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Tofu Tots (or, How to Make Perfectly Fried Tofu)

October 17, 2011

Hi all!

Having been a veg*n for over four years now, and having cooked tofu for just about as long, I forget sometimes that tofu can be a daunting challenge for newcomers to this diet. People still ask me, “How do I cook tofu? What’s your secret?” and I usually don’t know what to say—I’m generally happy just cutting it up into squares, tossing it in some oil, salt, and pepper, and then baking it for thirty minutes or so. I think this tastes great, but perhaps I’ve just been eating the stuff for too long. So today I thought I’d share one of my more special—though still totally simple—tofu preparations: frozen & fried tofu, or what I’m now calling Tofu Tots!

Last week I had the opportunity to make this tofu preparation for the first time in a long while, and as my friend and meal-mate informed me, these small fried tofu cubes felt a lot like that old schoolyard cafeteria favorite known as tater tots—except made with tofu instead of potatoes, of course. Thus their new name was born. And although cute names are enough to get me excited about any dish, these Tofu Tots are super tasty to boot.

The secret behind their deliciousness—and the biggest trick to making perfectly fried tofu—is to freeze the tofu first. Yes, that’s right: freeze it. Simply place your store-bought tofu in your freezer, still in its package, at least the night before you want to use it. Just note that you’ll want to make sure your tofu is packaged in at least some water; if not, you can put the tofu in a ziploc bag filled with water, as I did below:

In the morning, take your tofu out of the freezer, and run the package under warm water until the water melts and you can open it up.

The tofu will still be frozen in its center, and you’ll have to let it sit and thaw for a few hours.

After the tofu has thawed, cut it up into bite-size cubes. For anyone who’s never frozen tofu before, you’ll see that freezing gives it this amazing, spongy texture. This texture is perfect for frying, because: (a) the tofu is super absorbent, and holds any breading extra well; (b) the tofu itself holds together extra well, and thus will not fall apart while frying; and (c) the tofu is super soft, thus making for a very pleasing textural contrast between it and its eventual crispy fried exterior.

Now that you have your tofu all cubed, you’re ready to bread it! Lots of different breadings will work here, but I usually like to keep things simple with the following basic mix:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • lots of pepper, salt, and paprika, to taste

Mix these around in a plate, and then toss the tofu cubes in it until they’re coated on all sides.

After this, simply heat a small amount of oil (canola, coconut, or some other good frying oil) on a skillet, and then throw the tofu in. Adjust the temperature so there’s no oil flying in your face and then just let the heat do its magic. It’ll probably take around five minutes for you to get a nice fry on the bottom side, after which you’ll want to flip the tofu over and fry the other side, which typically goes much quicker (two to three minutes). I typically don’t need to fry every side of the cubes, since the sizzling oil will usually take care of the sides as the top and bottom are frying.

Your Tofu Tots are now ready! These taste pretty excellent on their own, but pairing them with a nice dipping sauce never hurts. Tonkatsu or a spicy ketchup would work great here, but for my last batch I made a simple chili dipping sauce by boiling equal parts sugar and white vinegar, and then after the sugar had dissolved, mixing in a small amount of sriracha chili sauce. It’s a nice and simple sauce that still tastes really good.

Anyway, I hope this helps you all in tofu cooking adventures! Happy eating!

VeganMoFo #17/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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4 comments

  1. I’m sold! I’m going to make these little Tots. fuTots.


  2. Great write-up! I haven’t frozen tofu in years, but I’m going to try it again (I didn’t know about freezing it with water…) And yes, the cornstarch method is awesome! Thanks for this!


  3. I made these tonight, and they were great! Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, just as promised. The breading stuck remarkably well. I’ve never tried cornstarch in breading (in fact, I went out and bought some just for the occasion… plus for sauces and such), but it made a big difference. I added some thai spice mix, a little red garlic sansel, some paprika, salt, and pepper, and served with just a simple dip of honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Delicious! 🙂 Thanks!!


    • Awesome! I’m glad someone else liked these as much as I did. I don’t really eat tofu all that often, but I find that this method of preparation is pretty great. I’m sure your thai spice mix just made it even better, and the dipping sauce sounds great too! Thanks again for trying out my recipes!



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