Whether you celebrate Meatless Monday, or are just curious about meatless meals, this easy and satisfying Crispy Tofu Rice Bowl will show you what all the fuss is about!
We are not Vegan in our house. Nor are we Vegetarian. But we do eat Vegan and/or Vegetarian dishes. I would call us Omnivores – we eat the universe of foods. But our vegan dishes usually are limited to bean-based soups or hearty stews. That’s because tofu once was on our “no-go” list. Although we couldn’t deny the health benefits of a high-protein, plant-based product, some of us (me☺️) couldn’t get beyond the soy flavor after a few bites. Nor the texture that I found to be like a tender version of rubber it sometimes had.
Anyway, enough of the things that used to be true about Tofu in my house. This recipe changed all that! Tofu can be crispy. Tofu can be flavorful! And, it cooks up so quickly and easily!
I’ve had to come to this realization gradually. I have friends who are Vegan and/or Vegetarian. And have eaten some wonderful meals with them. Dining with someone who actually knows how to cook Vegan food or eating at a Vegan restaurant taught me Vegan foods are delicious! I just need to know how to prepare them. Just like Every. Other. Food. You can’t make a pie crust without learning how, right? The same goes for Tofu. Once you learn, it’s easy!
So, I’m working to expand my skills and my repertoire. And this Crispy Tofu Rice Bowl is a good example. An Asian-inspired sauce that is Salty, Sweet, and Tangy to flavor the entire dish. Tofu that has a nice texture and absorbs the flavors of the sauce the way a fish fillet might. For me, these qualities make Vegan cooking so much more attractive and approachable.
So, if you’re like me, and want to “lean in” to Vegetarian/Vegan cooking, I say go right ahead. But start with a dish that will win you over. One full of flavor and texture! Like this Asian Crispy Tofu Bowl!
If you love good bowls of food, check out my other delicious bowls:
Couscous Buddha Bowl with Sumac Onions
Healthy Greek Bowl with Couscous and Kale Salad
Lemony Salmon with Za’atar Chickpea Bowl
Vegan Buddha Bowl with Lime Tahini Dressing
Farro Mushroom Buddha Bowl with Honey Balsamic Dressing
Crispy Tofu Bowl Recipe Details
Some questions you might have about making this dish:
How can I make Tofu more flavorful?
I used to find tofu a bit bland. Ok, a lot bland. But then, Instagram inspired me to make this bowl. One of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer, who IS the Foodess, had an Instagram Story where she froze, then thawed, her tofu so it would absorb sauce better. This is because as the water freezes, it expands a bit. Then when it thaws, it leaves little holes, and creates a more “spongy” or, some might say, “meaty” – type texture. It also absorbs sauces (or marinades) better!
So I did what Foodess does. I just tossed my 14-oz. package of Firm Tofu, liquid and all, into the freezer when I brought it home. The night before cooking it, I put it into the fridge to defrost.
When I was ready to cook, I compressed it to get excess liquid out. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes. Then I made my marinade. Soaked the cubes a bit. (The longer the better to be sure – you could do this part in the morning, then when you’re ready to cook, they will be so full of flavor!)
Do I need to do the freeze/thaw step?
No, you don’t need the freeze/thaw step. However, it does add quite a bit of flavor to the plain tofu, and I feel like it improves the texture, too. It ends having a bit more texture than plain tofu. But if you want to skip it, that’s fine.
What if I have leftovers?
We did have leftovers, and I have to say, the tofu didn’t have that nice crispness the next day, after being refrigerated. But, this is not necessarily any different from other foods that were crispy the night before. So, I can’t really say this is anything abnormal.
Easy Recipe Steps:
PIN Asian Tofu Bowl ->Print
Crispy Tofu Bowl
A delicious, healthy Asian-inspired crispy tofu bowl! Includes rice, but feel free to add any fresh vegetables you would like! Zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms all provide flavor and texture!
Although there’s a bit of Inactive time in this recipe, all the active steps are quite easy!
It’s best to marinate an hour or more, and up to overnight. For best absorption of the marinade, you could freeze your tofu package when you get home from the grocery. Then thaw before using. Once thawed, the texture will be different, and will allow more marinade to be absorbed into the tofu. I realize this takes an extra step, but it is worth it, especially if you’re planning ahead.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 25 min
- Total Time: 25 min + 60 min inactive time
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Vegan
- Method: Saute
- Cuisine: International
- 14–oz (396g) Package Firm or Extra-Firm Tofu, (ideally thawed from frozen)
- 6 Tablespoons (90ml) Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- 5 Tablespoons (75ml) Mirin
- 3 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar (37g) – See Note 1
- 1 1/2 tsp (8 ml) Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) Minced Ginger
- 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar (I use “seasoned”)
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) Canola Oil, plus more, as needed
- 1 c Medium Grain or Jasmine Rice, prepared per package directions
- Chopped Scallions
Compress and Cube Tofu:
- Before cutting tofu into cubes, compress it between layers of paper towels, then covered with a flat plate or board topped with a heavy pan or bowl, for at least 30 minutes. You may need to change the toweling if it becomes soaked. Be careful your weight is not too heavy, so tofu doesn’t crumble. While tofu is being compressed, prepare the marinade (below) and cook rice, as directed on package.
- Once tofu is compressed and seems dry, cut into 1/2″-3/4″ cubes.
Prepare Marinade and Marinate Tofu:
- In a flat-bottomed pan (8×8 at least), mix together the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger.
- Place the tofu cubes in the marinade. Marinate 30 minutes, and up to overnight, turning once. Longer marinading yields more flavor to the tofu.
