This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

This sweet and sticky sesame garlic fried tofu recipe is a game-changer! Tender morsels of tofu are pan-fried in sesame oil until crispy and tossed in a spicy honey garlic sauce.

A pile of sesame garlic fried tofu on a plate garnished with sesame seeds.
Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email and we’ll send this recipe directly to your inbox! Plus, we’ll send you fresh recipes weekly to inspire you in the kitchen!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

This easy sesame garlic fried tofu recipe is choc full of flavor. It’s made by pan-frying tender tofu pieces until they’re browned and crispy before tossing them in a mouthwatering, spicy honey garlic sauce. The touch of sweetness makes the tongue-tingling chilies sing in this recipe, and the texture of the tofu is perfect!

Tofu is a great source of plant protein and an easy addition to everything from curry to stir-fry. My tofu guide has lots of helpful pointers if you’re new to cooking with it. And if you’re looking for another easy tofu recipe once you’re hooked, try this delicious sweet and sour tofu, too!

Why You’ll Love This Fried Tofu Recipe

  • Extra crispy tofu. I’m sharing all of my secrets to the crispiest fried tofu. It starts with coating the tofu pieces in cornstarch first so that it browns up perfectly when fried.
  • Packed with flavor. Nutty sesame oil, savory garlic, and spicy Indonesian chili sauce come together with a touch of honey in a silky stir-fry sauce. The sauce ingredients are simple and pack a whole lot of sweet, spicy, garlicky punch.
  • Versatile. Serve this fried tofu over rice or noodles, or add it to your favorite bowls and salads. The recipe is easy to adapt and it’s great for weekly meal prep.
Ingredients for pan fried sesame garlic tofu.

What You’ll Need

Let’s have a look at the ingredients for this sesame tofu recipe. Remember to scroll to the recipe card below for the full measurements and recipe details.

For the Fried Tofu

  • Tofu – Make sure to buy extra firm or firm tofu. Soft tofu falls apart in the skillet.
  • Cornstarch – Alternatively, you can use arrowroot powder.
  • Sesame oil and vegetable oil – Use a combination of both, or you can make this recipe with only sesame oil if you prefer.

For the Sauce

  • Soy sauce – I like to use low-sodium soy sauce. You can also use regular soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos.
  • Honey – Agave or regular sugar also works.
  • Sambal oelek – A type of spicy Indonesian chili sauce. Or, use another chili sauce that you like.
  • Garlic paste – You can use fresh garlic instead, though it may not have enough time to cook through completely. See the recipe card notes.
  • Rice wine vinegar – Other good options are white or red wine vinegar and regular white vinegar.
A pile of sesame garlic fried tofu on a plate garnished with sesame seeds.

What’s the Secret to Crispy Fried Tofu?

There are two important things that make all the difference in this crispy tofu recipe:

  • Draining the tofu. Like my eggplant parmesan recipe where you pull the liquid out of the eggplant first, you need to press the liquid out of the tofu before you fry it. Removing the excess liquid ensures that the tofu cooks up crispy and not soggy.
  • Cornstarch. Tossing the tofu pieces in a thin layer of cornstarch creates a coating that crisps up once it hits the hot oil. The effect is sort of like deep-frying.

How to Make Sesame Garlic Fried Tofu

You’ll come to find that the tastiest tofu wholly depends on how you prepare it! Follow these simple steps for perfect sesame fried tofu that’s ready in minutes:

  • Prepare the tofu. Place two sheets of paper towels onto a small plate. Place the tofu on top, followed by two more sheets of paper towels. Find something heavy, like a cast iron skillet, and place it on top of the tofu. Let the tofu sit under the weight and drain for about 30 minutes. Come back to check on it halfway through and change out the paper towel.
  • Toss in cornstarch. Once the tofu is drained, slice it into even-sized cubes. Add the cubes to a bowl with cornstarch and toss to coat.
  • Brown the tofu. Next, heat up sesame oil and a bit of vegetable oil in a large skillet. The vegetable oil helps to increase the smoke point. Add your coated tofu to the pan and fry, letting it brown on all sides.
  • Make the sauce. While your tofu sizzles, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl.
  • Combine. Pour the sauce over the tofu and stir everything together while the sauce thickens.
  • Serve! Take the skillet off the heat, dish up your fried tofu, and enjoy. See below for some easy serving suggestions.
A pile of sesame garlic fried tofu on a plate garnished with sesame seeds.

