When it comes to vegan alternatives for meat-based dishes, tofu katsu is a must-try for anyone looking for a hearty and flavorful meal. With its crispy on the outside, and tender and meaty inside texture, this tofu is the perfect substitute for chicken, or pork. When served dripping with dark, savory tonkatsu sauce, it becomes a dish that is sure to impress even the most skeptical of carnivores.
My method for tofu katsu has undergone some serious rethinking and upgrading over the years.
With each bite, you savor the delightful contrast between the crispy texture of the crust and the meaty, satisfying texture of the tofu.
Whether enjoyed as a main course or as a tantalizing appetizer, tofu katsu is a Japanese culinary delight that will leave your taste buds craving more. You can serve it over fluffy steamed rice and sautéed broccoli, or over my killer kimchi fried rice. It's also lovel with some Korean cucumber salad, or even some kimchi on the side! And best of all, with its wholesome, plant-based ingredients, you can indulge guilt-free knowing you're nourishing your body with a nutritious, wholesome meal, that doesn’t cause animals to suffer.
So, whatcha waiting for? Grab your frying pan, and lets get into this gosh-darned banger of a dish!
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🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
The method I outline for prepping the tofu gives it a seriously unbelievable texture. You are going to get so inspired making it that you may use the breaded fried tofu done in this method as a basis for Nashville hot tofu sandwiches, nuggets, and all kinds of fun things.
The tonkatsu sauce is a versatile and addictive sauce that you will love on noodle dishes, as a veggie marinade and as a dip for so many other crispy crunchy treats.
I'm gonna point out one or two important ingredients in this recipe here. You can see the full list of ingredients with their quantities in the recipe card at the bottom of the page. I just wanted to give you some notes on a couple of the key things, and why I use them in my recipe.
- Soft tofu- This is KEY! I went for years without using anything but extra firm tofu. But for amazing, chicken-like tofu katsu soft tofu is essential. Here’s why: soft tofu has a higher water content than firm tofu, which makes it freeze and thaw without becoming crumbly. When water freezes in FIRM tofu, it expands and causes damage to the cell walls of the tofu, resulting in a grainy or even spongy texture after thawing. Whereas soft tofu that has been pressed, frozen, and then re-pressed results in a gorgeous flaky meat-like texture.
- Panko- Panko is a specific type of Japanese breadcrumb which stays supernaturally crispy when fried. There is actually an INSANE history and science to panko which you might find interesting. You can read about that a little further down the page if you are so inclined.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce- PLS read yer darn labels folks if you want to make sure your dish is vegan/vegetarian! Worcestershire sauce is a savory and tangy sauce that originated in Worcestershire, England. It is typically made from a blend of ingredients, including malt vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind extract, garlic, onions, and various spices. While some Worcestershire sauce recipes may be vegan or natural, the traditional version of Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, which are a type of fish. As a result, Worcestershire sauce is not considered vegan. Additionally, some Worcestershire sauces may contain preservatives or artificial flavors and colors, which may not be considered natural.
- Ferikake seasoning: 🚨MAKE SURE YOU GET A VEGAN ONE! Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning that is often sprinkled on top of rice to enhance its flavor. The ingredients of furikake can vary depending on the brand and flavor, but typically it contains a mixture of sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, shiso, sugar, salt, and sometimes monosodium glutamate (MSG). Whatch out though if you are vegan: some furikake varieties also include bonito flakes, or egg.
There are obviously a bunch of other ingredients used in this recipe which you can see along with exact quantities in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Wrap tofu in towel, press with weight on wire rack over baking pan for 60 mins on each side.
Freeze tofu in a container for 4 hrs+, then press again for 2 hrs while the tofu is thawing.
Cut the two pressed blocks of tofu into 4 thin cutlets total.
Coat in cornstarch, curdled milk mixture, and panko.
Fry in oil at 350-360°F for 3 mins each side.
For tonkatsu sauce, cook ingredients in small pan for 12-15 mins over a low-medium flame.
Serve tofu katsu over rice with tonkatsu sauce, scallions, sesame seeds, and vegan furikake seasoning if desired.
- Gluten free - there are fantastic gluten free bread crumbs, even GF panko now on the market. Just read the instructions carefully as some gluten-free bread crumbs contain egg or dairy ingredients. Using those is all you will need to do to make this recipe complexly without wheat and gluten.
