Here’s a quick and easy way to transform tofu from boring to delicious: cut them into steaks and pan fry with a crispy sesame crust, then douse with Teriyaki Sauce. It’s a recipe that’ll change anybody’s mind about tofu!
Crispy Sesame-Crusted Tofu Steaks
Let’s get the uncomfortable truth about tofu out of the way. For many people, tofu looks weird. And has a strange texture they struggle with.
It’s not helped by the fact that the internet is awash with recipes that use tofu as a meat substitute in classic dishes, but doesn’t exactly improve them. Like tofu bolognese and tofu cottage pie – no!😩 Or they try to convince you that tofu cheesecake is totally a thing and stacks up to the real deal. *She ducks as vegans everywhere throw rotten tomatoes at her.*
So what’s the point of tofu, one might ask?
Because when prepared well, it IS delicious. It’s one of the world’s greatest sources of plant-based proteins. It’s low calorie, low carb, has a wonderful taste of fresh soy beans and is a sponge for added flavour.
Today then is a simple recipe designed to make the most of tofu. We cut the tofu into steaks, coat it with sesame seeds and then pan-fry until crispy. The crunchy sesame crust adds a stack of flavour itself, but also creates a coating that the Teriyaki Sauce clings to. You literally get a squirt of Teriyaki Sauce in your mouth with every bite – and we love it!
Best Tofu for Tofu Steaks
Tofu is widely available these days. It comes in a broad range of textures and styles, from super-delicate, creamy, pudding-like versions which needs to be handled with extreme care, to firm and almost haloumi-like in texture.
To make tofu steaks, you need to use a firm tofu that is hard enough to be handled like steak. It must be able to be sliced, coated in sesame seeds and pan fried. It is sold labelled either as “firm tofu” or “hard tofu”.
If the labels confuse you, it’s easy to tell just by picking up the packet. If it feels firm enough to slice without worrying about the tofu crumbling, it will work just fine for this recipe.
Here is one brand of hard tofu that I use. This is from Harris Farms (Sydney):
What else you need to make Sesame-Crusted Tofu Steak
In addition to the tofu, here’s all you need to make this wickedly delicious tofu recipe:
Hard tofu or firm tofu – As described in the above section. Find it at everyday grocery stores or Asian stores.
Sesame seeds – For the crispy coating. I use a combination of white and black seeds for visual interest. You can use just one or the other, if you prefer.
You will need 8 tablespoons of sesame seeds to coat 4 x 100g / 3.5oz steaks. This will seem like a lot, but trust me, you will use it all. We’re talking a big hit of sesame flavour here – and you’ll love it!
Egg and flour – To stick the sesame seeds to the tofu. Egg is the ultimate food glue!
For the Teriyaki Sauce
Soy sauce – I use Kikkoman for all my Japanese cooking. It’s the most well-known Japanese soy brand and an excellent all rounder. Japanese soy is slightly sweeter and more mild in flavour than Chinese light soy sauce, but the latter will do in a pinch. Otherwise us any other general-purpose soy sauce.
DO NOT use anything labelled “dark soy sauce” or “sweet soy sauce” (it will ruin teriyaki sauce!).
Mirin – Syrupy and golden coloured, mirin is a heavily sweetened type of rice wine with a deep flavour. It features frequently in Japanese food, introducing sweetness to dishes and when reduced gives glazes like teriyaki their sheen. Good brands include Takara, Manjo and Hinode.
Avoid very cheap mirin that is not made in Japan which is usually an imitation product (such as Obento brand widely available here in Australia).
Cooking sake – Rice wine is used liberally in Japanese cooking to add umami and depth. Don’t bother wasting that boutique drinking sake you lugged all the way back from Japan for cooking, though! Cooking sake is much cheaper and perfectly acceptable for use, and these days widely available even at grocery stores.
Garlic – Finely sliced then fried in a little oil until crispy and golden, this is for a little tasty garnish on the tofu steaks.
Bonus: It flavours the oil we use to pan fry the sesame steaks.
Shortcut: Use store bought crispy fried shallots. Regular readers know my pantry is never without!
