Easy Fried Tofu

Photos by Leah Belber.

My sister has been vegetarian for a while now, and I’ve always struggled to enjoy her meat substitutes and alternative meals. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, Chik’n, the Impossible Burger…. The list is long, but the substitutes are never quite as flavorful as the meat I’m used to eating. This recipe is different because its cooking process provides a much more exciting texture and taste. By drying out the excess moisture from the tofu, you can then fry it and get a beautiful crisp brown edge, which gives much-needed variance in texture. After adding the richly flavorful sauce, the tofu develops a sticky and delicious coating!

For the tofu:

  1. 1/2 block of baked tofu
  2. Salt and pepper to taste
  3. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  4. 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  5. 4 tbsp neutral cooking oil
  6. 3 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  7. 2 tsp sesame oil
  8. 1/2  tbsp rice vinegar
  9. 1 tbsp black vinegar
  10. 1 tsp grated ginger
  11. 1/4 tsp chile oil
  12. 3 tbsp brown sugar
  13. 1 tsp mirin (optional)
  14. 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional)


  1. Cut tofu into bite-size pieces, then press dry with paper towels. Combine cornstarch, salt and pepper and Chinese five spice powder. Toss each piece of tofu until coated. The coating may be uneven; that is okay. 
  2. Heat pan to high heat and add the oil.
  3. Place tofu into the pan and sear the first side for 4 minutes. Flip and let sizzle for 3 more minutes. Feel free to sear one more side if you want even more crispness. Once finished, take out of the pan, pat dry and drain the oil.

  1. Peel and grate ginger. I find using a spoon to peel works well.
  2. Combine ginger with remaining ingredients and let sit.
  3. Turn heat to medium-high and pour the sauce over top of the tofu. Let the sauce continue to cook and reduce so that it becomes thick and coats the tofu without becoming too sticky.

  1. Serve with rice or in a salad, or eat as a snack!

Yields about 2 servings.