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vegan tofu
5 from 1 vote

Esther Williams Tofu Milanese

My Tofu Milanese is inspired by Classic Hollywood’s aqua musical star, Esther Williams. Like Esther’s veal Milanese, my take on this classic is loaded with fresh garlic and rosemary.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 6
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For the breadcrumbs:

  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 7-8 cloves)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

Everything else for the tofu:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • 3 pounds extra firm tofu, thinly sliced (I like to do 9 thin slices/cutlets per pound of tofu for this recipe. See photos above for my favorite cutting method.)
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • Oil, for frying (48 oz canola oil if deep frying, or a few Tbsp of olive oil for pan frying)

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 7-8 cloves)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp lemon zest

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 4-6 cups arugula


Prepare the breadcrumbs

  • To a shallow dish, add the breadcrumbs, garlic, rosemary, sea salt, and pepper. Whisk together with a fork until everything is evenly distributed. (I like to use a 9x9 or 8x8 inch baking dish here.)

Prepare the flour

  • To another shallow dish, add the flour.

Prepare the milk

  • To yet another shallow dish, add the flour and Bragg Liquid Aminos. Whisk together with a fork until the aminos are evenly distributed.

Salt the tofu

  • Very important step here! Lay the tofu cutlets out, and with your fingers, just sprinkle a little sea salt over the top of all the cutlets. A little goes a long way! I usually use between ¼-½ tsp. (This is not per cutlet, this is the total amount of salt I use to salt all the cutlets on one side.) Now flip each tofu cutlet over, and sprinkle the other side of each cutlet with salt, about another ¼-½ tsp sea salt total.

Dredge the tofu

  • Since we’re not using eggs, I find the breadcrumbs and flour stick best to the tofu cutlets if you dredge the cutlets in this order:
  • Start by dredging a tofu cutlet in the flour.
  • Now dip the floured tofu cutlet in the milk. (Trust me, the flour will stay on the tofu!)
  • Now dredge the tofu cutlet in the breadcrumbs.
  • Note: I recommend dredging no more that two tofu cutlets at a time. Then, while those two cutlets are frying, I dredge another two cutlets. I repeat this process until all the tofu is fried. I find this method ensures that more of the breadcrumb coating stays on each tofu cutlet—breadcrumbs are more likely to fall off the longer the tofu sits before frying.

Fry the tofu

  • At this point, you can either deep fry, or pan fry, the tofu cutlets.

Pan fry the tofu

  • If you prefer to pan fry the tofu, heat a few Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat.
  • Now add two tofu cutlets to the pan. Let fry until the side of the tofu that’s face down in the pan turns golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Flip the tofu cutlet, and fry until the other side turns golden brown, about another 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the tofu from the pan, and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  • Repeat the process with the rest of the breaded tofu cutlets.

Deep fry the tofu

  • Alternately, you can deep fry the tofu. Unless I’m trying to be really healthy, this is my preferred method!
  • In a large pot, heat 48 oz of canola oil over medium-high heat, until it looks like the oil is separating in the pot, about five minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to medium, and using a fryer skimmer, gently lower a tofu cutlet into the oil. Now use your fryer skimmer to lower one more tofu cutlet into the oil. (I prefer to fry two pieces at a time.)
  • Fry until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. (If the oil gets too hot and the breadcrumbs are turning golden brown more quickly than this, turn the heat down a bit. If the oil is not hot enough and the breadcrumbs are taking too long to brown, then turn the heat back up. You’ll get the hang of it as you go!)
  • Use your fryer skimmer to remove the tofu from the pot, and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Repeat this process with the rest of the tofu slices.

Make the spaghetti

  • You can prepare the spaghetti and sauce while the tofu Milanese fries if you’re a good multitasker, but I like to focus completely on the frying, then move on to the spaghetti and sauce after I’ve finished frying the tofu.
  • Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.

Make the sauce

  • While the spaghetti cooks, you can make the sauce.
  • Add the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, sea salt, and lemon zest to a small sauce pan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, and let boil for one minute. The olive oil will become infused with the flavors of the garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest.
  • Sauce is done!

Finish the spaghetti

  • Once the spaghetti is done cooking, drain it, and add the spaghetti back to the pot you cooked it in. Now add about ½ of the sauce, followed by ½ tsp sea salt, 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the arugula. Stir until everything is incorporated and the arugula starts to wilt.
  • Taste, and add an additional 1 tsp lemon juice, a dash more salt, or a little more of the sauce if desired.

Serve and enjoy!

  • To each plate, add the spaghetti, and place a few tofu Milanese cutlets on top. Drizzle a bit more sauce, if desired, and serve!


This dish is vegan.
This dish is vegetarian.