The Secret Tofu Technique You Never Knew Existed: How To Make Marinated Crispy Tofu

Marinated crispy tofu may sound like a misnomer, but it really is possible to get stir fried tofu with crunch with one just one easy additional step! 

Marinated crispy tofu on a plate with asparagus

Tofu is a wonderful plant based protein, but boy is it bland! However, the good news is that it will readily absorb whatever flavour you ad. That’s where marinating saves the day!

We already have a crispy pan fried tofu recipe on the Unknown Chef, but wanted to experiment a little more with different spicing and technique – so here is another variation.

How to Make Tofu Stir Fry

Slice the tofu in two down the middle and then cut into slices as shown. That gives you a good surface area to marinate the tofu.

Sliced tofu on a cutting board

Marinating the Tofu

When you mix the marinade, be sure to only pour half into the dish you’re marinating in. You’ll add the chilli garlic sauce and chilli powder to the remainder, then set it aside to use as a sauce when you stir fry the tofu (or you can serve it on the side instead).

pouring soy sauce into a pie dish

Season the Marinade

Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. Since this recipe is gluten free, we’re using tamari sauce in place of soy sauce. However, if you’re not gluten free and choose to use soy sauce, take that into consideration that it may be salty and use less.

pouring salt into a pie dish

You may find, as we did, that one pie dish isn’t nearly big enough to marinate all the tofu so you’ll likely need two. We actually transferred some of the marinade into our fry pan and finished this process of soaking the rest of the tofu. That way, we didn’t have to clean another dish (just wipe out the pan with a paper towel before you start cooking).

Soak the tofu on one side and then flip it around. When you let it sit for only half an hour, you may find that the marinade hasn’t soaked in completely. So if you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table like us, just pour the excess into the reserved sauce to use when stir frying the tofu later.

Turning tofu over in a pie plate to marinate the other side for marinated crispy tofu

As the tofu soaks, start cutting the onion and the garlic.

Sliced onion and garlic on a cutting board in front of marinated tofu

The secret to crispy tofus is the same trick we use in this recipe for the crispiest chicken wings – cornstarch.

Make sure you pat the tofu dry with a paper towel after marinating and before coating or it will absorb too much of the cornstarch. I don’t know how this happened by I forgot to get a shot of putting the tofu into the cornstarch.

Tofu Stir Fry

Anyway, once you get it all combined in the pan, cook it until the sauce is just about absorbed. However, if you prefer your tofu even crispier, combine with the onion and hold back the sauce. You can serve it on the side as a dipping sauce instead.

Marinated crispy tofu in pan with onion and sauce

Marinated Crispy Tofu

We hope you enjoy this version of our crispy tofu stir fry recipe! You can have fun with this tofu recipe. Experiment, like we did, with technique and spicing to come up with something completely different.

marinated crispy tofu on a plate garnished with onion and asparagus

Crispy tofu can be an appetizer or main dish. Here’s another serving suggestion by building a salad:

tofu in a bowl of salad

Photo Source: Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

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Marinated Crispy Tofu

Course Main Course
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 3 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp Salt and pepper (or to taste_
  • 14 ounce package of extra firm tofu drained, patted dry and halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4” pieces
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil divided
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 tsp cumin seeds crushed (or 2 tsp ground cumin)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce or more if you like it spicy
  • Thinly slice green onion optional
  • Sesame seeds optional


  • Mix together the soy sauce and tamari. Pour half into a pie plate. Into the remaining sauce, add 1 tablespoon water and 1/4 tsp of chili garlic sauce. Reserve this half for later.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the tofu and turn to coat with the marinade. Let marinate for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. If there is extra, pour back into reserve.
  • In the meantime, prepare the onion and garlic.
  • Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel. Pour the cornstarch onto a plate and coat both side of each piece ensuring the cornstarch adheres; shake off and set aside until all are coated.
  • Divide the oil into two pans; one for the onion and a larger pan to cook the tofu.
  • Over med-low heat, heat the oil and start cooking the onion and sprinkle on the cumin and chilli powder. Stir frequently and cook 4 1/2 minutes until slighted softened.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer and gook until golden and crisp on the bottom (3-4 minutes). Flip to the other side and cook another 3 - 4 minutes.
  • When the onion is almost cooked, add the garlic for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to the larger pan with the tofu and turn down the heat to medium low. Stir in the sauce and cook until it’s almost absorbed, turning the tofu to coat, about 1 minute.
  • Serve with rice. Add optional green onion and sesame seeds for garnish.


If you prefer your tofu really crispy, add in the onion at the end, but hold back the sauce. Serve the sauce on the side or over rice. 

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