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!
CRISPY SESAME GARLIC TOFU RECIPE
Print the recipe here!
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.