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The Best Panko Tofu Air Fryer Recipe: For Ultimate Crunch

Crispy tofu is one of my favorite appetizers, but getting that crunch is challenging. The challenge is not in the tofu recipe itself. It’s the appliance that you use to make it.

You see, I usually use the deep fryer to get that crisp golden texture and crunch. But there are so many reasons why I tend to shy away from that. One of them is that it doesn’t feel worth all that effort just to make an appetizer. But what if I told you there is an effortless way to get that crunch?

Welcome to the world of panko tofu air fryer magic, where we transform the humble tofu into a crispy delight in just 13 minutes. Yes, you read that right! There is no deep frying, no excess oil, just pure, guilt-free crunch.

This crispy panko tofu air fryer recipe is for anyone looking to add excitement to their everyday meals.

Imagine biting into a piece of tofu that is crispy on the outside yet perfectly tender on the inside. We’re all familiar with this when we eat it in restaurants.

Now, you can do it at home with your trusty air fryer (I used my Ninja Foodi Air Fryer for this recipe). So, let’s get started!


  • Panko tofu air fryer is the most convenient way to cook crispy tofu.
  • Preparing panko tofu involves pressing and cutting tofu, followed by coating with seasoned breadcrumbs.
  • You can enhance panko tofu’s taste by experimenting with various seasonings, sauces, and serving options.

Panko Tofu air fryer key ingredients

Extra firm tofu

Firmness is key when selecting the perfect tofu for your crispy tofu dish. Tofu comes in various firmness levels: soft, firm, and extra firm.

Because of its silkiness, soft tofu is ideal for blending into desserts and soups. Firm tofu, a bit sturdier, works well in stir-frying, pan-frying, and grilling.

 However, I prefer extra firm tofu for my crispy panko tofu air fryer recipe. Its extra firm texture ensures that it holds its shape beautifully during cooking.

Secondly, it contains less moisture than the softer versions, so there’s no need to press out the moisture, which makes it so convenient.

crispy tofu

Panko Bread crumbs

Now, let’s talk about the crispy exterior—the panko bread coating. The good thing about Panko breadcrumbs is that they are drier than regular breadcrumbs. This gives the bread an extra crispy coating when it is air-fried.

How to make Panko Tofu in the Air Fryer

This easy panko tofu air fryer recipe will get you crispy breaded tofu in just 13 minutes. Here’s a brief overview of how to make crunchy panko tofu in the air fryer (I have used my Ninja Foodi air fryer for this recipe):

  1. Press the tofu: If you decide to use firm tofu instead of extra firm tofu, the moisture in the tofu needs to be removed first. You can remove the excess water using a Tofu Press or manually.
  2. Cut the tofu: Use a sharp knife to slice the tofu block into 1-inch cubes or rectangles, depending on your preference. I recommend using a sharp knife because you want to make swift and clean cuts so that the tofu sticks or cubes retain their shape.
  3. Bread the tofu: Dip the tofu cubes or sticks in egg, and then coat with panko mixture.
  4. Air fry the tofu: Place the breaded tofu pieces in your air fryer and cook for 8 minutes at 356°F (180°C). Then turn the temperature up to 392°F (200°C) to get a golden brown color.

Prepping Tofu for the Air Fryer

Pressing to Remove Moisture

Sometimes, I only have firm tofu in the fridge, and I feel like panko crusted tofu but don’t want to go to the shops. In this case, I would need to press the tofu first. This is an important step because it helps remove any excess moisture, which can prevent the tofu from becoming crispy.

To press the tofu, I wrap the tofu block with some kitchen towels or a thin kitchen cloth and then place a heavy object, like a cutting board, on top for about 20-30 minutes. The pressure from the weight will push out any excess liquid.

There is also a Tofu Press that can do this with less effort and mess. All you need to do is put the tofu block between the two plates (made from plastic or bamboo). Then, tighten the bolts or springs and leave them on the kitchen sink for the water to drain away.

Cutting Tofu

Once we have pressed the tofu, it’s time to cut it into cubes. I recommend cutting the tofu into 1-inch cubes because they are easier to lay in the air fryer basket.

Use a sharp knife to slice the tofu. The sharp edge will make a clean cut through the tofu, ensuring uniform and straight cuts. Place the tofu block on a chopping board. Then, start slicing the tofu block into 1-inch strips horizontally and then vertically.

Marinating tofu

I did not marinate my tofu in this recipe because I will pair my crispy tofu with my favorite sauces.

