When I was growing up, tofu was a weeknight staple on our dinner table, served in stir-fries and soups, stuffed into fish cakes, or fried. In my household, which is vegetarian, it’s our main source of protein, used in dishes from all cuisines—from a turmeric-accented tofu scramble for tacos to a vegan palak paneer-style dish using pan-fried tofu in place of cheese.
This recipe is a riff on a Chinese American classic, sesame chicken. Achieving a crispy coating around the tofu is key—it adds to the overall texture of the finished dish. After trying several types of flours and starches, I found that cornstarch provides the ideal level of crunch while retaining some crispiness even after soaking up sauce. Those familiar with sesame chicken might know that the “sesame” component is sometimes limited to a ceremonial scattering of seeds on top. This version, however, ups the sesame game by incorporating an untraditional but logical addition: tahini! Made of ground sesame seeds, it adds a delicious richness.
This method of pan-frying tofu is also excellent for those who love salt and pepper tofu: All you need to do is to sprinkle this salt and pepper mix over your crispy tofu: ½ tsp. sugar, ½ tsp. freshly ground white pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. five-spice powder, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt. —Hetty McKinnon
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Drain one 14-oz. block extra-firm tofu and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut tofu in half horizontally through the equator (like a hamburger bun), then cut into 1" cubes and pat dry again. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or large plate and set aside.
Cut 1 large head of broccoli (about 1 lb.) into small 1" florets. If your broccoli has a long stem, peel tough outer skin to remove the lighter fibrous layer, then slice stem ¼" thick. Finely chop 1 scallion and set aside for serving.
To make the sauce, scrape skin from one 1" piece ginger with a spoon, then grate on a Microplane into a small bowl. Smash and peel 1 garlic clove and grate into bowl with ginger. Add ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. light or dark brown sugar or pure maple syrup, 2 Tbsp. tahini, 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, 1½ tsp. cornstarch, a pinch of kosher salt, and 3 Tbsp. water and whisk to combine. Set sauce aside.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt over tofu and toss to coat. Scatter remaining ¼ cup cornstarch over tofu a tablespoonful at a time, tossing after each addition and gently pressing into the tofu pieces, until well coated on all sides.
Heat 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add broccoli, season with ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt and ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a plate. Wipe out skillet.
Heat remaining ¼ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil in same skillet over medium-high. When oil is hot (it will start to shimmer), reduce heat to medium and add tofu in a single layer (work in batches if needed). Cook, turning every 3–4 minutes, until golden brown all over, 10–12 minutes total. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and let drain.
Pour out any remaining oil in pan and wipe out. Return pan to medium heat. Whisk reserved sauce if it has separated, then pour into pan and cook until thickened and bubbling, about 20 seconds. Immediately remove pan from heat and add broccoli and tofu; toss to coat.
Top tofu and broccoli with 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds and reserved scallions. Serve with steamed white or brown rice.
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Reviews (39)Back to Top
I looove this recipe! I made it with sesame paste instead of tahini and loved the sweetness it brought to the dish. But the REAL treat is the mini-recipe in the instructions for salt and pepper tofu. I'd eat this every day if I could. Perfectly crisp tofu perfectly coated in a perfect little spice mix. It's perfect!
This was a GREAT recipe that will be in my home repertoire for years to come. Took the oil comments to heart and added chili paste for heat. I didn't have enough broccoli so I substituted some of the veg with red cabbage--delightful! Could probably work with a slew of vegetables.
Way too salty. Wish I had read the reviews. :(
Lots of comments on the saltiness of the dish. I make a similar sauce but use half tamari or soy (low sodium) and half water. I also skip salting anything besides the protein since additional bottled sauce can be added at the end. Also, a shot of red pepper flakes is a great addition if youd like a bit of heat.
You must preheat the pan before adding oil! So bummed that I didn't follow my instincts and let the pan get nice and hot BEFORE adding the oil. When you add the oil while the pan heats, it starts to smoke before the pan gets hot enough to sear the meat or tofu. My advice, get the pan very hot, add the oil and immediately add the tofu. I added oil before heating the pan - the tofu stuck to the pan, and we lost all of the crunchy coating from the corn starch. Still a good dish, though. I left out the salting of the tofu based on other reviews, It felt a little bland, but the sauce had good flavor. I'd increase the sauce by 50%, as it felt a little sparse. Maybe use slightly less corn starch in the sauce, it was very thick. Would make again with these small changes. I'm confident this recipe would work will with chicken or beef too.
Delicious. Use the right salt. Normal sea salt 1 tap = 2.25 Diamond crystal salt. No wonder it was too salty for some!
Mama Jen’s Table
I wonder if the folks complaining about this being too salty used table salt in the same proportion as recommended in the recipe for kosher salt. Should use one half, if table salt.
san jose, ca
Hmmm.. this is not right. I ended up having a banana with coconut yoghurt for dinner instead.. I like salty, but this was insanely salty. I will try less soy and no salt on broccoli/tofu next time, if I’m brave enough!! And maybe even keep broccoli sauce-free just to be safe… :D
After reading the reviews about how salty this was I decided to make it exactly as instructed except I skipped salting the tofu. The sauce is definitely on the salty side but in my opinion absolutely delicious. I love the combination of flavors and I'm not a huge tahini fan. Somehow the combination of everything in the sauce together gives it a rich, nutty flavor. My son, who absolutely hates tahini said he wants me to serve this sauce on all his vegetables from now on! I never did tell him it had tahini in it!!!
This is absolutely delicious. Do yourselves a favor and slice the block of tofu horizontally into three planks, sear to your liking, then cut into cubes. Trying to flip 1" cubes of tofu is ridiculous.
Oh gosh, read the reviews and still expected differently. Tofu with zero seasoning tasted like giant croutons. A super chunky, unappealing sauce that was too salty to eat. Threw out the sauce and literally used the tofu like croutons.
Oh man this sauce is terrible, atrocious even. So heavy on the cornstarch! I read multiple reviews and doubled the sauce. For the quantity of sauce 1.5x would’ve been plenty but the flavor, oh the flavor. It is way worse than a premade frozen meal. Ick, by far the worst recipe I’ve made from bon appetit. Absolutely would never make again. Please take this as a warning. 🤢🤢🤮
I doubled the sauce because I like sauce, but 1 1/2 would have been enough. As others have said waaay too salty. I added significantly more sugar after tasting and it still didn't do the trick. The cornstarch on the tofu did make it nice and crispy-- that was the best part. I probably should have parboiled the broccoli-- still too crunchy for my taste. All in all, your neighborhood Chinese probably does a better job-- for a lot less effort and clean up.
I really liked this. I think it needs a bit more sauce, I added some housin and some sambaal. I also topped it with chopped cilantro, scallion and peanuts. I used potato starch instead of corn and it rocked. It would be really good with a peanut sauce too!
Made this in the air fryer to GREAT success. 425, do the broccoli first (tossed in olive oil, took around 12 min), then sprayed the tofu with a bit of oil (after coating it in cornstarch), which cooked in around 15 min and got sooo crispy, then heated the sauce in a nonstick pan and added everything back in to coat. Can't wait to make it again.