Easy Crispy Baked Tofu is a simple recipe that bakes in just 20 minutes without deep frying. These golden tofu bites are served with a sweet, savory dipping sauce that makes a perfect snack, appetizer, or even a meal for some.
For anyone going vegan, or at least trying to eat less meat, tofu is the default meat substitute. It's easy to find and a healthier option. Once you’ve learned how to perfect the art of crispy tofu, let me tell you, it’s kinda life-changing.
A lot of people think that the only way to make tofu crispy is by deep frying it; which is loaded with cholesterol. However, there are healthier ways to get crispy golden results with simply using your oven.
Is tofu good for you?
Apart from the fact that it is easy to cook and it is such a versatile ingredient, tofu is awesome because of its health benefits. It is gluten-free, low-cal, and dense with nutrients. Tofu is packed with:
- And it contains all nine essential amino acids
Is tofu processed?
Despite the massive transformation from beans to blocks, tofu isn’t highly processed at all. Categorically, it is a processed food but it is not highly processed in the way that it is detrimental to health; unlike sweetened cereals, chips, fries, or nuggets etc. Highly processed foods usually go through multiple processing methods and contain highly manipulated ingredients like sweeteners, fats, or preservatives. Tofu is made using some additives that help form the curds into the shape we see and that’s about the extent of it.
What is tofu made of?
Tofu begins as dried soybeans. These dried beans are then soaked in water, crushed, and then boiled till made into soy milk. Next, additives like calcium or magnesium chloride are then added to the milk to coagulate and separate the curds which are molded to become tofu blocks.
Also keep in mind when buying tofu to read the label and make sure it is certified organic and non GMO.
How To Press Tofu
The secret to making crispy tofu lies in properly preparing it. Tofu is sold packed in water because this is the only way to preserve its unique texture and slow down its deterioration. Some people think that draining away the water that it is stored in is all that needs to be done before cooking it. What they don’t realize is that tofu is like a sponge that soaks up a lot of the water that is stored in and that you have to get rid of the moisture in the tofu before cooking it; which is why we need to press out the water before cooking tofu.
A lot of vegan kitchens have this simple but super useful equipment to help squeeze water out of tofu. Different tofu press designs use different mechanisms but essentially, it does the same thing in that it uses pressure to force excess moisture out of a block of tofu. If you don’t have a tofu press -- don’t fret! A tofu press is nice to have but you can still make kick-ass crispy tofu without it.
To show you how to press tofu without a tofu press:
Step 1 - Remove the tofu from its packaging and give it a quick rinse.
Step 2 - Wrap the tofu block in a kitchen towel.
Step 3 - Set a something stable and heavy over it; I like to use my cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, any heavy object will do.
Step 4 - Press the tofu for 20 minutes. And then unwrap the tofu and cut in cubes.
How to cook tofu
Personally, I find that the best way to make crispy tofu without the grease is to bake it. After pressing the tofu, cut it into cubes, coat it with oil and seasoning. Then simply lay it out lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes on each side (total 20 minutes). This results in tofu that is crispy and golden brown outside and soft and clean-tasting inside. It’s a very basic cooking technique that you have to master! Tofu cooked this way can later be slightly sautéed in any sauce of your choice and/or added to rice, grains, curries, or noodles!
Other Ways To Make Crispy Tofu
The closest you can get to baked crispy tofu is by using an air fryer. An air fryer functions similarly to an oven and because it is small and uses hot air technology; it sometimes even cooks food faster. If you intend to use an air fryer for this recipe, go for it! Just make sure to adjust the temperature and cooking time so the tofu won’t burn.
Another way to make your tofu crispy without deep frying it is by pan-frying it.
Pan-frying is basically the same as sautéeing except you are cooking bigger pieces of food. Using very little oil, about 4 teaspoons worth, you’ll cook each side of the tofu over medium heat until you get a pretty golden color. This method gently cooks the surface of the tofu to a nice crispiness without totally murdering the texture inside.
An extra step that you can take is to coat the tofu with cornstarch. This gives the tofu a crispy coating.
In this recipe, I am simply dipping my tofu bites in a sweet savory sauce. Also, it can be used to marinate the baked crispy tofu. Or you can marinate before cooking for, at least, 20 to 30 minutes. Like I mentioned, tofu is like a sponge; it will absorb the liquid. There are several ways to make tofu, but just remember before doing anything, don’t forget to press out the excess water in the tofu.
More Recipes with Tofu
Easy Crispy Baked Tofu
- 1 block extra-firm or firm organic tofu
- 3 tablespoon oil of your choice (I used toasted sesame oil)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Crushed black pepper
- 2 tablespoon green onions or chives (minced)
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
- 2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (low sodium)
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ lime for juice
- 1 teaspoon chili garlic oil*
- Wrap the tofu blocks with a kitchen towel and set something heavy over them for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also use a tofu press, but I just use a heavy cast-iron skillet. Then unwrap it from the towel, and cut the tofu into cubes.
- In a separate bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil, salt, and garlic powder.
- Move the tofu cubes into the bowl and gently toss the tofu to coat each piece with the oil marinade. Make sure to toss it gently enough not to break the tofu pieces.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set the tofu pieces on top and sprinkle crushed black pepper over them.
- Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, then flip the pieces and bake at the same temperature for another 10 minutes.
- To make the dipping sauce, whisk the tamari or soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, lime juice, and chili garlic oil together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Serve with a garnishing of minced green onions or chives and sesame seeds.