What’s the best way to prepare firm tofu so it’s crispy and doesn’t stick to the pan? Try this crispy tofu air fryer recipe! Learn how to air fry tofu cubes that have been marinated in a sesame soy marinade. You’ll love how air frying tofu makes it crisp on the outside and tender on the inside with no breading.
Psst... did you know that you can fry tofu in an air fryer? This air fryer tofu recipe is really going to knock your socks off. You can use these crispy air fryer tofu nuggets in a variety of ways.
I’m going to share how I use this tofu to make air fryer tofu bowls. However, you could also make a stir fry or a crispy tofu sandwich or wrap. Or, you could just eat the tofu alone as a protein-packed vegan snack.
And if you’ve never cooked with tofu before, no worries. I’m going to take you through this vegetarian plant-based recipe step-by-step.
You’ll learn the type of tofu that’s best to use (hint: it’s not silken tofu). We’ll also talk about why it’s important to press the tofu to remove excess water. I’ll show you how to press tofu, in addition to giving you some nutrition info on tofu.
Plant based recipes aren’t just for vegans! If you’re an omnivore (as my family is), I hope you’ll consider giving this plant-based air fryer recipe a try. You might find that crispy flavored tofu is a nice way to mix up the dinner menu once in a while!
- 📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🤔 How to Press Tofu
- 🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Crispy Tofu
- ️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ Leftovers
- 🧂️️ Seasonings
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 More Tofu Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- 🥗How to Make Air Fryer Tofu Bowls
- 💬 Comments
📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of Crispy Air Fryer Tofu has 173 calories, 2.8 grams net carbs, and 15 grams protein. This nutrition information includes the tofu and the marinade (since the marinade is nearly all absorbed). The tofu vegetable bowls provide 515 calories, 27 grams net carbs, and 22.2 grams of protein per serving.
Why try air frying tofu? Here are a few reasons:
- Keto Crispy Tofu Recipe: Since we’re not using panko or cornstarch to make tofu crispy, this recipe works for low carb and keto diets. Though many think of bacon and cheese as keto staples, there are actually a lot of plant-based keto foods too! A generous serving of this tofu only has 2.8 grams net carbs.
- Plant-Based Protein: Soy foods are some of my favorite vegan protein options. Tofu is considered a high-quality “complete protein,” so you are getting adequate amounts of all of the essential amino acids here. A lot of other vegan meat substitutes (e.g., jackfruit, mushrooms, cauliflower) don’t cut it for protein.
- Calcium: If you choose a calcium-set tofu (read the label), tofu can be a rich source of non-dairy dietary calcium.
- Kid friendly: This one depends on the child, of course, but some kids who are squeamish about meat may eat tofu. If you have a picky eater, get creative to help them broaden their dietary variety. Introducing new nutritious foods regularly may help them improve their palates (slowly, over time).
- Fast: Once you marinate tofu, everything comes together quickly. Air fry crispy tofu in only 20 minutes!
- Versatile: You can use air fried tofu in a variety of ways. Here, I’ve paired it with a rainbow of phytonutrient-rich vegetables for air fryer tofu Buddha bowls. A generous drizzle of ginger-lime aioli makes a vegetarian dinner that’s difficult to resist.
- Healthier Alternative to Agedashi Tofu: Agedashi tofu is a Japanese soft tofu that’s been deep fried. This air fryer crispy tofu is a healthy alternative since we’re using far less added oil.
- Delicious: If you haven’t tried tofu before, you might be surprised at how tasty it can be when prepared properly!
What do you need to make crispy tofu in an air fryer? To make marinated tofu, here’s what you need:
- Block of firm tofu
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Finely chopped garlic
- Grated fresh ginger
- Toasted sesame oil
- Cooking spray (non-aerosol)
Tofu (AKA bean curd) is made with coagulated soy milk that has been pressed into solid blocks. You can find tofu that is silken, soft, firm, extra firm, or super firm. I used firm tofu for this air fryer recipe, though super firm or extra firm tofu should also work.
IMVHO, you can make the best air fryer tofu with a package of The Bridge firm tofu. It has a lot more nooks and crannies than some of the more popular tofu brands have.
The lack of structural integrity meant I couldn’t cut the tofu into neat cubes. However, all of the exposed surface area meant the marinade was easily absorbed all over each piece. What it lacked in aesthetics, it gained in flavor!
If you can’t find The Bridge tofu, no worries. This recipe works with other brands of firm tofu as well.
