Spicy Garlicky Sesame Tofu (30 Minutes!)

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Using chopsticks to pick up a bite of sesame tofu from a bowl of steamed rice and broccoli

Welcome to another minimal effort, BIG flavor dish! This quicker-than-takeout sesame tofu is baked to crispy perfection and coated in a drool-worthy, sweet + spicy + garlicky sauce. It might have you questioning whether you’ll ever be ordering takeout again!

Pair with rice and steamed veggies for a simple, 30-minute meal that’s vegan, gluten-free, and naturally sweetened. Let’s make it!

Tofu, cornstarch, avocado oil, sesame oil, garlic, salt, water, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, tamari, and maple syrup

Recipe Inspiration

This recipe is inspired by Sesame Chicken, which is commonly found in Chinese restaurants in the US and Canada (source). Though likely originally inspired by a dish from China, its exact origin story is unclear. Some suggest it’s an adaptation of General Tso’s, while others say it’s inspired by Sichuan La Zi Ji.

Our inspired, plant-based version has a similarly sticky, spicy, sweet (but not too sweet!) glaze and is made with tofu. Our version also doesn’t involve any battering or deep frying!

How to Make Sesame Tofu

It starts with making the tofu crispy using a different method! Instead of deep frying, we break the tofu into bite-sized pieces and bake until a little firm and golden with crispy edges.

Drizzling oil over a baking sheet of tofu pieces

Then we make a simple, super flavorful sauce on the stovetop with maple syrup, tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic.

Adding tamari into a saucepan

Next, we cook it down with a little slurry of cornstarch + water until it’s thickened.

Stirring a sticky, spicy, garlicky sesame sauce in a white ceramic saucepan

The final steps are adding sesame seeds to the sauce then stirring in the baked tofu until it’s well-coated and irresistible!

Pieces of crispy baked tofu coated in a sticky sesame glaze

We can’t wait for you to try this sesame tofu! It’s:

Spicy
Garlicky
A little sweet
A little sticky
Crispy on the edges
& SO delicious!

It pairs beautifully with rice (brownwhite, or cauliflower “rice”), and steamed broccoli for a simple, weeknight-friendly meal. Other delicious pairings include our Sesame Sautéed Swiss Chard, Gingery Smashed Cucumber Salad, and Spicy Garlicky Edamame.

More Flavorful Tofu Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Close up shot of chopsticks holding a bite of vegan sesame tofu

Spicy Garlicky Sesame Tofu (30 Minutes!)

Crispy baked tofu coated in a sweet, spicy, garlicky sesame sauce. Vegan, gluten-free, naturally sweetened, and ready in just 30 minutes!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Using chopsticks to pick up spicy garlicky sesame tofu from a bowl of rice and broccoli
4.99 from 50 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Course Entrée
Cuisine Chinese-Inspired, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? Best when fresh

Ingredients

TOFU

  • 1 (14-16 oz / 397-453 g) package super firm high-protein tofu*
  • 1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

SAUCE

  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp tamari or soy sauce (gluten-free as needed)
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated or pressed
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

TO THICKEN SAUCE

  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch*
  • 1 Tbsp water

FOR SERVING optional

Instructions

  • If serving with rice, cauliflower rice, or steamed broccoli, begin preparing at this time. Cook the rice on the stovetop, in the Instant Pot, or in a rice cooker. Steam the broccoli in a steamer basket set over boiling water for ~4-6 minutes, or until tender but still a vibrant green color. Otherwise, move on to the next step.
  • TOFU: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Crumble the tofu into pieces 1/2 to 1 inch in size and arrange them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Add oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to evenly coat the tofu. Once the oven is preheated, bake for 10 minutes, flip with a spatula, and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the tofu is a little firm and golden with crispy edges.
  • SAUCE: To a medium saucepan, add the maple syrup, soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, to a small bowl, add the cornstarch and water and stir to combine. Once the sauce is simmering, add the cornstarch mixture, stir, and continue simmering, stirring occasionally until the sauce becomes thick like honey — about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame seeds. Taste and adjust as needed, adding more maple syrup for sweetness, tamari for overall flavor, garlic for zing, or red pepper flakes for heat. Set aside.
  • Once the tofu is golden brown, place it into the sauce and stir to fully coat. Serve warm with rice, steamed vegetables, or other sides for a tasty meal!
  • You can prep the sauce ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. If it becomes too thick, add a bit of water when you reheat it in a saucepan. Otherwise, the cooked dish is best when fresh.

