Crispy Tofu in the Air Fryer

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 26 votes

Crispy tofu in the air fryer takes 30 minutes total to prepare. Torn pieces of protein-packed firm tofu become crunchy, flavourful, and ideal for topping dinner bowls and salads.

An up close, overhead shot shows crispy pieces of air fryer tofu on a plate lined with crinkled parchment paper. To the side is some spicy mayo and ketchup for dipping.

Add crunch and protein to your next vegan dinner with this crispy tofu in the air fryer! A quick soak in boiling salted water, plus the well-circulated high heat of the air fryer combine for the best crispy, chewy, and flavourful tofu. The salt water soaking step draws excess moisture out of the firm or extra firm tofu, making for a crispy-crunchy and well-seasoned end result. This recipe takes about 30 minutes total to throw together and cook. It’s a simple way to add crave-able crunchy texture and vegan protein to grain bowls and salads. For a reliable oven cooking method, check out my crispy baked tofu bits. And for more tofu inspiration, check out my roundup of vegan tofu recipes.

An overhead shot shows crispy pieces of air fryer tofu on a plate lined with crinkled parchment paper. To the side is some spicy mayo and ketchup for dipping.
An overhead shot shows ingredients needed for crispy tofu in the air fryer: firm tofu, arrowroot starch, avocado oil, tamari, spices, and salt.
An overhead shot shows torn pieces of tofu in a bowl. The block of tofu is on a board to the side.

I’ve talked about this recipe a handful of times in my Saturday Sun posts, and after quite a few requests, I’m finally sharing it here. This easy air fryer tofu helps me to address the “soft food fatigue” that sometimes comes about with vegan cooking. It’s crunchy, super flavourful, protein-packed, and simple to make. And you don’t have to do any chopping!

I do prefer this air fried tofu over pan fried tofu. The cooking method itself is just easier and it doesn’t make as much of a mess. You also don’t have to hover over the pan, which is extra nice! I resisted getting an air fryer for so long, but I use it pretty much every day now. I would say it’s an essential appliance for me at this point.

Air fryer crispy tofu is great on:

There is a little extra step to undertake before popping in the air fryer! I learned from Hannah Che’s The Vegan Chinese Kitchen that using seasoned hot/boiling water is an effective way to get the excess moisture out of tofu. I’ve been pressing tofu for years, but recently I’ve turned to a simple hot salt water bath. I truly find this method less fussy than pressing and the results are excellent. You can read more about why this works on Serious Eats.

After the hot water soak, it’s still important to completely blot the pieces of tofu dry so that they don’t stick to the air fryer. Combining the soak, thorough blot drying, and a good dusting of arrowroot powder will get you nicely crispy results! It only takes about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

I hope my air fryer fans give this one a try soon! It’s been a game changing recipe for me personally 😊

An overhead shot shows a bowl with tofu pieces, arrowroot starch, and spices. A spatula is sticking out of the bowl.
An up close, overhead shot shows jagged and crispy pieces of tofu that are thoroughly golden brown. The pieces are inside of an air fryer basket.
An overhead shot shows crispy pieces of air fryer tofu on a plate lined with crinkled parchment paper. To the side is some spicy mayo and ketchup for dipping.

Crispy-Crunchy Tofu in the Air Fryer

Crispy tofu in the air fryer takes 30 minutes total to prepare. Torn pieces of protein-packed firm tofu become crunchy, flavourful, and ideal for topping dinner bowls and salads.
5 from 26 votes
An up close, overhead shot shows crispy pieces of air fryer tofu on a plate lined with crinkled parchment paper. To the side is some spicy mayo and ketchup for dipping.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings 2 -3

Ingredients

  • 1 block (12 oz/350 grams) firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon Tamari
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
  • spray oil

Equipment

Notes

  • You can definitely use cornstarch instead of arrowroot here.
  • Mix up the spices depending on what you’re serving or what you prefer! I love doing a mix of za’atar, sumac, and garlic powder or a mix of chipotle chili powder, cumin, and onion powder.
  • I have not been able to replicate the texture of this air fryer tofu in a normal oven. For folks working without an air fryer, I recommend checking out my crispy baked tofu bits recipe, which utilizes cornmeal for extra crunch.

