CRISPY SESAME GARLIC TOFU

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I am extremely picky about tofu. The exterior has to be crispy. The interior can’t be too raw or mushy. The pieces can’t be too large. I require a lot of seasoning on it for my personal enjoyment. For something that honestly tastes like nothing, I have A LOT of parameters surrounding my enjoyment of it. But I feel like I’m not alone in this position! This crispy sesame garlic tofu will change everything for everyone in the same fussy boat as me.

Pressing tofu to get the excess water out is important. I used to do the cutting board + stacked cookbooks method, and it was fine! Then I got a tofu press (this one–it’s an affiliate link) and my world expanded a little bit. It’s a simple gadget, a single use one, yes, but it is SO much more effective than stacking a bunch of stuff on top. It’s also probably safer too. This is the first key to really great tofu.

The second absolutely key step is freezing. I first learned this trick in culinary school! In one of our labs, we made this green curry tofu stir fry. The tofu was marinated, frozen, and thawed prior to cooking. This resulted in an incredible “layered” effect within the tofu pieces. The marinade works its way into the porous tofu. Then, as it freezes and expands, it makes these spongy pockets within the tofu! The end result is a beautifully textured tofu that’s full of flavour.

You could apply this method to any style of marinade you enjoy. Thai-style curry is amazing. A smoky BBQ vibe would be great. Something as simple as citrus juice, garlic, and chili. Even a pesto marinated piece of tofu would be lovely.

Once we thaw and dry off the tofu, it gets a toss in oil and arrowroot starch and a final high heat roast for total hands-off ease. In this recipe, I made up a little drizzly sauce with similar flavours to the marinade to finish the tofu off with. Combine this with some fluffy rice, steamed broccoli, and maybe some greens, and you’ve got dinner! It takes a little bit of pre-gaming, but once you get the hang of the timing, it couldn’t be simpler. Pressing, marinating, and freezing batches of tofu is an easy meal prep strategy that pays off on a busy weeknight.

Hope all of my picky tofu eaters (and tofu evangelists) try this one!

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CRISPY SESAME GARLIC TOFU RECIPE

Print the recipe here!
SERVES: 2-4
NOTES:
The pressing is the key to your success. I purchased a tofu press recently and it has been a game changer for us. It gets so much more water out than my previous stacked books/pots method and it’s a lot safer too. This is the tofu press that I have (affiliate link).
-Corn starch will substitute for arrowroot starch.
-I tend to not use leftover marinades once they’ve been exposed to high protein foods. When I took a food safety course, this was something they went on about quite a bit in context to food borne illness, and it instilled the fear for real hehe. 

TOFU AND MARINADE:
1 lb (454 grams) firm or extra firm tofu
¼ cup gluten-free tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 clove of garlic, finely grated with a Microplane
2 teaspoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
ground black pepper, to taste

SESAME GARLIC SAUCE:
¼ cup gluten-free tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini, peanut, or almond butter
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, finely grated with a Microplane grater
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, plus extra for garnish

Press the tofu for 15 minutes. Then, transfer it to a freezer-safe sealable bag or container. In a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, rice wine vinegar, maple syrup, and garlic. Pour the marinade over the tofu. Tightly seal the bag and place it in the freezer for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

The next day, remove the tofu from the freezer and allow it to thaw completely in the refrigerator, about 8 hours. If you can, flip the tofu around every few hours so that all sides of the tofu block can soak up the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the tofu from the bag and pat it dry. Discard the remaining marinade. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl. Toss the tofu cubes with the 2 teaspoons of avocado oil to coat. Then, toss with the arrowroot starch and pepper until evenly coated.

Arrange the tofu cubes on the prepared baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast until deep golden brown, about 30-35 minutes, flipping the cubes over at the halfway point.

While the tofu is roasting, make the sesame garlic sauce. In a sealable jar, combine the tamari, maple syrup, tahini, lime juice, sesame oil, garlic, and sesame seeds. Shake the jar to combine and set aside.

Serve the tofu hot with cooked rice/noodles, sautéed/steamed vegetables, or greens. Drizzle sesame garlic sauce on top to finish.

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  • Kathryn22/01/2020 - 8:02 am

    What brand of tofu press do you use? I’ve been looking to get one and can’t decide which brand to get.ReplyCancel

  • Anne22/01/2020 - 9:42 am

    Dear Laura,

    I am not a big “jump at any gadget” kinda girl….but I really like my tofu press. It works great and takes the mess and fuss out of pressing. It’s the EZ Tofu Press.

    Regarding the recipe, I prefer not to use extracted oils as I follow a low fat WFPB diet. Will it matter if I omit the avocado oil? Do you suggest an alternate ingredient such as a little vegetable broth?

