This vegan karaage is crispy, chewy, and juicy but is 100% plant-based and made in an air-fryer. Ready in 30 minutes for a quick, tasty Japanese dinner!
WHAT IS KARAAGE?
If you didn’t know, karaage is the Japanese version of fried chicken. The chicken is cut up into chunks and lightly battered with a mixture of flour and potato starch, or just potato starch, which makes it extra crispy. It’s less heavy than American fried chicken since it’s mostly chicken with just a thin layer of batter coating it. It’s typically served with a squeeze of lemon and maybe some shredded cabbage to help cut the grease, along with a bowl of rice. My mom makes chicken karaage every now and then, but since I eat a primarily plant-based diet, I haven’t had karaage in ages.
This karaage, though, is 100% plant-based and made in an air-fryer. The secret to its chewy, “meaty” texture? Frozen tofu! I heard about this trick years ago when I first switched my diet, but never really tried it out because I figured it wouldn’t have that much of a difference, and I just always forgot to freeze my tofu. But it is life changing!! Don’t be an idiot like me and wait years till you finally try it. The texture is so different from regular tofu. So chewy and not crumbly.
When you thaw the tofu, you’ll see just how much water comes out. I usually press my tofu to get rid of some of the water so it can absorb other flavors better, but the amount of water that drains out of frozen tofu is crazy! Frozen tofu also acts kind of like a sponge, so it can absorb sauces/marinades really well. Plus it makes the tofu juicy and flavorful in every bite.
This vegan karaage is made with just 9 plant-based ingredients:
- Firm Tofu ⟶ twice frozen for maximum chewy, meaty texture!
- Soy Sauce, Sake, Sesame Oil, Mirin ⟶ the base of the marinade to flavor the tofu
- Ginger & Garlic ⟶ grated into the marinade for extra flavor
- Nutritional Yeast ⟶ adds a little extra umami and flavor
- All Purpose Flour ⟶ use gluten-free all purpose flour if necessary
- Potato Starch ⟶ makes it super crispy!
QUICK & EASY TO MAKE!
This tofu karaage is so simple and delicious to make; the hardest part waiting for the tofu to freeze and thaw twice. After it’s thawed, marinate for 10 minutes, coat in flour/potato starch, then pop in your air-fryer and 15 minutes later you’ll have crispy golden perfection (that will probably be gone in less time than it took to make). I made 3 batches last week, all on different days, because as soon as they were made I gobbled them all up. I should probably start learning how to make my own tofu.
Check out these other tasty tofu recipes!
- Baked Miso Tofu
- Sesame Crusted Tofu
- Spicy Miso Eggplant Tofu
- Miso Dengaku Tofu Katsu
- Vermicelli Salad with Soy-Lime Tofu
- Tofu Gyoza
I hope I’ve inspired you to make this vegan karaage! If you try it out, don’t forget to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and leave a comment/star rating down below! I love seeing all of your tasty recreations 🙂 Happy cooking! ♡
*This recipe was updated 3/12/2021.
Vegan Air-Fryer Karaage
- 14-16 oz block firm tofu twice frozen
- 2 tsp ginger grated
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp sake
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour**
- 2 tbsp
- To double-freeze tofu, simply place the tofu (in the package is fine) in the freezer. Once frozen, place in the fridge to thaw for a day, then place back in the freezer overnight. Once frozen, transfer to the fridge to thaw again. Make sure the tofu is completely thawed before using. Cut or tear tofu up into large chunks.
- Mix together ginger, garlic, water/broth, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and nutritional yeast. Place in a wide dish.
- Add the tofu to the marinade and mix well to coat, then drizzle the sesame oil over and give it a quick toss. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Most if not all of the sauce should get soaked up.
- Add flour to tofu and toss to coat. Once the tofu is evenly coated with flour, sift potato starch over the tofu and toss again until evenly coated.
- Place each tofu chunk into the air fryer. Make sure the tofu chunks are spaced apart and not touching. Air fry at 350°F for 5 minutes, then spray or brush the chunks with oil. Continue air frying another 10 minutes or until browned and crispy.
- Serve the karaage with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of salt, if desired.
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