This better than takeout sticky tofu recipe will make you love tofu, I promise! The tofu is lightly breaded, then pan roasted and covered in a super easy sweet & savory sauce. It makes for a very tasty plant-based protein to use over noodles, in buddha bowls or even in sandwiches. Plus, it will be done within 20 minutes!
I feel like most people that I know either enjoy tofu very much or... they don't at all. I get why though: tofu is one of these things you need to get used to and also learn how to cook the right way, so you don't end up with a bland chewy block of unappetizing food on your plate.
Also, when trying out tofu for the first few times, you have to really go to town with it. Make it crispy, tender, saucy and very flavorful. You don't have to see it as a meat replacement, just a healthy high-in-protein food that comes from plants. And a unique food item thats just needs a little love to really be at its best.
And I feel really lucky to be surrounded by people that constantly crave tofu. I never have to beg our kids to at-least-taste-it, but instead have to make double batch of whatever yummy tofu I'm making. If I want to be able to have some for me too, anyway. Some of our favorites are smoky tofu for sandwiches (a husband favorite) and tofu spread for filling snacks.
So next time you are craving take out food, then you have to make this super simple 20-minute sticky tofu. The meaty tofu is nicely breaded, roasted to crispy, then smothered in a sweet, sticky and very savory sauce that coats the tofu so perfectly. I love it over noodles or rice, but it is also amazing to use in a banh mi style Asian sandwich. Hope you enjoy!
Why you will love this amazing quick weeknight dinner
- Extra quick and easy steps. This recipe only requires to pat dry the tofu: no long lasting tofu press and no tofu marination implicated. This makes it a great last minute meal for busy days.
- Versatile. This recipe gives you a healthy protein that you can use in so many ways (bowls, sandwiches, in noodles or as a satisfying main protein to eat straight from the pan!).
- Very flavorful. The sauce is very bold in flavor, which helps appreciate tofu if you are usually not a huge fan of it.
- Simple ingredients only. No unusual ingredients needed and you probably already have everything to make it, so you can prepare this tofu anytime you crave takeout!
Ingredients to make this sticky tofu
- Extra firm tofu
- Soy sauce
- Maple syrup
- Rice vinegar
- Tomato paste
- Fresh ginger
- Fresh garlic
What kind of tofu to use to make a sticky tofu
I use our local Maine extra firm tofu, which is simply the best! If you can grab a block of tofu Heiwa, then go for it. It might be a little more expensive, but so worth it. The texture of their tofu is so great: it never falls apart with and has a meaty satisfying bite. The best for marinating for sure, and so great when roasting in a pan. When I cook tofu that needs to be crumbled like tofu scramble or in a tofu bolognese sauce, then I might choose a less expensive kind as I don't mind a different texture.
In any cases, choose the extra firm tofu you have available at your grocery stores. Have a firmer tofu will make sure you end up with solid slices that hold well.
How to make a sticky tofu
Step 1- Prepare the tofu
- Simply pat dry the tofu using a hand towel or paper towels, just so it is not soaking wet, but still moist (this will help the breading stick to its surface).
- Slice the tofu to your desired shape. For this recipe, I love to first slice the block of tofu into 4 equal large square/rectangular shapes. Then, slice diagonally each of these squares to create triangles.
- Then, combine the flour and corn starch in a shallow large bowl.
- Using one piece of tofu at the time, gently cover with the flour mixture on each sides. Use your finger to press on it and make sure it is completely covered. Transfer to a plate and keep going with all the tofu pieces.
Step 2 - Whisk the sauce
In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, tomato paste, ginger and garlic. Set aside.
Step 3 - Pan-fried the breaded tofu
- Warm a non-stick large pan on medium-high heat and add a small amount of sesame oil, if desired (you can also roast without any oil).
- When warmed up, add the tofu and roast on each side until browned, making sure to flip once or twice. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
Step 4 - Add the sauce
Once the tofu is roasted, then pour the sauce over. Use a fork or thongs to flip the tofu and ensure that all sides are soaking in some of the sauce. The sauce will thicken super quickly and become sticky and thick within a few minutes, so stay around and remove the pan whenever it looks the way you want it.
Watch how to make it
Tips when making this sticky tofu
- I love to use sesame oil to roast the tofu as it adds extra flavor. You can pour a super small amount into the pan, no more than one tablespoon, then spread the oil all over the pan using a brush (or a paper towel!). It helps spread the oil without having to use much, so you can keep this recipe mostly oil-free. Feel free to do a dry roast, but be sure to use a non-stick pan.