Just make sure NOT to use silken tofu (AKA Japanese-style tofu) in this recipe. Chinese tofu is what you need for this air fryer tofu.
Silken tofu is much softer and crumbles very easily. It doesn’t absorb marinade as easily as other types of tofu. I prefer to use silken tofu as a pureed base for desserts, in certain soups, and as a vegan substitute for mayo.
To make air fryer tofu bowls, you’ll also need the following:
- More crushed garlic
- Lime zest
- More grated ginger
- Fresh lime juice
- Wild rice cooked in veggie broth
- Baby spinach
- Broccoli slaw mix
- Chopped cucumber
- Diced red pepper and yellow pepper
- Sliced scallions
To make tofu in the air fryer, you’ll need a tofu press, a good knife, and an air fryer. You’ll also need a food-safe container to hold the tofu while it marinates.
I use this tofu press and I love it so much! Sure, the old-school method of pressing tofu between two plates works, but it’s less mess when you use a press. I’ll no longer be pressing my tofu between two dinner plates like a peasant. (haha jk)
If you eat a lot of homemade tofu recipes, trust me, you need a tofu press in your life. I regret not having one back during my decade of veganism. The one I’m using is really neat, because the clear sides allow you to see the liquid draining away.
The TofuBud press I’m using offers a bulk discount if you buy 2-5 tofu presses at a time. Grab a few extra to give as birthday gifts or holiday presents. I’m sure the tofu lovers in your life will appreciate it!
This air fryer recipe was developed using the 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. The Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Pampered Chef Air Fryer, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Philips, Power Air Fryer, etc. can also air fry tofu.
However, you should keep a close eye on the food whenever you try a new air fryer recipe. Cooking times may vary slightly between air fryer brands.
🤔 How to Press Tofu
Think of your block of tofu like a soggy sponge (sorry for the gross visual, but it works). Pressing tofu pushes the water out so that the more flavorful marinade can be absorbed. Your marinade won’t be diluted by liquid trapped in the tofu cake.
Pressing also removes moisture and makes the tofu block “sturdier,” but then we’re adding moisture back in with the marinade. So, the main reason we press tofu is to maximize and improve flavor. Plus, if your tofu is pressed well, you can generally marinate it for less time.
Some brands of tofu are more watery out of the package than others, and require longer pressing. Other types of tofu (particularly super firm varieties) may need no pressing at all.
To press tofu using the TofuBud, take the clear bottom of the press and place the perforated base inside. Remove your block of tofu from its packaging, and put it in the press. Put the second perforated piece on top of the tofu.
To finish assembling the press, slide on the white top and add the coil topper. The coil piece is the part of the press that applies pressure, so make sure it is securely attached. You don’t want it to go flying off somewhere!
The tofu press I used is fast! Your tofu should be thoroughly pressed in 15-20 minutes or so. Other methods typically take closer to 30 minutes.
When the tofu is done pressing, drain off all of the liquid. For this recipe, you’ll need to cut the tofu into 16 uniform pieces.
🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Crispy Tofu
Time to learn how to make crispy tofu in the air fryer! Put your tofu in a large food-safe container.
For the marinade, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil together. Pour the marinade over the tofu.
How long to marinate tofu? I generally allow my tofu to marinate for 4-5 hours in the refrigerator. It should absorb nearly all of the marinade if you've pressed it well.
You could let the tofu marinate while you’re away at work. However, I generally like to flip the tofu in the marinade every once in a while for more even coverage. If your container with the tofu has a leak-proof lid, you can just flip the container upside down.
When your tofu is done marinating, mist your air fryer basket or tray with cooking spray. Place the marinated tofu in a single layer on the tray. No crowding!
I only needed one air fryer tray for this recipe. If you have an air fryer oven, put the tray in the top rack position.
️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to air fry tofu? What temp to make tofu in air fryer? Air fry tofu for a total of 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200C). Flip the tofu after the first 10 minutes of cooking.
I mean, that’s it really to make this satisfying, health-promoting entrée that’s easy enough for a weeknight. I hope this air fry tofu dish changes any negative feelings you might have had about tofu. My family loved it, and hopefully yours will as well!
Check out the recipe card below for how to turn our crispy air fried tofu into air fryer tofu bowls. Turn this delicious main dish into a full meal!
