All Recipes/ Low FODMAP/ Vegetarian

Panko Crusted Tofu (Pan-Fried, Baked or Air Fried) Bao Burgers

December 23, 2021 (Last Updated: May 4, 2023)
panko crusted tofu

We have three words for you: panko crusted tofu. This panko crusted tofu will convert all the tofu-haters.

Have you tried making panko crusted tofu but the panko doesn’t actually stay on the tofu? This recipe will fix that problem.

Tired of having soggy fried tofu? This recipe will give you the crispiest pan fried, oven baked and air fryer tofu.

Not sure what to serve with panko tofu? Imagine this: crispy panko crusted tofu, marinated in a garlicky umami seasoning, topped off with a creamy tangy sauce, a heap of crunchy sour pickles, sandwiched between fluffy steamed bread.

Ladies, gentlemen, people, we introduce to you our panko crusted tofu bao burgers. A recipe that ensures your panko crumbs stick to the tofu and a quick and easy glaze that’ll add another layer of flavor.

Aside from that, we’ll also talk about a few things along the way like: 

Ready for our favorite tofu bao buns? Let’s dive into it and start with gua bao buns. 

What Is Panko?

Panko is sort of like Japanese breadcrumbs. They’re made from wheat and help achieve that crispy exterior for this tofu bao recipe. You can find panko at the Asian section of the grocery store but if you can’t get a hold of it, no worries. We’ve got you covered with some substitutes below.

Substitutes For Panko (Gluten Free Options)

So you want to make this panko crusted tofu recipe but alas, there is no panko to be found. Maybe your grocers don’t stock them or they’re just sold out. We’ve been there folks. And guess what? No panko, no problem. You can easily make this ​​tofu bun recipe without panko:

  • Regular breadcrumbs

Regular breadcrumbs work just fine but they lack that crispiness panko gives.

  • Gluten Free Panko

A good crispy tofu recipe panko substitute we have found is puffed rice or cornflakes. They do a great job being a suitable substitute for panko crumbs. Bonus points for these two options being gluten-free!

Simply take your cereal of choice and turn it into a crumb by smashing the bejeezus out of it with a pan or rolling pin. Alternatively, you can skip the manual labor and use a food processor to blitz it up into a crumb.

Now onto the real reason we’re all here; how to make these crispy tofu steamed buns.

How To Make Crispy Panko Crusted Tofu

The tofu filling in this recipe goes through 4 steps:

  • Marinate
  • Batter
  • Fry
  • Glaze


This tofu is a little labor of love, we start first slicing the tofu like so:

And then leaving the slices to marinade in ketjap or kicap manis (equivalent to thick sweet soy) regular soy sauce, and a pinch of pepper. Once this is done, we move on to the next step: battering the tofu.


To make this crispy tofu filling, the three-step process of flouring, battering, and crusting the tofu is crucial. Placing the marinated tofu in the flour allows the batter to stick onto the tofu:

This batter is made with an egg, flour, water, and salt. Looking for a tofu panko vegan recipe? You can easily turn this panko crusted tofu vegan by switching this batter out for our vegan batter used in this low FODMAP vegan eggplant recipe.

The battered tofu then becomes the perfect vessel for the crunchy panko crumbs to adhere to.

Frying The Tofu

We use the term frying lightly. Feel free to whip out your deep fryer if you have one. We don’t own a deep fryer so we filled a pan with a good amount of oil to shallow fry the tofu slices.

When the tofu is cooked, remove the oil from the pan. Add the tofu back into the same pan and then move on to covering it with the glaze. The residual marinade is thinned out with some water to pack even more flavor into these deep fried tofu nuggets.

It’s poured over the crispy tofu to encase it with a sticky, sweet and salty glaze. As you can see below, it fumes out a bit but be sure to cook it until the liquid has evaporated.

The whole process of battering and coating the tofu filling for your vegan tofu bao buns can also be made in the oven.

Oven orAir Fryer

You can also bake or air fry these panko breaded tofu: spray with cooking oil and bake or air fry at 180C or 356F for 10 minutes. Brush on the glaze and bake for an additional 2 minutes. You can also bake the tofu without panko for a baked teriyaki tofu. Perfect for sandwiching in between your bao buns.

With the filling done and dusted, let’s move on to turning these delicious crispy tofu panko into crispy tofu bao buns.

