Crispy and delicious Salt and Pepper Tofu is a super easy snack or meatless main you can make with only a few ingredients.
Salt and Pepper Tofu
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (any, I prefer soy)
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (see note 1 for substitutions)
- 1 pound block super firm tofu (see note 2)
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (see note 3)
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (see note 4)
Optional aromatic topping
- 1-2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (or use water or broth)
- 1 medium shallot or half a medium onion,finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1-2 red chilies, finely chopped (deseed for less spice)
- Prep oven if needed: If making your salt and pepper tofu in the oven, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius) now and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat (I find this makes for crispier tofu) or parchment paper. If using the air fryer, just make sure it’s clean!
- Make the vegan buttermilk: Add the apple cider vinegar (or other acid) to the non-dairy milk and stir. Set it aside for 6-10 minutes until the milk begins to curdle. You can prepare the tofu while you wait.
- Prep the tofu: Open the package of super firm tofu, drain any excess water, and cube the tofu in a 1-inch dice (or cut in your desired shape, but thickness difference will change the cooking time so keep an eye on it). Add the tofu to a large bowl in a single layer (so the spices will cover all the cubes).
- Mix spices: In a small bowl, mix together the salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, fresh cracked black pepper, nutritional yeast, and cornstarch. Mix well.
- Add vegan buttermilk: Pour the non-dairy milk mixture over the tofu and mix once, gently. Return the tofu to a single layer.
- Sprinkle the spice mix over the tofu and use a small spatula to gently stir the tofu making sure it all gets coated. If you like, add a little extra black pepper at this time.
- Air Fryer Method: Add breaded tofu cubes to your air fryer in a single layer. Set it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 190 degrees Celsius) for 14-15 minutes and shake the basket halfway through. Check the crispness. If you desire the tofu to be more crispy, cook for longer or you can give it a misting of avocado (or other) oil if you like and then cook it for a few more minutes. 20-22 minutes usually works perfectly for me.
- Oven Method: Place coated tofu cubes on your lined baking tray. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius) for 25-30 minutes, flipping the tofu and rotating the pan halfway through.
- Pan Frying Method: Heat a few tablespoons of a neutral, high heat oil (I use either avocado or grapeseed oil) in a large skillet (preferably non-stick. I like this nonstick skillet from AllClad) over high heat. Heat until it begins to shimmer, usually about 1-2 minutes. Add half the breaded tofu cubes, giving them some good breathing room. Line a plate on the counter with paper towels. Cook the tofu until browned on each side. I prefer to flip my tofu with silicone tipped tongs. Once cooked, place each cube on the lined plate. Once you’re through cooking that batch, add the remaining cubes and cook them.
- Prep the aromatic topping, if using (optional): While the tofu cooks, heat a medium or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and let it heat for a minute or two until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the shallot, garlic, green onion, and chilies. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when they become fragrant and start to brown. Place them in a bowl or on a plate so they stop cooking.
- Serve salt and pepper tofu immediately after cooking. Sprinkle with the cooked aromatics if desired, and/or serve with a dipping sauce like this vegan garlic aioli. Enjoy!
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days in an airtight container. I recommend reheating in the air fryer, pan, or oven to regain the crispy texture, although I have to say I really like the cold tofu… it’s not crisp anymore but it tastes really good anyway. Cold tofu is awesome in a vegan sushi bowl, just saying.
- Note 1: Any vinegar or lemon juice will work. Keep in mind if you use a strong flavored vinegar (like balsamic) that flavor will come through. This will curdle the non-dairy milk which creates our vegan buttermilk. If you prefer to skip the vegan buttermilk step, use oil instead of non-dairy milk and use that to adhere the spice mixture to the tofu.
- Note 2: I’m talking about the kind in the vacuum-sealed plastic, not a plastic tub of water. If you only have firm or extra firm tofu (that comes in water), you can still make my salt and pepper tofu. Drain all the water from the package and then use a tofu press or two plates or cutting boards, paper towels, and a heavy weight (like books or a cast iron pan) to press the tofu for 20-30 minutes. Otherwise the tofu may turn out soggy—I speak from experience. I recommend the super firm tofu if you can find it—I can usually find it in my local supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Asian market, and even Costco.
- Note 3: I know it sounds a little weird but nutritional yeast is super savory and toasty here—and no, it does not make the tofu taste cheesy. But if you hate the stuff, replace it with plain old breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if needed).
- Note 4: Cornstarch helps the breading adhere to the tofu. Arrowroot powder or potato starch can also be used. If you want to leave it out the recipe will still work, it might just be slightly less crispy.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Dinner, Topping
- Method: Pan Fry
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: Tofu recipe, vegan tofu, salt and pepper tofu