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Pan Fried Tofu

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Pan fried tofu is made using fresh basil and balsamic vinegar creating an absolutely delicious marinade that soaks into the soft tofu, giving you a burst of flavor with every bite. This protein-packed meal is fast and easy to make, and a wonderful addition to a weeknight meal plan.

basil balsamic pan fried tofu on a blue plate with white rice and chopped parsley. A black kitchen towel and fork are beside the plate.

Pan Fried Tofu Recipe

Surprisingly underrated, tofu is an excellent alternative for protein in any meal. It has an incredible ability to soak up any flavors that are near it and when pan-fried, can easily become the star of any dish.

This is one of the most delicious baked tofu recipes I have made and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  • EASY – Pan-frying tofu is easy. The entire meal, including rice, can be ready in less than 30 minutes.
  • DELICIOUS – The basil balsamic marinade smells so good while the tofu is cooking and adds a delicious flavor.
  • MEAL PREP – This recipe can be served as a dinner and you can meal prep a few batches in glass containers for easy lunches throughout the week.
Close up of cooked pan fried tofu on a plate with white rice.

Recipe Ingredients

If you haven’t used tofu before, it comes in a variety of firmness levels from soft or medium tofu up to firm or extra firm tofu which will be printed on the package. It’s a wonderful addition to any vegetarian meal and is also gluten-free so that everyone at the table can be served.

EXTRA FIRM TOFU – Look for a 14-16 oz container of “extra firm” tofu. This will produce the crispest results.

MARINADE – To make the marinade, you’ll need cooking oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, dried basil and salt.

RICE – I served my tofu with white long grain rice. You could also use quinoa, brown rice or pasta.

Flavor Additions

The wonderful thing about tofu is how easily it carries flavors. For example, chopped green onion mixed with tofu will, over a short amount of time, inherit the green onion flavor.

Here are some suggestions for a little flavor enhancement in this recipe.

MARINADE – Want more tofu flavors? Try one of my 7 easy tofu marinades that will give your tofu incredible flavor. You can use these in a variety of recipes – including salads, wraps and grain bowls.

SOY SAUCE – Add a splash of soy sauce for that salty, umami flavor.

GINGER – Shred a little ginger and add some soy sauce while cooking or sprinkle on top of the completed dish for a little sweet spice.

CHILI POWDER – Add a pinch of chili powder while cooking to bring up the spice level.

SPICES – Add garlic powder or onion powder for even more flavor.

SESAME OIL – Drizzled on top of the finished dish, sesame oil will add an authentic flavor to your dish.

SESAME SEEDS – Toasted sesame seeds can be sprinkled over the finished dish for a slightly nutty flavor.

cooked tofu in a frying pan with wood spatula

How To Make Pan Fried Tofu

One of the quickest and easiest ways to cook tofu is in a frying pan. Follow the steps below to achieve the best results for cooking tofu with this recipe.

  1. PRESS – Remove the tofu from its container and discard the liquid. Set a paper towel on a plate and place the tofu on that. Add 3 more paper towels over the top of the tofu and then place a heavy pan over that and leave for 30 minutes. This will press out any excess liquid.
  2. MARINATE – Cut tofu into 1-inch pieces and add to a zip lock bag. Next, use a mixing bowl to combine the oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, dried basil, and salt. Now add the marinade into the bag and seal with most of the air removed. Leave in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight for best results.
  3. STEAM – Prepare the rice using either a rice steamer or a pot on the stove.
  4. FRY – Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a little cooking oil. Now add tofu and liquids from the bag into the pan and sear. Flip the pieces of tofu until each side is golden brown and has a crispy texture. The sauce will reduce as the tofu begins to crisp.
  5. SERVE – Serve pan-fried tofu with rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Pro Tip: Use a non-stick skillet to prevent sticking. If you are using a stainless or cast-iron pan, be sure to bring it up to temperature before adding the cooking oil and tofu.

How To Store

Leftovers can easily be stored. Here are a few guidelines for storing cooked and un-cooked tofu.

  • REFRIGERATE – Raw and cooked tofu can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you have an opened container of raw tofu, it is suggested to change the water daily.
  • FREEZE – You can freeze raw or cooked tofu for up to 6 months if stored in an airtight container. Thaw by placing it in the fridge overnight.
  • REHEAT – Use a microwave to reheat leftovers or use a pan set on medium heat until tofu is warmed through.

