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This 30-Minute Crispy Peanut Tofu is made with tofu that's been air fried until golden brown and crispy, then tossed in a quick and easy vegan and gluten-free peanut sauce. Oven-baking and pan frying methods included! 

Recipe originally posted January 27, 2020. Updated on April 13, 2024.

Blue serving bowl of crispy peanut tofu with brown rice, green onions, lime wedge and chopsticks.

A Beginner-Friendly Tofu Recipe

When you're looking for quick and easy meatless Monday idea, there's nothing better than a 30-minute vegan stir fry! Beans and lentils are a great source of plant-based protein, but they're generally missing that hearty, chewy texture you'd enjoy in a classic meat-based recipe. 

So when I learned how to cook the best, crispy tofu at home, it was a total dinner time game changer. Even the biggest tofu skeptics love this tofu. Toss it in this creamy homemade peanut sauce, or switch things up and make Orange Tofu or General Tso's Tofu and serve over your favorite rice or noodles for a variation of peanut noodle stir fry. You can even swap the cauliflower for tofu in my Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe. 

Ingredient Notes

  • Tofu: You'll need a block of your favorite extra firm tofu or super firm tofu. If you are using a water packed tofu, make sure to use a tofu press to press all of the excess water out of it before air frying.
  • Low-sodium soy sauce: Used to add umami flavor to both the tofu as well as the homemade peanut sauce. If you are gluten-free, use a low-sodium tamari. 
  • Oil: ​A small amount of oil helps to make the outside of the tofu bites ultra crispy. For best results, use a neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point. Avocado oil, vegetable oil, and refined coconut oil are all good options. Avoid sesame oil – this oil is best for finishing touches, not frying. 
  •  Cornstarch: Essential for making the tofu crispy as well as thickening the sauce. Arrowroot starch and tapioca starch are not recommended.
  • Peanut butter: ​A natural, runny peanut butter is best. If your peanut butter is really thick and cannot be poured, you may need to add additional water to the sauce to get it to the right consistency. 
  • Maple syrup: Perfectly sweetens the sauce while keeping the recipe refined sugar free. You can also replace this with a similar liquid sweetener, such as agave or honey. 
  • Sriracha: Adds a kick of heat without making an overly spicy peanut sauce. If you do enjoy a spicy peanut sauce, add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  • Garlic and ginger: Both fresh and ground garlic and ginger work well in this recipe. For specific measurements, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this post. 

How to Make Crispy Peanut Tofu

4 images showing step by step process of making crispy tofu.
  1. Freeze and thaw the tofu. You can skip this step but if you have the time, freezing tofu causes the water inside to expand, creating larger ice crystals. Once thawed and pressed, the ice crystals melt and create small airy, holes in the tofu. This yields a tofu that is chewier in texture and very similar to chicken! Simply toss the package in the freezer for about 8 hours, then transfer it back to the fridge until fully thawed. 
  2. Pat the tofu dry. Remove the tofu from the packaging and pat the outside of the brick as dry as possible with paper towels or a clean tea towel.
  3. Tear the tofu into bite-sized chunks. You can also cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. If you are serving guests that are unsure about tofu, tearing the tofu gives it a more chicken-like look! 
  4. Toss in cornstarch. Place the bite-sized tofu pieces in a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss with soy sauce and vegetable oil. Once coated, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss again. 
  5. Air fry for 20 minutes. Add the tofu to your air fryer basket in a single layer. Air fry the tofu for 20 minutes at 400F, or until extra crispy and golden brown.
  6. Make the creamy peanut sauce. While the tofu cooks, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, water, low-sodium soy sauce, maple syrup, sriracha, fresh ginger, and garlic. 
  7. Warm the peanut sauce. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the peanut sauce until warmed through. 
  8. Add the tofu. ​Remove the skillet from the heat, add the crispy tofu bites, and fold them in until well coated by the peanut sauce. 
  9. Serve. Serve crispy peanut tofu immediately over fluffy brown rice and garnish with a squeeze of lime juice, thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Crispy tofu tossed in peanut sauce.

Pan-Fried and Crispy Baked Tofu Variations 

No air fryer? No problem. Here are 2 other ways to make crispy, restaurant tofu at home:

  • Oven-Baked Tofu: Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the tofu in soy sauce and vegetable oil followed by the corn starch. Carefully spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, tossing after 25 minutes. 
  • Pan-fried Tofu: Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Toss the tofu in soy sauce and vegetable oil followed by the corn starch. Add the coated tofu to the hot oil and pan fry on each side for about 3 minutes, or until crispy on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. 

Serving Suggestions

We love this crispy tofu served over hot, fluffy brown or white rice, but if you'd like to switch it up, trying serving over your favorite rice noodles, udon noodles, or ramen noodles. 

Or, for a lower carb meal, serve over cauliflower rice or as is with a big side of your favorite veggies! Roasted broccoli, baby bok choy, snap peas, bell pepper and green beans are all delicious with this tofu peanut sauce. 

Serving bowl of peanut tofu with rice.

Storage Instructions

Crispy peanut tofu is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Freezing the final tofu tossed in peanut sauce is not recommended – it will not defrost well.  