Instructions

  • Drain the tofu and tear it into 2-inch (ish) pieces. Place the tofu pieces in a medium bowl.
  • In a small saucepan bring the water and salt to a boil. Pour it over the tofu and leave it for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the tofu and thoroughly blot it dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Dry the bowl it was soaking in as well.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
  • In the medium bowl, toss the tofu pieces with the avocado oil, Tamari, and pepper. Once coated, sprinkle the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and arrowroot starch and resume tossing until you can't see any white, powdery bits anymore.
  • Give the air fryer basket a quick spray with the spray oil. Then, transfer the coated pieces of tofu to your air fryer basket, shaking the basket/arranging the pieces so that each piece has a bit of space. Set the timer for 15 minutes and pop the basket in.
  • Give the tofu in the air fryer basket a little shake every 5 minutes to evenly brown and crisp up the pieces. The tofu is done when it's evenly deep golden brown and super crispy on all sides.
An overhead shot shows a plate filled with crispy air fryer tofu pieces. A hand is dipping a piece into a little bowl with spicy mayo and ketchup inside.
24/01/2024 (Last Updated 24/07/2024)
Posted in: air fryer, autumn, basics, gluten free, grain-free, main course, nut free, refined sugar-free, salty, side dish, spring, summer, tofu, umami, vegan, winter

25 comments

5 from 26 votes (15 ratings without comment)

Recipe Rating




  • Alana

    5 stars
    I felt compelled to review. My son, he’s 2.5…He eats basically nothing that isn’t completely processed. But these…these beautiful, crispy, perfect tofu nuggets…He scarfs them! Such a simple recipe, you’ve done it! I am very appreciative!

  • Jen

    5 stars
    This was delicious! My only question is whether the tofu is absorbing a lot of salt, hence making it less healthy than it would be otherwise. What would happen if you did this with half of the salt (or even less?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Jen,
      I’ve made it with half the amount of salt and it’s still great! The salt water is used as a quick way to get excessive moisture out of the tofu, so most of the salt goes down the drain once you rinse.
      -L

  • Kathleen

    I have a convection air fryer combination. Can this be made in the metal basket that come it?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Kathleen!
      It should work. Just use a spatula to flip the pieces around and stir them up; rather than the basket shaking described in the recipe.
      -L

  • Bonnie

    Excited to try it. Need to get an air fryer.

  • Angela

    5 stars
    I never usually comment on recipes, but I had to comment on this one because it was so good and so easy! This is definitely going into the regular rotation. Thank you!

  • RS

    5 stars
    This is my favorite way to make tofu now! Super easy and crunchy the flavor is delicious. Can this be frozen?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi there! I have tried freezing the air fried tofu after it was cooked and then reheating it from both a frozen state and a thawed state and I didn’t love the texture. It was almost crunchy and soggy at the same time? Wish I could find a way to make it work!
      -L

  • SLJ

    5 stars
    This technique is a revelation!! I’m obsessed with this recipe now and have made it a few times with different spices. It’s so nice to not have to put on the oven or fry in a pan. The texture is amazing – chewy and crispy. Such a nice change from other tofu recipes! Thanks you :D

  • Marysa

    How interesting to tear the tofu apart like this – I love how it looks and the surface texture! We eat a lot of tofu and I will definitely be trying your recipe.

  • Kim H

    5 stars
    I have been looking at the photo of those brown crispy bits for awhile now, not believing what I was seeing. For some reason, i just didn’t believe that this recipe would work. Plus, I have a Breville Air Fryer Pro (glorified toaster oven), so I was extra skeptical that it would work for me. But OMG. Delicious crispy tofu! And so beautifully browned. I did cook mine a few minutes longer than the suggested 15 minutes. Wow! Thanks always, Laura!

