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Easy Crispy Sesame Tofu Recipe

Crispy sesame tofu, pan-fried to perfection and then tossed in a delicious sticky sweet sauce with a pop of acidity.

A plate of sesame tofu over rice.

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The most mouthwatering crispy sesame tofu you can enjoy for lunch or dinner. I love meal-prepping this recipe with rice and vegetables like maple-roasted carrots for simple lunches throughout the week.

If you love takeout, you’ll love it, too! Even though tofu is of Chinese origin and served in a lot of Asian cuisines, none of the takeout places around me offered it. As a former lover of sesame chicken, I had to figure out a vegan version. And I did!

Ingredients

Reminder: You can always find the full detailed recipe in the recipe card below.

I’m breaking the ingredients down into two sections: the crispy tofu and the sticky sesame sauce.

Ingredients for crispy tofu.

Crispy Tofu Ingredients:

  • Tofu: Use extra firm tofu.
  • Soy sauce: This will add flavor directly into the tofu so it’s not bland.
  • Flour and cornstarch: The combination of these two ingredients add a nice crispy coating to the tofu.
  • Oil: For frying up the tofu in a pan.
Ingredients for sticky vegan sesame sauce.

Sesame Sauce Ingredients:

  • Soy sauce: You can use regular or lite soy sauce. A lower sodium alternative is tamari sauce.
  • Water: Use cold water so the cornstarch doesn’t clump.
  • Brown sugar: This adds necessary sweetness to the sauce.
  • Garlic: Fresh, minced garlic is best.
  • Toasted sesame seeds: If you can’t find sesame seeds already toasted, you can throw some regular sesame seeds in a hot pan for a few minutes and toast them yourself.
  • Sesame oil: Crucial for sesame sauce! A little goes a long way.
  • Cornstarch: This thickens the sauce. Arrowroot powder also works.
  • Rice vinegar: Adds acidity and depth.

Instructions

First, we’ll start out by making the tofu. Press and cube the tofu before tossing with soy sauce. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to press tofu.

Next, toss with flour and cornstarch.

Heat some oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cook the tofu cubes until golden brown on both sides. Set aside on a wire rack while you make the sauce. Using a wire rack is better than using paper towels because it allows the oil to drain off and prevent the tofu from getting soggy again.

Clean out the pan so we can reuse it for the sauce.

How-to collage for making pan-fried tofu.

For the sauce, simply whisk all the ingredients together into the pan. Heat on medium heat until the sauce has thickened, whisking frequently.

Toss the tofu into the sauce until well-coated. Serve hot over rice and with some veggies like broccoli, carrots, or snow peas.

Making the sauce.

Substitutions

There are so many variations to this recipe:

  • Sweetener: Instead of brown sugar, you could use regular sugar or maple syrup.
  • Soy sauce: Can’t have soy? Substitute the soy sauce with coconut aminos.
  • Garlic: You can use 2 teaspoons of garlic powder instead of fresh garlic.
  • Vinegar: I totally recommend having rice vinegar on hand at all times! But if it’s something you’ll never use otherwise, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar are good substitutions.
  • Gluten-free: Omit the flour and substitute an equal amount of additional cornstarch.
Homemade sesame tofu on a bed of rice.

Tofu Guide: How to Press Tofu
In this resource, you’ll learn 2 easy methods.

Make-Ahead

You can totally make this sesame tofu ahead of time! The crispiness of the tofu definitely shines through when eaten fresh, but it’s still delicious when enjoyed the next day.

Simply make as instructed and store in the fridge.

Or, if you’ll still have access to a stove, store the sauce and tofu separately. Crisp up the tofu again by warming it in a hot pan for a few minutes before tossing it with the sauce.

Storage

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Close-up of the recipe.

Trying to go vegan? Sign up for our (FREE) Vegan Beginner’s Guide!

Want to try more tofu recipes? Try this baked BBQ tofu or easy tofu tacos.

Crispy Sesame Tofu

Karissa Besaw
Easy, vegan, better-than-takeout sesame tofu! Crispy tofu tossed in a sticky, slightly sweet, super flavorful homemade sesame sauce.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Tofu Press Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American, Chinese, Vegan
Servings 2 generous servings
Calories 366 kcal

Ingredients
  

Tofu

  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu pressed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil for frying

Sesame Sauce

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Instructions
 

Tofu

  • Cut pressed tofu into 1-inch cubes.
  • Toss tofu with soy sauce, then with flour, corn starch, and garlic powder until coated.
  • Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat.
  • Add tofu to the hot pan in a single layer.
  • Cook until golden brown (3-5 minutes) then flip and cook again until that side is browned (another 3-5 minutes.)
  • Remove tofu from the pan and set aside.

Sesame Sauce

  • In the pan used to cook the tofu, whisk all sauce ingredients together until cornstarch is dissolved.
  • Bring to a simmer on medium heat, until the sauce is thickened.
  • Turn the heat off. Add the tofu into the sauce and toss until well-coated.
  • Enjoy over a bowl of rice, garnished with green onions (optional.)

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 19gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 2255mgPotassium: 426mgFiber: 1gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 91mgIron: 4mg
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