch as gluten-free options), coat in the whisked eggs, then finally dip in my seasoned panko breadcrumb-parmesan cheese mixture (use the gluten-free breadcrumbs, if you prefer).
- I heat just enough oil in a large skillet to shallow fry the tofu; and once hot, I work in batches frying each side for a couple of minutes until golden-brown and crispy. After frying I drain the tofu on paper towels or on a wire rack, and sprinkle with a touch of salt and touch of fresh parsley.
- Along with it I serve micro greens and a side of my homemade tomato-roasted red pepper dipping sauce.
You'll never miss the meat with this delicious and savory crispy tofu recipe!
Tips & Tidbits for Crispy Tofu:
- Extra firm tofu: If you can find extra firm tofu, then that is ideal for this preparation. It holds its shape and keeps a nice, firm texture—perfect for shallow frying and dipping!
- Allow time for marination: Allow at least an hour—ideally, overnight—for marination of the tofu. It needs a little time to absorb the seasoning and the flavors, but it's well worth it and the end result is delicious!
- Halve the recipe to serve fewer: This recipe is meant as an appetizer to serve about 8; but if you'd like to serve fewer people, you can halve the crispy tofu portion of the recipe to serve 4 people (keeping the sauce recipe as is).
- Gluten-free ingredients: You can substitute corn starch or rice flour for the all-purpose flour, and substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs for regular as well (“Udi's” brand is great.)
- Reheating leftovers: Any leftover crispy tofu can easily be reheated in a toaster oven at 350-400°. They'll get nice and crispy and warmed through in just a few minutes!
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 8 (4 pieces each)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Crispy Tofu Ingredients:
• 2 (16 ounce) blocks organic, extra firm tofu (I get the high-protein variety from Trader Joe's), each sliced into rectangles, then into triangles (you should end up with a total of 32 triangles)
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, divided use
• ½ granulated onion
• ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper, divided use
• 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
• 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
• ¾ cups flour
• 3 eggs, whisked
• Avocado or peanut oil, enough for shallow frying (about 1 cup)
Sauce Ingredients (optional):
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ¼ onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 3 ounces roasted red peppers, chopped
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Pinch black pepper
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
• 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
-In a large bowl, marinate the tofu by adding to it the garlic, salt, ½ teaspoon herbs de Provence, granulated onion, smoked paprika and the black pepper, and toss gently to coat; marinate for at least 1 hour, or even overnight, if possible.
-If preparing the optional homemade sauce, then place a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add oil; once hot, add in the onion, garlic, and chopped roasted red peppers, and saute for about 2 minutes until softened and aromatic.
-Add in a pinch or two of salt and black pepper, plus the dried oregano and pinch of red pepper flakes, and stir to combine; add in the crushed tomatoes, and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.
-Puree the mixture with a hand blender, and add the chopped parsley; check to see if additional salt/pepper are needed, and either keep warm if serving with tofu soon thereafter, or allow to cool if prepping ahead.
-To bread and prepare the tofu, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the grated parmesan cheese in a large bowl, along with the remaining ½ teaspoon herbs de Provence and ¼ teaspoon black pepper; set aside for a moment.
-Dredge each tofu triangle in the flour, then dip into the whisked eggs, then into the panko/parmesan mixture, and set onto a plate to hold.
-Add enough oil to the bottom of a large non-stick pan to shallow fry, and heat the oil over medium-high heat
-Once the oil is hot, begin adding batches of the coated tofu into the hot oil, laying them in a single layer; fry on each side for about 1 to 1 ½ minutes, or until golden-brown; place onto paper towel-lined plate/baking sheet to drain, or on a wire rack; repeat until all tofu triangles are fried, then sprinkle with a touch of extra chopped parsley or micro greens, and serve while hot with the warm sauce, if desired.
Cook's Note: This post has been updated with even more love! And new photos!