If you’re in the mood for an easy weeknight dinner, this sticky sesame tofu is for you! This tofu is coated in cornstarch, pan-fried, and then tossed in a thick, sticky, sweet yet savory, sesame sauce. The end result is a slightly crispy, sticky, salty, and savory tofu dish that’s super filling and packed with protein!
why we love this sticky sesame tofu recipe
This sesame tofu recipe is by far one of my most used recipes over the years. This dish is based on the Americanized-Chinese take-out dish: sesame chicken.
This vegetarian and vegan-friendly adaptation is made with just a few fresh ingredients and is so dang good you’ll want to whip it up nearly every night.
This recipe is super quick and easy to make. I love serving it with white rice, green onion, cilantro, and some chopped toasted cashews on top.
why this recipe works
This recipe calls for extra or super firm tofu, which when pressed, coated in cornstarch and shallow fried becomes so crispy.
The crispy exterior really helps the sesame sauce adhere to the tofu when everything gets tossed together. Sesame oil, garlic, and ginger act as a few key flavoring ingredients in the sauce, helping create a savory taste.
Cornstarch and brown sugar work together in the sauce to create a slightly sweet, sticky, caramelized exterior for the tofu.
the sticky sesame tofu ingredients
This sticky sesame tofu is vegan and vegetarian friendly but will be a favorite among omnivores as well! It’s full of salty, sweet, and spicy flavors that are inspired by Asian-American cuisine.
This tofu is also gluten-free which is always a plus!
the sticky sesame sauce
A bulk of the ingredients for this recipe actually go into the sauce. It can be made with one small saucepan and in less than 15 minutes.
To make the sesame tofu sauce you only need a few easy-to-find ingredients. They are:
- Soy Sauce, if gluten free- make sure you’re using gluten free soy sauce
- Sesame Oil
- Brown Sugar
- Veggie Stock
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Sambal Oelek
how to make the sesame sauce
The sesame sauce takes less than 15 minutes to make and after simmering and adding the cornstarch, it becomes super thick and sticky.
STEP 1: Mix all of the sauce ingredients together except the cornstarch in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and heat on medium for 10 minutes.
STEP 2: The sauce should reduce down in volume. Transfer 4-5 tbsp of the sauce to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch to form a slurry.
STEP 3: Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and heat for 1-2 more minutes. The sauce should thicken immediately. Remove from heat and set aside.
how to prepare the tofu
extra firm tofu
This recipe calls for extra-firm or super firm tofu. You don’t want to use silken tofu for this recipe since it contains too much liquid. Extra-firm tofu is tofu that has extra liquid removed.
The texture is more ‘meat-like’ because there is less liquid in it and subsequently, the tofu gets crispier when cooked. It’s important to drain and press the block of tofu prior to tossing it in cornstarch.
I’ve put together a complete guide to tofu, if you’d like to learn more about the different types of tofu and how to cook them!
To press the tofu, you can use a tea towel or paper towels to pat any excess liquid out of the block. Then, slice the tofu into cubes that are about 1/2 an inch.
the cornstarch coating
To get a crispy exterior that holds onto the sesame sauce like no other, roll the pressed tofu cubes into a bit of cornstarch. Cornstarch helps dry out the exterior of the tofu, allowing it to easily become golden brown when pan-fried (or baked).
how to make the sticky sesame tofu
This tofu comes together in a few easy steps and takes less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish.
STEP 1: Cut the block of tofu into ½” cubes. Mix the cornstarch, salt & pepper together in a shallow bowl. Add the tofu in and gently toss them to coat in the starch.
STEP 2: Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok with 1-2 tsp of vegetable oil on medium heat. Once the pan has been heated add the tofu and stir fry the cubes until golden brown and crispy on all sides.
STEP 3: Reduce the heat to low and add the sesame sauce. Stir the tofu well until all the cubes are coated. The sauce will bubble up a lot if the pan is too hot.
STEP 4: Serve immediately for the best texture with green onions, cilantro, and rice.
tofu cooking methods
In this recipe, I’m pan-frying the tofu since it is the fastest method.
The key to pan-frying the tofu is to be sure your pan is hot enough, that you’re using enough oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan), and to be patient.
You’ll want each side of the tofu to get golden brown before flipping it.
This tofu can also be made by air frying. I recommend air frying it at 400F for about 10-15 minutes, making sure to flip it halfway through.
Once you air fry the tofu, transfer it to a non-stick skillet or wok to coat it in the sesame sauce.
This tofu can also be made by baking but it takes more time.
I recommend baking it at 425F for about 25 minutes, making sure to flip it halfway through.
Once you bake the tofu, transfer it to a non-stick skillet or wok to coat it in the sesame sauce.
If you’d like super crispy tofu, you can also deep fry it!
Heat a few inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat (about 375F if using a thermometer). Fry the tofu in batches to help keep the oil temperature from dropping.
It should take about 4 minutes to fry the tofu until it is golden brown.
tips & tricks
The cornstarch is absolutely necessary for the sesame sauce. Without it, the sauce will not be thick or sticky.
To make this a sesame tofu stir fry, I recommend adding bell peppers, broccoli, edamame, or even cauliflower. You can serve this tofu alongside white rice (I prefer Jasmine) or with rice noodles.
Yes! This sticky sesame tofu can also be made in the air fryer. I recommend air frying it at 400F for about 10-15 minutes, making sure to flip it halfway through. Once you air fry the tofu, transfer it to a non-stick skillet or wok to coat it in the sauce.
more tofu recipes to try
- CRISPY AIR FRIED TOFU NUGGETS
- YELLOW TOFU SUSHI BOWL
- FLAVORFUL BAKED TOFU
- ORANGE TOFU
- MONGOLIAN TOFU AND BROCCOLI
Did you make this recipe? I’d love to know! Leave a rating and comment below!
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp white rice wine vinegar
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp sambal oelek
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 6 tbsp veggie broth
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and lightly pressed with paper towels
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
Cooking & Serving
- Vegetable oil or Cooking Spray
- Green Onion
To Make the Sesame Sauce:
- Mix all of the sauce ingredients together except the cornstarch in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and heat on medium for 10 minutes.
- The sauce should reduce down in volume. Transfer 4-5 tbsp of the sauce to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch to form a slurry.
- Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and heat for 1-2 more minutes. The sauce should thicken immediately. Remove from heat and set aside.
To Make the Tofu:
- Cut the block of tofu into ½” cubes. Mix the cornstarch, salt & pepper together in a shallow bowl. Add the tofu in and gently toss them to coat in the starch.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok with 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil on medium heat. (To get a crispy exterior, be sure to use enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan)
- Once the pan has been heated add the tofu. The tofu should immediately begin to sizzle when dropped in the oil.
- Stir fry the cubes until golden brown and crispy on all sides. (Heat each side for about 1-2 minutes, then flip until all sides have been pan-fried).
- Reduce the heat to low and add the sesame sauce. Stir the tofu well until all the cubes are coated. The sauce will bubble up a lot if the pan is too hot.
- Continue to stir the tofu and sauce for 1 minute so the sauce caramelizes a bit.
- Remove from the heat and immediately serve with green onions, cilantro, and rice.
- If you’d like to have a more ‘chicken’ like texture, freeze the tofu once and then thaw the tofu prior to cutting it into cubes.
- Like most fried foods, this tofu is crispiest if served immediately.
- For more cooking methods, see the post above.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 315Total Fat: 16gCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 19g
Nutritional info is an estimate.
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