Green onion – To add a little sprinkle of colour to an otherwise rather monochromatic dish! 😎
How to make Sesame-Crusted Tofu Steaks
Here’s how to make tofu steaks that might just make you shout for the first time ever, “I TOTALLY LOVE TOFU!”
Slice tofu (see photo further up) – Slice tofu into “steaks” about 1.5cm / 0.6″ thick. Blocks come in different sizes but don’t get hung up on the proportions of your tofu. The thickness is more important.
Coat in sesame seeds – Coat tofu in flour first, ensuring the entire surface is covered. Shake off excess flour, then dip into beaten egg. As you remove it from the egg, let the excess drip off before placing into a bowl with the sesame seeds.
Press to adhere then either cover the surface with sesame seeds (spoon it over or use fingers), or turn and press. Repeat with remaining tofu steaks.
Golden garlic – Cook the garlic slices in a little oil until golden and crispy. Don’t let it get too brown else it will become bitter. Thin garlic slices burn in a flash so we’re using a medium-low heat here, to be safe.
Remove garlic to paper towels to drain. Leave the tasty garlic-flavoured oil in the skillet for the tofu.
Pan-fry tofu – Crank up the heat to medium-high, then add tofu steaks. Cook the first side until you can see the white sesame seeds turn golden and crispy which takes around 1 1/2 minutes. You’ll also smell the sesame flavour and when you go to turn it, you will feel that the sesame crust has adhered well to the tofu surface.
The crust might be set, but this is not a licence to man-handle the tofu! So turn with care.
Sear edges – Cook the other side for about 90 seconds too, until crispy. Then use tongs to stand the tofu steaks up on their edge to make the sides crispy. You only need about 30 seconds on each of the edges.
Remove the tofu steaks straight onto serving plates or one serving platter as I do. Now we’re going to make the Teriyaki sauce in the same skillet.
Optional – discard loose sesame seeds: If you are taking photos of your dinner (oh wait, is that just me? 😂), you can opt to strain the oil to remove loose sesame seeds before returning the oil into the skillet. This way, your Teriyaki Sauce will be debris-free. But this is entirely optional! I do not do this on Monday nights. I only did this so you know how to make this dish “neatly”. 😇
Return oil into skillet. This tasty garlic-and-sesame flavour oil will add flavour to our Teriyaki sauce.
Making the Teriyaki Sauce
Here’s how the Teriyaki Sauce is made:
Mix and simmer – Mix the mirin, cooking sake, soy sauce and a bit of water into a jug. Don’t be tempted to shortcut this by pouring each sauce individually into the skillet. When a small quantity of sweet liquids hit a hot skillet, it will evaporate in seconds and caramelise or worse, burn! We need a minimum volume of liquid to ensure this does not happen. So mix the Teriyaki sauce ingredients in a jug first then pour it into the skillet.
Syrupy – Simmer for about 1 minute until it changes from watery to syrupy. We’re after a thin syrup here because (a) it will thicken as it cools from hot to warm (ie. from skillet to plating up to in your mouth); and (b) if it’s too thick, the flavour is too strong and will overwhelm the dish.
Then immediately pour the Teriyaki Sauce over the Sesame Crusted Tofu Steaks. Sprinkle with crispy garlic bits and green onion, then serve!
Mmm, that Teriyaki Sauce-soaked sesame crust …
The sesame crust stays crispy for quite a long time even once doused with the sauce. Far longer than it will take for you to serve and eat it.
Also, another great feature of this dish is that the Teriyaki Sauce really clings to that sesame crust, far more than you’d expect. You’ll experience the greatness of what this means when you take your first bite and you get a fabulous squirt of Teriyaki Sauce in your mouth when you bite into the sesame crust!
What to serve with Sesame-Crusted Tofu
Plain rice – There’s enough flavour and residual sauce here that it can be served with any plain rice side. Options: Plain white rice, jasmine, basmati, brown rice and cauliflower rice (for those of you with better low-carb-will-power than me).
