If ever an ingredient needed a PR makeover, it is tofu. The recipe for the job? Air Fryer Tofu. This tofu recipe is perfectly crispy outside, pleasantly firm inside, and infused with a savory soy maple marinade. Tofu cooked in the air fryer will make a believer out of even its harshest critics.
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Why You’ll Love Crispy Air Fryer Tofu (Really!)
- Become a Tofu Lover. I am doggedly convinced that anyone who says they don’t like tofu hasn’t tried to air fry tofu yet. And if you count yourself among the tofu skeptics—I get it. Tofu can be (and this is a culinary term) ick. Without the proper treatment, tofu is soggy, mushy, and bland.
- Learn to Easily Cook Tofu. WITH proper cooking technique, however, tofu is a culinary playground! Tofu can be used in so many dishes (like Tofu Tacos), and can top endless meals (like Ramen Salad).
- Crispy and Delicious. A hungry sponge, tofu (like Air Fryer Cauliflower) readily absorbs any flavors you add to it. With a few easy but critical steps, your tofu will turn out firm, crispy, and delectable. PLUS! Since air fryer tofu uses very little oil to crisp, it is much healthier than regular deep-fried tofu, which is completely submerged in oil.
5 Star Review
“Wow… I never comment on recipes… this is sooooo good. I will probably have tofu a few times a week now. Thank you for the tips!”— Cashmere —
Why the Air Fryer Makes Crispy Tofu
While you can use various techniques to make tofu crispy (for example, I use freezing and boiling in this Crispy Tofu cooking guide and pressing dry plus pan-frying in this reader favorite Tofu Stir Fry, and in the oven with Baked Tofu), the best method that I’ve found is using the air fryer.
An air fryer is a high-powered, extra-effective countertop convection oven.
It blows hot air down and around the food, cooking and crisping it more quickly than a standard oven.
To compare, air fryer tofu cooks in 11 to 13 minutes, while a regular convection oven would require closer to 25 to 30 minutes.
How to Cook Tofu in the Air Fryer
When it comes to crispy tofu (and Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts), an air fryer is going to be your best friend and secret weapon.
Secrets to the Best Air Fryer Tofu
Making the best possible crispy air fryer tofu is a matter of four key components.
- Press the Tofu. This removes excess water that could make the tofu soggy.
- Marinade. On its own, tofu is bland. Letting it sit in a marinade for as little as 15 minutes makes all the difference in the world.
- Cornstarch. I tested this air fryer tofu both with and without cornstarch. I found that tossing the marinated tofu in cornstarch prior to adding it to the air fryer made a remarkable difference.
- High Temperature. The best temperature for air fryer tofu is 400 degrees F. This will crisp the outside while allowing the inside to become pleasantly firm. Air fryer tofu cooks in 9 to 12 minutes.
- Extra-Firm Tofu. Tofu is an excellent meat alternative, packed with protein, iron, and calcium. It’s essential to use extra-firm tofu here, as it contains less water than other varieties and will hold its shape better during cooking.
- Soy Sauce. Rich with umami goodness, soy sauce is a can’t-miss addition to our tofu marinade.
- Rice Wine Vinegar. Rice wine vinegar adds a touch of sweet acidity to the marinade.
- Olive Oil. A healthy fat that helps carry and transfer the flavors of the marinade into the tofu.
- Pure Maple Syrup. Naturally sweetens the marinade and pairs well with the soy sauce.
- Spices. Garlic powder and ground ginger are delicious spice additions to the marinade.
- Sriracha. A dash of hot sauce adds just the right amount of heat. Feel free to use more if you like your tofu spicy.
Do you have another marinade you enjoy? The best part about air fryer tofu is it is easy to adapt once you have the basic method down. The variations are essentially endless! My Tofu Marinade recipe used in oven-baked tofu is a delicious option.
- Cornstarch. A final toss with cornstarch is the key to a perfectly crispy and golden exterior.
- Press Tofu. Gently press the tofu, then cut into cubes.
- Dry Tofu. Pat the tofu dry to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
- Mix Marinade. Stir the marinade ingredients together.
- Let Tofu Absorb the Flavor. Marinade the tofu for 15 minutes.
- Toss. Toss to coat with the cornstarch.
- Air Fry. Place the tofu in a single layer in the basket of an air fryer. Air fry tofu at 400 degrees F for 11 to 14 minutes, tossing at the 9-minute mark.
- Finish. Repeat with remaining batches, then serve with your favorite dipping sauce. ENJOY!
Ways to Use Air Fryer Tofu
The crispy air fryer tofu nuggets you can resist nibbling straight out of the air fryer basket (and yes, air fryer tofu is THAT GOOD) can be used in a variety of ways.
Tofu is a perfect way to add protein to your favorite vegetarian recipes and vegan recipes.
- General Tso Air Fryer Tofu. Follow this General Tso’s Tofu recipe, but swap in this tofu instead.
