Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu

Try this Chinese restaurant-style Crispy Salt and Pepper Tofu!
These are coated pieces of tofu cubes cooked to a crisp before being sautéed with an aromatic blend of salt, white pepper, Chinese five spices, garlic, onions, and some chilies for extra spice! This is perfect if you’re craving take-out too and is great for sharing.



  • 500 g extra firm tofu

For Frying

  • Neutral Oil such as vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.

Spice Mix For Sprinkling

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • /4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp 5 spice powder

Tofu Coating

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch  plus 1-2 tbsp more if needed
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp 5 spice powder

For Sautéing

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic from 1 head garlic
  • 3 long green chiles 
  • 3 bird’s eye chilies or other red chiles optional for spice
  • 1 small green or red bell pepper
  • 3 scallions sliced
  • Additional 1/4 tsp sea salt if needed



  • Drain the excess water from the tofu for 10 to 15 minutes. I like to do this by wrapping them in paper towels and placing them on a flat surface before putting a plate or flat heavy surface on top. You can also opt to use a tofu press.
  • Slice the tofu into 1” cubes or other shape of choice. I personally prefer to slice them into small cubes since they’re much crispier in small pieces compared to larger ones.

Mix for Sprinkling

  • Prepare the salt and spices in a small bowl. Mix well then set aside for later.

Before Coating and Frying

  • Before you start coating your tofu, heat a large pan or wok over high heat with oil enough to submerge at least half of your tofu. I prefer to completely submerge them in oil to really evenly crisp the sides. If pan-frying, see the steps in the notes below.
  • This step is important—you’ll want to make sure your oil is VERY hot before you cook the tofu. I also prefer to coat them right before frying so the tofu doesn’t sit i the starch too long—when it does the tofu starts to release some liquid and dampen the starch, causing it to stick to one another.

Coating and Frying the Tofu (See Pan-Frying Option in Notes Below)

  • In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder.
  • Coat the tofu in batches. You can add around 1/3 of the tofu cubes (depending on the size of your pan/wok) into the cornstarch mix. Roll the tofu into the starch until they’re white and well coated well.
  • Check the heat of the oil. If you see small bubbles, you can test it out by getting a small piece of tofu. Add it in the oil and if it immediately sizzles very rapidly, it’s good to do! Remember, you’ll want to fry the tofu quickly to get them crisp evenly so the oil has t be very hot.
  • Add in the first batch of coated tofu. Make sure not to overcrowd the pieces of tofu so they can all cook well.
  • Leave the tofu to cook for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through as needed, until all sides are cooked through and crisp. You’ll know the cornstarch s cooked through when it dries up and gets firm and crisp. The tofu won’t turn to a golden brown—just a very pale yellow.
  • While the first batch of tofu cooks, you can go ahead and add in another batch of tofu cubes into the starch mixture to coat it well.
  • When the first batch is done cooking, remove the tofu cubes from the oil. Transfer it to a strainer or cooling rack to cool. Don’t place them on a plate with paper towels since they’ll get soggy. Do not cover them as well.
  • Add in the next batch of tofu cubes into the oil. Repeat the coating and frying process for the rest of the tofu—so you’ll repeat this 3 to 4 times depending on the size of your pan/wok.
  • Set aside the fried tofu cubes while we sauté the rest of the ingredients.
  • Remove the oil form the wok/pan.


  • In the same pan/wok over high heat, add in some oil.
  • When hot, add in the onions and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Move the onions to the side of the pan/wok and then add in the garlic.
  • Leave the garlic to cook over medium high heat until golden brown and crisp for 3 to 4 minutes. You can add in the chiles and peppers to cook down as well.
  • When the garlic is golden brown, add in the scallions then mix everything together and leave to cook for 1-2 more minutes until the chiles and onions are cooked.
  • Over high heat, add in the first tofu cubes.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of the salt and spice mix first.
  • Mix the tofu well, then sprinkle in the rest.
  • Taste the tofu and feel free to add more salt, to taste, if needed.
  • Serve and enjoy immediately while still hot and crisp.
  • Garnish with additional scallions, if desired. You’ll want to scoop up those little bits of crispy garlic, onions and chiles, and enjoy it with rice. So good!


Pan-Frying Option:

  1. Heat a large non-stick pan and enough neutral oil to thinly coat the surface of your pan. Once hot, add in the first batch of tofu. Make sure they’re spaced apart.
  2. Cook each side of the tofu over medium heat until  lightly brown and crisp, around 3-5 minutes on each side. While cooking, you can go ahead and coat the next batch.
  3. When the first batch is done cooking, remove them from the pan and drain excess oil. Set aside.
  4. Repeat the coating and pan-frying process for the rest of the tofu.
Salt and Pepper Tofu | China Sichuan Food

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