Crispy Tofu with Spicy Chili Crisp Peanut Sauce
House rule? No boring tofu allowed.
This Crispy Tofu with Spicy Chili Crisp Peanut Sauce delivers. It is one of my favorite tofu preparations to date and it has earned a permanent spot in our dinner rotation.
Today’s recipe was lightly inspired by this reader-favorite No-Cook Spicy Tofu. The flavor profiles are similar, but the texture and effect is very different. If you’re a tofu skeptic, I have a feeling this dish will turn you into a believer!
Why You’ll Love This Crispy Tofu:
Torn tofu chunks (we’re going for maximum texture!) are coated in oil and cornstarch, baked until light and crispy, and tossed with an incredibly flavorful, umami-packed sauce made from three ingredients: spicy chili crisp, peanut butter, and soy sauce.
We top everything off with lots of sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and toasted sesame seeds for contrast.
There is something about crispy food (tofu, chicken, vegetables!) tossed with a creamy, spicy sauce that truly irresistible.
Spicy Chili Crisp Peanut Sauce Ingredients:
- SPICY CHILI CRISP: there are many different kinds of spicy chili crisp and flavors and ingredients can vary brand to brand. This recipe was developed using Lao Gan Ma’s Spicy Chili Crisp, the classic cult-favorite and my favorite. It is delightfully crunchy, garlicky, and gets its signature heat from Szechuan pepper powder. For ease and best price, I like to order large jars of it from Amazon! Note: Be sure to stir the jar well before measuring as the mixture settles.
- CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER: a touch of natural peanut butter (ideally, unsalted) adds creaminess and heft to the sauce.
- SOY SAUCE: for added flavor and seasoning. If you’re using salted peanut butter, reach for the reduced sodium variety!
Other Ingredients You’ll Need:
- LIMES: fresh lime juice adds a lovely and much-needed punch of acid!
- SCALLIONS: we’re adding lots of sliced scallions (green onions). They add lots of texture and vibrancy to this dish.
- CILANTRO: for freshness and added flavor.
- SESAME SEEDS: technically optional, but I love the color and contrast they offer.
How to Make Crispy Tofu:
To make crispy tofu, the first and most important step is to remove as much moisture from the tofu as possible. Here’s an easy tutorial on how to press tofu without any special kitchen tools or equipment.
The key to the crispiest tofu? Tearing the tofu into chunks (to make lots of nooks and crannies!) and tossing in cornstarch. Don’t skip either! While pan-frying does yield the crispiest texture, it requires a more attention, time, and oil.
For that reason, I’ve opted for the oven for this preparation. Baked tofu doesn’t get quite as crispy as pan-fried tofu, but it does the job. Here’s how to do it!
Making Crispy Tofu in the Oven:
- Preheat an oven to 400°F (204℃) with the convection setting (if you do not have a convection setting, increase the temperature to 425°F/220℃ – watch carefully during roasting).
- Using your hands, gently tear the (pressed) tofu block into ¾-inch (large bite size) chunks. Set in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon avocado or vegetable oil. Using your hands, gently toss the pieces until they’re evenly coated.
- Add 1/3 cup cornstarch to the bowl and gently toss until the tofu pieces are well coated on all sides – add more cornstarch if needed. Transfer the tofu to a parchment-lined sheet pan, setting the pieces apart so they are not touching one another. Lightly drizzle the tofu pieces once again with avocado (or vegetable) oil.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tofu is crispy and lightly golden brown, flipping the pieces halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack for cool for 1 to 2 minutes.
How to Serve This Dish:
We love serving this crispy tofu with a simple soba noodle salad (recipe coming soon!) or steamed rice alongside steamed or charred vegetables. Broccoli or green beans are great choices.
If you’re looking for a light, no-cook alternative, this Chinese cucumber salad is another great choice!
Crispy Tofu with Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce
- 1 package (12-14 oz) extra firm tofu drained and pressed (see how to press tofu)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) avocado or vegetable oil plus more for drizzling (see headnote)
- ⅓ cup (40g) cornstarch
Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons (32g) natural creamy peanut butter preferably unsalted
- 2 tablespoons (35g) Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp stir jar well before measuring
- 1 tablespoon (18g) soy sauce plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon (15g) water plus more as needed
Mix-In's and Toppings:
- ½ lime
- 3 scallions, white and green parts trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias (½ cup sliced)
- small handful cilantro leaves roughly chopped (¼ cup)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds optional
- Prep Note: Be sure to set aside time to drain and press the tofu block well – this usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Follow my simple directions on how to press tofu (no equipment needed).
Make the Crispy Tofu:
- Preheat an oven to 400°F (204℃) with the convection setting (if you do not have a convection setting, increase the temperature to 425°F/220℃ but watch carefully during roasting). Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Using your hands, gently tear the pressed tofu block into ¾-inch (large bite size) chunks. Set in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with the avocado (or vegetable) oil. Using your hands, gently toss the pieces until they're evenly coated. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and gently toss until the tofu pieces are well coated on all sides – adding more cornstarch if needed. Transfer the tofu to the parchment-lined sheet pan, setting the pieces apart so they are not touching one another. Lightly drizzle the tofu pieces once again with avocado (or vegetable) oil. Seasoning Note: The sauce is heavily seasoned, you do not need to salt the tofu or season it with soy sauce, as some recipes call for, which in my experience prevents it from crisping quite as well.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tofu is crispy and lightly golden brown, flipping the pieces halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack for cool for 1 to 2 minutes before tossing with the sauce (see below). While the tofu is baking, prepare the spicy crispy chili sauce (see below).
- Prepare Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce: Whisk the peanut butter, spicy chili crisp, and soy sauce together in a large serving bowl. Add 1 tablespoon water and whisk to combine. Texture Note: The sauce will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add another teaspoon (or so) of water before tossing with the tofu – you don't want the sauce to be too thick otherwise it won't distribute itself well on the tofu pieces. If you run a whisk across the bottom of the bowl, the sauce should fill in relatively quickly – if it holds its shape or fills in slowly, it is too thick. Add another teaspoon or so of water and whisk to combine.
- Add Mix In's and Toppings: Add the hot crispy baked tofu to the bowl with the sauce and using a large spoon, toss everything together until all of the tofu pieces are evenly coated. Add the juice of ½ lime along with the sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and sesame seeds. Toss once again and season to taste, adding another splash of soy sauce if needed. Serve immediately.
- Storage Notes: This tofu dish is best served warm right after you've made it, but tastes surprisingly good as leftovers cold from the fridge ((*it will have an intriguingly chewy, not crispy texture!).
- If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a review and ⭐️ rating! Thanks for your support!