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Spicy Popcorn Tofu

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

Popcorn chicken always evokes the nostalgic memory of fried delicious goodness from a boba shop. If you're vegan like me, you might feel like you've been missing out on eating this popular snack. Not to worry--I have the perfect substitute for your boba shop cravings.

These are sure to be a crowd-favorite because they taste like the real deal. All of the seasonings I used are the same ones that boba shops would use in their popcorn chicken. The only ingredient I changed was the protein! And honestly, that's always been my philosophy: make as few substitutions as possible.

Enjoy this classic boba shop snack with your own brown sugar milk shake.

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Spicy Popcorn Tofu


  • 1 lb tofu

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

  • 1 tbsp five spice powder

  • 1 tbsp white pepper

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 2 tbsp cayenne

  • 1 tbsp paprika

  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • 1 cup cornstarch˜

  • water, in spray bottle preferred

  • oil (for frying)

Toppings & Finishes

  • 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp white pepper + 1/2 tsp cayenne, combined in small bowl.

  • fried basil

  • sweet chili sauce


  1. Tofu preparation: drain tofu, place in freezer for 6-8 hours. Then thaw tofu and freeze again. Thaw tofu again. After thawing tofu for second time, wrap tofu in towel and press for 10 minutes using a heavy weight. Then tear tofu into 2/3 inch chunks and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

  2. In the tofu bowl, add soy sauce, garlic power, five spice, white pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, sugar, and flour. Toss together so tofu chunks are evenly coated.

  3. In separate bowl, add cornstarch. Using spray bottle, spray cornstarch lightly with water, and wait 10 seconds. Repeat 3-4x. Then lightly whisk cornstarch together (you should see large clumps of cornstarch forming). Dip a few tofu pieces (enough for 1 round of frying) in cornstarch, then shake off excess and place in another bowl.

  4. Fill wok or deep pan with 1 inch of oil, and stir in 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch (to help prevent splatter). Heat oil to 350F. Then add tofu to pan and fry until golden brown. Place popcorn tofu onto towel or cooling rack when done. Repeat coating and frying process until all tofu is fried. Optional: fry some basil to add as topping.

  5. Place popcorn tofu in mixing bowl and sprinkle on salt, white pepper and cayenne mixture. Toss until all fried tofu pieces are evenly coated.

Recipe Notes

  • Add salt/cayenne mixture at the end a bit at a time to avoid over-salting. If popcorn tofu needs more salt or spiciness, add salt and cayenne according to taste.

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