A super easy-to-make Salt and Pepper Air Fryer Tofu that's perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This gluten-free and vegan tofu recipe requires just 5 ingredients and 15 minutes of cooking time to make. Dip it into some sweet chili sauce for a tasty appetizer or pair it with rice and veggies for a quick and delicious dinner.
I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.
I LOVE deep fried food.
Or should I say, I USED TO LOVE deep fried food.
See, the problem is that fried food doesn't love me. 🙁
Even gluten-free deep fried food gets to me and I just feel like "yuck!"
And when I order something deep fried off the gluten-free menu at a restaurant like French fries or fried pickles or some other fried plant substance, I proceed to blame everyone around me for "letting" me eat it instead of learning my lesson like a big girl and just not ordering the dang stuff.
Anyway, I also really love tofu. And, I really love deep FRIED tofu...especially salt and pepper tofu.
But of course, just like all the other deep fried items, deep fried tofu doesn't love me.
So, that's why I was elated to receive the most wonderful Christmas gift...an air fryer!
Thank you Santa and all the elves for allowing me to now fry a bunch of stuff without feeling like "yuck!" 😉
What's so great about an air fryer?
Well, an air fryer allows you to "fry" foods with little to no oil.
Of course, the food is not really being "fried" because it's not being submerged in in oil, but it does achieve the crispiness that we know and love about fried food.
It also allows you to cook items you would normally roast in the oven, such as Brussels sprouts or butternut squash while using less oil and not having to turn on your oven.
You can also make baked items in the air fryer such as baked potatoes for example, or even sweet baked goods such as muffins and cupcakes.
Ingredients you'll need
- Extra Firm Tofu - I prefer to use organic tofu. Some of my favorite brands are Nasoya, 365 Everyday Value, Earth Grown and Greenwise.
- Olive Oil - Because this recipe is made in the air fryer, you only need 1 tablespoon of oil for this dish which is much less compared to the amount needed when using a deep fryer, wok or shallow frying in a skillet.
- Cornstarch - I prefer to use a non-GMO brand.
- Fine Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper - You can use white pepper if preferred.
How to make salt and pepper air fryer tofu - step by step
Press the tofu
Oh, by the way, I also got another awesome gift...a tofu press!
If you have a tofu press, you can use it to press your tofu by following the instructions that come with your press.
This is the tofu press I have. I've been extremely happy with it and how quickly and easily it works to remove water from the tofu.
If you are using this particular press, you will only have to press your tofu for 15 minutes for this dish. I am not sure about the timing when using other tofu press brands, so you should check the instruction manual.
Of course, you can also press your tofu without using a special press by using the kitchen towel/heavy pot method.
Place the block of tofu in the center of a clean, absorbent kitchen towel on a sturdy plate. Wrap the tofu with the towel.
Place a heavy object, such as a large pot or some books on top of the tofu to press.
When using this method, you will have to press the tofu slightly longer for this recipe, about 20 minutes.
Prepare the tofu
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
Add tofu to a mixing bowl. Add olive oil to to the tofu. Use a silicone spatula or your hands to coat the tofu with olive oil.
Add the cornstarch mixture. Use a silicone spatula or your hands to coat the tofu with the cornstarch mixture.
Preheat the air fryer
If you are using the Ninja air fryer that I have, be sure to insert the crisper plate.
Other brands may have a similar crisper plate/tray insert, while others may not.
Lightly grease the bottom of the crisper plate or air fryer basket with olive oil or a non-aerosol, propellant-free olive oil spray.
The air fryer should be preheated for 3 minutes at a temperature of 390° F prior to cooking the tofu.
Air fry the tofu
After preheating, add the coated tofu cubes to the air fryer basket in a single layer.
Air fry the tofu at 390° F for 15 minutes, shaking the basket 3-5 times throughout cooking.
Serving the tofu
This salt and pepper tofu pairs perfectly with steamed rice and veggies for a quick and easy dinner.
It tastes great topped with scallions too!
It also makes a great appetizer when served with a side of sweet chili sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.
Storing and reheating
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days
You can pop the tofu back in the air fryer for a few minutes until warmed throughout or even the oven or toaster oven to reheat it.
You can also eat the tofu cold if you'd like, but it won't be crispy anymore.
You might also enjoy:
Salt and Pepper Air Fryer Tofu
- Press the tofu using a tofu press or the kitchen towel/heavy object method. See notes below for pressing instructions without a tofu press. Depending on the method used, the tofu will need to press for 15-20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, salt and pepper (use ½-3/4 teaspoon pepper depending on your heat preference) and set aside.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and add to a mixing bowl. Add olive oil to to the tofu. Use a silicone spatula or your hands to coat the tofu with olive oil. Add the cornstarch mixture. Use a silicone spatula or your hands to coat the tofu with the cornstarch mixture.
- If the air fryer you have comes with a crisper plate/tray or something similar, insert it into the air fryer basket. Lightly grease the bottom of the crisper plate or air fryer basket with olive oil or a non-aerosol, propellant-free olive oil spray. Preheat the air fryer for 3 minutes at a temperature of 390° F prior to cooking the tofu.
- Add the tofu and air fry at 390° F for 15 minutes until desired crispiness is reached, shaking the basket 3-5 times throughout cooking.
(Please refer to the post above for instructional photographs for this recipe)
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