tofu karaage made in air fryer, served on plate with shredded cabbage and lemon wedge

Vegan Air-Fryer Karaage

This vegan karaage is crispy, chewy, and juicy but is 100% plant-based and made in an air-fryer. It’s healthier than traditional Japanese karaage but just as addicting.

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tofu karaage made in air fryer, served on plate with shredded cabbage and lemon wedge

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 healthier in the 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 tofu karaage is so simple and delicious to make; the hardest part is remembering to freeze your tofu the day before. After that you thaw it (which can easily be done in the microwave), marinate for ~15 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.

I hope you love this tofu as much as I do! If you do try it out, be sure to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and leave a comment down below. I love seeing your recreations and am always open to feedback 🙂 Happy cooking!

Vegan Air-Fryer Karaage

This vegan karaage is crispy, chewy, and juicy but is 100% plant-based and made in an air-fryer. It’s healthier than traditional Japanese karaage but just as addicting.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese, Vegan
Keyword: air-fryer, japanese food, tofu, vegan
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 14-16 oz block firm tofu, frozen & thawed
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated garlic
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sake
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp potato starch
  • dash of black pepper

Instructions

  • Make sure the tofu is completely thawed (can be done in the microwave).
  • Mix together ginger, garlic, water, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, and mirin in a wide dish. 
  • Cut or tear tofu up into large chunks. Marinate in sauce for at least 15 minutes. Most if not all of the sauce should get soaked up.
  • In a bowl, mix together the flour, potato starch, and pepper. Dip each tofu chunk into the flour mixture until coated all around. 
  • Place each tofu chunk into the air fryer. Make sure the tofu chunks are spaced apart and not touching. Lightly spray the chunks with oil. Bake in the air fryer at 350°F for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. 

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Thoughts? Questions? Let me know!