Crispy Tofu

Published by Emma Christensen on March 2014


  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • Paper towels or clean dish cloths
  • Dinner plates
  • Heavy weight, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes
  • Shallow container
  • Small strainer, optional
  • 10" to 12" skillet, stainless steel or cast iron preferred
  • Stiff spatula
  • Wire cooling rack


  1. Press the tofu: Remove the tofu from its packaging. Line a plate with a folded paper towel and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Press for 15 to 30 minutes. You will see liquid collect around the tofu.
  2. Cut the tofu into pieces: Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Pat the tofu dry. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thick rectangles, or sticks, depending on how you plan to use the tofu.
  3. Season with salt: Transfer the tofu to a shallow dish and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to evenly season the tofu.
  4. Coat with cornstarch: Sprinkle 1/3 of the cornstarch over the tofu, then toss to evenly coat. Continue sprinkling and tossing until all the cornstarch is used. This is most easily done with a small strainer, but can also be done by sprinkling with your hands. After adding all the cornstarch, the tofu should be evenly coated with a sticky, gummy layer of cornstarch.
  5. Warm the oil: Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Heat until the oil shimmers and flows smoothly to coat the bottom of the pan. It should not smoke. If you see a wisp of smoke, lower the heat slightly and immediately proceed with adding the tofu.
  6. Add the tofu: Add all of the tofu in a single layer. The tofu should sizzle upon contact — if not, wait a few minutes to let the pan heat before continuing.
  7. Pan-fry the tofu until golden: At first the tofu will stick to the pan (unless you're using a nonstick skillet). Wait until the tofu releases from the pan before browning the next side; the underside of the tofu should be golden-brown. Continue frying until all sides are browned and crispy.
  8. Transfer to cooling rack: Transfer the browned tofu to a cooling rack while you finish your recipe. Eat the tofu immediately. It will remain crispy for a few hours, but will become chewy and lose its crispness if refrigerated.

Recipe Notes: Marinated Tofu Cubes: For extra flavor, toss the sliced tofu in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil and let stand for a few minutes before coating with cornstarch and frying.