    Have a blessed day,
    AnneReplyCancel

    • Laura22/01/2020 - 10:39 am

      Hi Anne,
      The tofu press really is a useful gadget! I’m not much of a gadget person either, but I do love mine. So I use the avocado oil to help with the caramelization as the tofu roasts. I have not attempted to roast tofu in the oven with only a coating of arrowroot starch. I think it could work since the starch would likely cling to the remaining moisture in the marinated tofu. But I think you would have to flip the pieces over a few extra times in the oven to avoid scorching. If you do try this, please let me know how things turn out.
      -LReplyCancel

    • Steph23/01/2020 - 1:04 am

      Is the freezing super necessary? Really want to make this for dinner tonight and that’s in about 2 hours!ReplyCancel

      • Laura23/01/2020 - 8:48 am

        The freezing really does improve the texture and make for that sponge-y/layered interior that results in a chewier piece of tofu. If you are strapped for time, the pressing and marinating (for about 25 minutes) will still result in a tasty tofu.
        -LReplyCancel

  • tanya22/01/2020 - 10:30 am

    Laura, this technique sounds like a very cool thing to try. I love my tofu press :), and it is the same as the one you have linked!
    My situation is the same as Anne’s above, in that I eat a low fat, whole food plant based diet. My question is how can we replace the avocado oil in the recipe or will it still work if it is just omitted? I don’t mind using a tiny bit of sesame oil in marinades because it does add so much flavor, but other than that, for health reasons, I do not consume any oils.
    Thank you so very much. Wishing you a wonderful day :) !ReplyCancel

    • Laura22/01/2020 - 10:41 am

      Hi Tanya,
      Thanks for your comment. Please see my reply to Anne. I have to reiterate that I have not tried this recipe without oil in the roasting step, so cannot guarantee results unfortunately.
      -LReplyCancel

  • Missidy22/01/2020 - 4:01 pm

    This recipe looks so amazing! I just bought tofu and am a complete newby. In terms of food prep (batch cooking)could the tofu be marinated, frozen, then stay in freezer for a longer period of time? And if so, what would you recommend for a maximum freezer time? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/01/2020 - 8:51 am

      I would say you could freeze marinated tofu for a maximum of 3 months! Hope this is helpful.
      -LReplyCancel

  • Cheryl22/01/2020 - 9:03 pm

    After pressing, I would have expected to cut the tofu into pieces and then add to the marinade so there are more exposed surfaces for the flavour to absorb. I have never tried freezing it though. Is there a reason you wait until after thawing to cut the tofu? Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/01/2020 - 8:50 am

      One big piece is easier to pat dry and there’s less chance of breaking up/damaging the little cubes when you take them out of the bag/container. You could certainly freeze the tofu in cubes if you like though!
      -LReplyCancel

  • Genevieve23/01/2020 - 9:12 pm

    I made this for dinner tonight with oven roasted brussels and rice noodles. My tofu hating 11 year old ate every piece I put in her bowl! I found the tofu itself a bit salty (probably because I only had soy sauce and not tamari and didn’t cut it with water in the marinade) but the texture and flavour was great. I really enjoyed the sauce as well. Thanks for the great recipe!ReplyCancel

  • LiNico24/01/2020 - 11:07 pm

    This was SO good. My husband who is not vegan loved it. I served it with coriander brown rice and steamed broccoli.ReplyCancel

  • Cassie Thuvan Tran28/01/2020 - 12:54 pm

    What a cool tofu press! Would you be able to use it for other foods such as making your own vegan cheese or even your own tofu, chickpea patties, etc.? The sesame garlic sauce sounds fantastic too–you can really use it for anything! Of course, I’m always in love with your pictures. They look so beautiful and vibrant!ReplyCancel

  • jenny29/01/2020 - 10:20 pm

    This tofu press has revolutionized cooking tofu for me. Thank you for posting it! The recipe is amazing as well. I had heard about freezing tofu before but had never tried it. It creates a great texture.ReplyCancel

    • Laura30/01/2020 - 9:10 am

      I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the tofu press, Jenny! It really is a game-changer :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • Lucia30/01/2020 - 8:49 pm

    I made this yesterday for dinner and it was delicious! I had a silly brain moment and accidentally added the cornstarch and oil to the marinade before putting it in the freezer. I froze it overnight for about 10 hours and then defrosted it in the fridge for 9 hours, but found that it was still mostly frozen so (not ideally) I defrosted in the microwave. This may have been because of the cornstarch but my fridge also tends to run cold. I patted dry after microwaving and then did another bit of cornstarch coating. But it still turned out crispy and chewy and delicious! I really loved the sesame garlic sauce too. :) Thank you for another great recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Michael09/02/2020 - 5:18 pm

    Hey Laura! I’m curious what you mean about the tofu press being “single-use”? I’m thinking about buying one but if you have to throw it out or replace parts every time, forget it. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laura10/02/2020 - 12:42 pm

      Hi Michael,
      I think I meant “singular function” rather than single use. You definitely don’t throw it out after one use. Just wanted to communicate that it really only has one function in the kitchen. Apologies for the confusion there.
      -LReplyCancel

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