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Sesame Tofu: Pan-Fried to Perfection in a Chili-Garlic Sauce

This golden sesame tofu is crisped to perfection, tossed in a chili garlic sauce, and topped with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. We promise that even if you didn’t like tofu before, you will love this recipe!

The kiss of death to any tofu dish is inadequate preparation. But still-soggy, pale, and flavorless tofu is nowhere in sight when you make this vegetarian dish inspired by Asian flavors and ingredients. 

This recipe highlights the two most important ways to make your tofu perfectly crispy - pressing the water out of your tofu and adding a light cornstarch coating to each cube.

This simple recipe takes only 15 active minutes of work, with another 15 minutes of waiting time while your tofu presses. This fried tofu sesame dish is full of antioxidative ingredients to help your heart, brain, and other essential body functions.

Read below and follow our guide on how to make perfectly crusted, fried tofu with sesame seeds. 

What is sesame tofu?

Crispy, pan-fried extra firm tofu is smothered in a sweet, sesame garlic sauce for a vegetarian tofu dish that is both delectable and healthy. It’s the perfect side dish or main attraction to any meal. 

How to make crispy tofu

The trick to getting this dish just right is to prepare the tofu properly. 

As we mentioned, there are two elements to consider when you’re looking to cook up a batch of crispy tofu. 

First, you’ll want to press your tofu block before you cook it. Extra-firm tofu is the most solid variety, but it contains a lot of water like other tofu. You need the tofu to be as dry as possible to have a crispy outcome. Here is a simple guide on how to press tofu.

Place your block of tofu in a tofu press and attach the lid. Twist the knob to lock it, and leave the tofu in the press for 15 minutes. Then, drain and remove. 

If you don’t own a tofu press, wrap your tofu in a dry towel or paper towels and place the tofu block between two heavy plates or cutting boards. This method takes a little longer, so leave your tofu pressing for at least 2-3 hours. 

Second, dredging your tofu in cornstarch gives a light yet crunchy texture.Cornstarch is a thickening agent. Coat the tofu in cornstarch before pan-frying to maximize the crunch factor. We added cornstarch into the sesame garlic sauce to thicken and to avoid making the tofu soggy. 

And once your tofu hits the pan, avoid moving it around too much. It will disturb the cornstarch coating and prevent a crust from forming. Cook one side of the tofu for a few minutes, then flip, and leave for another few minutes. Repeat until all sides are cooked.

How to make sesame fried tofu


  • 1 package,14 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

For the sesame tofu sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 ½ tsp chili garlic sauce
  • ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds, to garnish

Frying the crispy sesame tofu

  • Remove the extra-firm tofu from the packaging and place in a tofu press. Press for 15 mins. 
  • Once the tofu has drained, remove it from the press. Slice the tofu block in half, then into 1-inch cubes.
  • Place the cubes into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the cornstarch onto the tofu and gently toss using your hands or a wooden spoon until all tofu pieces are covered.
  • Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • Once the sesame oil is heated, add the tofu cubes to the skillet. Fry tofu until golden brown, approximately 2-3 mins on each side.

Making the honey sesame tofu marinade

  • Add all of the sauce ingredients into a small mixing bowl: soy sauce, filtered water, honey, chili garlic sauce, rice wine vinegar, and cornstarch.
  • Whisk together until well-combined.

Coating the crispy sesame tofu

  • Once the sesame bean curd (tofu) is crispy brown on all sides, add the sesame sauce to the crispy tofu. Cornstarch helps the sauce to begin thickening immediately. 
  • Toss the sesame tofu stir fry in the pan to coat, then remove from heat. Split into 4 servings, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  • Serve and enjoy your sesame-crusted tofu!

Nutrition information - Sesame tofu 

Calories 313 kcal; Fat 16g; Carbohydrates 17g; Protein 19g.

Vegan sesame tofu recipe - Tips + FAQ

Is sesame seed tofu vegan?

This sesame tofu recipe is vegetarian, but it’s not entirely vegan. It contains honey, which you can easily swap out for pure maple syrup, agave, or coconut sugar. 

Choosing your tofu

The best tofu choice for this recipe is extra-firm. It will crisp up the best and has a chewy, dense texture. 

You can use firm tofu instead, but you will have to press the tofu block for a little longer, as it contains more water.

Soft and silken tofu will not work for this recipe - they’ll both leave you with a pan of wet goop to clean up. 

Can I bake the tofu instead?

If you prefer baked tofu, you can bake tofu for this recipe instead of frying. The result won’t be quite as crunchy, but your tofu will still have a firm, golden outside. 

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Press the tofu, cut into blocks and toss with the oil and cornstarch. Place your coated tofu on a parchment-lined baking pan and spread for consistent results. Bake the tofu for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the tofu from the oven and continue making the recipe as outlined above. 

Is sesame tofu good for you?

Sesame oil contains healthy fat with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that help slow the aging process and prevent disease. Some studies show that sesame oil may improve arthritis symptoms, sleep quality, and hair health, too. 

Tofu is a fantastic protein for vegans and vegetarians. It’s much lower in saturated fats than meats and contains high levels of vital minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K. 

Tofu also contains anti-inflammatories and antioxidants so that you can feel good eating sesame tofu several times a week.

What to serve with sesame tofu

You can eat this sesame tofu all on its own as a light snack. We serve ours for dinner with jasmine rice and steamed bok choy. 

It would pair well with rice noodles tossed in a little extra sesame oil. If you want a low-carb option, skip the grains and serve it on a bed of steamed vegetables or in a leafy, green salad.

Final notes: sesame encrusted tofu

This easy recipe for crispy fried tofu with a sesame sauce is super-healthy and will keep you coming back for more. 

Remember our tips for the best crispy tofu while you cook:

  • Use extra-firm tofu for its low water content;
  • Always press your tofu for 15 minutes before frying;
  • Dredge your tofu cubes in a light coating of cornstarch;
  • And avoid disturbing your tofu while it fries. 

Enjoy your perfectly crispy tofu with sesame!