Crispy Battered and Fried Tofu

by Andie Mitchell on August 17, 2011

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Yes, I battered and deep fried my tofu.

I took health, good and proper gal that she is, dressed her scantily, and sent her to the swimming pool.

When she came out her skin was crisp, deeply bronzed and glowing. She was more tender inside. Happier, somehow.

And I loved her more.

There are lots of misconceptions about deep frying.

And I, devout deep fry darlin’ that I am, want to put those myths to bed.

I’d like to deep fry my vitamins, to batter and brown my pineapple tidbits in hot, bubbling fat.

Truth: As long as you’re using a good quality oil, not over using that oil for multiple frying attempts, and as long as you know the ingredients you’re breading or battering your food in, there’s nothing wrong with deep frying.

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For years after I lost 135lbs, I thought anything fried absorbed gobs upon gobs [upon gobs upon gobs] of oil, and the exciting reality is- that just isn’t always so.

Often times shallow frying (generally thought to be healthier because there’s less oil used)- meaning to pan fry a food in a skillet filled with just a covering of oil- allows the food to soak up more oil than deep frying. It has to do mostly with the temperature of the oil.

When you drop foods into a pan or pot with oil that isn’t sufficiently hot, the food soaks in the oil, it absorbs it rather than simply forming a crisp bubbling crust and keeping the insides moist and untouched.

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Here’s what you need to know about deep frying, myths be damned:

If performed properly, deep-frying does not make food excessively greasy, because the moisture in the food repels the oil. The hot oil heats the water within the food, steaming it from the inside out; oil cannot go against the direction of this powerful flow because (due to its high temperature) the water vapor pushes the bubbles toward the surface. As long as the oil is hot enough and the food is not immersed in the oil for too long, oil penetration will be confined to the outer surface. However, if the food is cooked in the oil for too long, much of the water will be lost and the oil will begin to penetrate the food. The correct frying temperature depends on the thickness and type of food, but in most cases it lies between 175 and 190 °C (345–375 °F).

Some fried foods are given a coating of batter or breading prior to frying. The effect of these is that the outside of the food becomes crispy and browned, while the inside becomes tender, moist, and steamed. Some foods – such as potatoes or whole, skin-on poultry – have a natural coating and do not require breading or battering.”

Source: Wikipedia

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Good news, yes?

Yes.

Yes yes yes.

Yes yes yes yes.

Uh huh uh huh uh huh uh huh.

I’m not entirely advocating throwing out your steamer, your roasting pan, all your stainless pots and pans, and setting up a deep fry station in your kitchen (though goodness that sounds worthwhile). I’m setting you free.

Because if you didn’t know this, that deep frying, if done properly, is not calorically and nutritionally devastating, then this will change your view of all food.

I am quick to neutralize all foods. People say it all the time, mostly because it just sounds so perfect, so peachy, but I truly don’t like to label things good or bad. I’m not interested in prizing or pitying a food based on its nutrition label. I changed the entire way I thought about food after losing such a tremendous amount of weight.

When I went from “who gives a–” to healthy, food began to feel dangerous.

I grew cautious of “crispy” and “crusted” because they screamed caloric density.

But really, it’s never the food that should have frightened me, it’s the way I overused it. It’s when one donut becomes two donuts and a small french fry super sizes herself, that any food becomes burdensome.

Pizza is simply bread plus sauce plus cheese. French fries are [hopefully] just potatoes plus oil plus salt.

So, this is my public service announcement, for the kids out there that, like me, didn’t know this ’til a year ago:

Fried foods deserve love and respect, too.

Damn it!

[Fist pump]

Crispy Battered and Fried Tofu

  • ½ cup flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper\
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup seltzer water
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
  • oil, for frying
 
Directions:
  1. In a shallow bowl, whisk 1/4 cup flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne, and baking soda. Place the remaining 1/4 cup flour in a separate, shallow bowl.

  2. Fill a small pot with 2 inches of oil over medium heat until rippling. Dripping a small splash of water on the oil should cause the oil to snap and sizzle- this is how you’ll know it’s hot enough to begin frying.

  3. Whisk the seltzer into the seasoned flour-cornstarch mixture.

  4. Dip each tofu cube first in the plain flour, to coat, then dip in the flour-seltzer batter. Carefully drop the battered tofu cubes into the hot oil and let fry until golden-brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve immediately or the tofu will lose its crisp battered crust as it sits.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

AShley August 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Killer recipe! And I’m so jealous of your amazing bright, white, light. Great photos!

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Helen August 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Holy cow — this looks amazing! I really, really need to get a deep fryer. Seltzer water, huh? Who would have thought! (Whatever turns tofu into crispy deliciousness, I guess!)

And gorgeous pictures, as always!

