Tofu can be off-putting, or tofu can be delicious. It’s one of those neato foods that takes on whatever flavor – and often texture – you want it to, for better or for worse. Usually, thankfully, for the better.
So I think it’s kind of funny when people flat-out declare they hate tofu. Except, you know, they haven’t even tried it – in any shape or form.
I guess I haven’t eaten meat in years and you could say the same thing about some kinds of meats, so I really have no room to talk.
What I would like to talk about is this. Crispy salt and pepper tofu. This recipe – so simple, so easy – is totally a revelation for me. Not since I discovered Sara Moulton’s beer bread have I been so ga-ga over the possibilities of one single recipe.
See, the thing is, I’ve always been able to say I like tofu – done right – but I’ve never, ever been able to make a plain old block of the stuff taste as good at home as when I buy prepared (marinated, baked, smoked etc.) tofu from a restaurant or grocery store.
Every once in awhile, I buy a block and try to make it taste decent. It’s always edible, sure, but irresistible? Hardly.
Until now. Until now!
Scrumptious, betcha-can’t-eat-just-one, crispy salt and pepper tofu.
The super-simple secret is dredging it in cornstarch – and then, yes, frying it in a fair amount of vegetable or canola oil until crisp. (Note: I’m working on a healthier baked version, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. Soon, hopefully.)
I’ve been making this stuff by the freezer-bag-full. See, it freezes wonderfully and I can just pull a few pieces out to top pasta, to sub for chicken in barbecue chicken pizza (sooo good), as a quick snack for the baby … loads of possibilities.
Tofu. Done at home. Deliciously. Is my life complete? Quite possibly.
I do know this: even “never-tried-it-still-loathe-it” tofu haters would like tofu done this way. I’m pretty sure of it.
Crispy Salt & Pepper Tofu
- 1 block extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- Press tofu to remove excess moisture. To do so, line a plate with several paper towels. Place tofu on paper towels and top with two or three more paper towels. Place three or four more plates on top of the tofu, making sure they're well-balanced. Drain for 20 - 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure plates are still balanced (toppling plates = bummer!)
- Remove tofu from paper towels. Place on cutting board and cut tofu into squares or rectangles, as desired.
- Add the vegetable or canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to a large plate or shallow baking dish. Mix.
- Working in batches, dredge the tofu in the corn starch mixture, turning to coat evenly.
- Carefully add tofu to hot oil in skillet. Cook over medium-high for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.
- Remove tofu from pan and place on several paper towels, blotting to remove excess oil.
- Serve as desired.
I have never successfully made edible tofu. My husband wont even try it anymore (which I can’t blame him) However, this looks convincing. I just so happen to have a box of cornstarch waiting to be opened! Thanks for the recipe!
I always tell people that if they think they don’t like tofu, it’s probably because they haven’t had it prepared properly. Like a lot of restaurants clearly do not press their tofu before cooking it. Yuck. I’m definitely going to have to try this!
Nice! I’ve tried making crispy tofu a dozen ways and still haven’t landed on one that works. Thanks for sharing this method.
I adore fried tofu, I could eat these like potato chips. Is that bad?
It’s true. I thought I hated tofu for the longest time until I had a fried tofu in a thai peanut satay. It was incredible! Love the idea of salt and pepper fried tofu. I have to try this! 🙂
Darby and I are recently converted to a vegan diet last year, so instead of kosher salt, Darby used kala namak salt this morning and it was as if we were eating eggs for brunch.
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Delicious recipe, just tried it out for dinner tonight, turned out wonderfully. Might try it with softer tofu next time just for a different texture.
What would you suggest pairing this with for dinners? Also, do you reheat it after freezing or just let it defrost? If you do reheat them, what is your method?
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Made the tofu last night and served it with fresh stir fried bok choy and mizuna from our CSA. My husband (the meat eater) was blown away. “This is tofu? What did you do to it? It’s delicious. I’ve never said that about tofu before…” was his comment. We fought over the last few pieces. Oh – and it was easy to make 🙂
Brilliant. I just made it, and a phenomenal recipe. I love salt & pepper tofu, but have consistently failed with the texture of all fried tofu. This is easy, light, and spot on. Thank you.
I’m so glad you like it! I have had such a hard time making good tofu at home – I was so thrilled when I discovered this method!
Really enjoyed this– thank you for the recipe! I served it with an almond-y Asian sauce from a Nigella Lawson recipe. Excellent!
That sauce sounds wonderful! I’m going to have to see if I can find it the next time I have this tofu. Thanks Shelagh!
I made this for dinner. Very tasty. It was easy to follow the recipe and have it come out right, but I didn’t stress over mine not cutting into perfect little rectangles. The salt and pepper is a good amount for non-overpowering flavor. Worth making as is.
Hi Lauren, so glad you liked it! It’s such a great “foundation” recipe. I love using it as a substitute for chicken in just about anything. And, yes, no matter what the shape, it tastes the same regardless! 🙂
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Beautiful and so easy. I used potato starch instead of corn starch, topped it with some fried up garlic, ginger, shallots and birds-eye chilli. Served with fried rice
I’ve made my tofu this way lots of times now & I want to say how much we love it. My son LOVES it! Stealing pieces before dinner is ready 🙂 Thought I would share the complete recipe I use to make a dinner. I first cook the tofu following this recipe (but I actually press it for longer, figure the longer the better) then I make this & replace the shrimp w the tofu.
Seriously easy & yummy & so nice to be healthy & still be an entire hit w the family
This recipe was so good! So easy and delicious. Thanks for sharing!
This was amazing!!! Sharing the recipe with everyone I can!
Not bad! The cornstarch & egg mix got crazy messy & sticky, and you need more cornstarch than the 1/4 cup recommended. Also, they only need about 4 minutes on each side. But very tasty! I’m interested to see how they turn out once reheated. All in all, very pleased & will make again. Maybe try some nutritional yeast on them next time for a bit of cheesiness.
Now that I’m reading the recipe again, I see that egg wasn’t an ingredient. Heehee
I’m going to try this in the actifry tonight. None of our local takeaways have salt and pepper tofu on the menu any more and I miss it so!
Yes! 20 minutes in the actifry works as a less oil alternative. Yummy! Thank you 🙂
Wow this is BEAUTIFUL!!! I just added more salt on my second batch – great recipe!!!
Thanks so much Michelle! I’ve been making this one a lot lately too … working on a baked version to share too. 🙂
adding chinese 5 spice to the salt and pepper mix also adds a great taste
Prepare this tofu, and then just before it is done saute spinach and beansprouts and, if you like, a chopped chilli pepper, in a little peanut oil for a short while, dump on a family style plate, top with this tofu, serve with warmed peanut sauce or panang curry sauce on the side. Swimming Rama!
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Simple, with excellent results.
Hi. This looks fantastic! I am going to make it ahead and freeze it for an appetizer. Can you tell me how best to reheat them?
Thank you so much; I think this is going to be a huge game changer! We just went vegetarian for our health about a month ago. It can be time consuming, so I love the idea of cooking and freezing a bunch for time and convenience. I didn’t know this was possible, Woo hoo! Now the husband can whip something up now and then.
It’s really a great staple to have in the freezer! 🙂
Probably a silly question, but do you freeze it once it has been cooked? or before you cook it?
After it’s been cooked 🙂
Is fried tofu healthy?
Has anyone deep fried it?