These tofu steaks are pan fried until crispy and coated in a gochujang sauce that’s smoky, sweet, and spicy. Learn how to make this delicious pan fried tofu recipe, including prep and cooking steps, in less than 20 minutes.
Frying tofu is an easy and delicious way to introduce this plant based protein to kids and tofu skeptics. It can be served with a little salt and pepper which lets the crispy exterior shine (read my tutorial on how to make crispy tofu), or it can be tossed it in a sweet and spicy sauce, like the recipe in this post, to maximize flavor.
This pan fried tofu with gochujang sauce is a quick weeknight meal high in protein that can be served over rice or as a side to vegetables or noodles.
Which Tofu Is Best For Frying?
There are a few different types of tofu that are excellent for frying. While they vary quite a bit in terms of looks and taste, they all have one thing in common – their firm texture. Here is a quick list of tofu to use depending on the type of pan fried dish you are planning on serving:
- Plain extra firm tofu or firm tofu sold in a block submerged in water. This type of tofu is great to marinate (like for this tasty teriyaki air fryer tofu recipe) as it takes on flavor really well. I like to use extra firm tofu when my goal is to achieve crispy tofu (dusted in cornstarch) with a pillowy soft interior for dishes like agedashi tofu and sweet and sour tofu. This type of tofu is also delicious when coated in panko breadcrumbs and baked in the oven. They make the best vegan katsu steaks!
- Tofu cutlet or pressed tofu is great for stir fries. The texture is firmer than extra firm tofu because the bean curd has been compressed and retains very little water. It’s easy to slice and is sturdy enough that it can be tossed with vegetables and sauce and won’t break.
- Fish tofu is also great to use in stir fries because of its firm texture and fishball-like flavor.
- Finally there’s tempeh, which isn’t technically tofu but is made from fermented soybeans. The texture is very firm and meaty and the flavor is rich and nutty. Not only does it go well with stir fries, it can be used in sandwiches or as a salad topping.
What Happens If I Fry Soft Tofu (Silken Tofu)?
It will simply fall apart. Silken tofu is very high in water so the texture is extremely delicate, which is why it’s called silken. It is best served in soups or on its own, topped with a few ingredients, such as the iconic Japanese dish hiyayakko (chilled tofu with toppings).
Pan Fried Tofu Ingredients
- Tofu: Using extra firm tofu ensures that the tofu steaks won’t fall apart when frying and transferring from skillet to a plate. You can also use medium firm but you will need to be more careful when handling the pieces.
- Soy sauce: I’m using regular Japanese soy sauce but light or low sodium soy sauce also works. You can also use tamari or liquid amino for gluten-free options.
- Mirin: Mirin has a slight sweetness similar to sake and is a wonderful ingredient to use to provide richness and umami to a dish.
- Sugar: I’m using just over a teaspoon of sugar to add extra sweetness. You can take it out if you prefer more savory over sweet.
- Gochujang: Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste often used to give a dish plenty of heat, smokiness, and a little sweetness. And a little goes a long way – 1 teaspoon is all you will need for this recipe.
- Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is a popular ingredient used in Japanese cooking. It’s added to provide a creamy and fruity element, without the heaviness that full fat cream or half and half bring to sauces.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch is used to coat the tofu steaks and give them a crispy exterior when pan fried. It also thickens the sauce once it’s added to pan. You can also use potato starch if that’s all you have in your pantry.
- Scallions: Chopped scallions are added in the end as a garnish to add color and a refreshing crunch.
- To make this recipe vegan, use vegan mayonnaise.
- Drizzle a little sesame oil on top of the tofu right before serving for extra nuttiness.
- Add half a teaspoon of gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) to make it smokier.
- Add half a teaspoon of tobanjan to make it hotter.
- Mix one minced garlic or half a teaspoon of garlic powder into the sauce to make it spicier and extra pungent.
How To Make Pan-Fried Tofu With Gochujang Sauce
Scroll all the way down to the recipe card for the full recipe.
- Start by prepping your ingredients.
- Gather all of your kitchen tools and ingredients.
- Drain and place your tofu block on a plate. Wrap it in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and leave it for about 10 minutes.
- Add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, gochujang, and mayonnaise to a bowl, mix well, and set aside.
- Unwrap the tofu and slice it into 2.5-inch squares that are about ¾-inch thick, for a total of 8 squares. Or, if you prefer, cutting the tofu into smaller tofu cubes also works.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.
- Dust each piece of tofu with cornstarch on all sides and when the oil is hot, add them to the skillet, one by one. Leave some space between the tofu steaks so they don’t stick together. You may need to do this in batches.
- Pan-fry for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown and turn the heat off.
- Stir the sauce and pour it over the tofu. The sauce will bubble at this point so gently move the tofu around to coat evenly on both sides.
- Transfer the tofu steaks to a plate and top with chopped scallions. Enjoy!
How Long Does Fried Tofu Keep In The Fridge?
If you have leftovers from this specific recipe, the tofu will keep for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container, and refrigerated.
For tofu cubes or steaks that have been pan fried without any sauce, they should last 4 to 5 days, also refrigerated and stored in an airtight storage container.
Leaving tofu out overnight isn’t recommended since bacterial contamination and food poisoning may occur. It shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 to 3 hours.
How To Know When Tofu Has Gone Bad
Here are some easy way to spot tofu that has expired:
- Bad tofu has a strong sour and pungent smell that’s impossible to miss.
- The color will change from white to off-white or tan.
- If it’s been opened in your fridge for more than a week, throw it out.
What To Serve With Fried Tofu
This tofu can be served as a main or a side, for lunch or dinner, or even as a late night snack. Its sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy taste make it easy to pair with dishes that aren’t too intense in flavor. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this pan fried tofu:
- With a side of stir fry veggies with garlic sauce.
- Over Japanese fried rice (yakimeshi).
- With Cantonese style chow fun noodles.
- With a side of dry-fried green beans and a bowl of rice.
Other Easy And Delicious Tofu Recipes You Might Like
Did you like this pan fried tofu recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Pan Fried Tofu With Gochujang Sauce
Learn how to make this delicious sweet and smoky pan fried tofu recipe, including prep and cooking steps, in less than 20 minutes.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 6 minutes
- Total Time: 16 minutes
- Yield: 2 1x
- Category: Tofu
- Method: Pan frying
- Cuisine: Korean
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 block extra firm tofu, drained
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, or more if needed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or grapeseed oil (peanut oil also works)
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- Wrap the tofu in a paper towel and place it on a plate. Leave for 10 minutes to let some of the excess water out.
- Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, gochujang, and mayonnaise, in a bowl, and set aside.
- Slice the tofu into approximately 2.5-inch squares that are about ¾-inch thick. You should have about 8 pieces in total.
- Add the oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, dust each piece of tofu with cornstarch on both sides, and add them to the skillet, one by one, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. You may need to do this in batches.
- Pan fry for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until the exterior is golden brown. Turn the heat off.
- Stir the sauce and pour it over the tofu. Gently move the tofu around to coat evenly on both sides.
- Transfer the tofu steaks to a plate and top with the chopped scallions. Serve.
- Serving Size: 2 tofu steaks
- Calories: 144
- Sugar: 5.9g
- Sodium: 290.2mg
- Fat: 5.2g
- Saturated Fat: 0.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 3.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 12.7g
- Fiber: 1.4g
- Protein: 10.6g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: Bean curd
Had some leftover tofu and made this tonight! What a simple but extraordinary dish!!
Yay, Rick! Thank you! 🙂