Notes

*If you can’t find super firm tofu, extra firm or firm tofu will work in this recipe. If using extra firm or firm tofu, wrap it in an absorbent towel and set something heavy on top — like a cast iron skillet — to press out extra moisture for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, use a tofu press. Then proceed with step 2.
*If you want to replace the cornstarch with arrowroot starch, use only half the amount. It will look a little goopy, which isn’t as appetizing, but it still tastes good!
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.
*Inspired by Allrecipes’ Sesame Chicken.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 345 Carbohydrates: 16.4 g Protein: 20.7 g Fat: 22.4 g Saturated Fat: 3.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.8 g Monounsaturated Fat: 4.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 795 mg Potassium: 249 mg Fiber: 3.7 g Sugar: 9.3 g Vitamin A: 12 IU Vitamin C: 0.5 mg Calcium: 138 mg Iron: 4.6 mg

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My Rating:




  1. Heather says

    Easy to make. I really liked the crunchy texture of the tofu, and the sauce was very tasty. I’ll make it again for sure. Thank you.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Lesley. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  2. Kristen says

    This was excellent! Made as written, added steamed Chinese broccoli and rice on the side. This will go into our rotation!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad this one will be on repeat in your kitchen, Kristen! Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  3. Katy says

    Made this tonight with steamed broccoli and it tasted like takeout in the best way. Will happily be making this again in the near future!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad you enjoyed it and will be making it again. Thank you for the lovely review, Katy! xo

  4. Stephani says

    This recipe is AMAZING. 10/10 no notes. Make it. We’ve already had it twice in two weeks and it will be in our dinner rotation forever now. Thank you Minimalist Baker!!

  5. Nora says

    Delicious! I couldn’t find cornstarch or arrowroot starch so I basically made a roux – I toasted the garlic in sesame oil and then whisked in 2 tbsp of flour before adding the rest of the ingredients. Worked a treat! Could have probably gotten away with 1tbsp flour, it was super thick.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modification, Nora! xo

  6. Coby says

    MB, all I can say is WOW! This is so simple and delicious! I generally don’t do oil, so I omitted the oil from the tofu and sprayed it lightly with olive oil cooking spray. I left the sesame oil out of the sauce, and even without that the flavor of the sauce is just awesome! Fantastic dish!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thank you so much for your kind words and lovely review, Coby! We’re so glad you enjoyed it with some modifications! xo

  7. Becky says

    I made a double recipe of this for guests and it was a hit. The sauce got too thick as soon as I added the corn starch, so I thinned it with a little water.

  8. Cass says

    If you want the top tier deliciousness with low tier effort.. this is for you. I was too lazy to chop fresh garlic, so I used powdered. No knives required. This is going in the meal prep rotation – sooooooooooooo good.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad it’s making it into your rotation, Cass. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modification! xo

  9. vianey says

    o my GOOOOOSH! The best ever tofu dish ever!! My kids and my husband loved it and they have never eaten tofu before.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad it was a hit in your household, Vianey. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  10. K says

    Absolutely delicious, will make again! Decreased the sugar by 1/3 as I don’t like too sweet things, and it was perfect.

  11. Liz says

    Wow! My new favorite recipe. It’s quick enough for a week night, but feels like a takeout meal splurge. Highly recommend the steamed broccoli with it. I think I will be making this every couple of weeks for the foreseeable future.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad this one will be on repeat for you, Liz. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  12. Dorian says

    The sauce is delicious!

    I dunno if I did something wrong, but mine thickened immediately in the pan. I ended up thinning it out with some water so that it was more pourable.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Dorian! The sauce does thicken quickly, but if it’s faster than ~3 minutes, it could be that your burner/pan heats up hotter/faster than ours did. You can either start it at a lower heat, or do exactly what you did (add more water). Thank you for sharing your experience!