Ways To Serve

You can serve pan fried crispy tofu in a number of delicious ways. Let your imagination run with this. But here are a few suggestions you can try.

  • NOODLES – Try using a rice noodle like vermicelli or even egg noodles as a base for baked tofu.
  • VEGETABLES – Raw fresh veggies like broccoli, carrots and cauliflower can be sauteed with soy sauce and served as a side dish. Or, you can lightly steam, boil or bake your favorite medley.
  • SEAWEED – Thin seaweed slices sprinkled on top will give a salty flavoring to your dish that will taste delicious.
  • GREEN ONIONS – Chop up some green onions and serve them in a dish for your guests to sprinkle over their dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my tofu stick to the pan?

If your tofu is sticking to the pan, there might be too much moisture in your tofu. Be sure to use extra-firm tofu and press it before cooking. You can see simple pressing instructions below in the recipe card or use a tofu press. Also, make sure to heat the frying pan with a bit of olive oil before adding in the tofu.

Can I eat tofu raw?

Yes, you can eat raw tofu. In fact, there are a lot of recipes that call for raw tofu. But crispy pan fried tofu is much more delicious and has a slight crunch that adds to the texture.

Is It OK to not press tofu?

Certain types of tofu can be found in vacu-sealed packaging. This includes flavored and smoked whole tofu pieces. These types don’t need to be pressed. But for the most part, tofu is sold immersed in a water-based brine that needs to be pressed out before cooking if you want it to get that crispy tofu texture.

basil balsamic pan fried tofu close up

Crispy pan fried tofu is often overlooked as an ingredient, but once you have made this recipe, it will quickly become a consideration in any weekly menu.

It is a favorite meat substitute and being both gluten and sugar-free, is a wonderful addition to meal plans that include everyone.

More Plant Based Protein Recipes

If you enjoyed this dish and are looking for more plant based protein recipes, I have listed a few below that have become some of my favorites.

A plate of white rice and cooked cubed tofu.

Pan Fried Tofu

This pan fried tofu is flavored with a delicious marinade and then cooked in a frying pan.
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 52 minutes
Servings: 2 servings



Press Tofu:

  • Remove the tofu from the package and drain any excess liquid.
    Place the tofu on 3-4 paper towels. Then add another 3-4 paper towels on top.
  • Place a clean heavy frying pan or pot on top of the tofu for 30 minutes.This will create a tofu press and squeeze out any excess moisture. If your pan isn't too heavy you can add canned beans to create more weight.
    Replace the paper towels halfway through if they become too wet.
  • Once the tofu has been pressed, chop it in to 1-inch tofu cubes and place in a bag.

Marinate The Tofu:

  • In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients: avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, dried basil and salt. Pour into the bag with cubed tofu and place in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes or longer.
    Note: These marinades work best when tofu can be soaked for at least a few hours – I prefer to marinate overnight.
    Cubed tofu in a bag with marinade.

Pan Fry The Tofu:

  • Heat a frying pan with a bit of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Pan should be hot before adding in the tofu and sauce. Cook until the tofu is browned on each side, about 8-10 minutes.
    Raw marinated tofu in a frying pan.
  • The sauce will reduce during this time and the tofu will get crispy.
  • Serve on a bed of rice with salt and pepper and sesame seeds (optional). Enjoy!

Storage Instructions:

  • Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight glass container. You can reheat the tofu leftovers in the frying pan or microwave.
    A glass dish with half white rice and other half cooked cubed tofu.

Recipe Notes:

  • REFRIGERATE – Raw and cooked tofu can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you have an opened container of raw tofu, it is suggested to change the water daily.
  • FREEZE – You can freeze raw or cooked tofu for up to 6 months if stored in an airtight container. Thaw by placing it in the fridge overnight.
  • REHEAT – Use a microwave to reheat leftovers or use a pan set on medium heat until tofu is warmed through.


Calories: 462kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 27g | Sodium: 716mg | Potassium: 380mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 8IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 99mg | Iron: 4mg

The nutritional information provided is an estimate and is per serving.

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Two images of cubed pan marinated fried tofu on a bed of rice and in a frying pan with the words "The crispiest pan fried tofu" written in the middle.

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