This air fryer tofu is SO easy to make and delivers the texture of fried tofu in a much healthier way. Toss in a quick honey sesame glaze and serve alongside your favorite grains and veggies for a filling, better-for-you meal.
Tofu is a slightly controversial food item in my house. I really like it in all forms, but my husband is not its biggest fan. He definitely appreciates vegetarian protein options (he LOVES tempeh tacos), but his issue with tofu comes down to its texture.
I can’t say that I blame him. It definitely has a squish that can turn people off.
It all comes down to how you cook it. Frying it traditionally crisps up the exterior and makes it more hearty and less squishy, but isn’t the healthiest method of preparation out there.
Enter, air fryer tofu. After learning how easy it is to make an air fryer baked potato, I started side-eyeing all of my go-to recipes to see if they could be ~*reinspired*~. I mean, baked tofu is great, but it takes around 40 minutes of cook time to really crisp up.
After tinkering for the better part of this year (the pleasure was all mine “testing” out a recipe this good), I’m happy to report with a few tips and tricks, you can indeed achieve American Chinese take-out style tofu, all made lighter with the air fryer.
- Tofu: Either firm or extra-firm tofu varieties work well here. They both will benefit by being pressed before cooking, so it’s not a big deal if you can’t find extra-firm. Silken tofu will not work as it’s too soft.
- Oil: Just two teaspoons of oil are enough to coat a whole block’s worth of tofu cubes, keeping this dish on the lighter side. I use olive oil, but you can use your preferred relatively neutral-flavored cooking oil.
- Cornstarch: Tossing the tofu in cornstarch absorbs surface moisture and helps the outside coating of the cubes crisp up in the air fryer.
Honey Garlic Sesame Sauce
You can certainly stop there and enjoy this healthy air fried tofu as-is or with the glaze of your choosing, but we really enjoy the glaze below.
- Soy sauce: Reduced-sodium is my pick to keep that level in check.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger adds a brightness to the sauce. Frozen crushed ginger cubes are a good option if you often don’t have ginger root on hand.
- Cornstarch: There’s more cornstarch added to the glaze as it thickens it perfectly to coat the air fryer tofu.
- Honey: You can sub in maple syrup or agave nectar for vegan substitutes.
- Sriracha: You can skip this if you don’t like spice or you can sub in an equivalent: chili garlic sauce, chili oil, chili crunch, etc.
- Press the Tofu: Firm or even extra-firm tofu will benefit by being pressed before slicing and cooking. This expels excess moisture, making it denser and more sturdy. Aim to press it for at least 30 minutes.
You don’t need a specific tofu press for this, rather the below photo shows my usual set-up. The block of tofu is situated between two layers of paper towels on a plate with something heavy on top. Big 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes work well.
- Cut the tofu into equal cubes, add it to a bowl, and toss to coat with olive oil, then the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
- Place the coated tofu cubes in a single layer on your air fryer basket, leaving a little space between them.
- Air fry the tofu at 375°F (191°C) for 8 minutes, then carefully remove the basket and, using tongs, flip each piece of tofu over. Set the timer to air fry for another 8-9 minutes, or to whenever the tofu is looking perfectly golden-brown and has crisped to your liking.
- Meanwhile, start the glaze once the tofu goes in for the second half of its cook time as it doesn’t take long to make. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and whisk while it heats and thickens.
- Once the air fryer tofu is done, drizzle with glaze (or toss it in to coat completely), then serve alongside your favorite grains and veggies.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- While not entirely necessary, I like to sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu through a metal sieve. Sort of like how you dust something with powdered sugar. This prevents the cornstarch from dispensing unevenly and clumping up in any one area.
- Greasing or spraying your air fryer basket with non-stick spray helps tremendously to allow the tofu to release when you go to flip them over.
- I have a toaster oven/air fryer combination, which is why my basket might look a little different than the norm. I *love* it for its combo usage (it’s our only toaster) and all the surface area in this air fryer basket vs. some stand-alone models. More often than not whatever I’m making can be air fried all in one batch.
No, silken tofu will not work for air frying in this method. Silken tofu is much softer with a higher water content, and wouldn’t hold up well to slicing and tossing. It would likely fall apart.
Air fryer tofu is best served right away, though it will stay in the refrigerator for several days. The texture will just become softer as the tofu soaks up the glaze.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Air Fryer Tofu
- 1 14-ounce block firm or extra-firm tofu
- 2 teaspoons olive oil or other neutral-flavored cooking oil
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon sriracha or to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- Drain tofu (both firm or extra-firm) and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Place another paper towel or two over top and then top with another plate. Place something heavy (such as canned goods) over top and let the tofu press for 30 minutes.
- Once pressed, cut the tofu into ¾-inch to 1-inch cubes and add to a medium mixing bowl.
- Gently toss tofu cubes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch over top and gently toss to evenly coat the tofu.
- Spray air fryer basket very well with cooking spray. Place the tofu cubes in the basket in a single layer with equal space between them.
- Air fry at 375°F (191°C) for 8 minutes, then remove the basket from the air fryer. Flip over each tofu cube and air fry again for another 8-9 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp to your liking.
- While the tofu is air frying, add soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sriracha, and cornstarch to a small saucepan and whisk well to combine. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking ever so often, until the glaze begins to thicken. Remove the saucepan from the heat if it starts thickening too much before the tofu is ready.
- Once air fried, toss the tofu in the glaze and serve with your favorite sides (brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, etc.)
- For best results, sift the cornstarch, salt, and pepper through a metal sieve over the tofu to ensure it disperses in an even layer without clumps.
- Storage: This air fryer tofu is best served warm, right after it’s been cooked. It can be refrigerated for several days, however the tofu will soften up as it absorbs the glaze.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.