Salt and Pepper Tofu
Dec 22, 2023
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Salt and Pepper Tofu are super crispy and a staple Chinese restaurant dish! The fried tofu are seasoned and quickly fried until crispy and tossed with scallions, chilis, and garlic with a salt and white pepper seasoning mix! This is a great recipe for those who are vegetarian or looking to incorporate more tofu at the dinner table – see below for the full detailed recipe!
Check out the Salt and Pepper Tofu recipe video below!
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Salt and Pepper Tofu
Luckily, you won’t need many ingredients to create this incredible tofu dish! These are probably items you already have in your pantry, and the salt and pepper tofu seasoning is SO SIMPLE! Here is what you’ll need:
- Tofu and Vegetables
- 1 lb firm or extra firm tofu drained and patted dry
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cornstarch plus 2 tbsp
- 1 red chili I used fresno, de-seeded, chopped
- 1 green chili I used jalapeno, de-seeded, chopped
- 3 scallions chopped, whites and greens separated
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- Salt and Pepper Seasoning Mixture
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp MSG or chicken bouillon powder
Ensure you use firm or extra firm tofu for this recipe. You will want to avoid soft tofu as it will not hold up its shape when frying. If you have soft tofu, use it for my Chinese Silken Tofu which is equally delicious!
I give them a fine mince – we do not want to brown the garlic; we only want to release the aroma into the green beans.
My favorite neutral oil is avocado oil, but you can also use canola or vegetable oil! I don’t use olive oil when cooking Chinese food for two reasons: 1. It has a low burning point and 2. I find that the flavor profile does not usually go with the dish.
1. Drain and prepare the tofu
Remove the block of firm tofu or extra firm tofu from the package, drain well, and pat the block of tofu dry to remove any excess moisture from leaking out onto your cutting board. Cut lengthwise in half then in the opposite direction to form 2″ cubes.
2. Blanch the tofu
Bring a pot of water to a boil and season with a tablespoon of kosher salt. This simple but important step will help firm up the tofu and allow it to hold its shape when frying. Add tofu to the boiling water, cover and turn the heat to low. Blanch for 5 minutes then drain. Pat the tofu cubes completely dry with a kitchen or paper towel. You want to remove as much moisture from the tofu as possible before the next step.
3. Season the tofu with salt, pepper, and cornstarch
Once the tofu pieces are dry, add the tofu cubes to a large mixing bowl and give the tofu pieces an initial seasoning with kosher salt, white pepper and cornstarch. Mix them well until all the tofu cubes are properly coated in the seasonings.
4. Coat the seasoned tofu with egg and dredge
Mix in a beaten egg to cover the tofu and mix. Dust the tofu cubes in a plate of cornstarch until fully coated. Shake off any excess cornstarch before frying the tofu pieces.
5. Fry the tofu in neutral oil
In a large heavy bottom pot or wok, add enough neutral oil to cover the bottom by about 2 inches. Fry the tofu cubes at 375F for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. If necessary, fry the tofu in batches so the oil doesn’t drop below 350F. Remove and drain well on a wire rack or paper towel.
6. Sauté vegetables and finish the Salt and Pepper Tofu
In a separate pan, add 1 tbsp of neutral oil over medium high heat and add garlic and scallion whites. Sauté the aromatics for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the sliced red and green chilis and sauté for another minute. Add back the tofu and seasoning mixture and toss until well coated throughout. Garnish with scallion greens and enjoy!
Can Salt and Pepper Tofu be made in the Air Fryer?
Yes! Follow the recipe through steps 1 through 4. Lay the dredged pieces of tofu onto your air fryer basket, then spray generously with a neutral oil spray such as avocado oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. Air fry the tofu pieces at 375F for 10-12 minutes. Give them a flip and air fry for another 5 minutes until they’re super crispy. The time may need to be adjusted depending on the strength of your air fryer, so be sure to check the tofu throughout the air frying process to ensure they come out to a crisp golden brown! Finally, follow step 6 in the recipe and serve!
Can I use different seasonings for Salt and Pepper Tofu?
Yes! You can absolutely change the seasoning mixture to your preference to create your own unique spice mix! You can add different spices like ground Sichuan peppercorn for a spicy mouth-numbing kick, five spice powder, or ground black pepper. Add a quarter teaspoon of any of these spices and they will come out delicious!
Pro Tips for the Best Salt and Pepper Tofu:
- Use firm or extra-firm tofu: These types of tofu have a higher protein content and a firmer texture, which makes them ideal for frying. The firmness helps the tofu hold its shape and prevents it from becoming mushy.
- Blanching the tofu: Blanching the tofu briefly in boiling water helps to remove any residual flavors, soften the tofu slightly, and improve its ability to absorb seasonings. Be sure to drain and dry the tofu thoroughly after blanching to remove excess moisture.
- Cornstarch coating: Coating the tofu cubes in cornstarch before frying helps create a crispy exterior. Make sure to fully coat each piece with cornstarch, shaking off any excess, for a satisfying crunch.
- Maintain the oil temperature: When frying the tofu, it’s crucial to maintain the oil temperature around 375°F (190°C). Using a thermometer can help ensure the oil remains hot enough for the tofu to fry properly and develop a golden-brown crust.
- Fry in batches: Avoid overcrowding the pan when frying the tofu. Fry in small batches to ensure even cooking and prevent the oil temperature from dropping too much. Overcrowding can lead to uneven browning and soggy tofu.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to create a fantastic Salt and Pepper Tofu dish that’s bursting with flavor and has the perfect crispy texture. Enjoy experimenting and making this delightful recipe your own!
If you liked this Salt and Pepper Tofu recipe, check out some of the most vegetable recipes on the blog!
Salt and Pepper Tofu
- 1 lb firm or extra firm tofu, drained and pat dry
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cornstarch, plus 2 tbsp
- 1 red chili, I used fresno, de-seeded, chopped
- 1 green chili, I used jalapeno, de-seeded, chopped
- 3 scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- Remove the block of firm tofu from the package, drain well, and pat dry. Cut lengthwise in half then in the opposite direction to form 2" cubes.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and season with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Add tofu to the boiling water, cover and turn the heat to low. Blanch for 5 minutes then drain. Pat the tofu cubes completely dry.
- In a bowl, add the tofu cubes and season with salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp of cornstarch.
- Mix in a beaten egg to cover the tofu and mix. Dust the tofu cubes in a plate of cornstarch until fully coated.
- Fry the tofu cubes at 375F for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. If necessary, fry them in batches so the oil doesn't drop below 350F. Remove and drain well on a wire rack or paper towel.
- In a separate pan, add 1 tbsp of neutral oil over medium high heat and add garlic and scallion whites. Sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the red and green chilis and saute for another minute. Add back the tofu and seasoning mixture and toss until well coated throughout. Garnish with scallion greens and enjoy!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.