This crispy & oil-free vegan orange tofu recipe will brighten your plate with gluten-free orange-flavored tofu crisped in the air fryer or oven and smothered in a quick sticky, spicy-sweet orange sauce.
This post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. Below, you'll find a handy table of contents with links. But if you're in a rush, please use the link at the top to jump to the recipe card at the end!
⭐Why this recipe works
The secret to this crispy tofu recipe is creating a gluten-free, quick dip in a simple mixture of chickpea flour and orange juice with a pinch of salt. It's the principle used to make spicy sriracha cauliflower. Here, we're applying it to tofu with an orange-flavored twist.
Why dip? Suppose you're going to make crispy tofu without using oil. In that case, you need whatever crisping agent you use, such as cornstarch, to be moist. Otherwise, you end up with white, dry bits on the edges. Harmless, tasteless, but just not so friendly. Enter the simple dip. It's easier than fussing with adding a crisping agent. You'll get added flavor and tofu that isn't squishy inside but isn't burnt on the edges.
The orange sauce is purposely kept simple for this recipe. It can easily be made gluten-free so that the entire dish meets this requirement. Read on. There are substitutions and/or additions you can make too. Get creative with orange sauce. 😊
📋 Key ingredients & notes
Tofu: The best tofu to use is firm or extra firm. Press your tofu if it has excess moisture, but don't go crazy. Most tofu can be wrapped in a paper towel and pressed on a plate using your hands. If it has a lot of water, use a tofu press or place the tofu block on a place and add a flat surface to the top with some weight on it.
Oranges and orange juice: Well, it's an orange sauce. You can probably get by with just 1 fresh orange for the orange zest. If you don’t want the hassle, grab a small bottle of fresh orange juice for the rest. But this is a great recipe when you have a bag of oranges, and deep down, you just know they won't all get eaten.
Chickpea flour: Also known as garbanzo bean flour or besan, chickpea flour is a great gluten-free flour for dipping-batters. When mixed in a 1:1 ratio with liquid, it has a thick texture and gets you a little of that chickpea protein.
Rice vinegar: Vinegar adds a tangy flavor to the sauce. You can also use the same amount of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. Going vinegar free? Consider mirin, which will be slightly sweeter.
Soy sauce: Use Tamari if you want a gluten-free recipe. Regular or dark soy sauce has a lot of sodium, so you can either cut back the amount or use low sodium soy sauce. Coconut aminos can also be used in place of soy sauce.
Maple syrup: A liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup, is easier to dissolve, but you can also use coconut sugar, date sugar, or vegan brown sugar. And there is always one of our favorites - date paste. Depending on the sweetness of the oranges or orange juice you use, you may want to add 1 tablespoon and adjust as the flavors of the sauce merge.
Sriracha: Our go-to chili sauce. You are not limited to sriracha here. The idea is to add spicy heat, so use another spicy chili sauce, Sambal Oelek, or red pepper flakes. If you want just a little spice, ½ a teaspoon of black pepper will do the job. You might get by with a dash of tabasco, but avoid Mexican-inspired chili sauces as this will conflict with the other flavors.
Cornstarch: There’s no cornstarch (corn flour) in the dipping batter, but it’s used to thicken the orange sauce. If you want a sauce without cornstarch, arrowroot is a good substitute. It will probably do the trick if you decide to just toss in some of that chickpea flour sitting on the counter.
🔪 Pro tips & notes
Making crispy tofu
Because we don't add any oil, it's recommended that you line the bottom of the baking sheet or air fryer basket with a single layer of parchment paper. This prevents sticking and makes the tofu easier to flip and toss. Carefully peel the paper away and let the tofu finish browning. It won't stick once it's been partially baked or air-fried.
The size of the tofu pieces is less critical than the uniformity of size. You want them big enough to handle but not so large that they don't get firm on the inside. Cubes that are ½ to ¾ of an inch work well. Smaller pieces will get crispy brown more quickly.
The chickpea batter should be thick enough to cling to the tofu pieces. Let any excess runoff as you add the tofu to the air fryer or baking sheet.
Place the battered tofu, separated, in a single layer on the parchment paper. If the tofu pieces stick together, separate them before you flip them.
Important note: Start with a preheated oven or air fryer. Immediately after you toss the tofu cubes in the batter, place them in the hot oven. Quicker is best for keeping the batter from running.
Making the sauce is a simple, one-pan affair. Add half of the orange juice and the rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sriracha. Then, combine the rest of the orange juice and cornstarch in a separate small bowl. Once that is smoothed out, add it to the saucepan and continue simmering. Avoid adding cornstarch or arrowroot directly to the simmering sauce. This will cause annoying white lumps to form.
