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Salt & Pepper Tofu

Tofu is breaded and fried until crisp and topped with fried garlic, chilis and an authentic salt and pepper mixture. This recipe is vegan AND gluten-free so it can be enjoyed by everyone this Lunar New Year!
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Asian, Chinese
Servings 4


  • 1 pound medium-firm tofu drained
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 8 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 3 Thai Birds Eye chilis de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 scallions white and greens divided, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying


  • Begin by preparing the tofu. Line a plate with two layers of paper towel and set aside. Drain the tofu from the container and use a sharp knife to slice it through the middle so that you have two thin rectangles of tofu.
  • Place the two pieces of tofu on the plate lined with paper towel and add two more layers of paper towel on top. Weigh the tofu down with another plate on top, followed by heavy cans of food or a heavy object to press the tofu. Let the tofu press for 15 minutes.
  • Next prepare the salt and pepper mixture. Add the white peppercorns, sichuan peppercorns, salt and sugar into a mortar and grind it into a loose powder with a pestle. You can also do this in a spice grinder as well. Make sure that all the peppercorns have been crushed and the mixture is powdery-- this will help it stick to the fried tofu.
  • Remove the paper towel from the tofu and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes. Use another paper towel to pat the cubes dry.
  • Place the potato starch on a plate and toss each piece of tofu in the starch to lightly coat it. You do not need to pack the potato starch on, just a light dusting works perfectly. Repeat the process for the rest of the cubes of tofu and set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or pot over medium-high heat. Insert a chopstick or wooden spoon into the oil. If bubbles form and rise around the chopstick/spoon, then the oil is ready for frying.
  • Add the cubes of tofu into the hot oil, spacing them out so that they do not touch. Fry for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side, or until the tofu is crisp and has turned a light golden brown. Once all the sides have been fried, remove the tofu from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  • To make the tofu extra crisp, double fry the tofu. Increase the heat of the stove to high and let the oil heat up for 2-3 minutes. Do not let the oil begin to smoke. Add the tofu back into the pan and fry again on each side for 30 seconds. Once the tofu has turned a medium golden brown colour and is crisp, remove them from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Drain away all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chopped garlic, chilis, and the white parts of the green onion. Fry for 30 seconds and then return the fried tofu to the pan. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and pepper mixture and toss everything to coat.
  • Remove from the heat, place on a serving dish and top with the fried garlic, chilis, and onion. Sprinkle a pinch of the salt and pepper mixture over the top and garnish with the green parts of the scallions.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!



You can substitute the potato starch for cornstarch to keep this recipe gluten-free!
Keyword chinese new year recipe, lunar new year recipe, salt and pepper tofu