  13. Lucy says

    I never comment on recipes (sorry) but several hours later I am still thinking about this delicious, saucy, crunchy, delight. This will be on a weekly rotation for sure.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review, Lucy! We’re so glad you loved this one! xo

  14. Becky says

    I loved it, but my “medium” stove is very hot and the sauce immediately got too thick. Next time I will used water or some of the other liquids to get the right consistency.

  15. Tasha says

    Banging on the taste buds – Get ready to do a happy dance! Minimalist Baker true to her word, the recipes are efficient, fast and great for any type of cooking skill level.

    The one thing changed from the recipe was the amount of sesame seeds listed in the ingredients list – Less than 1/4 cup was used. The suggestion would be to season the sesame seeds as deemed fit according to own preferences and taste. Otherwise, the flavor and everything was exquisite despite decreasing the quantity of sesame seeds.

    This recipe was paired with brown rice and steamed broccoli sprinkled with rice vinegar / ground pepper. The sauce and flavor from the tofu was enough to coat the brown rice / broccoli and that made for an even tastier dish. *The sauce was the star of the show hands down*.

    This recipe will be an ongoing addition to our meals – Thanks for sharing a tasty creation!

  16. angela says

    I have made this twice in the past couple of weeks and the sauce is SO DELICIOUS!! I’m sensitive to sesame oil so used a bit of olive oil and it works just as good! I roasted more veggies as there was space on the pan and its so easy!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you’ve been enjoying it, Angela. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

  17. Ashley Joyce says

    This recipe is amazing and will be in regular rotation. 5 stars. Simple and easy to make is just a bonus!

  18. Sonya says

    Minimalist Baker has done it again with another delicious meal my family couldn’t stop raving about for days.

    It was so good that my husband even mistook the tofu for chicken 😂!

    I served it with cauliflower rice and sautéed broccoli spears. I used Extra Firm tofu and baked it a little longer until crispy.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad it was a hit in your household, Sonya. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  19. Molly says

    Really good recipe- however my sauce ended up gelatinous. I’m thinking I added too much of the cornstarch mixture or cooked it for too long. Still really good flavors.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Molly, yes, that does sound like what happened! We’re glad you still enjoyed the flavors.

  20. Len Slaine says

    Definitely delicious. Added broccoli & cauliflower for more substance and a lil extra garlic to boot. I wouldn’t suggest using the whole 1/4 cup of sesame seeds. I do love sesame seeds, but 1/4 cup just seemed like too much. Easy peasy & great for weeknights. BF wants more of this!

  21. Renate Shew says

    Thank you so much for this superb recipe, I absolutely loved it and it’ll be on the menu again next week 😊

  22. Taylor Mitchell says

    I made this last week and loved it so am making it again today. Left the maple syrup out just because that’s our preference. Doubled the sauce recipe. So good! Can’t wait to have tonight. Quick and easy to put together. On another note I can’t find where to save this recipe- used to be able to tap it. Am I missing that feature now? Thanks!!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Taylor! Hmm, we’re having trouble replicating the issue. You’re referring to saving using the heart at the bottom right of the page, correct? What browser are you using and is it on mobile, desktop, or tablet?

  23. Rosalie says

    This is the second time that I have made this delicious and easy recipe! Sauce is terrific! A keeper for sure!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad you’ve been enjoying it, Rosalie. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  24. Megan says

    Such a good meal! Next time I am making a double batch of the tofu, it’s so good and comes together fast.

  25. Laura says

    This was absolutely delicious!! My husband loved it. I did add a splash of additional tamari to the sauce, as it thickened up REALLY fast, but it was perfect. Also tossed some of the broccoli with the tofu and sauce as well, for overall coverage of the yumminess. Served with a brown rice/ quinoa combo for extra protein. Thanks for a great and easy weeknight recipe! Will make again.

  26. Pat says

    Lordy, lordy. The sodium is outrageous for a low sodium diet @ 1,000 / day. How can it be reduced? Can the fat be reduced also by using a reduced fat tofu?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Pat, you could use low sodium tamari, but it won’t be as flavorful. For the saturated fat, you could lightly spray the tofu with oil (or omit it), but it won’t crisp up as much.

