Flour Vs. Starch: What's Better For Fried Tofu?

If you've been hesitant to dip your toes into the tofu side of the food menu, all you need to be converted is a taste of it fried. Made from dried soybeans, the bean with the highest amount of protein, tofu has a reputation for being bland (via Britannica). However, when dredged and fried, tofu is anything but — just visit your favorite local Thai restaurant for proof. After taking one bite into an order of golden, fried tofu, you'll be nostalgic for the Chicken McNuggets of your childhood. Even though fried tofu is good enough to stand on its own, it's more than a healthy adult-chicken-nugget-replacement.

When incorporated into curries, grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries, fried tofu adds a crispy, flavorful, and plant-based source of protein to many go-to meals. Plus, Plant Based School says that you can make a big batch of fried tofu ahead of time, use your leftovers to meal prep, and enjoy them during those busy weekdays. But if your goal is to reproduce the crunchy tofu from your favorite Thai restaurant, you'll want to think twice about what you use to coat it. According to dietitian Sofia Norton, when it comes to crispiness, wheat flour is not your tofu's friend (via Allrecipes).

Fried tofu's perfect match

Because wheat flour is heavy, Sofia Norton told Allrecipes that it will weigh your tofu down — resulting in something that's sad and soggy rather than crispy and crunchy. But fortunately for lovers of tofu, there are other grain starches in the sea. For fried tofu to achieve its fullest potential, it needs to be coated with something that absorbs moisture well and won't become tough when fried ... it needs cornstarch (per Serious Eats).

Cornstarch is the result of grinding the starchy layer of corn kernels to a powder. It's also completely odorless and flavorless, so your coating should include some seasoning. Plant Based School says salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika are a good start, but also recommends trying it with other spices like curry, turmeric, or Italian seasoning. Whatever you use, make sure you mix the seasonings with the cornstarch before you toss in the tofu to ensure the flavors stick.

Also, feel free to play around with the different levels of firmness for your tofu. You'll want to stick with the firm or extra-firm varieties, but if you want your tofu to seem more like meat, freeze it first. Once it's time to fry, use a generous amount of coating, and toss them in oil until golden.