Weeknight Teriyaki Tofu (照り焼き豆腐)
In Japan, tofu is a respectable protein that sits alongside meat and fish. This Teriyaki Tofu recipe makes for an easy and delicious alternative to chicken teriyaki. When I say that it’s an “alternative,” I don’t mean that one is better. It’s just something different in the same way you might crave chocolate ice cream one day and strawberry the next.
If you take care of the prep in the morning, the dish comes together in about 10 minutes. This makes it a perfect weeknight meal, packed with enough protein for vegans and vegetarians, and flavorful enough to satisfy hardcore meat eaters.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Draining the tofu firms up its texture while reducing the amount of excess water that could water down the teriyaki sauce.
- Seasoning the tofu with garlic and ginger adds loads of flavor to the bland protein.
- Coating the tofu in potato starch creates a crisp coating around the edges while providing a surface for the teriyaki glaze to adhere to.
- Garnishing the Teriyaki Tofu with sesame seeds and scallions at the end adds a pop of texture and color while ensuring the sauce stays clear and shiny.
Ingredients for Teriyaki Tofu
- Tofu – Tofu is made of soy protein that’s curdled and shaped into blocks. There’s a huge variety of textures and tastes depending on the soybeans and the method used to turn them into tofu. For this recipe, I recommend using medium-firm tofu. This ensures the tofu has a low enough water content that it doesn’t get soggy while containing enough moisture, so it doesn’t get dry and pasty. I don’t recommend using extra firm tofu because it tends to get dry. You also want to look for a tofu that doesn’t taste too strongly of soybeans. If you’re in the US, I like House Foods tofu.
- Aromatics – Since tofu doesn’t have much flavor, it’s important to season it before coating and cooking it. I like to rub the tofu with grated garlic and ginger, which infuses it with loads of flavor, but other options include powdered dried shiitake mushrooms or nutritional yeast.
- Starch – Giving the tofu a starch coating helps to crisp the surface while providing a layer for the teriyaki sauce to stick to. I prefer using potato starch for this, but other starches like tapioca, arrowroot, or cornstarch will work if you can’t find it.
- Teriyaki Sauce – Traditional Japanese teriyaki sauce is just equal parts of three ingredients: soy sauce, sake, and sugar. For the soy sauce, any Japanese dark soy sauce like Kikkoman will work. If you want to make this gluten-free, use tamari soy sauce. Sake is added for the umami taste it adds, and the alcohol burns off as the glaze boils. If you have access to real brew mirin, you can also substitute mirin for the sake and cut the sugar in half, but most mirin is just corn syrup, alcohol, and flavorings. As for the sugar, I used evaporated cane sugar, but brown sugar, honey or maple syrup will all work. Teriyaki sauce will keep for months, so I usually make a big bottle and store it in the fridge.
- Garnishes – I garnished my tofu teriyaki with toasted golden sesame seeds and chopped green onions, but there’s a wide range of possibilities here, like some additional grated ginger, wasabi, or shichimi pepper for some spicy kick. You could also add texture here with fried onions or garlic chips.
How to Make Teriyaki Tofu
Tofu is anywhere from 75-90% water, so it’s important to drain off some of the excess water, or your Teriyaki Tofu will turn out soggy and the sauce will be watery. There are a couple ways to speed this up, such as by using a tofu press or weighing down the tofu, but for this recipe it’s important for the tofu to retain its shape. That’s why I suggest letting time and gravity do their thing naturally. Just cut to the block of tofu into 5 slices and put them on a wire rack over a tray. Let it drain for at least 30 minutes. You can also start draining the tofu in the morning and leave it in the refrigerator for the day so it’s ready to go by the time you get home from work.
Make the teriyaki sauce by mixing the soy sauce, sake and sugar in a bowl. You can also just use X tablespoons of my homemade teriyaki sauce.
When you’re ready to make the tofu teriyaki, use paper towels to pat the surface of the tofu dry and then slather the grated garlic and ginger all over them. Then, you want to use the potato starch to coat every surface of the tofu until it’s not sticky anymore.
To cook the tofu, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the oil and tofu in a single layer. Make sure the slices of tofu don’t touch each other or they will stick together. Let it brown on one side for three to four minutes.
Once the tofu has crisped on one side, flip it over and brown the second side. This will take another three to four minutes.
Alternatively, you could also brown the tofu in an oven or an air fryer by spraying it on all sides with a generous amount of cooking spray and setting it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or air-fryer basket. Bake or air fry it until it’s golden brown. The browned tofu can then be glazed in a pan.
To glaze the tofu with teriyaki sauce, you want to wipe out as much oil from the pan as possible using paper towels. This keeps it from getting greasy while ensuring your sauce stays nice and clear. Then you can add the teriyaki sauce, turn up the heat, and glaze the tofu. The idea is to reduce the sauce by boiling it down while flipping the tofu repeatedly to baste it with the sauce.
The Teriyaki Tofu is done when the glaze is syrupy and thick, and you can finish the dish off by sprinkling on some chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
What to Serve with Tofu Teriyaki
Rice – This tofu teriyaki is generously seasoned, so it pairs well with plain Japanese short-grain rice, but if you want even more flavor, try serving it with Japanese Garlic Rice.
Vegetables – I usually boil or steam some carrots and broccoli to go with this, but if you feel like getting fancier, you can make some Spinach With Sesame or Cucumber and Seaweed Salad to go with this.
Other Easy Tofu Recipes
- 400 grams firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 7 grams garlic (grated)
- 7 grams ginger (grated)
- 30 grams potato starch (4 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Drain and slice the block of tofu into 5 slices. Place the tofu on a wire rack and drain it for at least 30 minutes. If you want to get this started in the morning, be sure to refrigerate the tofu as it drains.
- Mix the soy sauce, sake, and sugar to make the teriyaki sauce.
- Pat all sides of the tofu dry with paper towels.
- Rub the grated garlic and ginger onto all sides of the tofu and then dust every surface with a generous amount of potato starch.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Place the tofu in the pan with space between them, so they don’t stick together. Pan-fry the tofu until it’s browned on one side (3-4 minutes).
- Flip the tofu over and brown the second side (another 3-4 minutes).
- Use paper towels to wipe out any excess oil from the pan.
- Add the teriyaki sauce and glaze the tofu, flipping them over repeatedly until the sauce has thickened and formed a thick glaze around it.
- Garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds to serve.