Salt and Pepper Tofu

By: MeganPosted: 03/05/2024 Updated: 02/05/2024
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 30 minutes
Salt and pepper tofu is a savory stir-fried Chinese dish made with firm tofu fried to golden perfection and then tossed with a salt and pepper seasoning blend that comes together in under 30 minutes.
Salt and Pepper Tofu

This crispy salt and pepper tofu is an incredibly delicious easy recipe to make for your busy weeknights with easy pantry staple ingredients. If you are looking for easier weeknight inspiration, check out our silken tofu, hot and sour soup, and teriyaki tofu.

A pair of chopsticks grabbing from a pile of salt and pepper tofu.

What is Salt and Pepper Tofu?

Salt and pepper tofu also known as, jiāo yán dòu fù (椒盐豆腐), is a savory Chinese dish made by coating cubes of firm tofu in seasoned cornstarch and then frying until crispy and then tossing them in a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar and five spice. This Chinese tofu dish is commonly found in Chinese restaurants. Salt pepper tofu can be served as an appetizer, a snack, or a full meal if combined with rice.

Looking down at a plate of salt and pepper tofu with table settings surrounding it.

Ingredients

You can find all the ingredients for this salt pepper tofu recipe at your local grocery store. I have linked everything that I used for you below.

Tofu

  • Firm Tofu: firm tofu or extra firm tofu is ideal because it will hold its shape when frying. Softer forms of tofu may crumble and break apart.
  • Egg: The egg binds the tofu to the cornstarch to create a a golden brown, crispy crust around the tofu.
  • Cornstarch: cornstarch is ideal for coating because it yields a crispy, thin outer fried coating for the crispy salt and pepper tofu.
  • Salt and White Pepper: salt and white pepper in the marinade enforces the salt and pepper flavor in the dish.
The tofu ingredients for salt and pepper tofu.

Stir Fry

  • Green Onion: green onion adds a mild onion flavor with subtle garlic notes to the tofu.
  • Sweet Pepper: sweet peppers add a mildly sweet flavor to the stir fry. You can alternatively use regular bell peppers as well.
  • Chili Pepper: if you’d like to incorporate heat into your dish, add fresh chili peppers in the stir fry.
  • Garlic: garlic adds a rich garlicky aromatic flavor.
  • Neutral Oil: neutral oil for frying the tofu. Make sure to use a neutral flavored oil with a high smoke point like vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
All of the stir fry ingredients prepped and organized in bowls.

Seasoning

  • Salt and White Pepper: salt and white pepper is a delicious combination that yields a milder pepper flavor than traditional black pepper.
  • Garlic Powder: garlic powder adds more garlic flavor to the salt and pepper seasoning.
  • Brown Sugar: brown sugar adds a hint of sweetness for balance.
  • Chinese Five Spice: Chinese five spice adds a unique layer of flavors that is sweet, earthy, spicy, and aromatic.
All the seasonings for making salt and pepper tofu.

Substitutions and Additions

You can customize your crispy salt and pepper tofu with the following suggestions for substitutions and additions.

Substitutions

  • Gluten-free cornstarch: for a gluten-free salt and pepper fried tofu, use gluten-free cornstarch.
  • Spices: you can experiment with a variety of spices and seasonings such as Sichuan peppercorns, black pepper, onion powder, garlic salt, etc.

Additions

  • Vegetables: add additional vegetables such as snap peas, broccoli, and mushrooms for more flavors in your salt and pepper fried tofu dish.
  • Aromatics: onions, shallots, and/or ginger are great additional aromatics for more layers of flavor.
  • Herbs: for more freshness, garnish with cilantro or Thai basil.

How to Make Salt and Pepper Tofu

Here are the recipe instructions for how to make this salt and pepper tofu recipe.

  1. Prepare the tofu and seasoning mixture. Drain the tofu and cut it into 1.5-inch cubes. In a small mixing bowl, mix the salt, white pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, and five-spice powder. Set aside.
  1. Cook the tofu. In a medium pot, add fill halfway with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then add the tofu, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then scoop the tofu out and place it on an even layer on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel. Pat to dry.
  1. Heat the oil. In a large pot or wok, heat enough oil to cover about 1/2-1 inch of the pot until it reaches 375°F (190°C). Prepare a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath.
  2. Prepare the dredging bowls. In a mixing bowl, add the cornstarch, salt, and white pepper and mix. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg and set aside.
  3. Dredge the tofu. Transfer the tofu cubes to the egg bowl and mix to coat. Then working in batches, shake off any excess egg and place the tofu cubes in the cornstarch mixture until evenly coated.
  1. Fry the tofu. Working in batches to prevent overcrowding, gently place the tofu into the hot oil. Avoid moving the tofu for at least 30 seconds before moving them to prevent them from sticking together. Fry for about 4-5 minutes flipping halfway as needed until all sides are lightly golden brown, and remove the tofu with a spider strainer and drain on the wire rack.
Fried tofu lifted from oil with a spider strainer.
  1. Stir fry. In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the bell peppers, chili pepper, and white part of the green onions and cook for 1 minute. Then add the tofu, sprinkle the seasoning mixture, and toss until combined.
Tossing fried tofu with peppers and onions in a large wok.

