Takeout-inspired glazed sesame tofu with garlic and ginger. This vegan one-pan wonder is sure to become a staple in your rotation.
If you’re looking for that sticky, glazed, sweet-savory takeout style of tofu you can make at home, you’ve found it. This sesame garlic tofu is good enough to rival your favorite Seamless order, but is likely made with better ingredients and way less oil.
I originally developed this for a cooking class client last year and it has since earned a regular spot in my dinner rotation. As impressive-looking as it is (in my humble opinion, anyway), there are no complicated techniques involved and everything comes together pretty quickly in one pan, using ingredients you likely already have.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Extra-firm Tofu: The best style of tofu for pan-frying. Look for organic and non-GMO brands whenever possible.
- Arrowroot Starch: This starch is derived from a tropical plant. It looks and acts like cornstarch, but is considered healthier since most corn in the US is genetically modified. Arrowroot helps the tofu take on a thick crispy crust to which the sesame-garlic sauce can adhere. (You can sub with cornstarch if that’s what you have though.)
- Soy Sauce: Forms the base of the savory sauce.
- Maple Syrup: Can be subbed with honey.
- Vinegar: Almost any mild vinegar works here: unseasoned rice vinegar, white wine/champagne vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
- Sesame Oil: Gives the sauce a nutty taste.
- Fresh Garlic + Ginger: For the best flavor, grate both of these on a microplane. Alternatively, use a garlic press and/or mince as finely as possible with a knife.
Sesame Garlic Tofu Step-by-Step
Prep the Tofu: Start by pressing your tofu (details below) and cutting it into 1-inch cubes. Place in a bowl, and sprinkle with arrowroot, salt, and pepper. To avoid crumbling the tofu, use your hands to toss and coat the cubes.
Fry the Tofu: Heat a generous layer of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook undisturbed until a golden crust forms on the bottom, at least 5 minutes. Then flip and cook the other sides, browning 3-4 sides total.
Make the Sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Glaze the Tofu: If there’s too much oil left in the pan, transfer the browned tofu to a plate and drain the oil. Then return the tofu to the pan. Add the sauce, and quickly toss until the sauce thickens and coats the cubes.
Tips for Cooking Perfectly Crispy Tofu
The main complaints I hear about cooking tofu at home is that it (a) sticks to the pan and falls apart, and (b) doesn’t achieve restaurant-quality crispness. Here are my best tips for crispy tofu…
- Use the firmest tofu you can find. Extra-firm tofu is best for pan-frying. In my experience, Wegmans and Trader Joe’s brands have the least moisture and firmest texture. Nasoya’s “super firm” is also great.
- Press the tofu. Pressing tofu eliminates excess moisture and allows the tofu to get brown crispy edges. You can use a tofu press or simply weigh the tofu down with something heavy (full instructions in the recipe card below).
- Use a non-stick pan. Otherwise, the tofu will stick, crumble, and turn into a mess.
- Don’t skimp on the oil. This is key for optimal browning and crispy edges. Don’t worry – you can drain off any excess.
- Leave it alone. Don’t flip or push around the tofu until you’re sure it’s brown on the bottom and ready to be flipped. It needs prolonged contact with the pan for those crispy edges.
- Use tongs. Use tongs to lift the cubes and check them for doneness, versus poking at them with a spatula.
How to Serve Sesame Garlic Tofu
This takeout-inspired tofu goes well with rice, broccoli, and/or green beans. You can also serve it with noodles or on a grain bowl.
More delicious tofu…
- Tofu Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce
- Lemongrass Curry with Tofu
- Vegan Niçoise Salad
- Baked Meal Prep Tofu
If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
Sesame Garlic Tofu
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 2–4 servings 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Asian
- Diet: Vegan
Sticky takeout-style sesame tofu with garlic and ginger. This vegan one-pan wonder is sure to become a staple.
- One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon arrowroot starch (or cornstarch), divided
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2–3 tablespoons avocado, refined coconut, or organic canola oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 teaspoon mild vinegar (like apple cider, white wine, or unseasoned rice vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed, grated, or finely minced
- 1-inch knob ginger, peeled, and grated or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- Sesame seeds and scallions, for serving
- Start by pressing the tofu [in a tofu press, or]: drain tofu, place it on a plate, then top with another plate or cutting board, and weigh it down with something heavy (like a couple of cans), to squeeze out as much water as possible. Let stand for about 15 minutes, periodically draining off the excess water.
- Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon arrowroot, and pinches of salt and pepper. Gently toss with your hands to coat. Then sprinkle with another tablespoon of arrowroot and toss again.
- Heat enough oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat to evenly cover the bottom. Add the tofu in a single layer, making sure the cubes aren’t touching; depending on the size of your pan, you may need to brown them in two batches (see note below). Cook undisturbed until a golden crust forms on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Then flip with tongs and cook the other sides, browning 3-4 sides in total.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, maple syrup, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and the remaining teaspoon of arrowroot.
- [When the tofu is done, if there is too much oil left in the pan, transfer tofu to a plate and drain the oil. Then return tofu to the pan.]
- Add the sauce mixture to the pan and quickly toss until it thickens and coats the cubes. Turn the heat off.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve immediately.
The arrowroot makes the tofu kinda sticky, which is why the cubes shouldn’t be touching in the pan. No big deal if they stick together a bit, though – they’ll get unstuck when you add the sauce.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 190
- Fat: 13 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.4 g
- Protein: 10.3 g
Keywords: sesame, tofu, pan fried, vegan
Ridiculously delicious! Almost ate the entire pan by myself…
Alexandra Shytsman says
So glad you liked it!