- Toss it into any of these healthy Asian recipes.
- Salad. This Mexican Salad and Ramen Salad would be scrumptious with air fryer tofu added.
- Peanut Air Fryer Tofu. Swap it for the chicken in these Asian Chicken Wraps with Thai Peanut Sauce, or drizzle it with the peanut sauce from this Chicken Satay.
- Air Fryer Tofu Stir Fry. Try it as the main protein in these healthy stir fry recipes.
- Air Fryer Tofu Buddha Bowl. Use it in this Roasted Veggie Buddha Bowl with Quinoa and Avocado.
- Salt and Pepper Tofu. Check out the Kickin’ Black Pepper Stir Fry in my cookbook. Use this tofu as the protein instead. YUM!
- Vegetarian Beef and Broccoli. Swap the tofu for the beef in my favorite Healthy Beef and Broccoli recipe.
- To Store. Store the air-fried tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Recrisp tofu in the air fryer at 375 degrees F. It will only take a few minutes, so check often to prevent burning.
- To Freeze. The texture of the tofu may change once frozen and thawed, but the flavor will remain delicious. Place tofu cubes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid. Freeze the frozen tofu in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Plan Tip
Cut the tofu block into cubes up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate them in an airtight storage container.
Mix the marinade ingredients together up to 1 day in advance, and place the mixture in the refrigerator.
When ready to enjoy, prepare according to the instructions in the recipe card.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. The air fryer I own and love for making recipes like this one and Air Fryer Grilled Cheese!
- Mixing Bowls. This set is ideal for recipes that require multiple bowls.
- Non-Slip Cutting Board. This cutting board will stay put as you cut the tofu.
Air Fryer Tofu
- 1 block extra-firm tofu (12 to 15 ounces) must be extra firm
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce of choice
- 1 tablespoon corn starch or arrowroot starch
- Remove the tofu from the package and drain. With your hands, gently squeeze out as much water as possible without breaking or crushing the block. Lay the tofu flat on a cutting board, so the longer edge is towards you, then cut it into four strips. Rotate the strips so that the wider (cut sides) are flat against the cutting board, and cut them in half again, so you have 8 strips total. Cut the strips crosswise into 1-inch cubes (I end up with 5 cubes per strip).
- Line a cutting board or large plate with a clean tea towel (or similar lint-free kitchen towel) or paper towels. Spread the tofu cubes onto it in one layer and lay a second towel on top. Press gently but firmly and change out the towel as needed. The idea is to remove as much water from the tofu as possible.
- In a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup, stir together the soy sauce, vinegar, syrup, oil, garlic powder, ginger, and hot sauce.
- Place the tofu in a shallow baking dish or medium mixing bowl. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the tofu, then with your hand, toss gently to combine. Let the tofu sit for 15 minutes, tossing it again halfway through. Don’t worry if a few bits crumble. Those will turn deliciously crispy.
- If you’d like to keep the tofu warm between batches, preheat your oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for my air fryer, that is 3 minutes of preheat time).
- Just before cooking, sprinkle the corn starch evenly over the top of the tofu and toss to coat.
- Coat the basket of the air fryer with nonstick spray. Add the tofu in one layer, leaving a little space around the cubes so they do not touch and the air can circulate. (Depending upon the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook it in two or three batches.)
- Cook the tofu for 9 minutes. Then slide the basket out, and shake it gently to toss the tofu. Continue to cook for 2 to 4 additional minutes, tossing and checking it each minute, until the tofu is crisp and dark golden. (The time will vary based on your air fryer; keep a close eye on it towards the end to ensure it doesn’t burn.) If desired, transfer the tofu to the baking sheet and keep it warm in the oven while you finish the rest.
- Repeat with remaining tofu, discarding any excess marinade (if you have some crumbled bits of tofu in the bottom of the bowl, you can air fry those too). Enjoy!
- TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE: Use tamari, coconut aminos, or liquid aminos in place of the soy sauce.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate tofu in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Recrisp tofu in the air fryer at 375 degrees F. It will only take a few minutes, so check often to prevent burning.
- TO FREEZE: The texture of the tofu may change once frozen and thawed, but the flavor will remain delicious. Place tofu cubes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid. Freeze the frozen tofu in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Technically yes (just drizzle with olive oil and add a pinch of salt), but remember tofu is bland on its own. If you make it without the marinade, be sure you have a robust sauce to coat it in afterwards.
Tofu may turn out soggy for a few reasons. First, too much water. If you don’t press the water out of your tofu, it can easily become soggy. Second, temperature. Cooking your tofu at a low temperature won’t allow it to crisp properly.
While air fryer tofu requires far less oil than deep frying, it still requires some oil. The oil functions as a barrier that helps prevent the tofu from sticking to the basket. For best results, generously coat the air fryer’s basket with cooking spray before adding the tofu.