Two plates of warm cabbage salad with fried crispy tofu, carrots, cilantro on woven placemats

Healthy ingredients don’t have to seem humdrum. Here they give rise to a summery southeast Asian-inspired salad that juxtaposes crunchy with tender and sweet with a little chili heat.Renee Schettler Rossi

Two plates of warm cabbage salad with fried crispy tofu, carrots, cilantro on woven placemats

Cabbage Salad with Crispy Tofu

5 / 3 votes
In this cabbage salad with crispy tofu, medium firm tofu is coated, pan-fried, and laid on top of a napa cabbage-carrot-peanut salad tossed with an Asian garlic-chile sauce.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories832 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


For the tofu

  • Two blocks medium-firm or soft tofu, sliced crosswise into 1-inch-thick slabs, each slab sliced into two 1-inch-wide fingers
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

For the salad

  • 1 medium head napa cabbage, shredded (about 6 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 3/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and crushed
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup whole cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce, such as Sriracha


Prepare the tofu

  • Spread the tofu on several layers of paper towels and let drain slightly, about 20 minutes. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a paper towel–lined platter on the rack, and heat the oven to 200°F (93°C).
  • Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside. Toss the cornstarch and cornmeal together in a shallow dish. Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Working with a few pieces of tofu at a time, coat them thoroughly with the cornstarch mixture, pressing on the coating to adhere, then transfer to the wire rack.
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully lay half of the tofu in the skillet and cook, turning the pieces occasionally with a spatula, until crisp and lightly golden on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using a spatula, gently lift the tofu from the oil, letting any excess oil drip back into the skillet, and transfer to the prepared platter in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tofu pieces and transfer to the platter in the oven. Discard any oil left in the skillet and wipe it out with a wad of paper towels.

Make the salad

  • Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Make the dressing

  • Add the oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and chili sauce, and bring to a brief simmer, about 15 seconds.
  • Off the heat, measure out and reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Pour the remaining dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Divide the cabbage between four plates and arrange the warm tofu over the top. Spoon the reserved dressing over the tofu before serving.

Adapted From

The Best Skillet Recipes

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 832 kcalCarbohydrates: 69 gProtein: 30 gFat: 51 gSaturated Fat: 8 gMonounsaturated Fat: 16 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gSodium: 783 mgFiber: 10 gSugar: 14 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Cook’s Illustrated. Photo © 2009 Keller & Keller. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What a delicious and easy way to serve crispy tofu with lots of healthy vegetables. The tofu’s crust will appeal to many who don’t care for it plain. Tossing the cabbage salad with the warm dressing to wilt it slightly is a wonderful technique. The good quantity of fresh cilantro and mint gives the salad a bright, fresh taste.

The instructions are clear and simple to accomplish. They do, however, require you to dirty more dishes than necessary, but with such tasty results, finding a volunteer to help clean up shouldn’t be hard.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I am always making small variations to recipes in order to cut down on dirty dishes. It’s not digging ditches in the sun or scrubbing men’s toilets, but I really hate doing the dishes (no dishwasher). So from a woman who loathes a full sink, thank you for thinking of and mentioning the dishes! 😉

  2. 5 stars
    I was looking for an Asian slaw recipe to serve with my pork skewers and remembered this recipe. As I needed a side dish, I omitted the tofu and only made the salad. It provided a lovely crunch with a bit of spice and was the perfect accompaniment to the slightly sweet coconut marinated pork.

    1. Brilliant, Beth! Love how you adapted to suit your needs. And I can imagine this going perfectly with those skewers (which I adore, BTW).

  3. 5 stars
    I was looking for a cabbage salad recipe as a side dish so I decided to make this sans tofu. It was simple as could be since I made the dressing in a measuring cup in the microwave. And delicious. The Asian flavors work perfectly with the vegetables.

    I tossed it all together and let it sit about 15 minutes then had no trouble devouring two servings worth. Leftovers even held up reasonably well maintaining a nice amount of crunch for a dressed salad, except for the peanuts so I might serve them separately next time.