When the tofu is done, toss it into the thickened sauce. There will be excess sauce because we all love extra sauce.
💭 Common Questions
The best way to thicken the orange sauce is to let it simmer. Simmering reduces the volume of the sauce, which naturally makes it thicker. If you decide to add more cornstarch or another thickening agent, mix it with cold water or orange juice separately before adding it to the sauce. This helps prevent lumps.
Crispy orange cauliflower is excellent with spicy, sticky orange sauce. Use 1 small head of cauliflower and follow the recipe directions as written. If you make this in the air fryer, you may need to do it in batches depending on the size of your air fryer basket. Use parchment paper to line the bottom of the air fryer basket or baking tray if you are oven-baking.
Quinoa flour is an excellent gluten-free substitution for chickpea flour. Oat flour or millet flour work as well. Both can be used in a 1:1 ratio. You can also make chickpea flour by grinding dry chickpeas in a spice grinder and then sifting it. If you substitute with all-purpose flour, you may need to adjust the amount to create a thick batter.
🍽 Serving & storage
What to serve with orange tofu
If you use a block of tofu that is roughly 10 ounces (280 grams), you will have extra sauce, which is the plan because there's never too much of this yummy spicy orange sauce.
Rice (brown rice, jasmine rice, cauliflower rice), or noodles with vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or bell peppers is a natural fit for this sumptuous vegan dinner. This easy recipe also transforms bowls into some seriously great eating.
A smattering of toasted sesame seeds over the top will make this dish tasty and pretty. Thin slices of green onion or red chili also make a nice garnish.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it in the microwave or on the stove. You may need to add a little water if the sauce is too thick.
📖 Related recipes
Crispy & Oil-free Vegan Orange Tofu
This crispy & oil-free vegan orange tofu recipe brightens the day with baked or air fryer orange-flavored tofu and an easy sticky orange sauce.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Tofu
- Method: Air Fryer or Bake
- Cuisine: Asian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 block firm/extra firm tofu (10 ounces 280 grams)
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup chickpea flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups orange juice
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1-2 teaspoons of sriracha
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Zest of 1 orange
- Prepare the tofu. Press any excess moisture in the tofu by wrapping it in a paper towel, placing it on a plate, and pressing down on it. If your tofu has a lot of moisture, use a tofu press, or put the tofu on a place and lay a flat surface with a heavy object on top. Press the tofu for 10-15 minutes.
- Make the tofu batter. Mix the chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the orange juice, then use a whisk or fork to combine the ingredients into a smooth batter.
- Dip the tofu. Cut the tofu into cubes about ¾ of an inch. Give the batter a quick stir, and then add the cubes to the bowl. Gently stir the pieces to cover them on all sides with the batter.
- Air fryer instructions
- Preheat and prepare the parchment paper. Cut a piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the air fryer basket. Set the air fryer to preheat at 375 F. (190 C.).
- Cook the tofu. Once the air fryer beeps, add the tofu pieces separated and in a single layer on the parchment paper. The basket will be hot, so it’s best to use tongs. Set the timer for 12 minutes total. Check the tofu after 6 minutes. If it has browned, then gently flip it by peeling it away from the parchment paper. You can discard the parchment paper at this point. If it is still moist, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes, and then flip it. Continue cooking until the air fryer beeps. Add a few more minutes if needed.
- Oven instructions
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 F. (200 C.). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Add the tofu and bake. When the oven is hot, add the tofu cubes to the baking tray, separated and in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then check. If the tofu is brown and firm, gently flip it over. Bake for another 10 minutes until it is golden brown.
- Make the sauce. Add 1 cup of orange juice plus the rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, and sriracha to a medium saucepan. Set the stove to medium heat, stir the ingredients, and bring them to simmer.
- Add the cornstarch. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 cup of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Slowly pour the mixture into the simmering sauce and whisk or vigorously mix.
- Add orange zest. Stir in the orange zest and continue simmering the sauce on low until you are ready to add the tofu.
- Finish the dish. Add the tofu cubes to the orange sauce and gently stir to cover them. Spoon the tofu and orange sauce over rice or steamed or roasted veggies.
- Prep and cooking times reflect 10 minutes for pressing the tofu and using an air fryer. Add about 12 additional minutes if baking in the oven.
- Before cooking the tofu cubes, be sure to preheat the oven or air fryer. This keeps the battery from running off and firmly cooks the middle.
- Air fryer and oven temperatures can vary dramatically, so be mindful of using the baking time as guidance. The size of the tofu cubes will also impact baking time.
Keywords: orange tofu, air fryer crispy tofu, oil-free crispy tofu, vegan, plant-based