Breaded tofu cutlets are marinated, seasoned and coated in panko and lightly pan-fried until golden. They are perfect as a main protein for lunch, dinner or even Thanksgiving!
If you're looking for pure vegan comfort food then you've come to the right place. These "cutlets" are soft and flavorful on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside.
They work well as a main dish because the golden panko coating makes for a nice centerpiece. And they're protein-packed!
This recipe is similar to my crispy breaded tofu nuggets and chicken fried tofu recipes, but each slice is big enough to be one portion. Add a drizzle of homemade white gravy for that classic country fried steak/pork cutlet effect.
- Tofu: I recommend using extra firm or super firm tofu for the best texture.
- All-purpose flour combined with spices makes the dredging for the tofu cutlets.
- Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and a few other ingredients. Don't skip this spice, it adds a lot to tofu cutlets.
- Panko breadcrumbs: Choose plain panko breadcrumbs. Spicy panko breadcrumbs also work.
- Flax eggs are made up of ground flaxseed and water. It creates a viscous consistency tha tacts as a binder, much like eggs.
- The marinade is made up of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, black pepper, and vegetable broth. Apple cider vinegar can be used if needed. Choose a flavorful vegetable broth, like Imagine or Pacific Foods brands.
How to freeze tofu
Freezing tofu for at least four hours before marinating adds a great texture. Freezing tofu makes it spongier and chewier and helps it to soak up the marinade.
To freeze: Slice each block of tofu into three rectangles and place on a medium cutting board or baking sheet. Place in the freezer, uncovered, until frozen solid. This will take at least 4 hours. You can do this step 24 hours in advance.
Transfer tofu to the fridge to defrost it. For a quicker option, place the tofu in a bag and defrost under running water.
Again, you really don't have to freeze the tofu to make this recipe, but it will be worth it.
Steps to make tofu cutlets
Marinating: Mix together the marinade: soy sauce, red wine vinegar, vegetable broth, and black pepper. Let the thawed frozen tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes and as long as overnight.
Set up three bowls:
- One bowl with flour and seasonings
- One with flax egg
- One with panko breadcrumbs
Dip each tofu cutlet in flour, then flax egg, then panko. Make sure that the tofu is entirely covered after each step to ensure even coating.
Bread all pieces of tofu and set them aside on a plate.
Heat about ¼ cup of peanut oil or canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or cast-iron pan. It should be enough to entirely cover the pan.
Once hot, add the tofu. Work in batches as needed to ensure even cooking. I usually cook 3 pieces at a time. Let cook until golden before flipping, about 3 minutes.
This is a basic pepper gravy that is made using vegan butter, unsweetened and unflavored soy milk, all-purpose flour, salt, and pepper.
The gravy is made by mixing all-purpose flour into melted butter, then slowly whisking in milk. Simmer until thickened.
You might also like this vegan mushroom gravy on the cutlets.
Serving and leftovers
Leftovers: This recipe is best enjoyed right away. However, leftovers are best reheated in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat to re-crisp the panko coating.
New to tofu? Ready my complete guide to tofu for cooking tips and tricks.
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Panko Breaded Tofu Cutlets with Pepper Gravy
- 2 14 ounce blocks extra firm tofu
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup soy milk unsweetened and unflavored (see note #2)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon table salt plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon old bay seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 and ½ cups panko
- ¼ cup peanut oil
- Tofu prep: Drain water off of tofu. Slice each block of tofu length-wise into three rectangles. Optional step: Lay tofu out on a baking sheet or cutting board. Don't overlap. Place in the freezer and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours. Transfer to the fridge to thaw overnight, or place in a plastic bag and run under warm water until thawed.
- Marinade: Whisk together marinade in a small bowl: vegetable broth, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Place tofu in a shallow dish (I use a 9x13 casserole dish) and cover with marinade. Marinate tofu slices for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through for even distribution.
- To make pepper gravy: Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add vegan butter. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Slowly add soy milk, whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Once bubbling over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low. Let simmer until thickened to gravy consistency, about 5 minutes.
- Breading: Retrieve 3 similarly bowls that are big enough to dip tofu slices into. In one bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons ground flax with 6 tablespoons water to make a flaxeed "egg". Let sit for 5 minutes. In another sized bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, old bay seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder. In the final bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs.
- Dunk each slice of tofu in the flour mixture, then egg mixture, then panko. Make sure that the tofu is completely covered with each mixture. Set aside on a plate.
- Frying: Heat a large skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add peanut oil. Once hot, add breaded tofu, working in batches if needed. Shallow-fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden. Only flip when the tofu is completely cooked. Place cooked tofu on a paper-towel lined plate to drain off excess oil. Enjoy topped with pepper gravy.
- Freezing the tofu for at least four hours before marinating it adds a great texture that readily absorbed marinade. This step is optional. I recommend pressing the tofu for 15 minutes if not freezing it.
- Soy milk can be replaced with equal amounts of almond, cashew or oat milk.
- Leftovers: This recipe is best enjoyed right away. However, leftovers are best reheated in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat to re-crisp the panko coating.
- Nutrition facts: Nutrition calculations are a rough estimate. There will be some flour and Panko leftover that do not contribute. Not all oil is absorbed during frying.