Here’s how to make the best pan fried tofu: fast and easy, no pressing required! It has irresistible flavor and cooks in 15 minutes.
Are you a tofu fan? I’ll confess that Alex and I haven’t been until recently. But this plant-based protein has started to win our hearts! Why? Well, it’s great for weeknight meals, which is where this recipe comes in. And guess what? Tofu can be majorly delicious, when it’s prepared correctly. Douse it in a little smoked sauce sauce and sesame oil and pan fry it until golden brown, and it’s positively irresistible! This perfect pan fried tofu is our go-to for easy plant-based dinners (along with this Tofu Scramble, also a favorite). Here’s how to make it!
What you need for this pan fried tofu
Tofu is soy milk that’s turned into curds (like in cheesemaking!) and pressed into blocks. It was invented in China and is used in many Asian cuisines from Chinese to Thai. On its own, it has no flavor at all (ew!). But combine it with a few simple flavorings and pow! It tastes savory and meaty all at once. Here’s what we’ve used for this pan fried tofu:
- Tofu, firm or extra firm: This is important! Do not, we repeat, do not buy soft or silken tofu. It will not work in this recipe.
- Olive oil
- Toasted sesame oil: Make sure it’s toasted! Regular sesame oil is neutral and intended for cooking; toasted has a nutty flavor and is intended for cooking.
- Smoked soy sauce or soy sauce: Smoked shoyu is becoming widely available; if you can find it’s 100% worth it!
How to make pan fried tofu (basic steps)
Let’s clarify before we start: this is not crispy tofu! This pan fried tofu results in golden brown pieces that are crisped at the edges. It’s not ultra crispy, but it has a lovely texture that we like even better. Sometimes crispy tofu can get too crunchy. Here are the basic steps for how to make pan fried tofu (or jump right to the recipe):
- Cut it: Slice the tofu into large cubes. Dry it off with a towel.
- Cook side 1: Here’s where it gets a little interesting. Place the tofu in cold oil. Then bring it up to medium heat and cook 5 to 6 minutes until one side is golden brown.
- Flip! Here’s the only hard part! Remove the pan from the heat to reduce spitting. Then flip the tofu: using chopsticks is easiest!
- Cook side 2: Return to the heat. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes.
- Season & cook a little more: Add toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Cook another 2 minutes on each side. Done!