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This Crunchy and flavorful Sesame Crusted Tofu makes a tasty addition to almost any meal. It's soaked in a savory marinade, then coated in a panko-sesame seed mix, and served with a zesty dipping sauce. Each bite contains layers of flavor that you would never get from your usual takeout order.
Push the takeout menu aside and make your own Sesame Crusted Tofu instead. Surprisingly easy and full of crunch and flavor, you’ll want to make this to include over plain rice, in a buddha bowl, or with my Vegan Fried Rice.
I've included instructions on how to pan-fry this crunchy tofu and how to cook it in the air fryer so you'll have options. No matter how you cook it, this fun and flavorful tofu is a must-try recipe!
* This is a quick overview with step-by-step photos. For the complete ingredient amounts and instructions, scroll down to the recipe card.
How to make Sesame Crusted Tofu
- Once the tofu is pressed and drained, cut it into 6 pieces about ½-inch thick. Now prepare the marinade by whisking all the ingredients until combined.
- Place the tofu pieces in a shallow bowl and pour the marinade over top. Let the tofu sit for 30-60 minutes so it soaks in all of the flavors.
- While the tofu is marinating, prepare the dipping sauce. Combine the lime juice, tamari, maple syrup, garlic, and red chili flakes. Whisk well to combine.
- Now add the green onion and gently whisk to combine. Set in the fridge.
- Get your breading station ready by combining the cornstarch, salt, and pepper in the first bowl, then aquafaba in the second, and the panko bread crumbs and sesame seeds in the third. Start by coating a piece in the cornstarch.
- Now dredge through the aquafaba.
- Dip into the panko and sesame seeds last. Continue until each piece is coated.
- Heat up oil in a large pan over medium heat. Arrange the tofu in the pan. leaving a few inches between each piece. Cook for a few minutes, then flip. They’re done when the breading is golden brown. Transfer the pieces to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil.
Tips and Tricks
- Make sure to use extra-firm tofu. This variety contains the least amount of water. The less water, the better the coating will stick together as it cooks.
- Using a Tofu Press is going to make everything easier. These little devices squeeze out a lot of moisture from the tofu without requiring much work from you. However, a heavy pan will work well too. Here's a visual tutorial on How to Press Tofu that may be helpful.
- Don't crowd the pan or the breaded tofu won't crisp up well. If you don't have a large enough skillet, you can work in batches.
- Make sure the oil is nice and hot before adding the coated tofu or the pieces will just sit there in the oil. You want to hear it sizzle as soon as it hits the pan.
- The aquafaba is the best egg replacement for this recipe and the coating sticks really well to the tofu. You can save the chickpeas for my Vegan Chickpea Curry or another recipe. If you don't have aquafaba, you can use soy milk instead.
What to serve it with
Sesame Crusted Tofu makes a wonderful appetizer, side dish, or a tasty addition to a meal.
- Serve it as an appetizer with the zesty dipping sauce provided or you can use peanut sauce, sriracha mayo, sweet and sour sauce, or Creamy Chipotle Sauce instead. The options are endless!
- Serve it with Pad Thai or Stir Fry for an added protein boost. Or you can use it to add some crunch to a sandwich or burrito.
- You can also serve it on the side of Vegan Miso Soup.
- If you want to keep it simple, just serve the crunchy tofu over some steamed rice and top it with spring onions and serve with easy dipping sauce.
How to make crispy tofu in an air fryer
Arrange the drained, marinated, and coated tofu pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket. You may need to work in batches if they don’t all fit. Cook for 5-10 minutes at 400°F (204 °C), then flip and cook until each piece is golden and crispy.
Can I make it gluten-free?
Of course! You can swap the panko breadcrumbs with a gluten-free variety instead. For the marinade and dipping sauce, make sure to use gluten-free tamari.
Storing and Reheating
The fried tofu pieces are best enjoyed right away. If you do end up with leftovers, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.
It’s best to reheat the pieces in a hot pan with a little oil so they can crisp back up. Cook each side for a few minutes or until warmed through. You can also heat them in the air fryer.
More Crispy Tofu Recipes to Enjoy
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Sesame Crusted Tofu
- 16 ounces extra firm tofu , drained & pressed (see note)
- 3 tablespoons tamari low sodium (sub soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- 4 tablespoons Cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons Aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas)
- 3 tablespoons Panko Bread Crumbs
- 6 tablespoons Sesame Seeds 2 Tbsp Black & 4 Tbsp White
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or any oil with a high smoke point
Dipping Sauce (optional)
- 3 tablespoons lime juice , fresh-squeezed (more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons tamari low sodium (sub soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave (more to taste)
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 1.5 tablespoons green onion , thinly sliced
- 3 Shallow Bowls
- Slice the tofu into ½-inch thick pieces (squares or rectangles - about 2x2 or 2x3). You should get between 6-8 pieces, depending on the tofu you choose. Arrange the tofu in a shallow dish (about 8X8).
- Now prepare the marinade in a small bowl. Whisk together the tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and minced garlic. Pour the marinade on the tofu and allow it to marinate for 30-60 minutes in the fridge. Flip midway through.
- While the tofu is marinating, prepare the dipping sauce. Combine the lime juice, tamari, maple syrup, garlic, and red chili flakes. Whisk well to combine. Now add the green onion and gently whisk to combine. Set in the fridge. Taste and adjust flavors after it has marinated for a bit. You can add more sweetener, lime juice or tamari if it needs balancing.
- When the tofu is almost done marinating, prepare the breading station. In a shallow bowl, combine corn starch, salt & pepper. In a second shallow bowl, place the aquafaba. In a third shallow bowl, combine panko bread crumbs and sesame seeds.
- Pick up one piece of tofu out of the marinade, gently shake off any excess liquid, and press it into the cornstarch to coat lightly. Gently shake off excess. Now, dip it into the aquafaba and let the excess drop off. Now press the tofu into the panko breadcrumbs & sesame seeds. Press gently on all sides to coat well. Place the coated tofu piece on a plate and repeat the process until all pieces are coated. *Discard marinade.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, carefully place the tofu in the pan, leaving a few inches in between each piece (work in batches if needed). Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until the breading is crispy and golden brown.
- Place the tofu pieces on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess moisture. Garnish the tofu with spring onions and serve with steamed rice and dipping sauce if desired. Enjoy