Flavoured rice – If you’re after something a little more interesting, try it with a flavoured rice side. Fried rice or seasoned rice would be the go. Here are some suggestions:
Greens – As for some vegetables, a Japanese Slaw would be totally on-theme here. Else, here are some other options to complete your dinner:
Hope you enjoy this website’s first-ever recipe starring tofu! How did it take me 6 whole years to get here?? – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Crispy Sesame Tofu Steaks with Teriyaki Sauce
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Japanese(ish), Modern Asian
Tap or hover to scale
Season tofu: Pat tofu dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Prepare crust coating: Place flour, egg and sesame in separate bowls (medium shallow bowls or tupperware best).
Sesame crust: Press tofu into flour, shake off excess. Dip in egg, then let excess drip off before coat in sesame seeds, pressing to adhere all over. Repeat with remaining tofu.
Crispy garlic: Heat oil in a non stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Cook tofu: Turn heat up to medium-high. Place tofu in skillet and cook for 1 1/2 minutes until the sesame smells nutty and becomes crisp. Turn carefully and cook the other side for 1 1/2 minutes. Then use tongs to prop the tofu steaks up on its sides to sear the edges until crisp – about 30 seconds each side should do it (see video for my technique).
Drain: Remove tofu to paper towel lined plate.
Teriyaki Sauce: Lower heat to medium then add Teriyaki Sauce ingredients. Simmer for 1 minute until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, then remove skillet from stove.
Serve: Place tofu steak on plate. Spoon over Teriyaki Sauce (it clings to sesame, don’t worry, crust stays crispy). Sprinkle with garlic and green onion. Devour, then declare, “I LOVE TOFU!!”.
Here in Australia, it’s super-handy that tofu often comes in a suitable block size such that you can just slice it and use as-is, no trimming required. Anything around the pictured size is fine. Other shapes, like batons and cubes, will also work – just more turning is required in pan.
Cooking tofu: Tofu doesn’t need to be cooked, we are just making the sesame crispy and heating tofu through.
2. Sesame seeds – Feel free to just use white or black sesame seeds. I use both for visual interest.
3. Garlic – This is to make crispy garlic bits to sprinkle on top. For a shortcut option, just use store-bought crispy shallots (Asian section of Woolies, Coles, or cheaper at Asian stores).
4. Soy sauce – I use Kikkoman for all my Japanese cooking which is the most well known brand, and an excellent all-rounder. It is slightly sweeter and more mild in flavour than Chinese light soy sauce, though that will do in a pinch. Else any other all-rounder soy sauce. DO NOT use anything labelled “dark soy sauce” or “sweet soy sauce” (it will ruin teriyaki sauce!).
5. Mirin – Syrupy and golden coloured, mirin is a heavily sweetened type of rice wine with a deep flavour. It features frequently in Japanese food, introducing sweetness to dishes and when reduced gives glazes like teriyaki their sheen. Good brands include Takara, Manjo and Hinode. Avoid very cheap mirin, which is usually an imitation product.
6. Cooking sake – Rice wine used liberally in Japanese cooking to add umami and depth. Don’t bother wasting that boutique drinking sake you lugged all the way back from Japan for cooking, though! Cooking sake is much cheaper and perfectly acceptable for use, and these days widely available even at grocery stores.
7. Make ahead – Best made fresh so the sesame coating is crispy and toasty. It does stay crispy for a day or so (without sauce on it) but it really is best freshly made. Can resurrect with a quick pan fry to reheat.
8. Nutrition per serving, 1 tofu steak plus sauce.
Calories: 298cal (15%)Carbohydrates: 14g (5%)Protein: 15g (30%)Fat: 20g (31%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 41mg (14%)Sodium: 736mg (32%)Potassium: 129mg (4%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 3g (3%)Vitamin A: 91IU (2%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 295mg (30%)Iron: 4mg (22%)
Life of Dozer
His “why can’t I come inside??” look.
You would think after a beach-swim > sand-roll > hose-down routine taking place almost every day of his life, he would understand the deal. But noooo. I still get the pitiful “what did I do wrong, don’t you love me anymore” look. 😖