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Elena @ GagaForGrapefruit August 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

pure brilliance. as per usual. xox

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Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn August 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Hi be my big sister and make this for me? Kaythanks. <3

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sarah August 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I am so happy to read this! I completely agree. I used to be afraid to fry things, until I learned to do it properly, and so many good things have come of it. Best of all have been the beer-battered tofu from Vegan Brunch, the pumpkin seed encrusted tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance and….very best of all…the black eye pea fritters from Vegan Soul Kitchen. You must make them….I promise they’re worth it:

http://www.eons.com/groups/topic/1850635-Vegan-Soul-Kitchen-Black-Eyed-Pea-Fritters

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MelissaNibbles August 18, 2011 at 1:54 am

Yum! I get fried tofu at Whole Foods and balance it out by putting it in a salad. Yum!

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Johnny August 18, 2011 at 2:21 am

Excellent advice on the deep frying. I knew it had to be good. Now if I could just pay attention to the portions thing I’d be set! :)

By the way, I LOVE Tofu!! Got to try this recipe.

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Amy B @ Second City Randomness August 18, 2011 at 4:03 am

I love that you threw that out there about the fried food. I feel people shun it all too quickly!

And seriously- what would life be without french fries or fried mushrooms? Not one I’d want to live…

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Amy @ A Stool at the Counter August 18, 2011 at 4:11 am

I love fried tofu!!! What kind of pasta is this that you served it on?? Looks so delish!

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey August 18, 2011 at 4:17 am

I never knew that about deep frying, but of course it makes sense! And I’m pretty sure I’m going to deep fry my tofu tonight – I have a slab of it in my fridge!

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shauna August 18, 2011 at 4:44 am

Ohhh my goodness this looks like the tofu our local chinese place does, except better. Have always longed to replicate at home so will have to give this a go! Love your attitude to food, no good or bad labels… The Neutralizer! like a superhero with a big N on your chest :) Congratulations on your book deal, I’ll be in the preorder queue! :)

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat August 18, 2011 at 4:47 am

Awesome photos Andie! I didn’t know some of that stuff about deep frying. I always tend to avoid anything ‘crispy’ in restaurants because the word conjures up mental images of industrial sized deep fryers full of hot, overused oil, but I’d totally make this myself!

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Heather (Heather's Dish) August 18, 2011 at 5:09 am

although i don’t love tofu, i agree that deep fried deserves respect too! those myths can just go somewhere, right?! :)

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Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers August 18, 2011 at 5:15 am

I guess it’s sort of a blessing that I can’t fry foods. I’m just not very good at it, but at least it keeps me eating sauted and baked foods instead. Silver Lining?

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The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh August 18, 2011 at 5:38 am

Oooh you scandalous wench you! :D This makes me think the fondue party I’ve been avoiding is possible. (Oh wait, there’s the cheese course and the pure chocolate course. Okay, maybe we’ll save that one for a high cal day)

I might’ve missed it since my mind began to wander of what my first deep fried delight would be but what oil do you suggest for deep frying for the most nutritional benefit?

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April August 18, 2011 at 5:43 am

“But really, it’s never the food that should have frightened me, it’s the way I overused it. It’s when one donut becomes two donuts and a small french fry super sizes herself, that any food becomes burdensome.”

love love love this!! I’m really *just* starting to understand this “concept” and it is so eye opening. thank you! for reinforcing the fact. another great post, I just love everything you say and your whole philosophy, it’s soooo refreshing!! thank you! thank you!

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Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) August 18, 2011 at 6:18 am

Interesting.. haha FIST PUMP!

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Kerry F August 18, 2011 at 6:27 am

I’ve just lost about 20 lbs with WW, and I’m trying now, after I’ve stopped counting points, to try to view things as you do. I can have a little of this and a little of that, just not a lot of either! Thanks for such amazing perspective…and for your roasted broccoli recipe. My 5 and 2 year olds love it! They devour it! That is a miracle! : )

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Samantha @ Bikini Birthday August 18, 2011 at 6:39 am

How come you use seltzer?

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Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic August 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

I love tofu, prepared any way. This definitely sounds drool-worthy. And I am the same way – I don’t like labeling foods as good or bad!

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Janice Harper August 18, 2011 at 7:15 am

I’m going to have a t-shirt made for you that says “Deep Fry Everything!” You can wear it on the book tour!

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Megan (Braise The Roof) August 18, 2011 at 8:35 am

The beginning of this post is making me feel self-conscious about how pasty white I am. Hehe, I only kid. Thank you for bringing this PSA to your readers- the world needs to know! It also needs a serving of that tofu. YUM.

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Lisa August 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

Battered and deep fried, maybe I could eat tofu. I’d probably need some ketchup too.

I don’t like the texture. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. I enjoyed your post and beautiful pictures.

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Gina August 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

I’m frying some shrimpies tonight for tacos:) P.s. I made your Jerk Chicken with the Coconut Rice last night. It was to die for, yum!!!

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Melissa August 18, 2011 at 10:43 am

You already know I love you, but this post is brilliant!! I have a huge respect for all your posts that help take the “evil” out of the food and put the responsibility back on us as eaters to just pay more attention to what/how much we put in our mouths.