Air fried tofu can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can reheat it for a few minutes at 400F (200C) in the air fryer to crisp it back up. Other ways to reheat tofu include pan frying and microwaving (though you’ll lose the nice texture in the microwave).
Cooked tofu also freezes nicely. Freeze it in a non-touching layer on a parchment paper-lined baking tray before putting in freezer bags. This will help keep the tofu pieces from getting stuck together.
You can air fry frozen tofu to defrost it and help it get crisped again. For a shorter cooking time, allow the tofu to thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
What are the best seasonings for tofu? If you want to try something other than the tofu marinade I’m providing, here are some additional ways to flavor tofu:
- Nutritional yeast
- Salt and pepper
- General Tso sauce
- Indian spices
- BBQ sauce or seasoning
- Buffalo sauce
- Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce
- Make crispy orange tofu with orange sauce
- Cajun seasoning
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Tofu counts as a lean protein, it’s versatile, and it’s low carb friendly. Is there anything this plant-based super food can’t do?
The only way I’d consider possibly lightening this vegan main dish is omitting the sesame oil. I’d do this for two reasons. One, added oils are extremely energy dense, typically adding 120 calories per tablespoon.
Second, toasted sesame oil is really more of a flavoring oil, not a cooking oil. It’s not really supposed to go in the air fryer (but I’m a cooking rebel). If you’re concerned about the oxidative stability of sesame oil, use avocado oil or experiment with using no oil in the marinade.
The downside of ditching the sesame oil is that it provides a lot of rich flavor. I’d consider air frying the tofu until crispy and drizzling the sesame oil after. Unfortunately, when you make crispy tofu in the air fryer with no oil, there’s a risk it will become unpleasantly dry.
(If you do try it without the oil, drop me a comment below! I’d love to hear how it turned out.)
To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce. This will get you a gluten free recipe, but not Whole30 or Paleo. Tofu is not considered Paleo or Whole30 compliant because these diets exclude beans and certain legumes.
Yes, you can make air fryer soft tofu. However, I prefer the texture of firm and extra firm tofu. Additionally, soft tofu crumbled apart more easily, making it more difficult to cut into cubes.
Remember that unseasoned tofu is basically a bland, mushy sponge that needs flavoring and crisping! Press the tofu well so it absorbs more flavor, and use a marinade or seasoning that you enjoy on it. Also, be sure to cook it long enough (and at a high enough temp) that it gets crispy.
Yes, you can make dehydrated tofu in the air fryer. Cut the tofu into thin slices, marinate it, and dry it using the air fryer’s lowest cooking temperature. Flip the tofu pieces every 5-8 minutes. It may take up to 30 minutes to get the tofu to a jerky-like texture.
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can also oven bake crispy tofu! Try baking marinated tofu for 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 400F (200C), flipping after 12 minutes. Use a metal baking sheet and put it on a rack about ⅓ from the top of the oven. Add time if the tofu isn’t crisp enough.
👩🏻🍳 More Tofu Recipes
Want more vegan tofu recipes? Here are some dishes to try next:
If you want to explore other soy foods, this Tempeh Bolognese is a hearty and delicious Italian-inspired vegan meal!
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Crispy Tofu (Air Fryer Recipe)
- 16 ounces firm tofu (425 grams, extra firm or super firm tofu may also be used)
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- cooking oil spray (non-aerosol)
- Press the tofu to remove excess water. You can place it between two plates that are weighted on top (takes 30 minutes), or you can use a tofu press (takes 15-20 minutes).
- Cut the pressed tofu into 16 uniformly-sized pieces.
- Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil together. Put the tofu in a food-safe container and pour the marinade over it. Let the tofu marinate in the fridge for 4-5 hours (or more). It should absorb nearly all the marinade.
- Mist your air fryer basket or tray with cooking spray. I was able to fit all of the tofu on one tray in a single layer.
- Air fry for 10 minutes at 400°F (200°C). (Use the top rack position for air fryer ovens.) After the 10 minutes, gently flip the tofu and air fry for an additional 10 minutes. Enjoy!
🥗How to Make Air Fryer Tofu Bowls
- 1 finished recipe crispy air fryer tofu
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- ½ cup dry wild rice (cooked in 1 cup of vegetable broth)
- 5 ounces baby spinach (142 grams)
- 4 ounces broccoli slaw mix (113 grams)
- ½ medium cucumber, diced (7 ounces/198 grams)
- 1 small red pepper, diced
- ½ small yellow pepper, diced
- 3 scallions, sliced