Tips for the Best Salt and Pepper Tofu

  • Drain the tofu. Drain the tofu by placing the tofu on a paper towel-lined plate and placing another paper towel-lined plate on top. Let the tofu sit for at least 5-10 minutes. The more drained the tofu the crispier the bite.
  • Cut the tofu uniformly. To ensure even cooking and consistent texture, cut the tofu uniformly.
  • Fry the tofu at 375°F (190°C). Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. This will ensure a crispy, not oily texture.
  • Fry in batches. To prevent overcrowding and lowering the oil temperature too drastically fry the tofu cubes in batches.
  • Drain over a wire rack. Place the fried tofu over a baking sheet topped with a wire rack to drain any excess oil and to slightly cool for an extra crispy texture.
  • For extra crispy tofu, double fry. If the texture of your tofu is not crisp enough after 4-5 minutes. Remove the tofu and bring the oil back up to at least 375°F and then double fry the tofu for an additional minute for extra crispy tofu.

Storage Instructions

This Chinese salt and pepper tofu recipe is best consumed immediately. However, you can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Reheat: You can reheat the crispy salt pepper tofu in the oven, air fryer, or on a skillet until warm. For the crispiest option, use the air fryer.

Frequently Asked Q’s and A’s

What type of tofu should I use?

Firm or extra firm tofu will work best for this salt pepper tofu recipe since it will hold its shape well when fried.

How do I serve salt and pepper tofu?

You can serve this salt and pepper tofu recipe as an appetizer or as a main dish. Serve it with a side of steamed rice or soy sauce noodles or lo mein.

How do I get extra crispy tofu?

If your tofu is not crispy enough, your oil may not be hot enough or you are overcrowding your pan. For extra crispy tofu, double-fry the tofu. Fry the tofu for 4-5 minutes then remove the tofu and bring the oil back up to at least 375°F and then double fry the tofu for an additional minute for extra crispy tofu.

How do I reheat leftovers?

You can reheat the crispy salt pepper tofu in the oven, air fryer, or skillet until warm. For the crispiest option, use the air fryer.

Additional Tofu Recipes to Try

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Recipe

A detail shot of a pile of salt and pepper tofu.

Salt and Pepper Tofu

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Salt and pepper tofu is a savory stir-fried Chinese dish made with firm tofu fried to golden perfection and then tossed with a salt and pepper seasoning blend that comes together in under 30 minutes.
Servings: 4 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Tofu

  • 1 lb firm tofu drained and pat dry cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper

Stir Fry

  • 3 stalks green onion whites and greens separated
  • 2 sweet peppers diced
  • 1 chili pepper thinly sliced (optional)
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 4-5 cups vegetable oil for frying

Salt and Pepper Seasoning

Instructions

  • Prepare the tofu and seasoning mixture. Drain the tofu and cut into 1.5-inch cubes. In a small mixing bowl, mix the salt, white pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, and five-spice powder. Set aside.
  • Cook the tofu. In a medium pot, add fill halfway with water, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then add the tofu, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then carefully scoop the tofu out and place in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Gently pat to dry completely.
  • Heat the oil. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or wok, heat enough oil to cover about 1/2-1 inch of the pot until it reaches 375°F (190°C). Prepare a wire rack with a paper towel-lined baking sheet underneath.
  • Prepare the dredging bowls. In a mixing bowl, add the cornstarch, salt, and white pepper and mix until combined. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg and set aside.
  • Dredge the tofu. Transfer the tofu cubes to the egg bowl and gently mix to coat. Then working in batches, shake off any excess egg and place the tofu cubes in the cornstarch mixture until evenly coated. Place on the wire rack to dust off any excess.
  • Fry the tofu. Working in batches to prevent overcrowding, gently place the tofu into the hot oil. Avoid moving the tofu for at least 30 seconds before moving them to prevent them from sticking together. Fry for about 4-5 minutes flipping halfway until all sides are golden brown and carefully remove the tofu with a spider strainer and drain on the wire rack. Make sure to maintain the oil temperature at 350-375 degrees F.
  • Stir fry. In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the sweet peppers, chili pepper, and white part of the green onions and cook for 1 minute while stirring. Then add the tofu, sprinkle the seasoning mixture, and toss until combined.
  • Serve. Garnish with green onions, and serve with a bowl of steamed rice and enjoy!

Notes

  • Drain the tofu. Drain the tofu by placing the tofu on a paper towel-lined plate and placing another paper towel-lined plate on top. Let the tofu sit for at least 5-10 minutes. The more drained the tofu the crispier the bite.
  • Cut the tofu uniformly. To ensure even cooking and consistent texture, cut the tofu uniformly.
  • Fry the tofu at 375°F (190°C). Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. This will ensure a crispy, not oily texture.
  • Fry in batches. To prevent overcrowding and lowering the oil temperature too drastically, fry the tofu cubes in batches.
  • Drain over a wire rack. Place the fried tofu over a wire rack to drain any excess oil and to slightly cool for an extra crispy texture.
  • For extra crispy tofu, double fry. If the texture of your tofu is not crisp enough after 4-5 minutes. Remove the tofu and bring the oil back up to at least 375°F and then double fry the tofu for an additional minute for extra crispy tofu.
  • Storage Instructions: This Chinese salt and pepper tofu recipe is best consumed immediately. However, you can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition:

Calories: 2310kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 237g | Saturated Fat: 36g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 135g | Monounsaturated Fat: 54g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 619mg | Potassium: 227mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2120IU | Vitamin C: 95mg | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 3mg

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