- Instead of the date syrup- I really DO love the tonkatsu sauce made with date syrup, but you can totally replace it with agave, rice syrup, or maple syrup. A dash of molasses is nice to add if you substitute one of those syrups so that the color is still dark, and the minerals remain.
- Worcestershire sauce- completely vegan Worcestershire might be hard to find, if you have any, a nice substitution that doesn’t taste identical, but also makes a good tonkatsu sauce is vegetarian oyster sauce, or vegetarian fish sauce.
- Chuppybuckies- uh, I guess it is only in my house we refer to ketchup as “chuppybuckies”. So yeah, you can use ketchup in place of the tomato paste. The sauce will be a tiny bit sweeter, and will need to cook a little longer to reach the same thickness, but it will still work in a pinch. Heck, most other people use ketchup in their recipe for tonkatsu, but I dont really prefer some of the other flavors in the ketchup in this sauce personally, so yeah. Catsup. You can get away with it if you want.
- Tofu Katsu Curry - the judges are still out on which style of tofu katsu reins supreme. Some folks (like me), love it with tonkatsu sauce, and some swear by making tofu katsu with a mild Japanese curry. If you want to make a tofu katsu curry instead, you should sauté some onions in sesame oil and then add a small amount of flour to create a roux. Once the flour is lightly browned, add in some par cooked big chunks of potatoes, carrots, and peppers, a can of full fat coconut milk, curry powder and soy sauce to taste. Then just serve over rice with crispy slices of freshly fried tofu katsu on top. Garnish with sliced scallions. It’s great! …but for realsies, I prefer tonkatsu sauce. Maybe my curry heart just belongs too much to Indian, Thai and Malaysian curries…
- Sweet and sour chili sauce instead of tonkatsu: Using sweet and sour chili sauce as an alternative to tonkatsu sauce for a vegan tofu katsu dish can be a great way to add a flavorful kick to your dish. This is one of the versatile and simple Asian recipes you will want to keep in your toolbelt for many purposes. You can use a store bought chili sauce or make your own following this simple method:
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon water
- In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, ¼ cup water, soy sauce, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoon water until smooth.
- Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the sauce cool for a few minutes.
I especially love this dish served over my kimchi fried rice. I know it’s not the authentic Japanese way. But I am more concerned with what is absolutely awesome than what it traditional. Sue me.
I also have made it into some legendary tofu katsu burgers with togarashi aioli and sesame cabbage slaw. If you want to learn how to do it that way, you might want to check out my recorded class on vegan burgers and fries.
You only need a trusty large skillet, and a pair of tongs to make this dish! You CAN use a counter top deep fryer, but I really like shallow frying this instead. It makes less of a mess, wastes less oil, is arguably healthier for you, and takes less time to heat up.
Technically you can store already fried tofu katsu for a few days, but I always prefer fried foods to be eaten when made. To reheat it, just pop it in a toaster oven or regular oven which has been preheated to 400 degrees for 12 minutes until hot and crispy. Put the sauce on after it has been reheated.
The pressing, freezing, and pressing again of the soft tofu makes the texture LEGENDARY! But if you are “pressed” for time (see what I did there), you can forgo that whole process and just make this dish with fresh slices of extra firm tofu. It will still be lovely, just not as meaty and amazing as the process I describe in my recipe.
Air frying is a healthier way to make tofu katsu and use less oil. Spray your air fryer basket and the breaded tofu generously with cooking oil so that to tofu still crisps well. Air fry for 6-8 minutes and then flip the pieces. Continue air frying for another 5-6 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Generously oil a parchment paper lined baking pan with neutral-tasting cooking oil such as canola, or vegetable oil. Place the breaded pieces of tofu onto the prepared pan, leaving an inch of space between pieces for hot air to circulate. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes, then flip the pieces over, and bake for an additional 5-6 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
Sure! But this recipe calls for two blocks, so if your press only handles a single block you might need more than one press. I’d suggest just following my method for pressing the tofu using a wire rack and weights instead! It’s easy and doesn’t require any extra gear.
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- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Diet: Vegan
This tofu katsu is crispy and crunchy on the outside, and inside: perfectly meaty and satisfying. This vegan cutlet is served with dark and flavorful tonkatsu sauce, making it a must-try for anyone looking for a hearty and guilt-free Japanese meal.
