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 make you wanna run out into the street and just kiss every puppy you see. You can serve it with Nasu Dengaku (miso glazed eggplant), a simple salad dripping with this killer Japanese Goma Dresing, over fluffy steamed pandan rice and sautéed broccoli, or over my killer kimchi fried rice. It's also lovely with some yamagobo (Japanese pickled burdock), Korean cucumber salad, or even some homemade kimchi on the side!
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!
🥰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.
- 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 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.
📖 How to make tofu katsu
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.
- Kutchup- 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 don't 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.
- 🔥A couple of other sauces to use instead of tonkatsu: you could totally make this spicy and delicious with my shatta sauce, or even by serving some pickled green chilies on the side.
- 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 or drizzled with spicy vegan fish sauce. It’s great! …but for realsies, I prefer tonkatsu sauce. Maybe my curry heart just belongs too much to Indian, Thai and Malaysian curries…
I especially love this dish served over coconut and pandan steamed 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.
Tofu katsu a great way to add some protein to your favey noodle dishes. Just add some crispy slices to the top of Bami Goreng, mee rebus, pad woon sen, Burmese Khao Suey, or Mi Xao Xi Dau and you are good to go!
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.
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.
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.
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Tofu Katsu (Vegan Japanese Fried Chicken)
- 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.