This Korean pan-fried tofu recipe is a great way to enjoy a plant-based protein in a healthy and inexpensive way. No pressing is required to get the crispy texture. This is one of the best low-effort, pan-seared tofu dishes you can easily make at home.

This crispy Korean pan seared tofu is best served with soy chili sauce

Here I present one of my favorite Korean side dish recipes. This pan-fried tofu (dubu buchim, 두부부침) has just the right texture: crispy tofu texture outside and chewy inside.

A slightly spicy Korean soy chili sauce drizzle gives a flavor boost to the bland tofu. This fast tofu recipe is great with rice or noodles.

With a tasty and satisfying tofu like this, who needs meat? No wonder some people call tofu “vegetable beef.” To use a Korean expression, I can literally empty out a bowl of rice with this tofu alone (meaning this plus some rice makes a great meal).

You can serve this pan-seared tofu as a side dish (banchan, 반찬) to any Korean meal, or as a main dish. With the crispy chewy texture, even a tofu-hater might like this plant based protein dish.

What type of tofu to use

In order to get crispy crust, you must use firm tofu (preferably Korean) for this recipe. Soft tofu won’t create the crispiness you are looking for since it contains too much moisture. I also found that extra firm tofu is not ideal either—it tastes like a cardboard to me.

No need to press tofu

Unlike some other tofu recipes, for this one you don’t need to wrap the tofu with towel and put a heavy object like a tofu press on top to drain the moisture for a period of time. Give me a break! We, Koreans, don’t like to spend extra time just for a simple side dish.

Just pat dry the surface of your tofu slices with paper towel to remove the excess water, then go straight to the skillet for pan-frying. That’s all! It’s easy and you will get a crispy, chewy tofu just the way you like it.

Crispy pan-fried tofu with soy chili sauce is served over white rice

Vegan & Vegetarian tofu recipe

Korean pan fried tofu is totally vegan—a worthy addition to your meat-free repertoire. And it’s even a gluten-free dish if you use a gluten-free soy sauce.

Although I often add shrimp powder (a natural Korean flavor enhancer) to the soy chili sauce to up notch the flavor, it is totally optional and you can leave it out if you want to enjoy it as a vegan or vegetarian dish.

Ingredients you’ll need for pan-fried tofu

Korean pan-fried tofu must go with soy chili sauce topping. If you have a block of firm tofu, the ingredients for the sauce are from Korean pantry basic staples.

  • tofu — use firm tofu
  • oil — any type of cooking oil (but not olive oil)
  • soy sauce — to season and flavor
  • Korean chili flakes (gochugaru) — adds a hint of spicy heat. Adjust the amount according to your preference
  • sugar — a tiny bit
  • green onion & garlic — savory addition
  • sesame oil & sesame seeds — to add aroma and taste
  • fresh red chili — to garnish, optional
  • shrimp powder — adds a subtle umami, optional (omit it for vegan & vegetarian adaptation)

How to make Korean Pan Fried Tofu

Korean firm tofu is sliced ion a cutting board.

Step 1: Take the tofu out of its package and rinse. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch thick slices.

press each tofu slices gently with a piece of paper towel to remove excess water.

Step 2: Gently press each tofu slice with a paper towel to remove excess water from the surface, then place them in the skillet.

Pan-fry tofu slices in hot oil until golden crisp.

Step 3: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the tofu until a nice golden brown crust forms on the surface, about 5 minutes.

Mix all the tofu topping sauce in a small bowl.

Step 4: Meanwhile, make the soy chili sauce. Mix soy sauce, Korean chili flakes, garlic, green onion, shrimp powder (if using), sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds in a small bowl.

Golden crisp Korean style pan-fried tofu is cooked in a skillet.

Step 5: Flip the tofu slices to the other side and continue to sear another 5 minutes. Arrange the tofu slices in a serving platter and drizzle the soy chili sauce on top. Garnish with fresh red chili (if using) and serve with rice.

What to serve with pan-fried tofu

  • Dubu buchim is one of the common Korean side dishes and mostly served with rice.
  • You can enjoy this nutrition packed tofu as a main dish in a rice bowl with a side of veggies.
  • Substitute as a plant-based protein to your favorite noodles.
  • Chop pan-fried tofu into cubes and throw them into any Asian-style salads.

Leftover storage

If you have a leftover pan-fried tofu, put them in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can enjoy the cold tofu as is or reheat in the microwave for a few seconds.

Other delicious tofu recipes

If you are looking for more tofu recipes, below are some of my favorites that I recommend.

Pan seared crispy tofu slices are topped with soy chili sauce on a platter

This recipe was originally posted in November 2010. I’ve updated the recipe with minor changes, new photos, and more information.

Pan seared crispy tofu slices are topped with soy chili sauce on a platter

Crispy Korean Pan-Fried Tofu (Dubu Buchim)

This Korean pan-fried tofu recipe is crispy and chewy, just the way you like to eat tofu. No pressing is required before cooking and it is the best low-effort, pan-seared tofu dish you can easily make at home.
5 from 2 ratings

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1 lb) firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tbsp oil

For soy chili sauce

Instructions 

  • Take the tofu out of its package and rinse. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch thick slices.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Gently press each tofu slice with a paper towel to remove excess water from the surface, then place them in the skillet.
  • Sear the tofu until a nice golden crust forms on the surface, about 5 minutes. Flip the tofu slices to the other side and continue to sear another 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the soy chili sauce. Mix soy sauce, Korean chili flakes, garlic, green onion, shrimp powder (if using), sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds in a small bowl.
  • Arrange the tofu slices in a serving platter and drizzle the soy chili sauce on top. Garnish with fresh red chili (if using) and serve with rice.

Notes

For vegan or vegetarian option, omit the shrimp powder from the soy chili sauce ingredients.
Calories: 117kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 772mg, Potassium: 100mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 434IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg
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