I made your tuna burgers and black bean enchiladas last week and my husband thought I was the best chef ever! The cookbook will do wonders for my marriage. :)

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Casey August 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I love fried tofu. I always order family style bean curd when I get chinese. I am curious though what you usually do with this tofu?

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Jo @ Jo In the Kitchen August 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Fist pumps are my favorite :)

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Kristen, Sweetly August 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

this is how the tofu always seems to come with japanese food. it’s delicious! i never quite feel like a made a light healthy decision, hahaha. i do believe it’s hanging out in that oil for a while. and my, is it the most delicious tofu.

homemade, i’m sure all those foods you talked about would still be healthful, amazing, and delicious. :-) i love it.

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Lisa August 19, 2011 at 5:57 am

I love you for this information. Period.

:)

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Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray August 20, 2011 at 7:49 am

This looks great! And I’ll be watching for that deep fried vitamin post ;)

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Paige August 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I learned something new today! Thanks for dispelling those myths, Andrea! And thanks for sharing this delish recipe :)

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Caitlen August 26, 2011 at 9:26 am

I’ve been looking for a creative way to simply make tofu and had to give this a shot. All in all, it turned out surprisingly well! I’ve never had tofu before and this was amazing! I didn’t put it in your peanut sauce, but instead made a spicy sour cream dip. Delicious! Thanks for the wonderful recipe and helping me into trying tofu!

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Halley September 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Yay! I love this. Tofu is so good fried so crispy and soft!

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Heidi @foodiecrush January 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm

YUM! Fried tofu is my go to fave. Totes fist pumps and uh huhs!

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Sue June 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

This is AMAZING! WOW!

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Katie August 18, 2012 at 1:42 am

Thanks for the great recipe for Crispy Tofu. My daughter is a very fussy vegetarian and one of the few proteins she will eat is deep fried tofu. The local Vietnamese restaurant does a good version of deep fried salt and pepper tofu, but at $14 Australian a serve it’s not a cheap option. I’ve been searching for a good alternative, but every internet recipe I’ve tried has been rejected by said fussy daughter as “Not as good as the one we get from the restaurant”, or “It’s OK”, or just plain “Eeeuuuch!”.

I adapted your recipe to make Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu and it was fantastic – loads better than what we get from our local Vietnamese. (I can provide the recipe if anyone would like it).By the way, if you cook the tofu til light golden brown, leave it to cool and then give it a flash fry in very hot oil for about 30 seconds or so, it will get super crispy and will stay crisp for ages.

Congratulations to you on the way you have re-oriented your approach to food, and lost a great deal of weight, without resorting to starving yourself or fad diets. I think your food philosophy is great, and I totally agree with your comments about finding a weight that you can maintain without becoming a slave to it. Best wishes for a happy, healthy future!

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Maxie June 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Hi Katie, I’d love to see your recipe for salt and pepper tofu!!!

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Justin November 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I tried this recipe tonight and it was very good. Nice favor on the batter. This was my first try at making tofu and it turned out surprisingly well. I could have cooked the tofu a little longer as it was crispy and tender on the outside but just a little bit mushy on the inside…but that was my fault.

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Michele Kropinak March 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I love this recipe! Thank-you. My meat loving husband even ate the tofu!

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Jmrenquist October 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Trying but no matter what I do the extra firm tofu just crumbles…..and falls apart. How do you prevent that???? This is why I almost never cook tofu. Very frustrating.

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Andie Mitchell October 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

Oh that’s the worst! I wonder, are you drying the tofu well before you dip it into the batter. If not, try wrapping a clean kitchen towel (or a stack of paper towels) around the block, then place a flat, heavy object on top (like a heavy frying pan or even a cookbook). This will help to press the moisture out and into the towel, which should firm the tofu even more. Let me know!

Andie

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jamie girl February 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm

omg i’ve never had tofu like this before and i love tofu! me and bf fell in love all over again.. ty sooooo much for this recipe.. the trick to frying tofu is to dry it very well.. i was going to make tofu yesterday and didn’t get around to it so my tofu had a full 24 hours to dry.. i had some batter left over so i microwave-steamed 2 mexican squash’s and fried them after the tofu.. heaven! i’m so happy i stumbled across your site.. can’t wait to try other recipes that you have posted

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Aaron July 31, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Made this tonight and it was delicious! I was looking for a fried chicken-style tofu… this turns out more like battered cod, which I also love(d), but I found myself wishing I had malt vinegar on hand ;) A couple notes: I cut the cayenne in half and it was still quite spicy. Also, the wet batter ran out before I was done, in part because it’s very difficult to control how much sticks to those first few pieces. I fixed this by appropriating some of the dry flour, but others might want to add another little bit from the beginning.

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Lauren August 17, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe!! I have been searching for how to get a fluffy batter on my tofu for years! I would have never thought of seltzer. I added some old bay seasoning and it tasted like fish and chips. Five thousand stars for this recipe :)

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