Making flavorful, crisp tofu in the air fryer is possible with a few thoughtful tricks. The key to a crisp exterior is pressing the tofu to get rid of extra water and coating the tofu in a cornstarch mixture after marinating. The cornstarch absorbs into the marinade around the tofu, creating a coating that turns golden brown and crisp in the air fryer.
Tofu is mild in flavor, so it’s first marinated in a combination of flavorful ingredients like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. The strong combination of flavors in the marinade helps to deeply flavor the tofu so that it’s delicious on its own as well as in salads, noodle dishes, or whatever else you please.
An added bonus: air fryer tofu is ready from start to finish in under an hour and reheats marvelously.
Tips for Air Frying Tofu
- The best tofu for this recipe is extra-firm block tofu. It’s the easiest to work with thanks to its lower moisture content and holds up well when pressed and yields the best texture. Firm tofu can be swapped for extra-firm but I recommend pressing it longer (up to 30 minutes) in order to achieve the same crisp exterior.
- For extra flavor, add up to 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and ground ginger along with a pinch of salt and pepper to the breading.
- Cooking the tofu at a high temperature allows the outside to brown and crisp quickly without drying out the inside.
- If your air fryer runs hot, you may want to toss the tofu more frequently to allow even browning.
How to Serve Air Fryer Crispy Tofu
I love using the marinade ingredients to make a simple sauce and dipping the tofu in it for a light and satisfying lunch, but it’s excellent served a number of other ways:
- Use to top a salad
- Add it to a noodle dish, such as this Sesame Noodle Salad
- Add it to a grain bowl
- Serve it as a main with stir-fried or sautéed veggies on the side
An Easy Dipping Sauce
The marinade also makes a flavorful sauce for the fried tofu—just double the ingredients and reserve it. For a thinner sauce, simply top with sliced scallion and toasted sesame seeds. For a sauce that clings to the tofu, cook the marinade for a few minutes to thicken. Either version will yield roughly 1/4 cup of sauce.
More Options for Dipping Sauce
How to Store and Reheat
The tofu can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat:
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (if your air fryer requires preheating) on the air fryer setting.
- Place the leftover tofu in the basket in a single layer.
- Return the basket to the fryer and reheat until the tofu cubes are heated through and have re-crisped on the outside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Crispy Air Fryer Tofu
This recipe was developed in a 6-quart air fryer, which is large enough to fit all of the tofu in a single layer. If your air fryer is smaller, you may need to cook the tofu in batches.
If you’d like a dipping sauce to go with your crispy tofu, double the marinade ingredients.
1 (16-ounce) block extra-firm tofu, drained
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Sriracha or chili garlic sauce
1 large clove garlic, finely grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger, from a 1-inch piece
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt, to taste
Scallions and toasted sesame seeds, for serving (as desired)
Press the tofu:
Line a loaf pan large enough to fit the block of tofu with a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Place the tofu in the lined pan. Cover the tofu with another double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Set another loaf pan on top of the covered tofu and place a couple of large heavy cans into the top pan to press the tofu down.
Press the tofu until drier to the touch, about 15 minutes.
If using paper towels, swap out the soaked paper towels for new, dry paper towels about halfway through (if needed). Alternatively, the tofu can be pressed between 2 lined plates or in a tofu press.
Meanwhile, prepare the marinade and coating:
Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha, grated garlic and ginger, sugar, and pepper to a medium bowl. Whisk the marinade together with a whisk or fork until well combined.
To make an easy dipping sauce for the crispy tofu, double the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, and pepper). After marinating, reserve the mixture for serving.
For the coating, add the cornstarch to a shallow bowl or pie plate.
Slice and marinate the tofu:
Once pressed, cut the tofu into cubes. Place the pressed tofu onto a cutting board so that it’s standing on one of its long sides. Slice the tofu in half lengthwise into 2 thin rectangles. Lay the tofu slices down on top of one another, resembling the original block of tofu. Cut the tofu into 4ths along the long edge and 4ths along the short edge to yield 32 cubes.
Add the cubed tofu to the bowl with the marinade and use a rubber spatula or gentle hands to toss the tofu until each piece is evenly coated in the marinade. Take care to not break up the tofu. Let the cubes marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Prepare the air fryer:
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F if your air fryer requires preheating. If your air fryer has different settings, use the “air fry” setting.
Coat the tofu:
Once marinated, coat the tofu. Working with one piece at a time, roll each cube of tofu in the cornstarch, taking care to coat each side. The layer of cornstarch should be thin and not clumpy. If clumpy, gently tap the tofu against the bowl to get rid of excess.
Place the coated tofu on a dry cutting board or a large plate. Repeat until all of the cubes of tofu have been coated.
The cornstarch will absorb into the marinated tofu—this is what you want. Any unsaturated, extra bits of cornstarch will not brown. If you notice this, simply dust off the excess cornstarch.
Air fry the tofu:
Lightly coat the air fryer basket with cooking spray. Place the tofu in a single layer in the basket of the air fryer, leaving a small gap between each piece for the heat to circulate and evenly brown the cubes. Spray the tofu with a light coating of cooking spray.
Return the basket to the air fryer and cook at 400°F for 5 minutes. Flip the tofu and spray lightly with cooking spray. Continue cooking until the cubes of tofu are golden brown and crisp, about 5 more minutes (10 minutes total).
Make a dipping sauce (optional):
If desired, make a sauce from the marinade while the tofu air fries (if you have not already done so, double the marinade ingredients). For a thin sauce, whisk together the excess marinade until well combined. Top with sliced scallion and toasted sesame seeds.
For a thicker sauce, add the marinade to a very small pot. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat until gently bubbling and reduced slightly, 3 to 5 minutes.
The sauce should be slightly thicker and hold a line for a few seconds when a spoon or spatula is dragged through the bottom. Immediately transfer the sauce to a small bowl and top with sliced scallion and toasted sesame seeds. Take care to not cook the sauce too aggressively or too long as it will thicken too much.
Transfer the tofu to a plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired. Top with sliced scallion and toasted sesame seeds, and serve immediately while still crispy (with dipping sauce, if using).
The tofu can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 4|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||9%|
|Total Carbohydrate 13g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|