How to Make Crispy Tofu in 5 Steps (2024)

This week on Basically, we’re diving deep into one of our favorite ingredients: tofu. To get all of this (and more) way before it hits the web, subscribeto our print magazine.

When I look at a block of tofu, all I see is POSSIBILITY. (Can’t say the same about looking at my Google calendar.) With a little ingenuity, a solid foundation of techniques, and a good recipe, tofu can be nearly anything I want it to be: simmered in a spicy stew like soondubu until soft and supple, warmed with dashi in a donabe, grilled and drizzled with chimichurri. And even though it might seem counterintuitive, since many types come packaged in water, tofu can also be “crispy” too.

I put crispy in quotation marks because we’re not talking fried chicken– or Pringles–level crispy here. Rather, “crispy” tofu is golden brown all over with a distinct crust. It holds onto sauce but doesn’t get lost in it. You’ll want to pop a cube into your mouth like a tater tot.

While tofu may not be born crispy—and, at times, may seem to resist all of your attempts to make it that way—follow these five steps and you can easily get it there. Here’s how to make crispy tofu:

1. Press it.

If you’re pan-frying your tofu, you’re probably using a firm, extra-firm, or super-firm variety (rather than silken). These have already been pressed in their creation—that’s how the coagulated soy milk becomes a block—but most could use a little more assistance. Because the drier you can get your tofu, the crispier it will become. You could pat tofu with a lint-free kitchen towel or paper towel before you start cooking (see No. 2), but even better to press some of that excess water out using a heavy weight.

Expelling water compacts the block of tofu, which accomplishes two things: It creates a denser, heftier, and sturdier texture, making the pieces less likely to crumble to bits as you fry, stir, and flip, and it reduces spattering when the pieces hit hot oil.

Tofu press, I love you.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle

You can press tofu by using a tofu press (I’m a well-documented tofu press advocate—it just makes my life the littlest bit easier) or MacGyvering a DIY method: Place your tofu on a lint-free kitchen towel atop a rimmed baking sheet or cutting board. Blanket it with another towel, then place a cutting board on top and stack on all of your heavy objects, like cast-iron pans, cans of tomatoes, sleeping cats. To speed up the process, cut your tofu into thinner planks or smaller cubes before you weigh it down. By increasing the surface area, you create more pathways for the water to exit. Aim for at least 20 minutes or as long as you can muster. (You can also press your tofu for several hours or overnight—I usually just stick my whole tofu press in the fridge in the morning so that it’s ready to go at dinnertime.)

How to Make Crispy Tofu in 5 Steps (2024)
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