Tips for Success

With a few helpful tricks to getting the crispiness right, this fried tofu recipe comes together without a hitch. Here are some final tips:

  • Prep the tofu well. Definitely don’t skip the steps for pressing the tofu and tossing it in cornstarch. It’s essential for getting pan-fried tofu browned and crispy.
  • Vegetable oil vs. sesame oil. Sesame oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oil. Using sesame oil on its own can occasionally lead to burning, which is why I’ve adapted this recipe to use a combination of the two when frying. Feel free to skip the vegetable oil and use only sesame oil depending on what you’re comfortable with.
  • Don’t interfere with the browning process. Once your tofu is in the skillet, give it a good 3-4 minutes to brown on each side, and do not touch it until it’s time to flip. Just as with browning meats, crisping up the bottoms of potstickers, making fall-off-the-bone ribs, let the hot oil in the pan do its thing. If you move the tofu around constantly while it cooks, it won’t have time to sear and get crispy.
  • Add an optional garnish. I love giving this tofu dish a sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped scallions as an easy garnish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I coat the tofu before frying it?

Yes! Coating the tofu in cornstarch before frying is important for perfectly crispy, fried tofu.

Can I use flour instead of cornstarch for tofu?

If you’d rather not use cornstarch to coat your tofu, you can substitute equal parts all-purpose flour or arrowroot powder instead.

What happens if I don’t press the tofu before cooking?

If you don’t press the water out of your tofu before frying, there’s a good chance that your dish will turn out soggy and diluted. The water will prevent the tofu from crisping and it’ll impact the flavors and textures in the sauce.

A pile of sesame garlic fried tofu on a plate garnished with sesame seeds.

Serving Suggestions

There are so many ways that you can enjoy this crispy fried tofu recipe. The possibilities for tasty dishes are endless! Here are some of my favorite serving ideas:

A pile of sesame garlic fried tofu on a plate garnished with sesame seeds.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

  • To store. Store the fried tofu airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days. Leftovers are great to serve cold over salads!
  • To reheat. For best results, reheat this tofu in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat. You can reheat this tofu in the microwave, just note that it won’t be as crispy.

Can I Freeze This Fried Tofu Recipe?

Yes! You can store your cooked and cooled tofu in an airtight container and keep it frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the tofu in the fridge before reheating.

More Easy Tofu Recipes

Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email and we’ll send this recipe directly to your inbox! Plus, we’ll send you fresh recipes weekly to inspire you in the kitchen!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
4.56 from 301 votes

Sesame Garlic Fried Tofu Recipe

This crispy sesame garlic fried tofu is pan-fried in sesame oil and then tossed in a sweet and sticky, spicy honey garlic sauce.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 14 ounces (397 g) extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the sauce

  • ¼ cup (59 ml) low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup (59 ml) water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sambal oelek, (if you like it less spicy, stick with 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste, (see notes)
  • ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Instructions 

  • Place two paper towels on a plate then place the entire block of tofu (drained from its packaging liquid) onto the plate. Place two more paper towels on top of the tofu then put a heavy item on top. Not TOO heavy that it would completely crush the tofu but heavy enough that it can squeeze out liquid. (I like using a cast iron skillet.)
    Leave the tofu to drain for 30 minutes and halfway through, change out the paper towels.
    ALTERNATIVELY and more eco-friendly: place a wire baking rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Place tofu on top and then put a heavy object on top and let drain for 30 minutes.
  • Once the tofu has drained, slice in half then into cubes and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle cornstarch on top and gently toss with your hands to ensure all tofu pieces are covered.
  • In a large skillet, add sesame oil and vegetable oil then bring up to medium-high heat.
  • Once oil is heated up, add the tofu to the skillet and let brown on all sides.
  • In the meantime, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce.
  • Once the tofu has browned and crisped up on all sides, add the sauce to the skillet and it should start to thicken immediately. Toss the tofu around to coat then remove from heat.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Sesame seeds and scallions are a garnish. You can add them if you want but they were mainly added for aesthetic reasons.
  • A note on sesame oil and vegetable oil: Some readers have commented that sesame oil has a low smoke point and should not be used to cook/fry. While I haven’t had issues with smoking/burning, I have adjusted the recipe to use 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil in conjunction with vegetable oil to help with the smoking points. You can omit the vegetable oil and use only sesame oil if you want. It depends on what you’re comfortable with.
  • Use garlic paste. You aren’t cooking the sauce for long, and if you use fresh garlic then it may still be raw and have a bite to it. However, you are more than welcome to use 1 clove of freshly minced garlic instead!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 313kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 16g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

You May Also Like...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




441 Comments

    1. peanut oil doesn’t have a high smoke point in cooking and you have to turn the heat up pretty high for this recipe to get the crispy exterior. i recommend using another type of oil.

  1. I just made this and I am obsessed with it! I’m not the best cook (lol), but this recipe was so easy and it turned out perfectly. Even my super picky 9 yr old who normally doesn’t eat tofu loves it.

  2. This looks delicious!! I would like to add mushrooms to this, or do you think they might have too much liquid and the tofu wouldn’t crisp?

    1. you can definitely add mushrooms to this, but i wouldn’t add the mushrooms while the tofu is crisping up. i’d cook the mushrooms separately, after crisping up the tofu, and then tossing mushrooms and tofu in the sauce together.