However, if you enjoy it without dipping sauces, you may want to marinade them to add some flavor. Some marinades, including soy sauce, garlic, or ginger sauces, will do just great. Let the tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to seep in.

Here is a simple marinade recipe I have used before for my panko tofu:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder

Mix all the spices and sauces together in a shallow bowl. Then, coat the tofu cubes in the sauce mixture, submerging each cube in the mixture. Set the marinated tofu aside while you start making the panko mixture.

For a fun twist, try using different ingredients in your marinade. Here are a few combinations I’ve tried and loved:

  • Sweet and spicy: soy sauce, garlic, maple syrup, and sriracha
  • Teriyaki-style: soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and vinegar
  • Asian-inspired: soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and green onions

Crafting the Panko Mixture

Mixing Dry Ingredients

I buy my Panko breadcrumbs from the supermarket, so making the Panko mixture is pretty straightforward.

Combine the Panko breadcrumbs with black pepper and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Coating the tofu in a shallow dish is easier, as the Panko mixture stays dry longer.

Compared to a deep bowl, the dry mixture will clump up after a few coatings as the moisture from the wet tofu pieces quickly spreads to the compacted mixture.

Feel free to experiment with the ratio if you prefer a thicker or thinner crust on your tofu.

I love trying various spices, such as garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika, to build a flavorful crust. Cornstarch is another great addition, which can help your panko crust become even crispier when cooked in the air fryer.

Here’s a quick overview of the dry ingredients:

  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning (black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, etc.)
  • Cornstarch (optional for extra crisp)

Binding Wet Mixture

After preparing the dry mixture, we’ll need a wet mixture that helps the panko crust stick to the tofu. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg until the egg white and yolk are fully infused. Add salt to taste.

Here’s a summary of the wet mixture ingredients:

  • Egg
  • Salt

Now that we have our dry and wet mixtures ready, it’s time to dip the tofu pieces into each mixture. First, dip the tofu into the wet mixture and make sure it’s fully coated. Then, firmly press the tofu into the dry mixture, ensuring it’s evenly coated with the panko crust.

Our panko-coated tofu is all set to be cooked to crispy perfection in the air fryer.

crispy crust

Air Frying Techniques

Panko Tofu Air Fryer Settings

In my experience, it is ideal to air fry tofu at two separate temperatures to get the golden brown crust. The air fryer cooks quicker than an oven, so the crust can burn easily if we leave it in the air fryer for too long.

Therefore, I set the air fryer at 356°F (180°C) first and then turn the temperature up to 392°F (200°C). This ensures that the panko crumbs become crispy and golden without burning.

I found that preheating my air fryer helps achieve consistency and even cooking for the tofu. Another important tip is to use olive oil spray on the tofu before cooking.

This prevents the tofu from sticking to the air fryer basket and contributes to the crispy texture we all love.

Arranging Tofu in the Air Fryer

When arranging the tofu in the air fryer, stacking and overcrowding are always a “No, No”!

I ensure that the tofu pieces are placed in a single layer and have a small gap between them. This spacing allows for better air circulation, which leads to even cooking and crisping of the tofu.

If you have a smaller air fryer, you might need to cook your tofu in batches to avoid overcrowding.

I find it helpful to shake the basket gently a few times for a basket air fryer. However, when using my Ninja Foodi air fryer, the basket does not have a handle, so I like to flip the crusted tofu pieces. This helps move the tofu pieces around, ensuring they cook and crisp evenly.

A final air fryer tip is to line your basket with parchment paper before arranging the tofu pieces. This will help keep the delicate crumbs intact when lifting the tofu from the air fryer.

How to serve Panko Tofu

Complimenting dishes

Appetizer: This tofu dish pairs well with fresh salads or a simple plate of assorted veggies.

Main meal: Consider adding some steamed rice or stir-fried noodles. The crispy tofu pairs nicely with the soft texture of these sides. You can also try including some lightly sautéed vegetables or a colorful coleslaw, contrasting textures and flavors.

Dipping Sauces Selection

I often experiment with various dipping sauces to enhance the flavor of my panko tofu. Trust me, it makes such a difference! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sweet Chili Sauce: A perfect balance of sweet and spicy, this sauce really elevates the tofu. You can find it in many stores or make it yourself.
  • BBQ Sauce: Give your tofu a smoky twist with a delicious BBQ sauce.
  • Dijon Mayonnaise sauce: This mustard and sweet combination will create a great fusion dish with the panko tofu.
  • Soy-Garlic Sauce: For a more Asian-inspired flavor, mix together some soy sauce, minced garlic, and a dash of sugar or honey. It’s super easy and tasty!

