Tofu is a quick and popular vegan staple that can feel a little boring to eat day in and day out. We love air frying tofu for an easy switch to make eating crispy fried tofu feel like a whole new experience! Follow our simple air fryer tofu recipe below.
I'll admit that I was maybe a little skeptical about getting an air fryer at first. After cutting down on my largely unused set of culinary contraptions several years ago, I made a serious decision and promised to myself - no more useless kitchen gadgets gathering dust in the cupboards!
When I first heard about mini air fryers, I ignored the buzz. I thought they were probably overrated and unnecessary.
But then, I kept hearing friends rave about their air fryers. I eventually wore down to the point that I had to give one a try, and I've never looked back.
These things are very handy. I use my fryer two or three times per week to make all sorts of meals because I find it cooks almost everything a little crispier than the oven can and makes less mess.
After a bit of initial experimentation with the gizmo, I tried preparing tofu in my air fryer, and I was not disappointed! Tofu is perfect for the air fryer - it certainly has some extra moisture to lose.
Cooking this air fryer tofu creates tofu cubes both crispy on the outside and a plush, pillowy texture on the inside.
You can mostly set and forget about this crispy air fryer tofu that takes only 15 mins to cook, with an occasional shake of the basket.
Read for the simple recipe below - we hope you love one of our favorite ways to cook tofu as much as we did!
How to Air Fry Tofu: Crispy Tofu Recipe
Have I mentioned how much I like easy recipes? Because I do. All you need to make this air fryer tofu is a tofu press, an air fryer, garlic, oil, and a few Tbsp of soy sauce.
Many non-vegan people complain about their tofu tasting bland or being too soggy because they're missing out on two crucial tricks to make the perfect tofu:
- You have to press your tofu for at least 15 mins before you cook it to remove the extra water;
- And you need to marinate your tofu for at least 15 mins, too.
Tofu has a very mild, light flavor that should take on the rest of the dish's delicious flavors. Just cooking your tofu in a sauce alone won't cut it - marinate the tofu first to break it down and allow it to absorb the salty, rich flavor fully.
Air Fryer Crispy Tofu - Nutrition Information
Calories: 165 kcal; Carbohydrates: 3.3 g; Protein: 11.1 g; Fat: 13.2 g; Sodium: 460 mg; Fiber: 0.5 g; Sugar: 0.2 g.
Air Fryer Tofu Recipe - FAQ
Sesame Oil Substitution
If you're cooking this tofu for anyone with a nut or seed allergy or simply don't like the strong taste of toasted sesame oil, you can use an alternate oil in your air-fried tofu instead. Make a quick swap out of the sesame oil 1:1 with some extra-virgin olive oil.
Other Cooking Options - Pan-Fry or Bake
If you don't own an air fryer, you can still make your tofu crispy using an oven or stovetop.
To pan-fry your tofu, press it in a tofu press and marinate according to the directions above. Then heat a bit of cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the marinated tofu cubes. The trick to getting your tofu cubes crispy is to avoid disturbing them unnecessarily - leave each cube to cook on the first side for 3-4 mins before you flip the tofu and cook another 2-3 mins. Repeat the process until you've browned all sides of your tofu.
Baked tofu is delicious but won't get as crispy as air-fried or pan-fried versions. If you like your tofu crispy, toss your tofu cubes in cornstarch after they marinate. Preheat your oven to 400°F, then place the tofu cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the lined baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 mins, then flip the marinated tofu and return the tofu to the oven for another 15 mins.
Storage + Freezing Options
Your crispy tofu will stay good in the fridge for up to 5 days in a sealed container. When you want to reheat them, put them back in the air fryer for a few mins, or heat them in a skillet on the stovetop. Microwaving your tofu will make it pretty soggy and unenjoyable.
While raw tofu blocks keep well in the freezer, we don't recommend freezing your tofu after it's cooked, as it's a water-dense product. If you freeze your cooked tofu, it will be a watery mess once it's thawed.
Do I need to press my tofu?
Pressing your tofu is an essential and often overlooked step in good tofu preparation. Tofu has high water content and will be soggy if you don't remove the water before cooking.
Your tofu will be better at absorbing any marinade once pressed, too - it's like a water-logged sponge that can't sop up much more liquid until you remove some.
Learning how to press tofu is an incredibly simple game-changer. A simple tofu press is the easiest and quickest method to remove the most water from your block in 15 mins.
If you don't own a press, you can press your tofu block in some dry, clean paper towels between two heavy cutting boards or plates. You'll want whatever is on top to be heavy enough to squeeze the water out of the tofu block. This method isn't as effective, so it's best to leave the tofu pressing this way for 2-3 hours.
Can I use soft tofu instead?
Soft tofu is so delicate that it will fall completely apart if you attempt to cook it this way. Firm or extra firm are the only options that will give the results you're after with this crispy tofu recipe.
Can you air fry tofu in any air fryer?
Tofu is suitable for cooking in any type of air fryer. It won't fall apart under the paddle type of air fryer and works well using the basket-style fryer that we used to build this recipe.
Final Notes: Vegan Air Fried Tofu Recipe
This tofu almost seems too simple to taste this good - the air fryer is a solid kitchen investment, in my home at least.
If you own an air fryer, you can use it to explore all sorts of vegan air fryer recipes, like homemade onion rings, potato wedges, or avocado egg rolls - yum!
If you don't own an air fryer, you can use the baked or pan-fried instructions in the FAQ instead.
Enjoy your simple, crisped to perfection tofu!
Air Fryer Tofu: How To Make An Easy Vegan Meal
1 16-oz package of firm or extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
To make air fryer tofu, start by prepping the tofu block. Remove your extra-firm tofu from the package and place it in a tofu press. Close and press for at least 15 - 20 mins.
Remove the tofu block from the press and cut into 1-inch, bite-sized cubes, then transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
In a small-sized mixing bowl or measuring cup, combine soy sauce or tamari. Sesame oil, extra-virgin olive oil, and mixed garlic. Beat gently with a small whisk until combined well.
Drizzle the marinade mixture over the tofu cubes, and toss until fully coated. Leave your tofu to marinate for around 15 mins.
Now it's time to start cooking your crispy air fryer tofu.
Preheat your air fryer to 375°F. Once the fryer is heated fully, add your tofu cubes into the air fryer basket. When cooking tofu, it's essential to spread the cubes out into a single layer to ensure each piece gets evenly cooked - that's how you'll get crispy tofu without cornstarch in the recipe.
Cook your tofu in the air fryer for 10 - 15 mins, occasionally shaking the basket.
Serve and enjoy your perfectly fried tofu, air-fryer style! We love to pair ours with steamed rice or a fresh green salad.