Tofu is a beautiful blank slate waiting to soak up the flavors that you love. Ginger and garlic, honey, scallions and sesame seeds all play nice with tofu. The tricky part for many cooks is getting the tofu crispy. Each of the three chefs who devised these delicious tofu recipes offers advice and reveal their own tricks to render tofu beautifully browned and crispy. There’s one hint on which they all agree: start with firm or extra firm tofu. From our experience, water is the enemy of crispiness. Remove as much water as you can from the tofu before it goes into the pan. This will make it brown quicker and more effectively.
Here are simple and easy ways to cook this great source of protein that’s low in fat and endlessly versatile. Start with a basic side dish, build it into a dinner bowl and move on toward tofu sheet-pan cooking.
Pan-Fried Tofu in Garlic Soy Sesame Sauce
This Korean side dish is called Dubu Buchim, which means pan-fried tofu. Tofu comes bland, so it is often served with a dipping sauce that can be spooned or poured over tofu. Simmering tofu in this sauce over heat produces a dish called Dubu Jorim or Braised Tofu in Garlic Soy Sesame Sauce. If you want to add a little heat to the sauce, use a bit of coarse Korean chili powder. The chef at My Korean Kitchen, Sue, proudly suggests that the best tofu is Korean, and she uses it in this recipe.
Get the Pan-Fried Tofu in Garlic Soy Sesame Sauce recipe courtesy of My Korean Kitchen.
Pan-Fried Tofu in Garlic Soy Sesame Sauce
2 to 3 servings as a side dish
250g firm tofu (use half of a 500g or 1.1-pound tofu pack)
10g (0.4 ounces) green onion – thinly sliced
cooking oil (rice bran oil)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp raw sugar
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp minced garlic
Take the tofu out of the packaging and drain off the water. Pat dry the outer layer of tofu with a paper towel. Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, small cubes, or medium-sized rectangles – whichever you prefer. Pat dry again.
Preheat a non-stick frying pan on high heat and add some cooking oil and spread the oil across the pan. Add the tofu and pan-fry both sides until golden brown. This will take about 2 minutes on each side on high heat. Turn the heat off.
Mix seasoning sauce in a bowl by combining soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and minced garlic. Stack the tofu in a shallow bowl and add the green onion. Pour the sauce around the tofu and green onion. Serve.
Note: If you let the tofu rest for 3 to 5 minutes in the sauce, it should be well seasoned.
Teriyaki Tofu and Broccoli Bowl
Craving Asian takeout? Try this teriyaki tofu, broccoli, and rice bowl for a great plant-based dinner idea. Julie Wampler at Table for Two offers some great hints on how to get tofu crispy. First, definitely do the pressing she recommends in this recipe. Second, coat the tofu in cornstarch. Third, once the tofu is in the skillet, don’t touch it. Leave it alone and let it brown undisturbed. Resist the urge to keep moving it around in the pan, or it won’t have time to get golden and crusty.
Get Julie’s Teriyaki Tofu and Broccoli Bowl recipe courtesy of Table for Two.
14 ounces extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
Cooked brown rice
For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Place two paper towels on a plate and 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 and 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.
Leave for 30 minutes and halfway through, change out the paper towels. Alternatively, if you want to do this with a wire rack on top of a baking sheet, just put the tofu on top of the wire rack and the heavy object on top of the tofu. The liquid should drain onto the baking sheet below.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli. Blanch the broccoli for 5 minutes then immediately transfer the broccoli to an ice bath (a large bowl of water with ice in it) to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
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, then bring up to medium-high heat.
Once oil is heated up, add the tofu to the skillet and let it get brown and crispy 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 and broccoli around to coat then remove from heat. Serve with rice.
Sheet Pan Honey-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans
Tofu adapts to sheet pan cooking in this innovative recipe we found at The Kitchn, but they credit Chungah Rhee of Damn Delicious as the originator. Hats off to both websites for taking tofu one more step toward easy-breezy cooking. In this recipe, it’s the honey that helps the tofu crisp up as it bakes. Green beans aren’t the only veggie that loves this sauce; really any vegetable would work nicely. While you wait 10 minutes or so for the tofu to dry out, make the sauce and cut the veggies.
Get the Sheet Pan Honey-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans recipe courtesy of The Kitchn and Damn Delicious.
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
Oil or cooking spray
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
Line a large plate with paper towels and place the tofu on top. Cover with more paper towels and place a heavy item on top, pressing down on the tofu. Set aside for 10 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with cooking spray. Whisk the soy sauce or tamari, garlic, honey, ginger, and sesame oil together in a large bowl; set aside.
Cut the tofu into triangles and place in a single layer on one half of the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with the soy sauce mixture. Bake until golden-brown on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes.
Flip the tofu. Place the green beans in a single layer on the other half of the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper.
Return to the oven and bake until the tofu is golden-brown on the second side, 10 to 12 minutes more. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.