Golden brown and crispy tofu made with barely any oil! This breaded air fryer tofu recipe uses panko breadcrumbs to mimic a deep-fried crust. Season with pepper for a delicious snack or use as a plant based protein in rice bowls and salads. (Vegan, Gluten Free option)
Prep tofu: Cut tofu into cubes (¾-inch/2 cm). Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Season tofu: Transfer cubes to a shallow dish (see note 2). Pour tamari over tofu and sprinkle with garlic powder. Use your hands to gently toss to coat. Let marinate for 6 to 8 minutes, turning the cubes every couple of minutes, until most—but not all—of the tamari is absorbed (see note 3).
Add cornstarch: Scatter cornstarch over tofu. Use your hands to gently toss to coat. (There should be no dry cornstarch visible—if you see any powder, keep tossing).
Bread tofu: Working with one cube at a time, use one hand to swirl the cube in the residual tamari at the bottom of the dish to moisten. Dip tofu into panko and coat all sides (use your other dry hand to press the panko into tofu). Place breaded tofu in an air fryer basket and repeat. (Space out the cubes in a single layer in the basket.)
Bake: Give the tofu a good spray of oil. Bake at 400°F (200°C) in the air fryer (no need to preheat) for 10 minutes. Give the basket a shake, spray lightly with oil (optional, but helps with browning), and bake for another 1 to 3 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.
Serve: Season tofu with black pepper (we like to use lots!) and more salt if needed. Enjoy while hot from the oven (see note 4).
Gluten free option: Use gluten free panko breadcrumbs.
Shallow dish: A pie plate works great here! Otherwise, use any shallow baking dish you have or a plate with a rim (so the tamari doesn't spill over the edge).
Seasoning tofu with tamari: In this step, you want to let the tofu absorb most of the tamari (for flavor)—but not all of it! (See the step-by-step photos in the recipe post for a visual reference). The small amount of tamari at the bottom of the dish will help hydrate the cornstarch and moisten the tofu exterior so that the panko adheres. If your tofu ended up absorbing all the tamari, add a little splash of extra tamari, then continue with the next step of adding cornstarch.
Serving suggestions: We highly recommend seasoning the tofu a hefty amount of freshly ground black pepper (and a sprinkle of extra salt, if desired). It's delicious on its own. Or, add to grain bowls or salad for a tasty plant-based source of protein. This breaded tofu is best served fresh, when it's hot from the oven. The panko crust will soften when coated with wet sauces, so if doing so, enjoy immediately.