  • Anna D.

    5 stars
    This tofu recipe is fantastic! I have made it numerous times already. I reduced the salt by one tablespoon (for the hot water boil), and that seems to be perfect for us, As always, so grateful for your culinary expertise and creativity.

  • Amanpreet kaur samra

    The shake at every 5 minutes worked really well for me….

  • Barb

    5 stars
    This was a huge hit for us! Loved the flavor of the tofu and the consistency was perfect. We will definitely be repeating this recipe again, trying the various spice combinations. Perfect tofu topping for bowls or just for snacking.
    Thank you for the delicious recipe!!

  • Latesha A

    5 stars
    In all of my almost 18 years of eating veg*an, this is the BEST tofu and BEST veg*an snack I’ve ever had!! You gotta know what you’re doing with tofu and for me it’s hit or miss. I wonder how my facon will do in the air fryer! I didn’t have corn starch (im still wondering why) so I used the flour that I use when i make seitan. I’m probably going to run to the store tomorrow and get a couple more blocks of tofu after church haha This was beyond easy to make!!

  • Petra

    5 stars
    Being a big fan of Laura and her cookbook, and having just bought the air fryer – I knew I had to try this right away, and it’s perfect. Even my husband loved it, and we are excited to explore all the flavour variations.

  • Cat

    5 stars
    Thank you~ absolutely loved this recipe & know it will be on repeat on our house. The flavour variations are endless. This is a healthier version of crispy tofu, and a much better texture. The perfect crispy tofu~ thanks!

  • May

    I LOVE your crispy tofu!! I was using Hannah Che’s method after reading her cookbook too, versus the fight I have to go through with my tofu press. I’m so happy to see the collision of my two faves! Thank you for the reminder on how easy it can be to make a plant based protein topping for my bowls :)

  • Stephanie

    I blotted with a kitchen towel and kind of pressed some water out but my tofu was really really salty when it was done. Almost inedible. Any other tips?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Stephanie,
      I’m so sorry that this was a flop for you. I tend to enjoy food on the saltier side, so this may account for the overall flavour. You may want to rinse the tofu after the soak next time OR cut the salt down in the soak down to 1 tablespoon and also omit the Tamari. Thank you for your feedback!
      -L

  • Kate

    Laura it looks wonderful and I think you’ve tipped the scale in terms of me getting an air fryer. Do you have one you’d recommend or guidance in what I should be looking for? Thanks so much.

    I just love your blog! You don’t have to be vegan to love your recipes. They are just great food.

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Kate!
      Thank you so much. I have both the Instant Pot Vortex and the Our Place Wonder Oven with air fry function. I like both but I do find the air fryer is more powerful with the Instant Pot version. I got mine a few years ago when there were less options in terms of coatings and functionality. If I was buying a new one today, I’d be looking at one of the options with a ceramic coating (rather than teflon).
      -L

  • Sherry

    Thanks for this Laura! I have successfully resisted the air fryer so far, but I do see the temptation, for sure. Forgive this, I know you aren’t hawking equipment here, but are you willing to say what model you have and what you think of it? I think I’m especially averse to a lot of plastic parts…anyway, thanks as always for your site, it’s a wonderful resource.

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Sherry,
      I have an Instant Pot vortex, which does contain plastic parts. I also have the Our Place Wonder Oven, which features an air fryer function. The Wonder Oven features an all stainless steel interior and only one plastic component that I can think of (a tiny water reservoir at the top of the unit). The air fryer function of the Wonder Oven is not as powerful as the Instant Pot’s, but it does get the job done! If plastic and non-stick surfaces are not ideal for you, I think the Wonder Oven is a good choice. There are more and more options without plastic/teflon making their way to the market these days!
      -L