Closeup of chopsticks picking up bite-sized piece of peanut tofu.
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30 Minute Crispy Peanut Tofu Recipe

5 from 8 votes

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cost: $7.37 per recipe / $1.84 per serving
This 30-Minute Crispy Peanut Tofu is made with tofu that's been air fried until golden brown and crispy, then tossed in a quick and easy vegan peanut sauce. Oven-baking and pan frying methods included!

Ingredients
 

  • 1 (16 ounce) block extra firm tofu frozen, then thawed ($3.38)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce ($0.19) use tamari for gluten-free
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil ($0.02)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch ($0.04)

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut butter natural only, just peanuts and salt ($0.40)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce ($0.69) use tamari for gluten-free
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup ($1.17)
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha ($0.30)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger freshly grated ($0.22)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced ($0.03)

For Serving

  • brown rice ($0.35)
  • green onion ($0.22)
  • sesame seeds ($0.36)

Instructions

  • Freeze and thaw 1 (16 ounce) block extra firm tofu ahead of time. Allow 48 hours for thawing completely in refrigerator!
  • Once fully thawed, gently squeeze any excess water out of your tofu over the sink. 
  • Next, cut your tofu into small uniform sized cubes.
  • Add your tofu cubes to a large bowl and toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once coated, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix again.
  • Add your tofu to an air fryer in a single layer. Air fry the tofu at 400˚F for 20 minutes. (Alternative pan-frying instructions in notes)
  • While the tofu cooks in the air fryer, prepare the peanut sauce. Whisk together the 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 4 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons sriracha, 1 tablespoon ginger, and 3 cloves garlic.
  • Once the tofu is ready, heat the peanut sauce in a large skillet over medium heat until just warmed.
  • Add the crispy tofu to the sauce and toss until the sauce coats the tofu.
  • Serve immediately while warm over rice, and garnish with sesame seeds and fresh green onions, or as desired.
  • Storage: This dish is really best served fresh, but leftovers can be stored up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. The crispy peanut tofu will be significantly less crispy as leftovers.
  • Peanut butter: Can replace with a natural almond butter, if desired. 
  • Make a spicier peanut sauce: Add up to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  • Garlic: Replace with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. 
  • Ginger: Replace with 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. 

Notes

  • Frozen tofu takes about 2-3 days to thaw in the refrigerator so plan ahead! 
ALTERNATIVE TOFU METHODS:
  • Oven-Baked Tofu: Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the tofu in soy sauce and vegetable oil followed by the corn starch. Carefully spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, tossing after 25 minutes. 
  • Pan-fried Tofu: Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Toss the tofu in soy sauce and vegetable oil followed by the corn starch. Add the coated tofu to the hot oil and pan fry on each side for about 3 minutes, or until crispy on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. 
  •  

Nutrition

Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 13g | Sodium: 1249mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian

Did You Love This Recipe?

Rate the recipe here and make sure to leave a comment below!

5 from 8 votes
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13 Comments

  1. Mirabelle says:

    5 stars
    Sooooo good and so easy! Perfect week night meal! You don’t even need to chop any garlic. Even my meat-eater partner likes this dish.

    I’ve made this 4-5 times already. I always double the recipe to have leftovers. I’m going try again tomorrow, but in my air fryer for less oil.

    Thanks for the recipe 🙂

    1. Yay! I am so glad you love it and using the air fryer is an amazing idea. I bet you could get away with just a couple of tablespoons of oil that way.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi! I made this again, but i air fried the tofu and it was still an absolute dream!!! it’s a perfect salad addition for during the week.

    1. That is an amazing idea! Thanks so much for sharing, I’m sure other people will love that method.

  3. 5 stars
    We love, love, LOVE this recipe and use the sauce multiple ways. This week I went to make this recipe and I was out of Peanut Butter 😳. Yikes!! I thought oh no we aren’t going to get the dinner we had been looking forward to, but I am happy to report that nuttzo worked in its place and was just as delicious! Yay because I have nuttzo I need to use up.

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is absolutely delicious. I usually hate tofu recipes due to the texture, but this tofu is great! So crispy. Love the peanut sauce too. Will be making this again (along with the Kong POW cauliflower which is my ultimate love)
    Thanks!!!

    1. AHH, what a compliment. Thank you very much!! So glad you loved it.

  5. 5 stars
    Thats my favorite tofu brand also

    1. I am so glad you agree! I was introduced to it by a friend a few years ago and have loved it ever since!

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazingly easy and will please even your non vegan friends. If you know someone who doesn’t think they will like tofu this is a good recipe to start on. It is so flavorful and delicious they will almost certainly be converted. You will be amazed at how delicious this recipe is! 😋

    1. Yay! Agree it is a great intro to tofu! Thank you for the review!

  7. Hello,

    Does the freezing and thawing method for tofu eliminate the need to press it? Or do you press the tofu first and then freeze it? Or do you press the tofu after it has completely thawed?

    As you can see I am new to preparing/using tofu in recipes. Thank you in advance for your time and patience with me.

    Sincerely.

    1. Hi, Faye!
      Freezing and thawing the tofu will help the water drain out of the tofu much better. Once thawed, I’ll usually just give it a good squeeze over the sink and that’s good enough to get most of the excess water out! No need to press it before freezing. I usually just freeze it right in the package!

      Hope that helps 🙂

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