This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.Jump to Recipe | Save RecipeSaved!
If you’ve claimed yourself not a tofu fan, you probably just haven’t had tofu the right way. I bet you if you had this pan-fried sesame garlic tofu, you would change your tune on tofu!
I have been loving tofu in my dishes lately.
It’s a great source of protein and low in fat. It’s so tender too and it soaks up all the flavor of the dish. It’s a great blank slate and super versatile. Think of it like the vegetarian’s chicken, haha
I mean, kind of is. We add chicken to our dishes to flavor it up and have it soak up the flavors of the dish. Tofu is basically doing the same.
I’ve laid out the steps below on how to prep and cook tofu. Alternatively, I’ve created a tofu guide that helps demystify the fear of cooking with tofu!
What kind of tofu do you need?
I love getting extra-firm tofu.
If you get soft, it just falls apart completely in the skillet.
How do you get the tofu so crispy? What’s the secret?
You gotta drain it well and cornstarch!
So, kind of like my eggplant parmesan recipe where you pull the liquid out of the eggplant, you gotta pull the liquid out of the tofu.
Tofu comes in a package and it’s just sitting in water.
And like I mentioned above, tofu soaks up all the flavor in a dish so you can imagine how much liquid tofu is soaking up while sitting in the package.
To get the liquid of out of the tofu, you gotta press it.
It’s actually easier than you think; there’s hardly any work at all involved!
How do you press the tofu to get the liquid out?
You start by opening the package of the tofu and then holding the tofu in place, tip the package upside down so all the water is drained.
Definitely do this over a sink!
Then, on a small plate, place two sheets of paper towels on the plate.
Place the tofu on top.
Then place two more sheets of paper towels on top of the tofu.
Find something heavy like a cast iron skillet and place it on top of the tofu.
Let that sit for about 30 minutes but coming back to check on it halfway through and change out the paper towel.
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.
This essentially presses out the liquid of the tofu and gives you a much better way to work with it!
And ensuring it gets crispy and not soggy!
Tips for getting crispy tofu
All the above ways will definitely help to ensure a crispy exterior but also what you use and the method you cook will help too!
First, definitely do the pressing.
Second, coat the tofu in cornstarch.
It’s messy but it’s worth it.
Third, once you get it in the skillet, DON’T TOUCH IT!
As with all things (browning meats, crisping up the bottoms of potstickers, making fall off the bone ribs), leave it alone and let it do its thing.
If you keep moving it around in the pan, it won’t have the time to brown at all.
*Getting several questions about how to get all sides brown if instructed to not touch it. I mean don’t touch it initially for 3-4 minutes then you can flip and work on another side, etc. until they are all browned/crispy on all sides. Of course you have to touch it to get all sides brown!
When I say don’t touch it, it just means don’t keep scooting it around or checking on it. That won’t give it enough time to sit in the skillet to get crispy.
The simple ingredients in this pan-fried sesame garlic tofu
There are only a handful of ingredients for the sauce that coats this tofu dish!
- Soy sauce
- Sambal oelek
- Rice vinegar
- Sesame oil
Grab the recipe below and make this pan-fried sesame garlic tofu tonight! Serve it with a side of rice and vegetables or make a tofu bowl!
Pan-Fried Sesame Garlic Tofu
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sauce
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup 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
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.
- 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 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!
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.
Saturday 25th of March 2023
Yum! I didn’t have any sambal olek so I used chili garlic sauce instead and it was delicious. I ate it with Chinese smashed cucumber salad and rice and would highly recommend those as sides to complement the delicious crispy tofu.
Saturday 11th of February 2023
This is amazing… just wow Me and my husband is vegetarian and this made our day Thank you
Saturday 11th of February 2023
At first it was too salty but after adding about a tablespoon more honey it was perfect :) I added more Sambel oelek than the recipe called for, and used preminced garlic. Very tasty!
Thursday 9th of February 2023
This was just what I was looking for. I took your advice and didn't touch the tofu while crisping up. I had to add a little more oil, likely because of my stupid stove. This recipe is a "keeper". Thank you!
Monday 23rd of January 2023
I really didnt like this; didn't turn out crispy at all and it just turned into an oily sticky mess :( what a waste of ingredients
Monday 23rd of January 2023
i'm sorry you didn't like this, Zoja and i hope i can help figure it out. can you please elaborate before making a blanket statement about this recipe? did you follow the instructions on how to coat the tofu? what type of tofu did you use? what kind of skillet? 'oily sticky mess' seems like they're negating one another. if it's oily then sticky doesn't seem likely because there's too much oil. if it's sticky then there's not enough oil.