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Best Practices

When storing leftovers, I always use an airtight container. This helps prevent my tofu from absorbing unwanted flavors or odors from the refrigerator and keeps it fresh for a longer period.

It’s best to store leftover panko tofu in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reviving Crispiness

Leftovers, especially crispy and crunchy food, often lose their original texture when reheated. This is why I have stopped using my microwave to reheat my crispy and crunchy food. The only way I do this is by using my air fryer.

Preheating the air fryer to 356°F (180°C) and reheating the tofu for 4 minutes, shaking the basket, or flipping the tofu halfway through usually returns that crispy texture.

air fryer tofu

Panko Tofu Air Fryer Recipe

Claire Baker
This crispy tofu recipe is one of the best tofu recipes to try in your air fryer. Get ready to treat your taste buds with this simple yet delightful crispy panko tofu recipe. Follow these steps andhave a plate of irresistibly crunchy tofu within minutes.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 people


  • 1 Air Fryer I used my Ninja Foodi air fryer for this panko tofu air fryer recipe


  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray


  • Preparation: Begin by removing the tofu from its packaging. Since we're using extra firm tofu, there's no need to press it. Cut the tofu intoyour desired shapes—cubes work well for bite-sized enjoyment or larger strips for a meatier presentation.
  • Dip the Tofu: Add the egg and salt to a bowl and whisk until frothy. Then, dip and coat the tofu cubes in the egg mixture.
  • Coat with Panko: Place the panko bread crumbs in a separate shallowdish and add the garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Press each seasonedtofu piece into the panko bread crumbs, coating all sides thoroughly.
  • Preheat the Air Fryer: Set your air fryer to 356°F (180°C) and allow it to warm up for 3 minutes.
  • Arrange the Tofu: Place the panko-coated tofu pieces in the air fryerbasket in a single layer, ensuring they're not touching. This allows the hot air to circulate freely, giving you that all-around crispy texture. Then, apply some olive oil cooking spray over the arranged tofu cubes.
  • Cooking Time: Cook the tofu in the air fryer at 356°F (180°C) for 8minutes. Then gently flip the tofu pieces (or shake the air fryer basket)before putting them back in for 5 minutes at 392°F (200°C).
  • Check for Crispiness: Check the tofu for the right texture. The exterior should be a golden brown. If you prefer a darker crisp, cook for an additional 2 minutes at 392°F (200°C), but keep a close eye on it as panko can brown quickly.
  • Serve Immediately: Remove the tofu from the air fryer once it has reached the desired level of golden crispiness. It's best served hot and fresh, straight out of the basket.
  • Optional Dipping Sauce: While the tofu is delicious on its own, you can pair it with a dipping sauce of your choice. A simple soy sauce and sesame oil mixture, sweet and sour sauce, or even a creamy wasabi mayo can elevate the dish further.
  • Enjoy: Serve your crispy panko tofu as a snack, appetizer, or as part of a main dish. It pairs wonderfully with a side of stir-fried vegetables and rice, or you can toss it into a salad for added protein and crunch.
Keyword air fryer panko tofu, crispy breaded tofu, panko tofu, panko tofu air fryer
What vegan alternatives can I use instead of egg for panko tofu in the air fryer?

To make vegan panko tofu in the air fryer, you can use plant-based milk, such as almond or soy, mixed with a thickening agent like cornstarch. This creates a sticky batter for coating the tofu before applying the panko breadcrumbs.

Is it necessary to press tofu before air frying, and if so, how long?

Yes, pressing tofu is vital if you are not using extra firm tofu. This step removes excess moisture for a better crisp. You can press the tofu between two clean kitchen towels and apply a weight on top. Ideally, you should press the tofu for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

How do I prevent my panko breadcrumbs from falling off the tofu while air frying?

To prevent panko breadcrumbs from falling off the tofu, here are some tips:

  • Ensure that the tofu is adequately coated with the egg mixture.
  • Press the breadcrumbs gently onto the tofu to make sure they stick.
  • Avoid overcrowding the air fryer so the tofu pieces don’t rub against each other.
What are some tips for achieving the perfect crispiness when air frying tofu?

To ensure your air-fried tofu turns out crispy, follow these simple tips:

  1. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture.
  2. Use panko breadcrumbs instead of regular breadcrumbs for coating the tofu.
  3. Preheat the air fryer for a few minutes before adding the tofu.
  4. Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket. Giving each tofu piece enough space allows for even cooking and crispiness.
  5. Check on the tofu periodically and shake the basket gently, if necessary, to prevent sticking and promote even browning.
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