For the tofu
2X 14 oz. blocks soft tofu
1 ⅓ cup Panko
½ teaspoon white pepper (optional)
½ cup unsweetened plant based milk
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
⅓ cup corn starch
1 cup cooking oil (canola, peanut, or vegetable oil)
¼ cup Sake
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari
¼ cup Vegan Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Date syrup
2 tablespoons Tomato paste
½ teaspoon dried ground Garlic
½ teaspoon dried ground onion
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon vegan ferikake (optional)
- Drain the tofu, and wrap it in a clean absorbent dish towel.
- Place the wrapped tofu onto a wire rack suspended over a baking pan, and place a second baking pan on top of the tofu. Place a medium heavy weight on top of the second baking pan which will gently press the tofu without crushing them.
- Allow the tofu to compress and drain for 60 minutes. Flip the tofu over, and continue to press for an additional 60 minutes.
- Place the tofu into a flat container with a lid and place it into the freezer for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Remove the frozen tofu from the container, rewrap it in a fresh absorbent dish towel, and press a second time on a wire rack for 2 hours as the tofu thaws.
- When the tofu is thawed it should have reduced in by about 50% from it’s original thickness. Cut each tofu block into two thin, wide cutlets.
- Mix together the panko and white pepper in one bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, sriracha, rice vinegar so that the milk curdles from the acid in the vinegar and hot sauce. Place the corn starch in a separate bowl.
- Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet on the stove over a medium high flame. The ideal temperature to fry the tofu in is 350-360 degrees.
- While the oil is heating, coat the tofu. Working with one cutlet at a time, thoroughly and gently coat both sides of each portion in cornstarch, dredge it in the curdled milk mixture, drip it off a little, and then coat thoroughly in the panko. Place each breaded piece of tofu onto a clean dry tray while you bread the rest of them.
- When all tofu is breaded, fry them in the hot oil for 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the tofu pieces over and fry for an additional 2-3 minutes on the second side until crisp and golden brown. Transfer the fried cutlets to a wire rack to cool and drip dry.
To make the tonkatsu sauce
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and cook over a medium flame, stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes until thick and bubbly.
Cut each crispy tofu katsu cutlet into strips and serve them over rice, or alongside other side dishes as you desire. Drizzle the tofu katsu with the tonkatsu sauce, and garnish with scallion slices and toasted sesame seeds. Add ferikake seasoning if you desire.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 20
- Category: Entree
- Method: frying
- Cuisine: Japanese
Keywords: tofu katsu
Fantastic! I just made it and my teen son and I gobbled it up gleefully.
Now I already have two blocks of pre-pressed tofu in the freezer, so I can pop it out and make it for a weeknight. I used the air fryer and it came out great!
Nice! Yeah, having some frozen pressed tofu on hand is a game-changer. I use a similar method for making Nashville hot tofu sandwiches and stuff like that. Glad you and your son loved it!
I enjoyed reading this recipe thanks looking forward to making it soon.
Lemme know how it comes out! My family loves it
This was wonderful even though I sliced my tofu like a drunken sailor. I made the Katsu Sauce first so it would be ready and waiting for the tofu. I'll make this lots. Great flavor and texture and a good base to experiment with
The crunch on this tofu is out of this world. Don't be intimidated by the amount of downtime, the pressing, freezing, and thawing is 100% worth it when you bite into the tofu. The sauce is fantastic with a depth of flavor I really enjoyed! I served mine with rice noodles and sautéed veggies.
Easy recipe; great for weeknights as there’s lots of hands off time. Once the tofu defrosts, it comes together quickly. We did the tofu in the air fryer at 400 for 15 mins. Great texture on the tofu and crispy outside. Paired with sautéed baby bok choy and garlic fried rice. Definitely will be a repeat!
Done the recipe and overall, super enjoy it. So many details explained makes it really easy to prepare the recipe
Delicious easy week night meal! Just plan ahead with the tofu prep, it really is the best way for a terrific tofu texture. Served mine with a vegetable fried rice. Great dinner!
The crunch on this katsu and the texture of the tofu is out of this world! Be generous with the tonkatsu sauce and you'll be a happy camper 😋