Another Japanese favorite! The vegan version of Crispy Tofu Katsu and is also gluten-free! It's insanely easy to put together and has a wonderfully crispy-crunchy bite with gluten-free crispy panko breadcrumbs.
Vegan tofu katsu is the perfect accessory to stir-fry noodles, on top of a fluffy bed of rice, or shared with a light soup. It can be air-fried, baked in the oven, or seared on a skillet - whatever way you choose, this may become your favorite way of enjoying tofu.
You'll be craving Crispy Tofu Katsu by using my healthy signature sauce to marinate the tofu slabs and then drizzle over the tofu slices. Does anyone else hyper-fixate on meals until you absolutely cannot stand to eat anymore? That's me, and this was one of them!
Why this recipe
It wasn't until my early twenties that I started expanding my experiences with other foods and gravitated toward the eastern flavors. I frequented a small all-you-can-eat sushi buffet where I samples tons of new foods. I'd order seaweed salad, miso soup, rolls, and katsu. After going vegan, I forgot about crispy katsu until...
I was visiting one of my favorite all-vegan restaurants here in Phoenix, Verdura. They had katsu on the seasonal menu! I'm not fond of seitan and haven't eaten it in years, but they had a ramen dish with a side of seitan katsu that I couldn't pass up; I fell in love all over again. The flavor, the crunch - it was addicting!
I needed a healthier vegan version for back home to lean into my new obsession as often as I desired, so here it is.
Tofu katsu stores well in the fridge for a couple of days. Ensure it's in an airtight container and take a bite before reheating; you might be surprised at how good cold katsu leftovers are.
Tips to prepare
🌿Press the tofu: Wrap the tofu in the towel (I don't recommend a paper towel) and place a heavy pan on top. If you're fancy, use a tofu press. There are two types of vegans, 1.) those who use a tofu press and 2.) those that do not. Press the liquid out for 10-15 minutes and then transfer it to a cutting board.
🌿Sauce: make the sauce first after pressing the tofu and set it aside
🌿Save some sauce for dipping: marinate the slabs in the sauce, reserving some for dipping later on.
🌿Breadcrumbs: I used cauliflower breadcrumbs from the grocery store, but any will panko style will do. The crunchy outer texture is critical!
🌿Extra crunch: the best way to make katsu extra crunchy is to pan-fry in a nonstick large frying pan. Add oil on medium heat and cook each side for 6 minutes or until golden brown on both sides.
🌿Serve: on top of a noodle stir-fry, a fluffy bed of brown rice, sushi rice, or as a side to a light soup like ramen. Keep it gluten-free using cauliflower rice. Use the reserved marinade as a dipping sauce or drizzle it over the top! Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds for added flare.
How to pick the right tofu
For Crispy Tofu Katsu, you'll need extra-firm tofu. This will ensure it doesn't fall apart or break during the cooking process.
Tofu is one of the great alternatives to traditional meat dishes, and when purchased organic and non-GMO and from a trustworthy company. I enjoy tofu with vegan recipes like this one! Transforming a piece of tofu into a great recipe isn't hard when you understand how tofu works, and this recipe is great for first-timers.
The most important tofu takeaway: pressing and marinating are the two key steps that are non-negotiable for tofu recipes!
Crispy Tofu Katsu
- ½ cup coconut aminos (soy sauce subsitute)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 block extra-firm organic tofu
- 1 cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs (I use Cauli Crunch, found at Whole Foods)
- 1 cup cassava flour (or any other flour like almond or all-purpose)
- 1 cup + filter water or plant milk
- Pinch of salt
- First, make the marinating sauce by combining all ingredients and whisking. Set aside.
- Remove the extra-firm tofu from the package, drain and set onto a towel. Wrap the tofu in the towel and place a heavy pan on top. If you're fancy, use a tofu press. Press the liquid out over 10-15 minutes and then transfer it to a cutting board.
- Using a large knife, take the tofu block on its side the slice downward, making three even tofu slabs.
- Marinate the slabs in the sauce for 10 minutes (minimally), reserving some for dipping later on.
- Using two separate bowls; create a crunch station. Start by adding one cup flour and one cup water; while mixing, slowly add enough water until it's at a consistency that will coat the tofu slab without sliding off and throw in a pinch of salt. In a separate shallow bowl, add the breadcrumbs.
- Remove one tofu slab and dunk it in the batter, covering all sides. Next, transfer to the breadcrumb bowl and cover with an even layer; set onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Add excess breadcrumbs to any bare areas during transfer. Repeat this for the other tofu slabs.
- Choose which method you plan to cook the tofu katsu: Air-fry: set the air fryer temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 15 minutes, flipping halfway. Bake: set the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 20 minutes, flipping halfway. Pan-fry: in a nonstick large frying pan, add oil on medium heat and cook each side for 6 minutes or until golden brown on both sides.
- Remove from heat and slice the long way creating ½-inch-wide strips (see photo below). I prefer thinner over thick slices; cut to your preference!
- Use the reserved marinade as a dipping sauce or drizzle it over the top! Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds for added flare.