How To Make Crispy Tofu Bao Burgers

Panko Crusted Tofu

We love making these bao buns because they’re easy to make (even on a lazy day) and they’re absolutely delicious. The downside of this recipe is that they’re highly addictive and we have trouble stopping at just one.

These vegetarian bao buns are comprised of four components:

  1. Baos
  2. The tofu
  3. Sauce
  4. Pickles

In this section of the post, we’ll walk you through each component of the recipe, and by the end of it, you’ll have a delicious bao bun.


The easiest part of this recipe is the bao buns, that is if you’re buying them frozen. If that is the case, then all you have to do is steam or microwave them according to the instructions on the package. Ours took about 10-12 minutes in a steamer.

Aisha loves making bao buns from scratch. It may seem intimidating but honestly, the dough comes together within minutes with a machine or by hand. The majority of the time that comes when making baos from scratch comes down to waiting for the dough to rise.

Here’s a fun fact: ‘bao’ is a short form for the word ‘baozi’ in chinese. ‘Bao’ literally means bun. So, when we say bao buns in English, we’re actually saying bun bun. 

Make Panko Crusted Tofu

See instructions above for making panko crusted tofu baked, pan fried or in an air fryer.

Sauce It Up

The sauce for this bao bun recipe is similar to our low FODMAP vegan eggplant recipe simply because it’s our go to sauce for bao buns because it’s easy, quick, and never fails to pair with anything we stuff our buns with.

We use 200 grams of our favorite mayo in the Netherlands -which happens to be vegan- and add 13 grams of ketchup to it. You can swap out the ketchup or add Sriracha to the mayo and you’ll get an absolutely delicious mayo that is tangy, rich, and has a little kick.


The final component of this tofu bao bun recipe. You can make it days in advance. Like our mayo recipe, the pickles that go into this tofu bao is our go-to pickle recipe. 

Start by making the brining liquid and adding warm water to sugar. Make sure to dissolve the sugar by stirring the mix. When the sugar is dissolved add the vinegar.

The next step can be executed two ways: using a vegetable peeler to make cucumber and carrot ribbons or simply slicing the vegetables thinly. Whichever way you decide to cut your vegetables, submerge them into liquid and let the pickling process begin.

Let the vegetables sit in the plicking liquid for a minimum of 10 minutes to impart some flavor into them if you don’t have too much time on your hands.

Tip: Before assembling the baos, make sure to drain the pickles on a paper towel. This will remove the excess pickling liquid that would otherwise turn the crispy exterior of the tofu soggy.

Assembling The Tofu Gua Bao

Now that you’ve successfully ticked off every element that makes this panko fried tofu recipe, we’re going to show you how we assembled ours. Think of this instructional as a recommendation after one too many messy eating situations.

These tofu bao buns are great for parties because you can place everything on a table and let your guests assemble their own buns but if you’re making these to serve, then here’s what we recommend:

Start by slathering a healthy amount of mayo onto your already steamed buns. Add the sauce. Sandwich your sticky glazed crispy tofu into the bun. Finally, top it all off with those tangy pickles and there you have it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy bao buns tofu, pickles, and sauce sorted in roughly 35 minutes. 


Have some questions about panko tofu? This section will answer some of the webs most asked questions about fried tofu with panko.

How To Get A Crispy Crust On Tofu?

Pat dry the tofu before adding it to a pan. Excess moisture will stop you from getting a crispy crust. 

Heat a pan with some oil on medium high heat until very hot. Add the tofu into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Cook the tofu in batches to avoid crowding. Adding too many tofu slices all at once to a pan will create steam and that’s bad for crispy crusts.

How Do You Get Panko To Stick (Vegan)?

You can use vegan egg replacements like flax seeds or plant based milk. Cover tofu slices with flour first, then dip it in plant milk and right into the panko.

Another way to make sure panko sticks to tofu is to make a thin batter by mixing flour or cornstarch with plant milk or water. Start with covering the tofu in regular flour (this will help the batter stick to the tofu) , add it into the batter and then cover it in panko.

What Is The Secret To Crunchy Tofu?

The secret to crunchy tofu is a panko crust OR covering tofu in cornstarch to make a thin crispy layer. You can replace cornstarch with tapioca starch or rice flour too.

Why Is My Tofu Not Crispy?

Soggy tofu happens but you can fix that with a combination of high heat and the right coating. For heat, make sure the pan, oven or air fryer is hot enough. Let it preheat thoroughly. Using cornstarch in a flour based batter will give you super crispy tofu.

