Spicy Garlicky Sesame Tofu (30 Minutes!)

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:

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

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

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


  • 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


  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch*
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 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.

*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.

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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