Fried tofu ranks high among my favorite foods. The crispy exterior with the soft, chewy interior is unbeatable. I don’t like to deep fry at home though. I would like to say the reason is because I am so healthy and disciplined, but sadly, it has more to do with laziness. I dislike how messy deep frying can be and how much used oil I’m left with at the end. When I want that crispy exterior, I often turn to pan-frying as my preferred cooking method. It uses a fraction of the oil and works well with light, simple breadings. Fortunately, tofu translates quite well to the realm of pan-frying.
This is my favorite way to pan-fry tofu. The cornmeal adds a little bit of flavor and crunch, while the potato starch (or whatever starch you decide to use) keeps the coating nice and light. I like the subtle combination of ground cloves and cayenne, which pairs nicely with Southeast Asian or Caribbean-inspired meals. However, other spice mixes such as garam masala or chile powder are delightful substitutes.
Yield: 4 servings
- About 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
- ¼ cup potato starch, cornstarch, or arrowroot
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to finish
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (or less, for a very mild version)
- Coconut oil or vegetable oil
- Drain the tofu and pat dry with a clean towel. Slice into slabs about ¼” thick.
- Mix the starch, cornmeal, salt, and spices together with a fork.
- Put about ¼ cup coconut oil in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat. There should be enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the skillet.
- When the oil is hot, dredge the tofu slices in the cornmeal mixture one by one, shake off the excess, and add to the skillet. Add as many tofu slices as you can fit comfortably without crowding the skillet (you’ll probably need to cook the tofu in at least 2 batches). Cook about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Remove the tofu to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to drain excess oil. Sprinkle with a little more sea salt while they are still hot. Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding more oil the skillet as necessary. Serve warm.