Vegan Cooking Tips

All About Oven-Frying

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

WHAT ATTRACTS US SO MUCH TO FRIED foods? Is it the crispy on the outside, steamy on the inside? Is it the taste, the texture, the color? Whatever it is, it keeps many of us coming back for more and more.

We all know that we should keep our indulgence in fried delights to a minimum. But if you can't stay away from fried fare, there's a healthier approach to preparing these favorite foods. Anything that you can deep-fry—potatoes, vegetables, and even breads—you can also oven-fry. It just takes a bit more cooking time. Oven-frying will spare some of the calories and fat while maintaining the taste, texture, and color of deep-fried foods. Plus, oven-frying will save you some money, as you won't have to purchase those big bottles of oil. And clean-up time will decrease, too.

Here are some oven-frying success tips:

  • Make a crust by adding crispy ingredients to the outside of the food. Crumbled corn flakes or other cold cereals, pretzel pieces, nuts, matzo, crumbled oven-baked tortilla or potato chips, or Indian papadum make a crispy coating.
  • With the exception of French fries, most foods are double-dipped—sometimes even triple-dipped—in flour or some other breading to create a substantial crunchy coating. This can work for oft-fried items, such as vegetables, as well as for protein foods. For instance, try dipping oven-fried tempeh or seitan into rice milk. Then, dust the tempeh or seitan with flour, spray the flour with cooking spray, and dust the tempeh or seitan with flour again. Or dip extra firm tofu cubes into cornstarch, roll them in silken tofu that has been thinned with a small amount of water, and then roll them in some flaked coconut, chopped nuts, or seasoned bread crumbs.
  • Give the food that you are going to oven-fry a short spray of vegetable oil after breading it, just before it goes in the oven. This helps to brown and crisp the surface.
  • If you are a baker, give fried yeast breads, such as donuts, time to rise on their own. Coat the outside with vegetable oil spray and brown in the oven.
  • The higher the heat, the browner and crispier the coating will get. We recommend at least 400-degree ovens.

Here are some ideas for simple dishes that will help you get started:


Prepare and cool mashed potatoes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll cold mashed potatoes into Tablespoonsized balls. Next, roll the potato balls first in bread crumbs; then in soymilk seasoned with onion powder, salt, and pepper; and then again in bread crumbs. Place the potato balls on a baking sheet and spray lightly with vegetable oil. Bake for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven, and turn several times so the potatoes bake evenly. Remove the potatoes from the oven, transfer to a serving dish, and eat immediately.


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut extra firm tofu into 1-inch cubes. Roll in nutritional yeast that has been flavored with dried parsley and black pepper. Dip the tofu into rice milk and then into bread crumbs or crushed corn flakes. Place tofu on a baking sheet and spray lightly with oil. Bake for approximately 5- 10 minutes, depending on your oven, and turn several times so the tofu bakes evenly. Remove the tofu from the oven, transfer to a serving dish, and eat immediately.


Say that you have partially cooked 'hard' vegetables, such as white or sweet potatoes, carrots, or beets, and don't feel like breading them. Instead, you can slice them, spray them with vegetable oil, and sprinkle on some seasonings. Oven-fry at 450 degrees for 5 minutes or until hot and crispy. Serve immediately.