If you’re still on the fence about tofu, just wait until you’ve tried this – my latest tofu obsession!
Exceptionally crisp, golden nuggets of pan-fried tofu, coated in a savoury-sweet honey-garlic sauce, made with just nine simple ingredients, and accomplished in a quick 25 minutes or less!
Here are all the things you’ll love about it:
- incredibly tasty
- quick & easy
- less than 10 ingredients
- minimal prep
- one-pan meal
- hearty and satisfying
Tofu can be a polarizing topic. You either love it, or you don’t – yet. At least that’s the case in our house. I personally love the flexibility tofu offers and reach for it often when cooking for myself. Where the rest of the family is concerned, there are two main reasons for the lack of enthusiasm around tofu: texture and taste. Definitely important factors involved in the overall enjoyment of food!
So, to ensure our best chance of success, this recipe tackles both texture and taste head-on (as does this fan-favourite; my crispy, spicy tofu crumble).
First, we need to use the right tofu for the job. Pressed tofu has a firm, chewy texture with less moisture than other types, which is why it’s the perfect choice to make our nuggets extra crispy. If you can’t find pre-pressed, buy extra firm tofu and press it yourself. You might be tempted to skip this step and I don’t blame you. I’ve been known to skip it too, just know that the results, while still delicious, might be slightly less impressive.
Tip! Freezing tofu improves the texture, making it “meatier” and also fortifies resiliency when cooking – helping to keep the tofu from falling apart. Simply defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Another important step to really nailing that crisp, crunchy exterior on the tofu is a liberal coating of cornstarch. Simply toss the cut pieces of tofu in a large bowl with a generous amount of cornstarch, ensuring each piece is thoroughly coated on all sides. The cornstarch absorbs any existing moisture on the surface of the tofu and creates a bit of a craggy coating that gets insanely crisp after a few minutes in hot oil. Which, is the next important step.
Properly frying the tofu is crucial to achieving maximum crispiness. My skillet of choice is always well-seasoned cast iron, but if you don’t have one, any heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet will do. Heat a generous slick of neutral, high-heat appropriate oil (avocado, grapeseed, vegetable, canola, peanut) until you see ripples across the surface. You’ll need to be extremely carefully putting the tofu in the hot oil to avoid splattering. Using a set of tongs, slowly set one piece in the skillet to test the oil. There should be instant sizzling with oil bubbling in a lively fashion around the edges of the tofu. If not, the oil isn’t hot enough and needs a bit more time.
Once at least four of the six sides of each piece are shatteringly crisp, it’s time to cook the sauce. The key here is to simmer the sauce long enough for some of the liquid to evaporate, encouraging the sauce to thicken and intensifying the flavour, but not so long that it becomes thick and dark. If left too long, the sauce with turn into an almost candy-like coating as it cools. Still tasty, just not quite the idea.
What we’re looking for here is the colour of the sauce deepening slightly and watching for it to reduce by about a third. My fool-proof test is to swipe a rubber spatula through the sauce down the centre of the skillet from edge to edge. This will create a divide in the sauce about 2″ wide, with the bottom of the skillet visible. Wait for a count of one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, and if the sauce meets back in the middle of the skillet around the three-one-thousand mark, it’s perfect. If you’ve used a smaller skillet or pot, this test might not work as it depends directly on the surface area. Likewise, if you’ve doubled the recipe but not increased the size of the skillet. Use your best judgment and trust it will be delicious even if slightly under, or overcooked.
Now, all that’s left is to give your perfect crispy tofu a toss in that scrumptious honey-garlic sauce and garnish liberally with thinly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.
Best eaten straight out of the pan, but equally delicious when framed with steamed rice and garlicky greens of some sort – broccoli, bok choy, wilted kale – what have you.
Just one final thought before I send you on your way to crispy, honey-garlic tofu heaven… you may want to consider doubling this if feeding more than two, or if you just really love tofu!
Crispy Honey Garlic Tofu
Make better-than-take-out crispy honey-garlic tofu! Exceptionally crisp, golden nuggets of pan-fried tofu, coated in a savoury-sweet honey-garlic sauce, made with nine simple ingredients – in just 25 minutes or less. This recipe serves two generously, especially when served with rice and veggies, so doubling it would be a great idea!
Crispy tofu nuggets
- 400 g pre-pressed tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes ((extra-firm works, just with a slightly different texture – see note))
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- avocado oil for frying ((or another oil suitable for high-heat: grapeseed, canola, vegetable, peanut))
Honey garlic sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp minced garlic, measured generously ((about 4 cloves))
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced ((white and green parts separated))
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Make the crispy tofu nuggets
Set a large, non-stick skillet over high heat with enough oil to shallow fry the tofu.
Place the cubes of tofu in a large bowl and toss with the cornstarch until thoroughly coated.
When the oil is hot and the surface is rippling, CAREFULLY place each piece of the tofu into the oil and fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, until a crisp, golden crust develops on at least four out of the six sides.
Remove the tofu from the skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with a little salt while the cubes are still hot.
Make the honey garlic sauce
While the tofu is cooking, prepare the sauce:
In a medium bowl, stir together the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and white parts of the onion.
Carefully pour off excess oil from the skillet used to cook the tofu and set it back over medium-high heat.
Pour the sauce into the hot skillet and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by a third and thickened slightly (about 3 minutes). The sauce will bubble rapidly due to the viscosity of the honey. Once the mixture deepens in colour and the bubbles become smaller, swipe a spatula through the centre of the skillet to create a divide in the ssauceabout 2" wide. When the sauce takes 3-4 seconds to fill in and meet in the centre of the skillet again, it's ready.
Finsh and serve
Return the crispy tofu to the skillet and toss in the sauce until thoroughly coated.
Garnish with the remaining sliced green onions and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve over rice with garlicky greens on the side.
Use a minimum 8″ wide skillet for a single recipe and, if doubling it, use a skillet at least 10″ in diameter across the bottom. This will help keep the cooking time at a minimum since the increased volume of the sauce will take longer to reduce.
Commercially pre-pressed tofu is what makes this recipe so quick with impressive results, but if you can’t find it, buy extra-firm tofu and press it yourself.
Cutting the tofu into large pieces will reduce the amount of attention required during the frying process, however smaller pieces will end up with more crunch and less tofu texture in the centre. Similarly, slicing the tofu into slabs about ½” thick will increase the surface area of the crunchy exterior and make the frying process less tedious with only two sides to fry.
Freezing the tofu, then defrosting before cooking improves the texture, making it seem “meatier.”
Feel free to use any of your favourite sauces with the crispy tofu – don’t stop at honey garlic! Tossing the pan-fried tofu cubes in anything from buffalo to teriyaki sauce is delicious.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to hear how it went! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to give it a star rating.
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