  27. Robin says

    Absolutely exceptional! I think this deserves a spot in your Top 10! What a delicious meal served with brown rice and broccoli. I made the sauce early in the day and everything else shortly before, and it came together quickly. The sauce needed 1T of water to return it to the right texture. I had gone “easy” on the red pepper flakes, thinking that it would be too spicy, but next time I’ll use it all. My husband and I were wild about the flavors and I will definitely double the recipe — which is going to be prepared many more times in our household! Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, THANK YOU so much for your amazing review, Robin! We’re so glad you love this one and will be making it again! xo

  28. Amalia says

    Followed the recipe exactly as written – it was amazing! served it with rice and a Korean cucumber salad. It’s gonna be in our weekly rotation for sure. MAJOR YUM!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      That sounds like a great combo, Amalia! We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thank you for sharing! xo

  29. Stephanie says

    Another winne! Served with sauteed veggies with a handful of peanuts over brown rice. Perfection!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad you enjoyed this one, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing! xo

  30. Sophie Rau says

    Hello MB :)

    I just made it and what can I say?
    That sauce is heavenly.
    THANK YOU for offering us such great recipes.
    Merci.

  31. Mia Hackett says

    Made this for dinner tonight. I served it alongside steamed rice and sautéed garlic mushrooms & arugula. Super easy and super tasty! I consider myself an intermediate chef/baker. I do know my way around a kitchen affair bit. However, whenever trying a new recipe, I always feel like content creators say things take a lot less time to make than they actually do. Not this recipe, though! The clear and easy instructions made for a quick and simple weeknight dinner that I will definitely be making again. I even had time to clean up between steps. A quick tasty dinner with little mess left over in the kitchen is definitely a winner for me!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Mia. We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe and found it to be quick and easy to follow! xo

  32. Meri Schroeder says

    Really good recipe – quick and easy to put together. Next time I’ll probably add a 2nd match of the sauce to drizzle onto the rice bowl, and perhaps cut down on the red pepper flakes.

  33. Rebekah Furey says

    Wow wow wow this is insanely good and so simple , in fact I already had all the ingredients on hand. I air roasted the broccoli at the same time I cooked the tofu , one less pot to clean. I can’t wait to make this again. I think even tofu skeptics will devour this one. Great work:)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thank you so much for your kind words and lovely review, Rebekah! We’re so glad you loved this one! xo

  34. Jeff says

    We made this tonight. It is delicious, and a keeper. We halved the recipe, and cooked the tofu 10 minutes at 400 degrees in our air fryer. We used 12 oz of a stir fry veggie mix. It would have been better to have used the full amount of the sauce. It served 2, with brown rice.

  35. Elena says

    This is SO delicious wow and comes together quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it’s definitely going in the rotation.

    The sauce mixture gets quite thick, but with stirring in the tofu it spreads out quite nicely (I used a silicon spatula for mixing)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Whoop! We’re so glad to hear it’s going in your rotation, Elena. Thank you for sharing your experience! xo

  36. Lise says

    Such a big hit, so flavourful. I only had medium firm tofu and it worked out great. I will definitely add this to our menu plan. My husband really enjoyed our dinner. We had rice and steamed broccoli, great combo!

  37. SBS says

    Another excellent recipe! I needed a relatively quick lunch idea and remembered seeing this recipe in my email inbox – and I’m so glad I did! Here’s another one that’s going into he regular rotation!

  38. Margaret says

    Wow!!Definitely not making this too often as I couldn’t stop eating it. Kept sneaking into the kitchen for just one more piece. Really a lovely recipe using pantry staples. Comes together quickly and could be very adaptable to varying tastes. Nice job once again making doable healthy recipes. Now excuse me but a piece of garlicky tofu is calling my name.

  39. Kristine says

    Question if we’d like it not spicy do you think eliminating or lessoning it by half for the pepper flakes would be good?
    Thank you

  40. Stephanie says

    I look forward to trying this! I don’t have sesame seeds, would subbing in tahini work? Should I use the same amount? Thank you!