Did somebody say double-fried crispy tofu nuggets? Oh, yes! Our tofu karaage recipe is a fantastic vegan alternative to the classic Japanese nibble. Small in size but big in flavour, you'll beg for more!
The secret of perfect karaage is in the marinade and the frying, which we'll show you how to do like a pro! But first, what's karaage exactly? The word karaage (唐揚げ, から揚げ) translates to "fried". But more correctly, it refers to the cooking technique, which involves marinating, coating, and deep-frying.
Chicken karaage is probably one of the most famous karaage dishes, which is basically how our friends in Japan enjoy fried chicken. It's crispy, meaty, and aromatic — a real delight! So, we thought, why not giving it a plant-based spin for everyone to enjoy?
So here are our glorious fried tofu nuggets! They're as tasty as the classic ones but meat-free. Firm tofu is the go-to choice here. Squeeze out as much of its brine water as you can, and it will get even firmer and drier, giving you a "meatier" feel.
We marinated the tofu in the traditional karaage sauce, which includes garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. But we swapped sake with rice vinegar which is easier to find. Also, we used more marinating sauce than usual. That's because tofu absorbs it like a sponge and it also needs an extra kick of flavour compared to chicken.
The karaage coating, unlike that used for tempura, consists of just starch. This means that if you use tamari instead of regular soy sauce, your tofu bites will also be gluten-free. Super! All is left to do is frying these beauties, not once, but twice for maximum crispiness. Arm yourself with a kitchen thermometer to get perfectly crispy nuggets. Let's get started!
- Grated Ginger Root
- Large Garlic Cloves
- Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
- Rice Vinegar
- Sesame Oil
- Firm Tofu
- Starch (potato or corn)
Let's first prepare the tofu nuggets.
Rinse the tofu under cold water and squeeze it as hard as you can without breaking it to remove excess water.
Then, pat it dry with kitchen paper.
For an even firmer and drier tofu, you can press it between two chopping boards lined with kitchen paper to squeeze out more moisture.
Now, dice the tofu into bite-sized cubes. If you want to give the cubes a more organic look, use a knife to round off the edges, as shown in the picture.
For the marinade, combine grated ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper in a bowl (1).
Add the tofu to the bowl and toss it until it's coated with the marinade. Be careful here, as the tofu is quite delicate and it can break.
Wrap the bowl with cling film and let the tofu soak in the marinade for at least 1 hour in the fridge (2).
Next, add the starch to a shallow bowl and roll in the tofu until it's coated well, but avoid making the coating too thick.
Pour enough frying oil into a pot so that the tofu will be completely submerged in it.
We recommend you use a kitchen thermometer to monitor the oil temperature throughout the frying process. If you don't have a thermometer, you'll have to gauge the temperature by how fast the kaarage browns.
Bring the oil to 170°C (340°F), add in 4 tofu karaage pieces, and fry them for 1.5 to 2 minutes.
If you put in too many pieces at the same time, the oil temperature will drop quickly, and the tofu will absorb too much oil.
Make sure the oil temperature doesn't go below 160°C (320°F). You can control the temperature by increasing or lowering the heat or adding more or fewer tofu pieces to the pot.
The fried tofu will now look just lightly golden.
Remove the nuggets from the pot with the help of a tong or chopsticks, shake off excess oil, and transfer them onto a rack lined with kitchen paper.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have fried all the tofu bites.
For the second round of frying, increase the oil temperature to 190°C (375°F).
Add in 4 pieces at a time and fry them for another 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes.
Don't let the oil go below 180°C (355°F).
The tofu karaage is ready when the coating is nicely crispy and deep golden brown.
Finally, remove the nuggets from the oil and transfer them back onto the rack lined with kitchen paper.
Let them cool slightly and serve them whilst warm with lemon wedges, vegan mayo, and soy sauce or ponzu sauce for dipping.
Instead of rice vinegar, you can use saké like in the traditional recipe.