This pan-fried teriyaki tofu is by far my favorite vegan protein to cook for dinner. Pan frying gives the tofu pieces a nice sear on the outside. When you bite into each piece, you’ll get crisp edges and soft center of the tofu with every bite. Drizzling teriyaki sauce over the fried tofu at the end gives the tofu so much flavor.
The preparation couldn’t be much easier: press the tofu, slice, pan fry, and add sauce. That’s it!
HOW TO MAKE TERIYAKI TOFU
PRESS THE TOFU
I typically use extra-firm tofu that comes in a rectangular plastic container because they’re more convenient to buy. Because the tofu is usually preserved in water for freshness, I press the tofu to get rid of some of the moisture.
Occasionally, I buy fresh super firm tofu from Chinese tofu makers in Sacramento. They’re solid bricks that are very firm—so firm that you can’t see individual tofu curds in the center. Because they usually sell this kind of tofu shrink wrapped with little water in the package, I don’t bother pressing the tofu before cooking.
You can press tofu many ways. After draining the tofu from the package, I typically wrap the entire block in a muslin square that I bought from England. You can also use paper towels for this. I cook tofu often, and I find it wasteful for me to use paper towels all the time.
After you wrap the tofu, lay it on a plate. Then, add a small stack of two to four plates on top. The plates in the photo above are pretty heavy ceramic ones, which is why I only needed two. Some people like to weigh down the tofu with a cast iron skillet. I don’t do that because I find the skillet to be too heavy and it always leans one way after a little while. As a result, the pressed tofu gets crushed on one side.
Press the tofu for 20 to 30 minutes, the longer the better. Then, I’ll unwrap the tofu and give the muslin a quick rinse and wring.
CUT THE TOFU
In the photos above, I cut my block of tofu into triangles to make them more visually appealing. You can cut them into 1-inch cubes or strips if you prefer.
To make the triangles, cut the block of tofu along the longer edge into 6 slices. Each slice is about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Then, lay each slice flat down and slice it into two short rectangles. Take each rectangle and make a diagonal cut to create 2 triangles. Continue doing this for the remaining slices.
PAN FRY THE TOFU
Pan fry the tofu with a few tablespoons of oil. I use peanut oil most often, but any kind of oil works. Arrange the triangles flat in a single layer over a large nonstick skillet. Pan fry one side for about 4 minutes, then flip each piece over and pan fry the other side for about 3 minutes.
If I’m cooking dinner on a regular weeknight, I’ll stop the pan frying here. For my photos, however, I usually pan fry the 3 edges of the tofu for 1 minute each.
DRIZZLE THE TERIYAKI SAUCE
Finally, drizzle several tablespoons of teriyaki sauce over the tofu and turn off the heat. Teriyaki sauce has sugar in it, which will cause the sauce to burn quite easily in high heat. That’s why I do this final step with the heat off and let the residual heat from the pan warm up the sauce. Flip the tofu pieces around so that they are covered in the sauce.
WHY I DON’T MARINATE THE TERIYAKI TOFU
First of all, drizzling the sauce over the tofu after they have been pan fried gives the tofu adequate flavor. Second, because of the sugar content in the sauce, marinated tofu will likely burn before it develops an even sear.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH TERIYAKI TOFU
Pan-Fried Teriyaki Tofu
- 1 (14-ounce) package of extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil, see note 1
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, adding more if necessary
- toasted sesame seeds for garnish, optional
- Remove the tofu from the package and drain all the water. Wrap the block of tofu with a muslin square, cheesecloth, or paper towels. Place the wrapped tofu on a plate. Then, place a stack of 2 to 4 plates over the block of tofu. Let the tofu sit for about 20 to 30 minutes, the longer the better.
- Unwrap the tofu. Cut the tofu along the long edge, making 6 slices about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Take each slice and lay it flat. Cut a slice into 2 short rectangles. Then, make a diagonal cut through each rectangle to get 2 small triangles. Repeat the same for the remaining tofu slices.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, drizzle the oil and add the tofu to the skillet in a single layer. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the tofu. Let the tofu fry for about 4 minutes, until golden. Then, flip the pieces over to the other side. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pan fry this side for about 3 minutes, until golden. You can stop pan frying here or pan fry each of the 3 edges for about 1 minute each.
- Drizzle 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce over the tofu pieces, and then turn off the heat. Flip the tofu pieces around several times so that they’re covered in teriyaki sauce. Transfer the cooked teriyaki tofu to a plate. Sprinkle the tofu with toasted sesame seeds, if you like.
- It doesn’t matter what kind of oil you use for this. I used peanut oil, but you can use canola, safflower, grapeseed, or olive oil.
- In the photos, I served the teriyaki tofu with cooked short-grain brown rice, blanched baby bok choy, julienned cucumber and carrots, gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), and fried minced garlic.