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Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

This Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu is a great topping for congee or rice bowls, a flavourful filling for bao or sandwiches, or just for snacking on. It’s super easy and quick to make in an air fryer. However, you can bake it in the oven if you don’t have an air fryer; it just takes a while longer.

Video Tutorial for Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

Why make this Crunchy Five Spice Tofu in an air fryer?

This Crunchy Five Spice Tofu is:

  • crunchy (duh!),
  • flavourful with a mix of sweet, tangy and savory,
  • aromatic,
  • a great source of protein, and
  • super quick to make!


The benefit of making this recipe in an air fryer vs baking are:

  • it’s faster! The fast-moving hot air in an air fryer bakes the tofu more quickly than when you bake in a conventional oven.
  • Crispier on the outside. Because the air fryer works fast, the outside can get crisp more quickly, leaving the interior more moist.
  • Keeps your home cooler. The air fryer won’t heat up your space the way a conventional oven will and the appliance itself cools down more quickly after it’s done.

How to Make Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

You can make this deliciously crunchy five spice tofu in three steps: dry the tofu, add the marinade and light coat of oil, and air fry! You’ll have these beautiful high-protein nuggets in 30 minutes or less.

1. Dry the tofu

Select extra firm tofu for this recipe, then open the package and drain the water. Then, the trick to this recipe is removing more excess water from the tofu before mixing it with marinade. Tofu is like a sponge, filled with tiny pockets that are filled with water. Put the tofu in a clean kitchen towel (choose a lint-free one) and squeeze it. The water will be forced out of the tofu, leaving those pockets with room to absorb the flavours in the marinade.

2. Mix with marinade

Mix together 1/4 cup maple syrup (or your choice of liquid sweetener), 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar), 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste. The mixture will be sweet, sour, salty and fragrant from the spices.

Add the dried tofu pieces and mix will so that the marinade can soak into each and every piece. Finally, drizzle over the oil and mix again.

3. Air Fry the Marinated Tofu

Then, transfer the tofu to your prepared air fryer and cook for 20 minutes. Depending on how large or small your tofu crumbles are, you will have super crunchy crumbs or hefty chunks that are crispy around the edges and tender on the inside.

Got a bunch of Chinese Five Spice Powder? Use it in these recipes:

Special Ingredients and Substitutions

This recipe has only a few ingredients so it’s important to use good quality ingredients and stick to the list for the most part. Chinese black vinegar, Chinese Five Spice Powder, and Dark Soy Sauce can all be found at Chinese and other East Asian grocery stores, as well as, well stocked International foods aisles in major grocery stores. Of course, they also can be found online. All that said, you can find some substitutions.

Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) is a dark, slighty sweet and complex mild vinegar. While it is unique, you can get away with substituting balsamic vinegar in a pinch. 

Chinese Five Spice powder can vary in composition and sometimes contains more than five spices. But commonly, it contains cinnamon, star anise, orange peel, and ginger. You can find some recipes online and put it together yourself if you can’t find a premade blend.

Dark soy sauce is slightly less salty tasting that regular or light soy sauce. Also, it’s more complex tasting with a slightly syrupy consistency. Finally, as the name suggests, dark soy sauce much darker in color. If you cannot source it, use any soy sauce you like. 

To make this recipe gluten-free, choose gluten-free tamari and a gluten-free balsamic vinegar instead of dark soy sauce and Chinese black vinegar.

How to make Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu in the Oven

While I highly recommend making this recipe in the air fryer, you can still make it in the oven with good results. Follow the same first two steps but take more care to rip the tofu into small bite-sized pieces. Then, spread out the marinated tofu evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in your oven preheated to 400°F for 20 minutes at first. Then flip the pieces. Check the doneness and bake for about 10 more minutes. You may need a little more or less time depending on your oven and the size of the tofu pieces.

Printable recipe for Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

Yield: 4 servings

Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu

This Air Fryer Crunchy Five Spice Tofu is excellent as a topping for congee or rice bowls or as a filling for bao or sandwiches. It's super flavourful with aromatic Chinese Five Spice powder, savory dark soy sauce, tangy Chinese black vinegar, and sweet maple syrup. Best of all, it's quick and easy to make in your air fryer.

See notes for oven-baking instructions.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 12oz (350g) block extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Drain the tofu. Wrap it up in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it to remove excess water. Rip the tofu into bite-sized chunks. Wrap them again in a dry lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze gently to further remove water. Add the tofu to the marinade and mix gently until all the marinade is absorbed. Drizzle the oil over the tofu and mix gently.
  3. Prepare your air fryer basket with some oil so that the tofu doesn't stick. Transfer the tofu to your air fryer basket and cook at 400°F (205°) for 20 minutes, shaking the basket halfway.

Notes

You can bake this in the oven if you don't have an air fryer. Bake at 400°F (pre-heated) for 20 minutes at first, check on the tofu and bake for longer (about 10 minutes) until it's as crispy as you desire.

As always, since air fryers can vary in size and power, you may need to cook for a little more time or less time.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1/4 of recipe

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 218Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 346mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 2gSugar: 13gProtein: 12g

Nutritional Information automatically calculated by a plugin and may not be correct.

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This recipe originally appeared in the video

TATER TOT NACHOS! // WHAT I ATE VEGAN #79 + MY NEW AIR FRYER | Mary’s Test Kitchen

Showing 2 comments
  • Nico,e
    Reply

    Is there something I can substitute for the black vinegar? That’s not something I can find easily.

    • Mary
      Reply

      You can use balsamic vinegar. It’s similar. But if you get a chance to try Chinese black vinegar, I highly recommend giving it a go. There’s something unique about it. Have fun!

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