Tofu might not be too exciting on its own, but when prepared well and combined with seasonings and other foods, it can become an integral part of a tasty dish.
One of my favorite ways to have tofu is in a stir fry, served alongside other Asian dishes for a wonderful homemade spread that’s vegetarian friendly and oh so delicious.
It’s okay if you have never learned how to fry tofu in a pan. I’ll walk you through the entire process so you can see how to stir fry tofu crispy and perfectly every time. You can take tofu from bland to fantastic in a few simple steps.
How to Cook Tofu in Stir Fry
I’m going to give you the entire recipe for a full, robust tofu stir fry. If you feel intimidated by everything in this dish, you can cut back on a few ingredients and make it a more stripped-down version to suit your needs and comfort level.
- 1 14-ounce block of tofu, of the extra firm variety
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoons of minced ginger
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 head of broccoli, sliced into florets
- 2 sliced green onions
- 1 sliced and seeded red bell pepper
- 8 ounces of trimmed string beans
- 2 sliced carrots
For the sauce:
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- Warm water in a pot on the stove and then once it is boiling, simmer tofu for about 2 minutes in a pot of salted water. Frozen tofu will need to be simmered until it defrosts.
- Once the tofu has cooked, you can take the pot off the heat and drain and then squeeze the tofu and pat dry. You may need to let the tofu cool first.
- Slice tofu into small, bite-size pieces and put into a bowl with soy sauce, black pepper, and sesame oil. Toss everything and then add in cornstarch and toss.
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on the stove, using medium-high heat. Put your tofu into the skillet and cook until it turns a golden hue on all sides. This should take about 7 or 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to season and then set to the side.
- Add in another tablespoon of oil as well as the ginger and garlic and cook all of these together. Cook for about a minute and then add in red pepper, broccoli florets, carrots, string beans, and green onions. Cook for about 9 minutes, until the vegetables are all tender. Use salt and pepper to season.
- Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, water, cornstarch, and sesame oil in a separate bowl. Add tofu to the skillet and stir in the sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes, until everything is thickened.
This method for how to stir fry tofu gives you a flavorful dish that can be a meal on its own. Feel free to change up the seasonings or use the same method for how to stir fry tofu in a wok.
How to Season Tofu for Stir Fry
In the recipe above, I gave you a method for seasoning tofu that you can use, but there are tons of other great ways to flavor it that work just as well and give you excellent results.
Keep in mind that this is an absorbent and bland food, so it can readily absorb flavored liquids that you season it with, and it benefits from some added flavor, no matter how subtle.
You have to know what to use with your larger dish, though, and you probably want a savory sauce rather than a sweet one. Soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onion powder, and flavoring cubes are all good ways to make your tofu more interesting.
For liquids, you can mix them into the tofu before cooking it. Powders will flavor the tofu better if they are added while it is cooking.
How to Bake Tofu before Stir Fry
If you want the tofu to come out really tender and crispy and to cook up in the wok or skillet quickly, you can bake it ahead of time. This ensures that it is tender all the way through.
I’ll show you how to cook tofu stir fry so that it turns out well, and it’s a helpful extra step if you are using very firm tofu and want it to be completely tender and palatable.
You can season the tofu before you put it in the oven, if you want, or you can wait to season it until it is being stir fried. Whatever you are doing with the tofu, you will need to preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. You can then prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your tofu on it.
If you want the tofu to come out really crispy, it can be coated with cornstarch before you bake it. It is a good idea to toss it with some oil before baking, and olive oil is my preference.
Spread out the tofu on a baking sheet into a single layer, ensuring there is no overlap. Then, cook it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You know it is done cooking when it is tender on the inside and it has a golden brown edge all the way around.
Now you know how to prepare tofu for stir fry, and you can skip the baking step if you like. It is not really necessary if you are using softer tofu, but it can help for firmer tofu.
If your tofu comes out of the wok or skillet and is still kind of tough, you can bake it for a few minutes and tenderize to prevent it from burning when cooked further in the skillet.