This easy pan-fried tofu is crispy, marinated in a simple sauce, and ready in just about 30 minutes. The tofu doesn't even need to be pressed before cooking!
This pan-fried tofu is one of my go-to recipes! The tofu is marinated in a simple combination of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, vegetable broth, and nutritional yeast. This marinade is pretty much the same one I use in my marinated tofu recipe.
Pan-frying tofu for 10 to 15 minutes makes it golden brown, lightly crispy, and firm.
I tested this recipe with pressed and unpressed extra-firm tofu. While the pressed tofu is slightly denser after pan-frying, I find that it's not a necessary step for this recipe.
- Quick & easy: Pan-fried tofu takes just about 30 minutes to make and only 15 minutes of active time. No pressing required!
- Pan-frying: Unlike deep-frying, in which tofu is fully submerged in oil, and shallow-frying, where the tofu is partially submerged in oil, pan-frying involves just enough oil to coat the entire skillet. This results in crisp, browned tofu.
- Flavors: Soy sauce (or tamari) makes the tofu salty and savory. Marinating tofu for at least 15 minutes allows it to soak up a lot of the seasonings, resulting in truly flavorful tofu.
- Versatile: This recipe is a staple that works in grain bowls, on salads, with roasted vegetables, or anywhere that needs a serving of protein.
- Extra firm tofu: This is my go-to type of tofu. Super firm also works and will yield a denser, firmer result. Firm tofu will yield a softer result.
- Vegetable broth: I recommend a combination of Better than Bouillon and water for the best flavor.
- Soy sauce: This is the backbone of the marinade. An equal amount of reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari works.
- Nutritional yeast: This adds depth and cheesy flavor. It also helps the tofu crisp up in the pan.
- Apple cider vinegar: A little bit of tang balances out the salty soy sauce. I have not tested this recipe with any other kind of vinegar.
- Honey or maple syrup. I use the two interchangeably, as they have only a subtle flavor difference when used in the marinade. This helps the tofu caramelize in the pan, resulting in a crisp, browned edge.
- Oil: You can't pan-fry without oil! Canola oil is my go-to frying oil because it has a neutral flavor and can handle high temps. It's also affordable. Other options include peanut oil, olive oil (note that this is not a neutral flavor), and avocado oil.
I find that cutting tofu into ½-inch to 1-inch cubes is the most versatile way to serve tofu. That being said, this recipe works with thinner squares or even triangles of tofu.
In a medium bowl or shallow dish, whisk together the vegetable broth, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, honey or maple syrup, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
Add the cubed tofu to the marinade. Stir so that each piece is covered in marinade. Marinate for at least 15 minutes. If the tofu isn't fully covered by liquid, stir it halfway through to evenly distribute the marinade.
After 15 minutes, remove the tofu from the marinade.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with enough oil to coat the entire skillet in a thin layer, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once hot and shimmering, add a piece of tofu. If the oil sizzles, it's hot enough and ready for the tofu.
Add the remaining tofu, working in batches if needed.
Pan-fry until golden on one side, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on the skillet material and stove heat. Flip the tofu to the reverse side when golden and continue cooking until golden.
Continue cooking until the tofu is golden on all sides, flipping occasionally. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes total, with 15 minutes yielding almost blackened tofu.
I actually prefer it to be blackened, but for those who just want a gentle golden color, I'd stick to 10 minutes of total pan-fry time.
And that's it! Pretty simple.
Cooking tips for success
- Skillet type: I prefer using my 12-inch cast iron skillet to pan-fry tofu because it distributes heat well and chars the tofu nicely. Any 12-inch skillet works, but a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet works best. If using a smaller skillet, cook the tofu in 2 to 3 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Marinate time: I find that 15 minutes is enough time to transfer some of the marinade flavor to the tofu, but longer marinade times are always better. The tofu can be marinated for up to 24 hours.
- Pan heat: I use medium heat because that is the recommendation for most non-stick skillets. If the tofu is browning too quickly, especially if you are using a cast-iron pan, reduce the heat as needed.
- Tofu shape: Cubed tofu has to be turned perfectly to cook all 6 sides evenly, which is pretty unrealistic. I like that each piece of cubed tofu is cooked unevenly, as it results in a variety of textures and browning. If you prefer a perfectly uniform piece of pan-fried tofu, I recommend slicing the tofu into thin squares. This way they only need to be flipped once.
Marinated tofu: The tofu can marinate for up to 24 hours. Keep refrigerated and covered while marinating.
Leftovers: Best within 3 to 4 days. Let cool before refrigerating in a closed container.
Reheating: I recommend reheating tofu in a skillet over medium heat. Oil is not needed but won't hurt. The tofu can be reheated in the microwave but it will be softer this way.
Looking for more tofu basics?
If you're new to cooking with tofu, check out my guide to tofu.
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- 14 ounce block extra firm tofu see note #1
- ¼ cup vegetable broth I like using Better than Bouillon dissolved in water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce sub tamari for GF option
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey adjust to taste; maple syrup also works
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil see note #2
- Slice tofu into about twenty ½-inch cubes. In a medium bowl or shallow dish, whisk together the vegetable broth, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, honey, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
- Add the cubed tofu to the marinade, tossing to fully cover all pieces. Marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. If needed, stir the tofu halfway through so that it is evenly marinated.
- Heat a 12-inch skillet (I like using my cast iron skillet for this) over medium heat. Drizzle with enough oil to fully coat the pan, about 2 to 3 tablespoons.
- Once hot and shimmering, add one piece of tofu. The oil is hot enough if the tofu sizzles. Add all tofu pieces (do not add the marinade!), cooking the tofu in batches if needed.
- Pan-fry for 3 to 5 minutes on one side, until golden. Flip the tofu and cook until the reverse side is browned. Continue cooking the tofu, stirring occasionally, until it is golden throughout.
- The goal is crisp and golden tofu, which takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, depending on pan type and stove heat. 15 minutes yields tofu that is almost blackened on some sides, whereas 10 minutes results in softer golden tofu.
- Remove tofu from the stove. Serve in grain bowls, with pasta, or anywhere that needs protein.
- Tofu: This method works with firm and super-firm tofu. Super firm tofu yields firmer and denser tofu, while firm tofu yields softer tofu.
- Canola oil: This is a neutral, inexpensive oil that handles high heat well. Vegetable oil, peanut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil also work well, though olive oil does not have a neutral flavor.
- Tofu shape: I enjoy cubed pan-fried tofu because it results in a variety of textures from some sides getting cooked longer than others. If you prefer a piece of tofu that is uniformly cooked on all sides, I recommend slicing the tofu into thin 2-inch squares. Sliced tofu cooks more quickly.
- Leftovers: Best within 3-4 days. Keep refrigerated. Reheat on the skillet over medium heat. The tofu can be marinated in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- This pan-frying method also works without marinating the tofu, but it will no be as crisp without the nutritional yeast and honey.