Make super crispy breaded tofu sticks with just 5 base ingredients and a pan, oven, or air fryer. Delicious, versatile, and easy to make gluten-free and adapt with your seasoning and coating of choice! Plus, they're ready in just 20 minutes only!
We’re using just 5 pantry staples for the base breaded tofu recipe, including cornstarch, nutritional yeast, soy sauce (or a GF alternative), and breadcrumbs. But keep reading for plenty of possible adaptions to the recipe.
First of all, we’ve made these into tofu sticks/fingers but feel free to chop them into nuggets, triangles, or cubes instead. Next, you can swap out the breadcrumbs and seasonings in almost endless variations. Finally, decide whether you want to pan-fry, bake, or air fry the breaded tofu strips until golden. No matter which method you choose, the results are crispy, tender in the middle, and super delicious.
Once cooked, enjoy the crispy tofu as a crowd-pleasing (child and omnivore approved, too!) finger food with your favorite dipping sauces, serve as a side, or even the main protein for any number of meals.
All you need is five base ingredients for this crispy breaded tofu recipe, plus salt, oil, and water.
Tofu: Use extra-firm tofu. Use fresh or frozen (and thawed)—though the texture will differ. Check out our tofu guide if you want to learn more!
Cornstarch: For the slurry mixture to dredge the tofu before breading it.
Water: To add to the cornstarch mixture. For extra flavor, use vegetable stock.
Soy sauce: Use regular or reduced-sodium soy sauce. Use tamari or liquid aminos for a gluten-free option.
Bread crumbs: Use regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs. Panko crusted tofu using panko is wonderfully light and crispy but pricier.
Oil: Use a neutral cooking oil like vegetable oil.
We love serving the tofu fingers with BBQ sauce.
The Add-ins and Variations:
Garlic powder: This is our favorite common addition to this breaded tofu recipe. Add the garlic powder to the batter or breadcrumb topping.
Dried parsley: Not only looks great but really helps to enhance the flavor in a subtle yet noticeable way we love.
Other seasonings: There are plenty that you can experiment with.
Dried thyme, sage, or oregano
Red pepper flakes
Buffalo tofu sticks: Add some garlic powder and smoked paprika to the cornstarch batter and use panko crumbs. Then, halfway through the baking/air frying, toss the breaded tofu strips in some hot sauce (like Frank’s) and continue to cook. Serve with vegan ranch.
Breadcrumb alternatives: You could coat the tofu sticks with crushed corn chips (including flavored vegan Doritos), corn flakes, or crackers.
How to Make Crispy Breaded Tofu?
First up, how to make pan fried breaded tofu. This is the quickest method but does require more oil.
Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.
1) First, drain and press the tofu to remove excess moisture—follow our guide to pressing tofu, if needed. Then, slice tofu into finger-length strips about ½-inch in thickness.
For even crispier results, you could pre-freeze the tofu (before draining it). As it freezes, the water within expands. When it thaws, you’re left with lots of pockets in the tofu, making it easier to fully drain for crispier tofu and a chewier texture.
2) Combine the cornstarch, water, and soy sauce in a medium bowl and whisk until lump-free.
3) Then, pour the breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and salt onto a large plate and mix.
4) Next, heat a large skillet with the oil over medium-high heat.
5) While the oil heats, prepare the tofu nuggets. First, dip a piece into the cornstarch mixture, then press it into the breadcrumbs on all sides until well covered. Repeat with the remaining strips.
6) Once the oil is hot, add the tofu to the pan, cooking it until it’s golden brown (around 2-3 minutes per side).
7) Remove from the pan, transfer to a clean paper towel to drain excess oil, and then enjoy the fried breaded tofu!
Alternative Cooking Methods
Air fried breaded tofu: Slice the tofu to your desired shape (strips vs. cubes), season, and coat. Then spray with an oil spray and cook in a single layer with space in between for 12-15 minutes at 400F/200C, shaking after 8 minutes.
Cubes will cook in 10-12 minutes generally. Whereas strips take closer to 15-17 minutes.
Baked breaded tofu: Follow steps 1-5 (skipping step 4), spread the tofu across a baking sheet, spray with a bit of oil, then bake at 400F/200C for 40-45 minutes (closer to 30 for small cubes). Flip halfway and spray the top with a little more oil. Enjoy the baked crispy tofu while it’s still warm – delicious!
How to make it gluten free?
Use tamari or liquid aminos with gluten-free breadcrumbs, panko, or corn chips.
Can I substitute the tofu?
This method will also work with chickpea tofu.
Which method works best (pan fry, baked, or air fryer)?
We recommend using whichever method works best for the tools and time you have.
*Pan fried breaded tofu will yield super crispy tofu nuggets/strips in under 10 minutes but requires more oil. *Baked breaded tofu doesn’t need as much oil, but it’s worth spraying with a generous layer of oil to encourage crispiness. Unfortunately, this method also takes up to 45 minutes. *Air fried breaded tofu requires minimal (or even no) oil and is ready in under 15 minutes. However, you may have to cook them in batches if you have a small machine.
Top Tips For Breaded Tofu
Properly press the tofu: You need to remove as much liquid from the tofu as possible. Otherwise, it won’t crisp up properly.
Use extra firm tofu: The method won’t work with softer tofu types.
Experiments with seasonings: There is plenty of versatility, so have fun trying to find your favorite.
Cut to your desired shape: Make strips, cubes, triangles, etc. If you make them any thinner or thicker, then adjust the cooking time accordingly.
To reduce mess: Use forks rather than fingers when battering and breading the tofu pieces to avoid messy fingers.
How to Make Ahead and Store?
You can drain and press tofu in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Once cooked, store the breaded tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It’s at its crispiest directly after cooking, but you can bring some back when reheating.
You can reheat the breaded tofu either in a pan (a few mins only), oven (10-15 mins), or air fryer (for 3-4 minutes) until warmed through.
There are plenty of ways you can enjoy these crispy tofu fingers, for example:
As an appetizer with a dipping sauce (such as BBQ sauce, vegan peanut sauce, curry sauce, ketchup, vegan mayo, etc.)
Make super crispy breaded tofu sticks with just 5 base ingredients and a pan, oven, or air fryer. Delicious, versatile, and easy to make gluten-free and adapt with your seasoning and coating of choice!
Drain and press the tofu and cut the block into strips the size and length of a finger.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, and soy sauce and whisk thoroughly with a fork.
Pour breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and salt onto a plate and mix thoroughly.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Dip the tofu strips into the cornstarch mixture until evenly coated and immediately press into the breadcrumbs until all sides of the tofu are completely covered.
Once the oil is hot, lay the tofu on the pan and cook until it turns golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and serve with bbq sauce.
Make sure to properly press the tofu to remove as much liquid as possible. This will ensure you get the most crispy results. It's important to use extra-firm tofu as this recipe won't achieve the desired crispiness with other types. Air fried breaded tofu: Slice the tofu to your desired shape (strips vs. cubes), season, and coat. Then spray with an oil spray and cook in a single layer with space in between for 12-15 minutes at 400F/200C, shaking after 8 minutes.Cubes will cook in 10-12 minutes generally. Whereas strips take closer to 15-17 minutes.Baked breaded tofu: Follow steps 1-5 (skipping step 4), spread the tofu across a baking sheet, spray with a bit of oil, then bake at 400F/200C for 40-45 minutes (closer to 30 for small cubes). Flip halfway and spray the top with a little more oil. Enjoy the baked crispy tofu while it’s still warm – delicious!
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