Covering battered tofu in panko, puffed rice or corn flakes will add another layer of crispiness. You can even coat tofu with a double batter to make sure it’s extra crispy. 

Can Panko Crusted Tofu Be Made Gluten-free?

Yes! Gluten free panko is available but if you can’t find any then substitute panko with cornflakes or puffed rice. Add your gluten free cereal of choice to a blender or in a ziplock bag and crush it by hand.

Panko Crusted Tofu

What Are Gua Bao Buns?

Panko Crusted Tofu

Gua bao buns originate from China. They are made from wheat, water, salt, and yeast. These Asian buns have been around for quite a while -not as long as their predecessor baos or baozi. They are a popular street food. Traditional baos are steamed buns that are round and have some sort of filling.

Gua baos look like a semi-circle or half-moon and act as burger buns. So think of this as a sort of crispy tofu burger. Scratch that, honestly, they’re more like hot dog buns because like hot dog buns, they’re connected at the bottom. Okay, forget what we said about hot dogs or burgers, they’re just crispy tofu bao buns.

Traditionally, these buns are filled with pork belly but the world is your oyster and we love finding new flavor combinations to fill our buns. This recipe is one of them and we have to say tofu panko bao buns are a winner.

We absolutely love this panko crusted tofu recipe. Especially when we aren’t bothered to cook anything and still want to enjoy a delicious meal. What do you think of this recipe? We’re thinking of posting our quick cucumber kimchi recipe with a braised pork belly bao bun. Is that a recipe that piques your interest? Let us know in the comments below.

While we’re on the topic of bao buns, why not check out our other panko recipes vegetarian:

Vegan & Low FODMAP Eggplant Bao

Looking for more tofu recipes? Try this Vegan Coconut Turmeric Tofu Soup

Crispy Panko Crusted Tofu Bao

Dinner, lunch, snack Asian
By Yummyble Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes

This crispy panko crusted tofu takes minutes to make and is coated in a sweet and savory glaze that will make your tastebuds dance.


  • 500 g Firm tofu
  • Panko crumbs for coating
  • 4 tbsp sweet soy (ketjap/kicap manis)
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Sauce:
  • 200 g vegan mayo
  • 13 g tomato ketchup
  • Pickles:
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cucumber
  • 150 ml white vinegar
  • 100 ml water
  • 50g sugar
  • Batter:
  • 1/2 (68g) cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 100 ml water
  • salt
  • Vegan batter recipe here
  • *extra flour for dredging




Pound or grate garlic into a smooth paste.


Place your tofu on kitchen paper and pat dry.


Slice firm tofu into 1-inch discs and marinate with a pinch of black pepper, sweet soy (ketjap/kicap manis) and regular light soy. Set the tofu aside while you get the other components ready.



For the sauce, simply mix the mayo and ketchup together. You can also add sriracha if you like!



You can make these pickled vegetables in advance and store them for later use.


Add vinegar, warm water, and sugar into a bowl and mix until the sugar dissolves.


Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons from the cucumber and carrots.


Add the vegetable ribbons to the vinegar mixture. Set aside and let the pickling liquid work its magic.



Mix flour, salt, egg, and water in a bowl. Mix until the batter is combined. Don't worry about lumps.


Add oil into a pan on medium-high heat and wait until it comes to temperature. Add batter into the pan to test: if it sizzles immediately, it's ready.


Get your station ready: Add flour into one plate, batter in a bowl, and panko crumbs on a plate.


Take a slice of tofu and place it on a plate of flour first. Shake it to remove the excess flour.


Next, dip the tofu into the batter, and then coat in panko crumbs.


Cook crusted tofu on both sides in oil until golden brown. Repeat this step until all the tofu is cooked.


In your bowl where the tofu was marinaded, add 1-2 tbsp of water.


Discard the oil used to fry the tofu from the pan. Add your fried tofu back into the same pan and drizzle over the leftover marinade. Cook until the liquid is evaporated and the pan is dry.


In a pot, boil water. Once boiled, add your bao buns and steam according to directions. Ours took 10 minutes.



Add pickles to a plate with a kitchen towel and dab slightly to remove excess liquid.


Start with a tablespoon of sauce, add your crispy sticky tofu, and top with pickles.


Dry pickles before serving: Add pickles to a plate with a kitchen towel and dab slightly to remove excess liquid.

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