Cooking with Kata — Air fryer orange tofu and broccoli


Katarina Rothhorn/NW

FIRST TIME AIR FRYING — After compulsively buying an air fryer one evening, the first thing I decided to make was this air fryer orange tofu. It exceeded all my expectations and gained my friend’s approval as well.

Katarina Rothhorn

After going down a rabbit hole of air fryer TikTok recipes, I had a moment of weakness at 9 p.m. one evening and bought the cheapest air fryer I could find. It arrived four days later and the first thing I decided to make was this vegetarian version of orange chicken and broccoli. 

You could absolutely make this with chicken in the air fryer (I have seen the TikToks — it is possible) but the cooking time will be different so double-check that before you attempt cooking with raw meat. I chose to use tofu since the other times I have tried to fry tofu, it absorbes a lot of oil and does not always crisp up to my satisfaction. 

And, let me tell you, this turned out fantastic. The tofu was crisp on the outside but still pretty soft and the flavor of the sauce was pretty good considering I made it with random things from my college apartment kitchen. 

Note: This recipe was inspired by the Easy Air Fryer Tofu by JessicaInTheKitchen since I have had no experience with air fryers previously.




1 block tofu (firm or extra firm!)

½ tablespoon soy sauce

Some garlic — ¼ teaspoon if powder, ½ teaspoon if fresh

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoon cornstarch

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper



¼ cup water

¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar

⅛ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic 

½ tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

½ tablespoon cornstarch plus ½ tablespoon water, stirred together until cornstarch is dissolved



However many broccoli florets you want — frozen or fresh

Salt and pepper to taste

Slap Ya Mama seasoning – optional but highly recommended (can replace salt and pepper) 

Sesame or olive oil to coat broccoli 



If your air fryer is brand-spanking-new like mine, make sure you wash and dry the basket and rack before using. Then give everything a quick spray of oil and preheat it to 350 degrees. 

After you try reading the instructions to figure out how your air fryer works and end up just turning dials until it turns on, cut up your tofu. You can dry it with paper towels or a dish towel before cutting or cut it up and then briefly dry on towels. 

Once your tofu cubes are dryish, toss them in a bowl with the soy sauce to let them absorb some of that flavor. Then toss in the garlic, salt, pepper (or replace with Slap Ya Mama), sesame oil and cornstarch. 

Add them to your air fryer basket so that the tofu cubes are not overlapping — you may have to cook them in two to three batches depending on the size of your air fryer. Cook them at 350 degrees for seven to ten minutes, shaking the basket occasionally until all the cubes are crispy. 

While the tofu is air frying, make the sauce by adding the water, orange juice, maple syrup, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. I know not every college student will have all of these ingredients (I come from a Japanese American household where ginger, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar are staples), but this sauce can easily have substituted ingredients — or you could honestly just skip the homemade sauce and buy a premade teriyaki or orange chicken sauce at the store. 

If you do go with the extra homemade sauce, bring all those ingredients to a simmer and then add in the cornstarch slurry. Whisk in the slurry until it is completely dissolved, and the sauce is thickened. Then remove it from the heat and add your tofu to it once they are all cooked. 

At this point, you have done a lot of cooking from scratch. Give yourself a quick snack break and try one of the tofu pieces (they are so freaking delicious!) and get a drink. 

Then you can season your broccoli florets with whatever you like — I think Slap Ya Mama seasoning is fantastic on just about anything — and cook them in a pan with butter and some water to create steam. 

I did try cooking my broccoli in the air fryer as well, but I would maybe recommend steaming or pan-frying it instead since parts of the broccoli became a little crispy in the air fryer.

If you want to plate it up and feel fancy, you can cook some rice as well and serve it all with some parsley and a few slices of cucumber. It is basically bougie take-out and is a great excuse to invite friends over for dinner (and to show off your new air fryer).