- I prefer to dip the triangles of tofu one at the time in the flour to prevent them from breaking. If you cut your tofu in cubes, then you can speed up the process and throw all the cubes in the flour all at once and stir with a spoon. Then, transfer the cubes without pouring the extra flour in the pan (it will burn).
- Make sure to roast your tofu very well before adding the sauce. The tofu won't be cooking much longer after that and you want all the flour-cornstarch to be roasted before adding anything moist. If you choose to cut the tofu in cubes, then be sure to roast each of the sides too (important for best texture).
- Also, add the sauce to the roasted tofu in the pan only when everything else is ready (noodles, veggies, etc). The sauce will thicken super quickly!
- Keep a tube of tomato paste in the fridge for whenever you need smaller amount instead of opening can. I always have this tomato paste from Amore ready to go.
- This sticky tofu is not overly saucy, so feel free to double the sauce if you want extra.
- To make sure this recipe is done 20 minutes, then whisk the sauce ingredients while the tofu is roasting, so you avoid any down time.
This recipe can be served in so many ways, but my favorite is to serve over noodles. I'm so in love with any Asian noodles from the brand Lotus Food! I chose these millet and brown rice noodles to pair with this tofu. I drizzled my sesame soy dressing over the noodles first (or use a little soy sauce), then topped with the tofu.
It would also be delicious over rice, quinoa and in sandwiches.
Pair this tofu with a side of veggies, like bok choi, broccoli, or roasted peppers. In this case, I simply used a bag or pre-cut carrots that I simply soaked in water then steamed using my microwave for a few minutes. This helped keep my meal-prep super quick and simple. Frozen veggies (also thawed in the microwave!) work well for a last minute meal.
Keep any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The texture will change after storage, which makes the tofu less crispy, but will remain extra flavorful. You might want to consider doubling the sauce if you expect leftovers as it can also dry out in the fridge.
Make this sticky tofu ahead
If you love to meal prep during the weekend, then you can whisk the sauce together and store in the fridge. Also, bread and roast the tofu in the pan, but do not add the sauce to it. Simply store the roasted naked tofu in the fridge as well.
When ready to eat, add the tofu back to the pan, warm up for a few minutes and then add the sauce. Cook for a few minutes until thickened. It will be done super quickly!
Other Asian style recipe you might like
- Easy veggie stir-fry
- Sweet potato sushi
- Sweet and sour tofu
- Miso ramen soup
- Teriyaki cauliflower
- Sweet ginger tofu
- Spicy garlic noodles
- Sweet and spicy orange sauce
- Thai peanut sauce
- Vegan chow mein
- Orange cauliflower
I hope you enjoy this sticky tofu as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Sticky Tofu (20-Minute Easy Recipe)
- 454 g extra firm tofu
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp flour - all purpose or white whole wheat
- sesame oil - as needed for roasting, optional
For the sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp fresh ginger - grated or finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic - crushed
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Pat dry the block of tofu using a hand towel or paper towels. Then, cut the tofu as desired. I like to shape the pieces in triangle for this recipe, but cubes would work great too. To make the triangles, slice the block of tofu in 4 equal rectangular, then slice them in diagonal to get large triangles.
- In a shallow medium size bowl, combine the flour and corn starch. Then, cover the pieces of tofu by tossing/pressing them in the flour mixture (the moist nature of the tofu should help the breading stick to it). Transfer to a plate and keep going until you covered all the tofu.
- Warm up a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. You can also warm up a small amount of sesame oil to help the tofu roast. Roast the tofu on each side until browned, flipping the pieces a few times (for about 15 minutes).
- Once the tofu is roasted to your liking, then pour the sauce over and use thongs to flip the tofu and makes sure they all are covered with some of the sauce. Cook for a short time or until the sauce is to your desired consistency (it should take about 1-2 minutes or so).
- Serve immediately over noodles or rice with a side of veggies.
- Store any leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
- To make this recipe ahead: combine the sauce in a jar and store in the fridge. Also bread and pan-fry the tofu, but do not add the sauce to it. Simply transfer the roasted tofu in the fridge as well. When ready to eat, transfer the tofu back to the pan and warm it up, then add the sauce until thickened. This should take you only a few minutes!
- I love using tomato paste from a tube that I always keep in the fridge and can use small amount at the time (opposed to opening a can). I love the tomato paste from Amore.