Fry the Tofu:
- Remove the tofu cubes from the marinade, and RESERVE THE MARINADE.
- Over Medium heat, drizzle in the Canola Oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the tofu cubes. Be sure to watch the heat, you may need to turn it down to Medium-low. I kept mine halfway between Medium-low and Medium. Brown all sides until they are golden and crispy. This takes just a few minutes, and lots of flipping, so keep an eye on it. The sugar in the marinade may result in some caramelization.
- Remove the crispy cubes to a paper towel, but keep the heat on for the sauce.
Make the Sauce:
- Pour the reserved marinade into the pan. You can remove any bits of tofu left in the pan prior to adding the marinade, if you like. I kept them because I wanted the flavors.
- While scraping up any bits, heat the reserved marinade a bit, then add the rice vinegar. Stir into the sauce.
- Serve crispy tofu cubes with rice, and pour sauce over, as desired. Garnish with chopped scallions and/or furikake.
1. If you are Vegan, you can substitute Maple Syrup or corn syrup for the brown sugar.
Keywords: crispy, tofu, bowl, rice, rice bowl, tofu bowl, vegan, vegetarian, easy
I can’t for the life of me see were the you advise how much rice vinegar should be added to the sauce.
Dorian – So sorry, I was updating this recipe and accidentally deleted it – I’ve corrected it, it should be 3 Tablespoons. so sorry!
I tried a recipe similar to this (which I adored). The outside of the tofu was tuff, hard to bite into, It was my first time trying tofu that way so I’m wondering if you may have a suggestion on what I might have done wrong. Can you overcook tofu? Your recipe sound even better than the one I tried, more flavor. Can’t wait to taste this one. You are absolutely right about TOFU getting a bad rap. The sauces and marinates totally change everything. I’m not too big for the mushy (less firm I should say) tofu recipes but addicted to the firm tasty ones. Thanks for sharing
That is a really interesting question. I’ve never come across tofu that is hard to bite into. Possibly the tofu was super-firm and overly pressed? although not even sure that’s a thing. I think this one works because it takes only a few minutes to fry up and crisp. Possibly the first one you tried was overcooked or perhaps baked? Anyway, hope you like this one! I feel like you can expect a crispy-edged, tender-middled cube of tofu with the instructions given. Let me know how it turns out for you! Thanks for taking the tine to comment!
Katherine | Love In My Oven says
I need to pick up some more tofu the next time I’m at the grocery store! This bowl looks fantastic, Laura. So crispy and flavorful! I”ve tried crisping up tofu before without much look. I’ll give your method a go!
Thanks, Katherine! Although it isn’t “crackly crisp” the edges are nicely crisp and ass done much-needed texture to the tofu! Hope you get the chance to try!
Looks lovely Laura. I keep cubed firm tofu in my freezer for just such recipes, so all I need is the mint. I’ll be sure and order some for my next food delivery. Tofu is such a wonderful ingredient that absorbs the flavor of the other ingredients in a dish, but pretty bland on its own. Thanks for sharing…
Thanks, Ton! Hope you get the chance to try this delicious dish! A great idea to keep cubed tofu in the freezer!
Kim Lange says
I really need to try this! Looks so crispy and delicious Laura!
Thanks, Kim! I have to say my family of tofu-questioners loved it! Two thumbs up from my teenage son is practically a miracle!
I used to be a tofu sceptic as well but must say that, like you, all the Instagram photos of crispy tofu bowls have been growing on me. I love the freezer trick from Jennifer and so glad to hear it’s worked for you. Your photos look stunning – I need to give this a try!
Thanks, Katerina! I think it’s the only way I could enjoy tofu: great texture and full of flavor! 😊
Dawn - Girl Heart Food says
My kinda bowl! We always have tofu on hand and this looks like a must try! Delicious 🙂
Thanks, Dawn! Hope you get the chance! It’s a delicious way to make tofu!!
Kelly @ Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats says
I’m not vegan or vegetarian but this looks yummy! I definitely would love this for dinner! Love how crispy the tofu looks!
Thanks, Kelly! It did turn out nice and crispy. We all loved it. The flavors were great and the crispiness and texture were perfect with the rice and sauce!
David @ Spiced says
So this post really resonates with me. Like you, I can’t get past the rubbery, squeeky texture of tofu. Yuck. I’ve heard crispy tofu is much butter, but I was still skeptical. However, I trust your opinion! And that’s a really cool trick about freezing the tofu first.
Thanks, David! I think the freeze/thaw is magical in terms of texture. No squeak! Ha! And with a texture that absorbs the marinade, even better – flavor! Thanks for visiting, my friend!
FABULOUS, AND PRETTY! I’ve always loved tofu and just ordered some. (I’m still having my groceries delivered!) Can’t wait to try your recipe.
Thanks, Mimi! I hope you get the chance to try this! Thanks for visiting!
Eha Carr says
Hello from eastern Australia! Or should I say Australasia food wise 🙂 ! Your bowl does present in a very appetizing way . . . I am a definite omnivore also but learnt to eat tofu back in my twenties already on many business trips to Japan. Use the firm more than the silky and always have it in the house for the many stir-fries which end on the plate here. Yours is a lovely classic way to add flavour to this ingredient always ready to adapt. If I cook it on its own methinks I would add garlic alongside the ginger or galangal and reach for some sherry and a tad of fish sauce . . .yummy as a child would say . . ..
Thanks, Eha! I love your ideas for additional ingredients – they definitely would add some additional “punch”. Going to have to try those next time! I agree, so YUMMY! thanks for visiting and leaving a nice comment!