This crispy tofu is the solution to all your Meatless Monday problems. Learn how to get the perfect crispy edges every time, with whatever sauce you like best (although the sesame garlic one used here is great, if I do say so myself).
Oops, I did it again. Did what? Oh, you know, just gave you another undeniably fantastic reason to go get yourself a cast iron skillet. Buy it, borrow it, rent it, find it– makes no difference to me. But in the name of crispy tofu, do yourself a favor and get one.
Before you get your knickers in a twist, I know, it feels like deja vu. Here I am, trying to bring you over to the dark side, where instead of cookies we have cast iron skillets and tofu to offer. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’s worth it. Besides, I’m a big believer in trying new things, which is how I convince people that they need to taste my concoctions before they can claim not to like it. You’re one of the lucky ones whose opinion I care about.
Maybe I’m painting a rosier picture of myself as a kid, but I think that I was pretty good about tasting foods. Vegetables and I had a loving relationship, fruit was always close at hand. Oh, except mushrooms. I couldn’t get over the slimy texture. Now, though, I welcome them, slipperiness and all, into my diet, in dishes like this Mediterranean Stuffed Portobellos and these Mushroom Burger Egg Stacks.
Anyway, tofu wasn’t much of a staple in our house. Sure, we had plenty of vegetarian tacos in the old days, which were probably soy-based. And yet, I never associated the two because one was in my taco shell and the other was… well, it was a weird, white block that I had no idea what to do with once it was out of the package.
You would think the solution is simple, just turn to the Internet, but then you run into all of the diehard fans, the one who’ve been eating tofu for years. Great source of plant-based protein! Easy to make! Super versatile! Frankly, it’s intimidating. How was I supposed to turn this spongy mass into those beautiful crispy golden cubes? Does it even taste as incredible as they say?
After perusing numerous blogs, I began testing recipes. Most of them worked, although there was the occasional flop mixed into the bunch. I guess you really can’t win them all. Despite everything I tried, though, I wasn’t getting the crispy tofu that I really wanted, the kind that makes a satisfying crunch when you bite through the edges. It didn’t seem like too much to ask to join the ranks of plant-loving, crunchy granola hipsters making the best tofu you or I have ever eaten.
All right, fine, maybe I set my sights too high. Let’s chalk it up to being an overachiever, then we can move on to the important result– how to nail crispy tofu!
You probably already guessed, but this is where the cast iron skillet comes into play. The magic of cast iron lies in its even heating, which is how you avoid burning some of your tofu before the rest is golden crisp. Forget about the non-stick pan dominating your kitchen cabinets. Regardless what the salesman told you, it will not be as non-stick as a properly seasoned cast iron skillet. Of course, cast iron is heavier and a little higher maintenance, but we already know food tastes better once you’ve worked for it.
The sauce is my go-to tofu flavoring whenever I’m at a loss what to season it with, and it hasn’t failed me yet. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the sauce isn’t as important here. The real star of the show is the crispy tofu, even though going the sesame garlic route is always a good idea. We don’t question why it’s a classic, we just accept it gladly as an important part of our menu.
Meatless Monday, meet crispy tofu. Things are never gonna be the same around here.
If you try this recipe, I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment below, save it on Pinterest, or tag #lensesandlentils on Instagram so that I can see your creations!
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu
- 2 tbsp sesame oil, divided
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½-1 inch ginger, minced
- dash red pepper flakes, to taste
- sesame seeds
- Start by cutting the tofu into ½-inch cubes. Wrap them in a clean towel, in a single layer, and place a heavy pan or book on top of them to drain the water. This is the first key step! Leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes, but the longer you leave it, the more liquid will be squeezed out.
- Combine 1 tablespoon of the oil and all remaining ingredients, except the sesame seeds, in a small jar.
- Heat the remaining oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, making sure to coat the entire pan. Lay the tofu cubes in a single layer in the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Flip the cubes as they begin to turn golden.
- Once you've flipped each piece over, pour on the sesame garlic mixture. Continue cooking and flipping the tofu as needed, for about 10-15 minutes more, depending on how browned your tofu is.* I like them extra crispy, so I cooked them for closer to another 15 minutes. If you see that the pan is dried out and the tofu is sticking too much, then add a little bit more oil.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the fridge for a week.