This recipe for air fryer tofu is so crazy easy that you won’t ever go back to deep-frying, pan-frying or baking tofu again! The air fryer cooks the tofu so quickly and uses so little oil, and this is perfect for days when you want some quick protein in your meals. Gluten-free and vegan too.
What is Tofu Exactly?
Tofu, the food which seems to be increasingly popular, is also known as beancurd. It is prepared by coagulating soy milk, and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying firmness. The most common types of tofu you might find at the supermarket are silken tofu, soft tofu, firm tofu, or extra-firm tofu.
By itself, tofu generally doesn’t have much of a taste, and many may find it bland without any additional seasonings. Due to its very subtle taste, tofu can be used in both sweet or savory recipes. The good thing about tofu is its spongy texture which allows it to absorb flavors well, and can be easily seasoned and flavored to suit the dish it is to be used in.
Tofu is a very common ingredient in Asia, and back home in Singapore where I’m from, tofu is part of everyday cuisine. From stir fries, to soup, to tofu cheesecake – tofu is everywhere. It seems that tofu is also gaining popularity in the West as more and more people adopt vegetarian or vegan diets. Nutritionally low in calories, tofu is high in plant-based protein, which makes it perfect for a meat substitute.
How to Cook Tofu
There are various ways to cook tofu – from deep-frying it in copious amounts of oil, pan-frying it, steaming it, or baking it. For most savory recipes, the main aim is to get the tofu to be as crispy on the outside as possible – and why deep-frying produces delicious results, it also uses the most amount of oil, which is very unhealthy.
Here’s where air-frying tofu comes in extremely handy. The air fryer acts like a convection oven, blowing hot air all over the food and cooking and crisping it up as it does so. As a result, very little oil (if you use it at all) is required to cook and get crispy golden brown tofu!
Why is it Necessary to Press Tofu?
For recipes where you want the tofu to keep its shape, you’ll be better off pressing the tofu (even if it’s an extra step). In this recipe, we’ll be using extra-firm tofu, because we want to cut the tofu into small cubes and for the cubes to maintain their form. You definitely don’t want the tofu to disintegrate while cooking, and that’s why it’s super important to press the tofu first before cooking it.
Pressing the tofu beforehand helps to remove some of the extra moisture, as too much moisture can result in a mushy texture later on. Pressing it also enables to tofu to absorb more of the marinate and flavors so it isn’t bland and boring. Most importantly, getting rid of the extra moisture allows the tofu to crisp up better.
How to Press Tofu
A chef in professional kitchen may use a tofu press (especially if cooking tofu in large quantities), but I’m assuming that you don’t cook a huge ton of tofu at one time. Which is why I’m going to show you a super simple method for quick pressing tofu.
Start off by cutting the block of tofu into small, uniform-sized cubes (or rectangles). Place the cut tofu on a plate lined with paper towels, and then place a few sheets of paper towels on top of the tofu. Place a cutting board on top and let it press the tofu for the next 15 minutes. Any extra moisture will released from the tofu and be absorbed by the paper towels.
Toss and marinate to add flavor
As I mentioned earlier, tofu by itself doesn’t have much of a flavor, so it would be best to marinate it for at least 15 minutes (or even overnight) to season it with the flavors you enjoy.
In this case, I’m using a super simple marinade with just sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, but you could use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari) as well.
How to Cook Tofu in the Air Fryer
Start off by preheating the air fryer to 375F so the air fryer basket is hot when you put the tofu in. Once the tofu is done marinating, place the tofu cubes in a single layer in the basket (leaving some space between each cube so that the tofu can cook all over and crisp up evenly).
Make sure not to overcrowd your air fryer basket! Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook the tofu in 2 different batches, but it’s totally worth it as the tofu will brown nicely and be crispy all over.
For tofu that’s softer inside and lightly golden outside:
Cook the tofu for 10 to 12 minutes at 375F, tossing halfway through. See the picture below – this is how tofu with a softer inside will look.
For tofu that is super crispy outside and chewier inside:
Cook the tofu for 14 to 15 minutes at 375F, tossing halfway through. See the picture below – this is how crispy tofu with a chewier inside will look.
What to Eat with Air Fryer Tofu?
If eating the air-fried tofu as a snack or an appetizer, I usually like serving it with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, chopped spring onions, and gluten-free soy sauce (tamari). You could also serve it with my homemade sriracha chili sauce, or this super easy 5-minute garlic aioli.
How to Store the Tofu
If you don’t plan on eating the tofu straightaway, place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
When planning on eating, simply pop the tofu in to the air fryer at 350F for a couple of minutes to heat it up before enjoying!
Other Air Fryer Recipes
Since getting our air fryer, we’ve been using it multiple times a week, and it is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, shorter cooking time, less oil, and crispy food? What’s there not to love? Here are some of our favorite air fryer recipes:
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings (Gluten-Free, Paleo)
- Crispy Air Fryer French Fries (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- Crispy Air Fryer Zucchini Fries (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
- Crispy Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
If you enjoyed this recipe, you’ll also love:
- Healing Vegetable Noodle Soup (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- Easy Vietnamese Chicken Pho (Gluten-Free)
- Rainbow Vegetable Rolls and Spicy Peanut Sauce (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- Crispy Baked Yuca Fries (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
- 1 16-oz block extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
- Sliced spring onions, for sprinkling (optional)
- Gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), for dipping (optional)
- Cut the tofu into small even cubes.
- Place the tofu cubes on a paper-towel lined plate and cover with more papel towels to press out as much water as possible (don’t skip this step)!
- Once tofu is pressed, toss the tofu cubes together with the sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat the air fryer to 375F.
- Place the tofu cubes in one single layer in your air fryer basket so the cubes don’t touch each other. (Do not overcrowd your air fryer basket as the tofu needs the space for the hot air crisp it up on all sides. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may need to do this in 2 batches.)
- For tofu that’s lightly golden outside but still soft inside, cook for 10 to 12 minutes and toss halfway through. For crispy tofu, cook for 14 to 15 minutes and toss halfway through (this will result in a slightly chewier inside).
Why Press Tofu: Pressing tofu helps to remove some of the moisture and makes it easier to cook with, as too much moisture may result in a bland mushy texture. In particular, where you want tofu to keep its shape while cooking, pressing the tofu before cooking helps the tofu absorb more of the marinate later on, and to crisp up better on the outside.
Do Not Overcrowd The Air Fryer Basket: Make sure you leave space between each tofu cube so they are not touching. This will ensure that they cook evenly on all sides, and that they crisp well and turn a nice golden brown on every side. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook the tofu in 2 different batches, but it’s totally worth the effort.
Marinade Ideas: The tofu in this recipe is meant to be a very basic and simple tofu that you can later add sauces over (such as Teriyaki sauce) or for dipping in sauces like gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, or homemade sriracha. If you prefer to eat the tofu directly without any additional sauces (such as in a salad or in a poke bowl), you can try marinating it in gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), garlic powder, and ginger powder for at least 15 minutes or even overnight. Cooking method is the same.
- Category: Appetizers
- Method: Air Fryer
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: air fryer tofu