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Pan-Fried Sticky Sesame Tofu – Connoisseurus Veg

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This mouth-watering sticky sesame tofu is made with crispy pan-fried tofu chunks in a sweet and savory sauce! An absolutely delicious vegan dinner that can be on the table in under 30 minutes.

Plate of Sesame Tofu and rice with bunch of scallions in the background.

I’m a sucker for vegan Chinese takeout! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to discover that a popular Chinese food place in town has vegan options, and I LOVE even more when I find a place where the whole menu is vegan (they’re out there, and they rock).

But the problem with takeout is that some of the best dishes are past their prime by the time they get to you. I had this happen recently — I was super psyched about an order of sesame tofu, but by the time I got it the coating was kind of soggy and the tofu wasn’t hot anymore.

That’s why I love making these types of dishes at home. I can enjoy them while they’re at their best! So I set out to make my own version of sticky sesame tofu and I’m happy to say that it was completely scrumptious!

The recipe was pretty easy to create; I adapted it from my sticky sesame cauliflower recipe. It was also really easy to make, and on the table in less time that it takes to pickup a takeout order.

Jump to:

What You’ll Need

  • Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
  • Maple syrup. Another liquid sweetener such as agave could be used instead.
  • Rice vinegar. White vinegar can be used in a pinch, but I highly recommend using rice vinegar if it’s available — this will give your sauce the best flavor.
  • Sriracha sauce. This ingredient is optional and just adds a touch of heat to the sesame sauce. Leave it out for a milder version, or bump up the amount for some extra kick.
  • Water.
  • Fresh ginger.
  • Fresh garlic.
  • Cornstarch.
  • Sesame oil. This is what gives the sauce it’s sesame flavor, so don’t substitute another type of oil.
  • Peanut oil. Another high-heat oil such as canola or corn oil could be substituted if needed.
  • Tofu. Super-firm or extra-firm tofu works best for this recipe. If you use extra-firm, you’ll need to press it.

How to Make Crispy Sesame Tofu

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

  • Make your sauce. Combine soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, water, minced garlic, and grated ginger in a small saucepan. Set it over heat, bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
  • When the sauce is about finished simmering, stir some cold water and cornstarch together in a small cup or bowl, then add it to the sauce. Once it starts simmering again it should thicken up quickly. Now take it off of the burner and set it aside.
  • Tip: It’s important to use cold water for your cornstarch slurry. This helps the cornstarch to dissolve! Bring the temperature down with an ice cube or two if needed.
  • Stir the sesame oil into the sauce.
Sesame sauce simmering in a pot.
  • Pan-fry the tofu. While the sauce simmers, heat some oil in a nonstick skillet on the stove. Make sure you have a good ⅛ inch of oil in the skillet.
  • Place some cornstarch in a bowl and add a few tofu cubes. Carefully roll them around to coat all sides, then transfer the pieces to the hot oil. Make sure they’re not touching or they’ll stick together!
  • Cook the pieces for a few minutes, flipping them a few times, until they’re browned and crispy all over.
  • Tip: You may need to cook your tofu in multiple batches. Just transfer each batch to a plate before adding the next batch to the skillet!
Tofu pieces frying in a skillet.
  • When the tofu and sauce are both done cooking, combine them in the skillet. Pour the sauce over the tofu, give it a few flips, and let it cook until everything is hot and the sauce is bubbly!
Two images showing two stages or cooking tofu in sesame sauce.
  • Sprinkle your sesame tofu with sesame seeds and chopped scallions, then serve it with a side of rice and dig in!
  • Tip: This recipe makes plenty of sauce, so feel free to pair your tofu up with some veggies like steamed broccoli or snow peas!
White wooden surface set with a plate of sesame tofu and rice with chopsticks.

Leftovers & Storage

Sticky sesame tofu is best served immediately, as the tofu won’t stay crispy for long once you’ve added the sauce! If you do have leftovers though, they’ll keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about 3 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this recipe be made gluten-free?

Yup! Just use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.

Is there a way to reduce the oil content of this recipe?

Sure! You can try baking the tofu using the method in my teriyaki tofu recipe, or pan-frying it with less oil by using this method (though it will be less crispy).

I can’t seem to get the hang of how to make tofu taste good. Any tips?

Yes! In fact, I have an entire post dedicated to tofu that will help you learn everything from what type to use to which cooking method works best for a particular recipe.

Hand with chopsticks picking up a piece of Sesame Tofu from a plate.

More Easy Tofu Recipes

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Plate of Sesame Tofu and Rice with chopsticks.

Pan-Fried Sticky Sesame Tofu

This mouth-watering sticky sesame tofu is made with crispy pan-fried tofu chunks in a sweet and savory sauce! An absolutely delicious vegan dinner that can be on the table in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients

For the Sticky Sesame Sauce


  • cup
    soy sauce

  • cup
    maple syrup
  • ¼
    cup
    water
  • 2
    tablespoons
    rice vinegar
  • 1
    teaspoon
    sriracha sauce
    (optional), or to taste
  • 1
    teaspoon
    freshly grated ginger
  • 1
    garlic clove,
    minced
  • 3
    tablespoons
    chilled water
  • 1
    tablespoon
    cornstarch
  • 1
    teaspoon
    toasted sesame oil

For the Crispy Tofu

  • ¼
    cup
    peanut oil,
    plus more as needed
  • ¼
    cup
    cornstarch,
    plus more as needed
  • 1
    (15 ounce) package
    super-firm tofu*,
    cut into approximately 1-inch cubes

For Serving

  • 2
    scallions,
    chopped
  • 2
    teaspoons
    toasted sesame seeds
  • Cooked rice

Instructions

To Make the Sauce

  1. Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, water, rice vinegar, sriracha, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan and place it over high heat.

  2. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

  3. When the sauce is almost finished simmering, stir the cold water and cornstarch together in a small container, then add it to the sauce.

  4. Bring the sauce back up to a simmer. It should start to thicken quickly — remove it from heat once it does.

  5. Stir the sesame oil into the sauce.

Pan-Fry the Tofu

  1. While the sauce simmers, generously coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet with oil (at least ⅛ inch deep) and place it over medium heat.

  2. While the oil heats up, place the cornstarch into a small bowl. Add a few tofu cubes and gently stir to coat all sides in cornstarch.

  3. Place the tofu cubes in the hot oil. Continue dredging tofu cubes in cornstarch and adding them to the oil, placing as many as you can fit into the skillet without crowding. (Cook the tofu in batches if it won’t all fit).

  4. Cook the tofu pieces for about 10 minutes, flipping them once or twice until they’re crispy all over.

  5. Once the tofu has finished cooking, let the skillet cool down slightly**, then pour the sauce over the tofu and toss to combine.

Recipe Notes

* Extra-firm tofu can also be used, but will need to be pressed for about 20 minutes before using.

** Most of the oil should have been absorbed by the tofu by now, but if you still have more than a thin coating in the skillet you can either (carefully!) blot it out with a paper towel, or combine the tofu and sauce in another cooking vessel — you can use the saucepan you cooked the sauce in if it’s large enough.

Nutrition information does not include rice.

Nutrition Facts

Pan-Fried Sticky Sesame Tofu

Amount Per Serving

Calories 340
Calories from Fat 179

% Daily Value*

Fat 19.9g31%

Saturated Fat 3.5g18%

Sodium 1216mg51%

Potassium 294mg8%

Carbohydrates 31.6g11%

Fiber 1.7g7%

Sugar 16.8g19%

Protein 10.6g21%

Calcium 258mg26%

Iron 3mg17%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



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