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Vegan Crispy Sesame Tofu with Coconut Chili Dressing

Vegan crispy sesame tofu is the perfect blend of sweet and savory paired with homemade coconut-chili dressing. If you’re not convinced about tofu, allow the crunchy coating of panko and sesame seed to change your mind.

plated crispy sesame tofu

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Coconut Milk: Use unsweetened canned coconut milk.
  • Lime: Lime juice and zest add freshness to the coconut-chili dressing.
  • Chili Garlic Sauce: Spicy garlic chili sauce thickens and flavors the dressing.
  • Chili Oil: Chili oil provides heat and texture.
  • Brown Sugar: Cut the heat with a touch of sweetness.
  • Sesame: Try to convince me tofu and sesame aren’t a perfect pair! I use sesame in two ways; white and black sesame seeds form a beautiful crust on the fried tofu and sesame oil flavors and add a velvety texture to the coconut-chili dressing.
  • Tofu: Extra-firm tofu holds up well during the frying process, resulting in crisp tofu. To make it even crispier, you can microwave the tofu for 1-2 minutes before removing the liquid with a towel.
  • Panko: Panko combines with sesame seeds to form a crust on the tofu.
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes: The red pepper flakes add heat to the breading for the tofu.
  • Tapioca Flour: Tapioca flour binds the panko and sesame seeds to the tofu.
  • Vegetable Oil: Vegetable oil pan-fry’s the tofu.

HOW TO MAKE VEGAN CRISPY SESAME TOFU

For the Coconut-Chili Dressing:

coconut chili dressing for crispy sesame tofu

MIX– Whisk the coconut milk, lime zest, chili paste, chili oil, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves completely. Slowly pour in the sesame oil and whisk until the dressing becomes silky. Set it aside.

For the Tofu:

tofu patted dry for crispy sesame tofu

CUT AND DRY –Pat-dry the tofu with a towel and cut them into large rectangles. Season lightly with salt and set them aside.

MIX – Mix panko, white and black sesame seeds, pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into a skillet with 1 tsp of sesame oil. Toast for 2-4 minutes. Set it aside.

tapioca and water stirred for the dredge

STIR – Whisk tapioca flour and water together in a small bowl.

coating the tofu in sesame seed mixture

COAT – Dredge the tofu slices, one at a time, into the tapioca mixture. Then, dip the tofu into the bowl with the panko mixture. Be sure to coat the tofu well on all sides, then move to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining tofu.

For the Frying:

PREPARE – Set a wire rack into the rimmed baking sheet. Then, heat ¼ cup oil in the same skillet over medium-low heat to 350°.

test frying one piece of tofu to gauge the heat of the oil

TEST – Test the oil by frying one tofu slice, adjusting the heat accordingly.

frying the tofu in a cast iron pan

FRY – In small batches, pan-fry the tofu until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the tofu slices to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining tofu.

crispy tofu cooling on a wire rack

COOL – Allow the tofu slices to cool on the wire rack for 3 minutes.

SERVE – Serve with rice, soba noodles, or cooked vegetable of your choice, and our coconut-chili dressing on the side.

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WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS 

  • FRIDGE – Store leftovers in an air-tight container. The tofu will keep for 3-4 days.
  • FREEZE – I do not recommend freezing fried tofu.
  • REHEAT – Rewarm the tofu in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I bake the tofu instead?

I prefer pan-fried tofu, but this method is perfect for feeding a crowd; line the tofu on a rimmed baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 425° and bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. 

Can I make crispy sesame tofu in the air-fryer?

You will need to work in batches. Arrange the tofu in a single layer in the air fryer basket, and cook at 400° for 5 minutes. Flip the tofu pieces, and cook for another 5 minutes. Repeat this process until all the tofu cooks.

Is sesame tofu vegetarian? Is it vegan?

This recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

A single serving of fried tofu with blanched green beans.

Vegan Crispy Sesame Tofu with Coconut Chili Dressing

Enjoy this nutty and sweet recipe created by chef Nik Sharma and made vegan. I pan-fry the tofu, but it can also bake in an oven or air fryer.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 314 kcal

Equipment

  • 3 Small Bowls
  • Whisk
  • 2 Wire Racks
  • Cast-Iron Skillet or Heavy-Bottomed Skillet

Ingredients
  

For the Coconut-Chili Dressing:

For the Tofu:

  • 1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into rectangles
  • ½ cup panko
  • cup white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoon tapioca flour
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions
 

For the Coconut-Chili Dressing:

  • Whisk the coconut milk, lime zest, chili paste, chili oil, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves completely. Slowly pour in the sesame oil and whisk until the dressing becomes silky. Set it aside.

For the Tofu:

  • Pat-dry the tofu with a towel and cut them into large rectangles. Season lightly with salt and set them aside.
  • Mix panko, white and black sesame seeds, pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into a skillet with 1 tsp of sesame oil. Toast for 2-4 minutes. Set it aside.
  • Whisk tapioca flour and water together in a small bowl.
  • Dredge the tofu slices, one at a time, into the tapioca mixture. Then, dip the tofu into the bowl with the panko mixture. Be sure to coat the tofu well on all sides, then move to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining tofu.

For the Frying:

  • Set a wire rack into the rimmed baking sheet. Then, heat ¼ cup oil in the same skillet over medium-low heat to 350°.
  • Test the oil by frying just one piece of tofu; adjust the heat accordingly.
  • In small batches, pan-fry the tofu until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the tofu slices to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining tofu.
  • Allow the tofu slices to cool on the wire rack for 3 minutes.
  • Serve with rice, soba noodles, or cooked vegetable of your choice, and our coconut-chili dressing on the side.

Notes

  • Remove Moisture: To achieve extra-crispy tofu, microwave the tofu for 1-2 minutes before pressing the liquid out of the tofu with a towel. 
 
  • Handle Carefully: Take care handling the tofu during the dredging and coating process. 
 
  • Maintain Oil Temperature: Use a food thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil throughout the frying process. The oil should remain at 350° to fry. In between batches, allow the oil to return to temperature if needed. 

Nutrition

Serving: 6 tofu piecesCalories: 314kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 8gFat: 26gSodium: 744mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3g
Keyword fried tofu
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