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Crispy Salt-and-Pepper Air Fryer Tofu with Asparagus

Crispy Salt-and-Pepper Air Fryer Tofu with Asparagus

This quick meal features tofu that's crispy around the edges and tender on the inside, coated in a sweet and salty marinade including soy sauce, light brown sugar, and ground Szechuan peppercorns.


  • ¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 (16-ounce) block extra-firm tofu, cut in half lengthwise and crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slabs
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, and Szechuan pepper in a large resealable container until sugar is dissolved. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons soy mixture to a small bowl; reserve for serving. Pat tofu dry with paper towels; add to remaining soy mixture in large container. Seal container, and shake gently to combine. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Re-shake gently until tofu is evenly coated with soy mixture. Add cornstarch and 1 teaspoon each of the sesame oil and salt to tofu in container; seal container, and shake gently to combine.
  2. Preheat an air fryer to 400°F for 5 minutes. Remove tofu from soy mixture, letting excess drip off. Arrange tofu in a single layer in air fryer basket. Cook until golden and crispy, about 20 minutes, flipping tofu once halfway through cook time. Transfer tofu to a plate. Reduce air fryer temperature to 375°F.
  3. Toss together asparagus, garlic, five spice, and remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Arrange asparagus evenly in air fryer basket. Cook at 375°F until just tender, about 6 minutes, shaking basket once halfway through cook time. Transfer asparagus to plate with tofu. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds. Drizzle with reserved soy mixture. Garnish with cilantro. Serve.

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