Crispy Marinated Tofu

This recipe generates the most flavorful marinated tofu! The tofu pieces are soaked in a savory spicy Asian sauce, then pan fried until crispy. It’s very easy to put together and yields crispy tofu bites that are bursting with flavor! {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

Crispy marinated tofu in a plate

Tofu is usually considered a humble ingredient. True, tofu itself doesn’t have a lot of taste. But if you prepare it with a good sauce, it will become a delicious dish that is no less tasty than meat.

In this recipe I introduced a well balanced Asian sauce that is savory, a little spicy, and full of aroma. It takes no time to put together. Once the tofu is marinated, I use a cornstarch coating with some cumin powder in it. Not only does it create a super crispy result, but the seasoning further brings out the flavor of the tofu. The dish can be served as an appetizer, but I would totally serve it as a main dish over steamed rice with some steamed veggies for a light and healthy dinner.

Should I press the tofu?

I believe there are a million tofu recipes require you to press tofu before cooking. It’s funny that I’d never heard of such a concept growing up in China, where we cook tofu on a weekly basis. Although my mom taught me to always braise tofu for a long time, so it will soak up the sauce and taste better.

The truth is, you can press tofu before cooking it, and this makes the results marginally better. Pressing tofu can be helpful if you’re short on time and need to marinate the tofu fast. But I found that marinating for a longer time without pressing the tofu yields a better result than say, pressing the tofu and marinating it for a shorter time. So, if you can get organized and do the prep ahead of time, you can skip the pressing part and still yield a super flavorful result.

Crispy fried tofu closeup

A more efficient way make marinated tofu

I’ve tried many ways to make marinated tofu – laying out the tofu pieces in a tray, or marinating the cubes in a zip lock bag. Recently, my kitchen assistant Lilja taught me this new method and I love it. It saves space, is very easy to do, and allows you to marinate the tofu very efficiently with minimal liquid.

The trick is to:

  • find a container that is slightly larger than a block of tofu. If you don’t have one, you can actually use the plastic box that comes with the tofu. But you will need plastic wrap to seal it.
  • Cut the tofu in half lengthwise, then into half-inch (1.2 cm) thick squares. If you’re short on time, slice the tofu into thinner pieces, 1/3” (8 mm) or so, so it gets seasoned faster.
  • Transfer the tofu into the container by making the pieces “stand” (see the picture below). Use your hand to gently separate the tofu slices, so the marinade will seep between the tofu pieces.
  • If the marinade cannot cover all the tofu, use some green onion (or white onion) to fill up the empty space in the container, so the marinade covers most of the tofu.

When you slice tofu this way, it’s easier to fry it and it gets very crispy. The way you arrange the pieces helps the tofu to absorb more marinade and get very flavorful.

How to marinate tofu

Making crispy tofu

The process is not the quickest one, but it yields an extra crispy result.

  • You should use some paper towels to get rid of the excess marinade from the tofu before frying. Not only does it help the tofu coating to stay even, it also prevents the oil from splattering.
  • Coat the tofu with the cornstarch-based coating. It will create a super crispy surface. You should do this step while heating up the oil, and fry the coated tofu as soon as possible.
  • If you’re using a nonstick pan, you can use very little oil to fry the tofu without it sticking. But if you want a crispier result, more oil will go a long way toward this.
  • Finally, drain the excess oil from the tofu once you’re done frying.

It does take a bit of patience and several steps to finish cooking, but you’ll be rewarded with super crispy tofu at the end.

Crispy marinated tofu cooking step-by-step

Crispy tofu served with dipping sauce

That’s it! I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you like tofu even more after you try out this dish!

More delicious tofu recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Crispy Marinated Tofu | This recipe generates the most flavorful marinated tofu! The tofu pieces are soaked in a savory spicy Asian sauce, then pan fried until crispy. It’s very easy to put together and yields crispy tofu bites that are bursting with flavor! {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

Crispy Marinated Tofu

This recipe generates the most flavorful marinated tofu! The tofu pieces are soaked in a savory spicy Asian sauce, then pan fried until crispy. It’s very easy to put together and yields crispy tofu bites that are bursting with flavor! {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make the dish gluten free, use tamari or coconut amino to replace soy sauce. Use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine. And use a gluten-free hoisin sauce.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 248kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1 block (14 oz / 400 g) extra-firm or firm tofu
  • Optional 3 to 4 green onions, coarsely sliced to fill the marinade (*Footnote 1), reserve green parts for garnish
  • Vegetable oil for pan frying

