5 Ingredients or Fewer

Salt and Pepper Tofu

June  7, 2016
11 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

I consider the salt and pepper tofu from Northwest Tofu in Seattle the best tofu I've had in the Western hemisphere and tried to recreate it at home. It's a simple enough dish—tofu dusted with starch, salt, and pepper, and then deep fried—but that description barely does it justice. The crust is super thin and light, but full of crispy texture and perfectly seasoned. The tofu itself is so soft and custardy it pretty much melts in your mouth. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy

Test Kitchen Notes

Delicious, versatile, and perfect for a quick weeknight meal! From start to finish it took about 20 minutes, and it will become a go-to. It's also a great base recipe, and I can see tossing in some other flavors (paprika, turmeric, dried chilies, nutritional yeast) to mix it up or enhance a meal. The only downside (as happens with anything breaded) is the moisture and sticking. Keep a towel nearby to dry your fingers as you toss the tofu to prevent clumping! —Maria

What You'll Need
  • 12 ounces firm silken tofu
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan or black peppercorns, finely ground
  • Oil, for frying
  1. Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Mix together the cornstarch, salt, and ground pepper. Pour enough oil into a saucepan to reach 1-inch depth and heat over medium high. The oil is ready for frying when it reaches 350°F or bubbles start to form when you dip a wooden utensil in the oil.
  3. Working in small batches, carefully coat the tofu cubes in a thin layer of the cornstarch mixture—the thinner the better. Fry the tofu, turning after a minute or so, until all sides are a pale, golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
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18 Reviews

Katie S. August 3, 2020
I’ve been making this for years and love it. Is there a way to do it in oven and get it crispy but not messy?
Cheryl April 5, 2020
Better than potato chips! Following suggestions from some below, I used extra firm tofu, wiped with paper towels. Then crumbled it and shook in bag with cornstarch mixture (1 tsp salt was plenty). Sauteed it till very brown-crisp in grapeseed oil. Had a hard time putting on the brakes while eating it. Used it for topping and extra protein for salad. Thank you!
Meaux55 December 18, 2019
I have been looking for a recipe to make one of our favorites since we left Austin, TX. Thank you, Joy! This recipe was just what I wass looking for to achieve the perfect crustiness. I used garbanzo bean flour and a little cumin to dust the tofu and fried them in olive oil. Coconut oil might also add an interesting flavor.
Linda D. August 28, 2018
Thank you, Joy. The tofu was excellent! And thank you, Matthew for the soaking soy sauce and cornstarch in the bag tips.
Stella May 5, 2017
I can't make enough of this for my family! Such a nice crunchy element...may even be better than most fried chicken. I did have to cut back on the salt to a teaspoon but otherwise perfect!
Alexandra G. August 20, 2016
I was one of the testers for this, and my sister and I could not get enough! We are both thoroughly convinced this could turn any tofu hater into a lover.. it was *that good.*
Joy H. August 20, 2016
Oh cool! Thanks for testing the recipe, and I'm glad you liked it!
Efiya F. August 17, 2016
This is also a go-to recipe in my kitchen. I like the coating thicker than just dust, though, so I use all-purpose flour with cold water. The coating turns extra crispy I even love to deepfry the excess batter in small drops. Other than the excess crisps on top, I add fried chopped chillies and fried minced garlic as well to add another layer of taste. Love it!
Matthew August 17, 2016
Love that I saw this here! Have been doing this for years now. Tip: To evenly coat the tofu, simply add the cubed tofu to a gallon zip-lock bag, add a few teaspoons or cornstarch and gently shake. I also sometimes let the cubes sit in a good soy sauce (after pressing, before the cornstarch) for extra flavor. Try this on top of yakasoba-delicious!
Joy H. August 17, 2016
Ooh, that's a great tip! I will have to try that next time!
Helen M. August 17, 2016
I have done something like this, but I had tapioca flour in the cupboard so used that. It works well. I won't say "better" than cornstarch, but I prefer it...
Joy H. August 17, 2016
Awesome! I will have to try that next time!
StreetSong July 31, 2016
This has become a new favorite in our house! I used a box of extra firm rather than firm silken because that's what I had on hand, and opted for the ground black pepper over the Sichuan peppercorns. The texture of silken tofu is critical to the final result. I love the pepper in the dish and think it's just the right amount, but I did cut back on the salt, using about 1-1/2 tsp. altogether. I cut the cubes a bit smaller -- about 5/8 - 3/4 inch size -- and also coated and fried the little tofu crumbles that were left on the cutting board. Those were so crunchy and delicious that I may crumble all the tofu next time I make the recipe. The irregular surface and smaller pieces gave the dish a different and crunchier dimension. Thank you for the recipe, Cooking of Joy. I've made it twice now and will make it again and again. We love it!
Joy H. August 1, 2016
Yay! Fried tofu crumbles sound delicious!
Jeanie P. July 29, 2016
Just made this with regular old firm tofu and Sichuan peppers (toasted and then ground) and it was delicious. So simple and so tasty! Thank you.
Joy H. August 1, 2016
You're welcome!
Jennifer L. July 6, 2016
Is it supposed to be silken tofu or firm tofu? There's no such thing as firm silken tofu as silken tofu is super soft, almost like a soft jelly.
Joy H. July 6, 2016
It's supposed to be extra firm silken tofu. Try googling it and you'll see it does exist! I would not suggest using soft silken tofu, and if you can't find firm or extra firm silken tofu, you can try soft firm tofu.