Crispy and flavorful, this Panko Tofu is incredibly easy, quick, and versatile. Add it to your favorite bowl, pasta, or salad.
- 16 ounce package (454 grams) Super Firm Tofu (see note 1)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened original flavor non-dairy milk (we used soy)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon vinegar)
- 1/3 cup chickpea flour / garbanzo bean flour (see note 2)
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, for flavoring)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- Note about tofu: Super firm tofu comes vacuum sealed, not packed in a tub of water. This is like getting a giant brick of pre-pressed tofu. If you cannot find this, that’s OK. Buy firm or extra firm tofu that is packed in water, drain the package, and press the tofu.
- Make the vegan buttermilk: In a small measuring cup or bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice OR 1 tablespoon of vinegar to ⅔ cup unsweetened original flavor (not vanilla) non-dairy milk. Stir and set aside.
- Prep your super firm tofu: Remove the packaging and blotting gently with a paper towel. Cut the tofu however you like--we did triangles but cubes or rectangular slabs also work! If you did not buy super firm tofu (the kind that comes vacuum sealed), drain out all the water and press the block of tofu in either a tofu press or between two plates/cutting boards with a heavy weight on them for 20-30 minutes. Waterlogged tofu will not get very crispy.
- If baking, prep oven: If you are baking the panko breaded tofu, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 degrees Celsius) and line a baking tray with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Set up your breading station: You want two wide and shallow bowls for dredging the large pieces of tofu. Whisk the chickpea flour into the vegan buttermilk (which may have separated slightly, that’s OK). Put the non-dairy milk and chickpea flour / garbanzo bean flour (the wet mixture) into one of the bowls. In the other bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and spices. Finally, place a plate or tray (or your air-fryer basket!) at the end where you can put the breaded tofu.
- If frying, prep pan and oil: If you are choosing to make panko fried tofu, start heating the oil in the pan as soon as your breading station is set up. Heat the largest skillet you have over high heat with a decent amount of oil--I’d say about a half inch.
- Start the breading process: I find using my hands is the easiest way to do this. Tongs or forks may break the pieces of tofu. You can use food prep gloves if you prefer not to get the mixture on your hands. Keep in mind that you will want to cook the tofu pieces as soon as they are breaded otherwise they will not be as crispy. Place a piece of tofu in the wet mixture, turning it a few times. Let the excess drip off. Then place the tofu in the dry breading mixture. You can use your fingers to push or sprinkle the breading onto the top half so you can flip it without making too much of a mess. Make sure all sides including the edges get coated. Place the coated tofu on the plate/tray/in your air fryer basket and repeat with the other pieces. Cook panko tofu immediately.
- Air frying method: Carefully place each breaded piece of tofu in your air fryer, letting each one have at least ½-inch breathing room from the other pieces. Cook for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius), CAREFULLY flipping once halfway through (note that if your breading is sticking to the air fryer tray, it isn’t cooked enough to flip. Air fry 2 more minutes and check it again). The panko tofu is done when it is medium golden brown on all sides and crispy to the touch.
- Pan frying method: Once the oil is heated you can add the tofu. The oil should be about 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius)--hot, but not so hot that it smokes or splatters. You can use a meat or candy thermometer to test this, or you can drop a single bread crumb into the pan of oil. If lots of little bubbles start forming around it, the pan is ready. Very carefully add the tofu to the pan. For a 12” skillet, I would cook 6-8 pieces at a time, depending on how big each piece is. If you have a much smaller skillet, you may only want to cook one at a time. It’s important not to crowd the pan, otherwise the tofu may cook unevenly, the breading can be rubbed off, etc. Cook each piece for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Flip very carefully. You can cook until light-medium browned or a little bit more done if you prefer crispier tofu. Place each fully cooked tofu on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Repeat with remaining tofu.
- Oven method: Similar to the air fryer method, lay your breaded tofu on a lined baking tray. Leave an inch of space around each piece so they can crisp up better. Optionally spray each with a little avocado oil (or similar, don’t use olive or coconut oil), but it’s not a necessity. The panko is still great without oil. Bake for 15-25 minutes, flipping halfway through and removing when both sides are the level of doneness you prefer. Panko tofu is done when both sides are at least medium browned in color and crispy to the touch.
- Serve: Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce like vegan bbq sauce, vegan ranch, vegan mayo mixed with sriracha, ketchup, etc. Or put it in another dish and enjoy however you like.
- Store: Panko crusted tofu is really best on the first night, but if you have leftovers, you can store them for about 3 days. I recommend wrapping the leftovers in aluminum foil or parchment paper (so they aren’t touching, which can rub off the breading when it gets moist from the condensation) and then placing them in a container in the refrigerator. Reheat panko tofu in a pan, an air fryer, or an oven for a crispy texture. The microwave just kind of leaves the breading a bit soggy.
- Note 1: For this recipe, the best tofu is the kind that is sold in vacuum-sealed plastic, not a tub of water. I can usually find it in my local supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Asian market, and even Costco. If you can only find firm or extra firm tofu (that comes in water), you can still make this dish. You’ll want to drain the tub of tofu and press the block of tofu, using either a tofu press or two plates or cutting boards, paper towels, and a heavy weight (like books or a cast iron pan) for 20-30 minutes. Otherwise it may turn out soggy.
- Note 2: Regular flour, cornstarch or arrowroot powder will work, but I greatly prefer chickpea flour for breading tofu. It is a great gluten-free substitute option, but it also really amps up the protein and the texture of the breading in my opinion. A good trick for finding some if it isn’t in your regular grocery store (but check the baking section AND the gluten-free or natural section if there is one) or health food store, if you have an Indo-pak or Indian store nearby this flour is also known as “besan” or “gram flour.” You can also easily find it online. If you’d like to use regular all purpose flour instead, that will work. You may not need all of the non-dairy milk indicated in the recipe, so add and stir as needed. You’re looking for a thicker (but still drippy) pancake batter type consistency.
- Note 3: Cooking without oil? Use the air fryer (preferred) or oven methods. It’s not necessary and I make this all the time without oil!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Entree
- Method: Baking, Air fryer
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: Vegan Panko Tofu, Panko Tofu, Tofu Recipes