Marinade

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chili paste (or hot sauce you like) (*Footnote 2)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic , grated
  • 1 inch ginger , grated

Coating

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt Skip the salt if using doubanjiang in the marinade
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Instructions

Marinate (4 hr to overnight)

  • (Optional) Press the tofu gently using your hands or a few layers of paper towel to get rid of excess water. Use this step if you’re short on time and need to use less time to marinate the tofu. You can skip this step if you’re going to marinate the tofu overnight.
  • Prepare a container that’s slightly bigger than the block of tofu. Combine all the sauce ingredients in the container. Stir to mix well. Transfer 2 to 3 tablespoons of the marinade into a separate small bowl to use as a dipping sauce later.
  • Cut the tofu in half lengthwise, then into half-inch-thick squares. Transfer the pieces into the container by making them “stand”, so it helps the marinade to disperse evenly (see the blog post above to see how to arrange the tofu). Use your hand to gently separate the tofu slices, so all the surfaces will be in touch with the marinade. If the marinade cannot cover all the tofu, use some green onion (or white onion) to fill up the empty space in the container, so the marinade covers most of the tofu.
  • Cover to seal the container. Gently shake it. Marinate overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

Cook

  • When you’re ready to cook, remove the tofu from the marinade and lay it on a few layers of paper towels to drain the extra liquid.
  • Combine the coating ingredients in a plate. Stir to mix well.
  • Prepare a big plate with a few layers of paper towels, for the cooked tofu.
  • Heat a thin layer of oil in a nonstick (or carbon steel) pan over medium-high heat until hot.
  • You might need to cook the tofu in batches depending on your pan size. While heating up the pan, coat each piece of tofu with the coating mixture and place it on a plate. You should only coat the pieces you’re going to fry immediately.
  • Carefully add the coated tofu pieces into the pan. Cook without moving until the bottom is browned, 2 minutes or so. Flip to cook the other side until browned, another 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium if the pan gets too hot and the oil starts to smoke. Repeat the process until you’ve fried all the tofu pieces.
  • Transfer the fried tofu onto the paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil.
  • Serve the fried tofu with the reserved dipping sauce on the side and garnish it with chopped green onion. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. I put green onion in the marinade container so the liquid would rise high enough to cover the tofu. You can skip it if the marinade covers the tofu already.
  2. Sriracha, Thai chili paste, doubanjiang, and any other type of hot sauce will work in this recipe. Note, if you use doubanjiang, skip the salt in the coating since doubanjiang contains a lot of salt already.
  3. The nutrition facts were calculated based on an estimate of the amount of marinade that gets absorbed by the tofu.

Nutrition

Serving: 4g | Calories: 248kcal | Carbohydrates: 18.1g | Protein: 10.6g | Fat: 16.1g | Saturated Fat: 2.6g | Sodium: 716mg | Potassium: 171mg | Fiber: 0.7g | Sugar: 6.1g | Calcium: 183mg | Iron: 2mg
Crispy Marinated Tofu | This recipe generates the most flavorful marinated tofu! The tofu pieces are soaked in a savory spicy Asian sauce, then pan fried until crispy. It’s very easy to put together and yields crispy tofu bites that are bursting with flavor! {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

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One thought on “Crispy Marinated Tofu

  1. Lufi

    5 stars
    Another excellent recipe from you, Maggie – Thank you! I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful & yummy the final product tasted! The coating/frying process was a bit too laborious to me since I’m such an impatient cook with two toddlers, but it tasted so good that I feel like making it & eating it everyday! My toddlers loved it, too, so I know this recipe will stay in my recipe book & I will be making it again. My 20-month-old was actually eating these tofu pieces as if they were cookies (she picked them up by hand & started chomping & scarfing them down). I think she’s kind of addicted to this now since this seems to be all she wants to eat. :}

    There was some marinade leftover when I made this, so I marinated some chicken pieces with it, and they came out great tasting as well. Next time I make this, I will probably cook a combination of tofu & chicken. I will probably also experiment with bigger tofu pieces, too, just to speed up the coating & frying process.

    Thank you so very much again for sharing this recipe! It’s hard to find a very good tofu recipe, so I am just elated that I’ve found your page. I’ve got some friends who are not sure about tofu, and this will the one recipe I will make for them for sure!

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