Crispy tofu katsu is easily one of our new favorite ways to prepare restaurant-style tofu at home! Serve this Japanese comfort food favorite over our Japanese curry and rice for the ultimate tofu katsu curry bowl. All you need is 8 ingredients!
What is Katsu?
The word Katsu translates to ‘cutlet’ in Japanese and is essentially the fried chicken of Japanese cuisine! Katsu (also known as Tori Katsu) is traditionally coated in a panko breadcrumb mixture, then fried until extra crispy and golden. Tonkatsu is another popular variation made with the same panko breadcrumb mixture, but uses pork.
Our vegetarian tofu katsu is made with authentic ingredients and cooking techniques but is still easy and approachable enough for new vegans or people new to cooking with tofu.
Here’s What You Need to Make Tofu Katsu
Flour: All-purpose flour is used to dredge the tofu and help the panko breadcrumbs stick. We have only tested this recipe with all-purpose flour, but gluten-free all purpose flour would likely work as well. Leave us a comment if you give it a try!
Cornstarch: An essential ingredient for pan frying extra crispy tofu.
Extra-firm tofu: Please only use extra-firm or super firm tofu to make this tofu katsu. Extra-firm varieties of tofu contain the least amount of water and are essential to achieving the right texture to mimic katsu chicken.
Oil: We recommend vegetable or canola oil as they have high-smoke points and are thus popular choices for frying.
Salt, pepper, and paprika: Simple, but essential to making a flavorful, crispy breading. Adjust seasoning measurements to taste.
Freeze your tofu. At least 24 hours in advance, freeze the block of tofu in its packaging. Once frozen, transfer the tofu to the refrigerator until it has completely defrosted.
Drain and press tofu. This step is important to remove the excess moisture from the tofu and prevent your katsu from becoming soggy. To press tofu, you can either use a store-bought tofu press or use this method here.
Prep your katsu breading station. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Then whisk in the water and mix until smooth. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the panko mixture.
Cut the tofu into slabs. First, cut the pressed tofu block in half lengthwise. Then cut each halve in half lengthwise, resulting in 4 equal pieces.
Dredge the tofu. One piece at a time, dip the tofu in the flour mixture until coated. Allow any excess to drop off, then place directly in the panko mixture and coat completely. Once ready, place the tofu katsu on a wire rack. Repeat with all 4 pieces.
Heat oil for pan frying. Heat 1-inch of oil in a large pan over medium heat until about 350 degrees F. If you do not have a deep frying thermometer, test to determine if the oil is hot enough by carefully tossing a piece of panko in. If it immediately sizzles and floats, the oil is ready.
Fry tofu katsu until golden. Fry each breaded tofu piece for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Once ready, remove the katsu from the oil and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Immediately season with a pinch of salt while hot.
Serve. Slice and serve immediately with Japanese curry and rice.
*Jump down to the recipe for full measurements and instructions.
What Happens to Tofu When You Freeze it?
When Chris and I first went vegan, we were convinced we did not like tofu. It seemed bland, watery, and didn’t taste anything like the chicken recipes we grew up with. But after time, we learned the best ways to cook tofu, which quickly became a staple in our diet.
If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to give up on tofu, you’ve got to try this simple freezing tofu trick! Tofu is made from crushed and boiled soybean pulp and is naturally high in water content. When you freeze blocks of tofu, the water pockets in the tofu turn to frozen ice. As you defrost the tofu, these frozen water pockets melt out of the tofu, leaving air pockets in their place.
This makes the tofu spongy, chewy, and much more chicken-like in texture. Perfect for recipes like this tofu katsu and Grilled Tofu Skewers. It also makes it much easier to quickly press the water out of the tofu.
Basic rules for pan frying safely
Frying at home is simple, but there are a few safety guidelines to keep in mind to prevent fire or serious injury.
Use a deep cooking vessel. If your frying pans are rather shallow, fry in a deep pot instead. This will help prevent oil from flowing over the sides and causing a fire.
Never leave the hot oil unattended. Many recipes, like soups and stews, are safe to allow simmer on low without constant attention, but never leave items frying in oil unattended.
Use tongs or a slotted spoon to gently place tofu in hot oil. This will prevent splashing. Similarly, always remove the tofu with a slotted spoon or tongs for safety.
As with most fried foods, tofu katsu is best enjoyed immediately while hot and crispy. If you have leftovers, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Reheat in a dry pan or air fryer until warm and crispy again.
Crispy tofu katsu is easily one of our new favorite ways to prepare restaurant-style tofu at home! Serve this comfort food favorite over our Japanese curry and rice for the ultimate tofu katsu curry bowl. All you need is 8 ingredients!
½ cup (60g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup (65g) panko
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of black pepper
1 block (16 oz.) extra-firm tofu
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Salt to taste
At least 24 hours in advance, freeze the whole block of tofu (in its packaging) overnight. Once frozen, remove it from the freezer and allow it to defrost. Keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to prepare the rest of the dish.
Drain and press the tofu for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your breading station. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and ½ tsp salt. Then whisk in the water until the mixture is smooth. In another medium bowl, mix together the panko, 1 tsp salt, paprika, and black pepper.
Once the tofu is pressed, cut it in half widthwise. Then cut each piece in half lengthwise so you have 4 equal pieces.
Pat the tofu dry with a towel and season each piece with salt and pepper.
One at a time, coat each piece of tofu in the flour mixture. Allow any excess to drip off before coating in the panko mixture. Then place on a wire rack. Repeat for each piece of tofu.
Heat 1-inch of oil in a large pan over medium heat. To test if your oil is hot enough, toss a piece of panko in. If it immediately sizzles and floats, the oil is ready.
Fry each breaded tofu piece for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Place on a paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with a pinch of salt while they’re still hot.
Serve with Japanese Curry, and enjoy!
Using frozen and thawed tofu yields the best texture, but this recipe also works with tofu that hasn’t been frozen. Just start from step 2.
For 2 larger pieces instead of 4, only cut the tofu in half widthwise.
Prep Time:24 hours 25 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
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