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This dish tastes exactly like the sesame tofu that is served in U.S. Chinese restaurants. Honey, rice vinegar and red pepper flakes make it sweet, sour and spicy; sesame oil and seeds add sesame deliciousness. And the recipe takes no more than 20 minutes to put together.
This post was originally published on March 16, 2014. I have updated it based on reader feedback to make it better and to share it with you again today.
My husband is a real master in the art of tofu-making so I am lucky to often find a delicious, large brick of it in the fridge.
Sometimes I make stir-fry with it but my favorite way to prepare tofu is this delicious sweet and sour sesame dish. It tastes exactly like the sesame tofu that is served in U.S. Chinese restaurants, which I always find to be one of the most delicious items on the menu.
The sour flavor in the sauce comes from rice vinegar, the spice from crushed red pepper flakes, and I sweeten the sauce with honey. (I find that honey works a lot better in savory dishes than sugar).
How to make sesame tofu:
The prep work for this dish is very simple, you start by putting together a sauce with 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, 1 garlic clove (minced or pressed), 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 tablespoons honey and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. To thicken the sauce you simply add 1 teaspoon corn starch.
Next you cut 1/2 pound tofu (you want firm or extra firm for this recipe) into bite-sized cubes and roll them in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. The flour will give them a nice and crispy shell after they’re fried.
Then you fry the tofu cubes in vegetable oil on all sides until they’re golden brown and crispy. The last step is to heat the sauce in a saucepan until it thickens a bit and turns translucent.
Sprinkle some chopped scallions on top for some freshness and dinner is served!
Tips to make this sesame tofu recipe:
- Sesame seeds have a high oil content, which is what makes them so delicious, but that also causes them to go rancid after a few short months so be sure to store them in the refrigerator.
- This recipe calls for two tablespoons of honey and it can be a pain to measure honey in a spoon measure, so here’s what I recommend: measure the sesame oil right before the honey, then use the same tablespoon measure (without rinsing it) to measure the honey. Since it’ll still be coated with oil, the honey will easily glide out of it.
Is this sesame tofu recipe gluten-free?
This recipe is not gluten-free but you can easily modify it to make it gluten-free with two alterations:
- Instead of rolling the tofu in flour, roll it in corn starch and then fry it.
- Substitute gluten-free soy sauce because regular soy sauce has wheat in it.
More delicious Asian-inspired recipes:
- Spicy Edamame
- Asian Noodle Salad
- Stir Fry Sauce
- Sweet and Sour Ginger Roasted Mushrooms
- Thai Chicken Curry
- Cold Sesame Noodles
- Fried Coconut Rice with Shrimp
- Asian Meatballs
- Ginger-Glazed Bok Choy with Tofu and Noodles
- Ginger Lime Cilantro Chicken Wings
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Chicken Noodle Stir Fry
- Shrimp Coconut Curry
- Shrimp Coconut Soup
- Steak Stir Fry
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more if you like it spicier*
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
For the tofu:
- 1/2 pound firm tofu
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
- Put soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey, red pepper flakes and corn starch into a liquid measuring cup and stir well until fully combined. Set aside.
- Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch to 1-inch cubes.
- Roll the tofu cubes in the flour, making sure you are coating them on all sides.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet until shimmering.
- Fry the tofu in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Set aside on a paper towel to dry.
- Pour the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Keep boiling the sauce until it becomes translucent and thickens. Take off the heat.
- Serve the tofu with rice, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle chopped scallions on top.
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