Crispy Sweet and Sour Tofu (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

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This sweet and sour tofu is an easy, healthy, and delicious plant-based meal. Cooked to crispy perfection and coated in a sweet, spicy, tangy sauce.

Crispy, chewy tofu coated in a sticky, savory sauce. It’s easy-to-make comfort food that’s actually good for you. Made completely from plants but so hearty and satisfying! This sweet and sour tofu has made it onto my weekly meal rotation, and sometimes I make it multiple times a week because it’s just so darn good! I always keep a block of tofu in the freezer in case I get a hankering for a hearty tofu dish, like this tofu karaage or tofu katsu. But if my freezer were bigger I would keep multiple blocks of tofu in the freezer because honestly, I can eat an entire package of tofu with this recipe. It’s a simple recipe with simple ingredients, so what makes it so good? Let’s take a look:

Ingredients

This air-fryer sweet & sour tofu is made with 11 plant-based ingredients:

  • Frozen Tofu ⟶ Take the block of tofu out of its packaging, drain, and place into a freezer safe bag. Freeze at least 3 hours. Thaw in the fridge overnight or during the day, or defrost in the microwave if you need it immediately. Frozen tofu has a chewy, spongy texture.
  • Cornstarch* ⟶ All purpose flour, gluten-free all purpose flour, or potato starch will work as well.
  • Tomato Paste ⟶ The base of the sweet & sour sauce.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar* ⟶ Adds tang, a.k.a. the “sour” part of the sauce.
  • Maple Syrup* ⟶ I prefer maple syrup for its flavor and natural sugars, but you can also use coconut sugar, brown sugar, regular sugar, or even agave. Use your preferred sweetener and adjust to taste.
  • Soy Sauce* ⟶ For umami and Asian flavor. Use tamari* for gluten-free.
  • Oil ⟶ Adds flavor and helps the tofu become crispy. I like olive oil but you can also use a neutral-flavored oil like canola, vegetable, grapeseed, or avocado oil.
  • Additional seasonings ⟶ garlic powder (or fresh), ginger powder (or fresh) and red pepper flakes (omit if you’re not good with spice)

How to Make

  1. Cook Tofu ⟶ First, we make the crispy tofu by coating the frozen tofu pieces in starch/flour, then pan-frying, air-frying, or baking until crispy and golden.
  2. Make Sauce ⟶ Add sauce ingredients to skillet and simmer about 1 minute to thicken (it will thicken more with the tofu and as it cools).
  3. Coat Tofu with Sauce ⟶ Add the crispy tofu to the sauce and mix until coated all over. Serve warm!

How to Reheat Leftovers

Pop leftovers into your air fryer, keeping space between each piece of tofu so they don’t stick. Air fry at 350°F for about 5 minutes, or until crispy.

How to Serve

  • This flavorful crispy tofu pairs perfectly with plain steamed rice and some veggies.
  • You can turn it into a teishoku kind of set meal by serving it with steamed rice, miso soup, a small salad, and some tsukemono or this tsukudani.
  • For more inspiration, check out these side dishes.

Helpful Cooking Tools

More Tasty Tofu Recipes!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this crispy sweet and sour tofu! If you do try it out, don’t forget to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and leave a comment/rating down below! I love seeing all of your tasty recreations 🙂 Happy cooking♡

*Recipe updated July 3, 2021.

Crispy Sweet and Sour Tofu

This sweet and sour tofu is an easy, healthy, and delicious plant-based meal. Cooked to crispy perfection and coated in a sweet, spicy, tangy sauce.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian
Servings: 2

Ingredients

Crispy Tofu

  • 14 oz firm tofu frozen and thawed**
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder or 1 tsp grated fresh garlic
  • ¼ tsp onion powder or 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch*
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

Sauce

Instructions

  • Press tofu** to remove excess liquid.
  • Cube or tear tofu into pieces. Place in a large bowl and mix in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.
  • Sift in cornstarch and toss to coat the tofu.
  • Drizzle oil over and toss again to coat.
  • Add tofu chunks to a large skillet, keeping space between each piece. Heat over medium heat and cook 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
    Alternatively, you can air-fry at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, until golden and crispy. Or bake at 400°F on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 25 minutes.
  • Transfer tofu to a plate and add the sauce to the skillet. Stir constantly for 1 minute until slightly thickened.
  • Add tofu and mix until all the tofu is coated in sauce. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
  • Garnish with green onions and toasted sesame seeds if desired.

Notes

To Freeze Tofu: Take the block of tofu out of its packaging, drain, and place into a freezer safe bag. OR, just freeze the tofu in its packaging — note that this will result in more water inside the tofu, so you’ll have to press the tofu more. Freeze at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. Thaw in the fridge overnight or during the day, or quick defrost by thawing the tofu in a pot of boiling water.
To Press Tofu: Wrap tofu in a paper towel or kitchen towel and place between two flat plates or cutting boards. Place a heavy object on top, such as a skillet or a heavy book. Let the tofu drain for at least 10 minutes.
OR, you can forego the heavy object and just use your hands to press down on the plate with your bodyweight. Press slowly so you don’t completely smash the tofu.

*Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but the price remains the same to you. Thank you for supporting Ellie Likes Cooking!

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