In our household, the lifespan of a recipe is often short lived. It gets made. Photographed. Enjoyed. Posted. And soon thereafter, forgotten, set by the wayside for whatever new batch of recipes we’re making the next week. As good as they might have been, we’re just not in the habit of repeating things (such is the life of a food blogger), and most of the recipes I post here share a similar fate.
This recipe, on the other hand, deserves your full and lasting attention. It was a recipe I expected to like; but it wasn’t something I expected to blow me away. I mean it’s pretty simple, just tofu crusted in panko and sesame and lightly fried, with a sweet and salty Vietnamese dipping sauce. But the fact that we’ve made it four times in the past few weeks says a lot about it.
This recipe has a lot of things going for it: it’s healthy, yet still has just enough fried flavor to satisfy your unhealthiest cravings. It’s ridiculously simple, and (assuming you remembered to get your tofu draining beforehand) only takes about 20 minutes to put together. I’d call that a win-win.
But the dipping sauce is what seals the deal. It’s called nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made from little more than lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and spicy red pepper. If you’ve ever been to a Vietnamese restaurant, this is the sauce they serve with their crispy egg rolls that makes them so irresistible. On it’s own the fish sauce might be repulsive (I can’t stand the smell and make Taylor do that part always), but combined with the other ingredients and splashed on the crispy bites of fried tofu, it’s perfection. Just the right amount of sugar, salt, tang, and spice.
I need more recipes like this one in my life.
Sesame Crusted Tofu
- 1 (16oz) package extra-firm tofu
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- canola oil for frying
- green onions, sliced
For Dipping Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Slice the tofu into half-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a layer of paper towels in a baking dish. Top with more paper towels, then another baking dish and some heavy objects, soup cans, or books. Let sit for at least one hour to allow as much moisture to drain from the tofu as possible.
- While tofu is draining, prepare dipping sauce by combining sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Add more fish sauce, to taste, if desired.
- In a shallow dish, beat the egg 1 teaspoon of water. In another shallow dish, stir together the panko and sesame seeds.
- Working with one piece at a time, dip the tofu into the egg, then dredge it in the sesame-panko mixture until completely coated. Repeat with the remaining slices.
- Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil, enough to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Arrange tofu slices in pan and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to serving dishes; garnish with scallions and serve with dipping sauce.
Recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen.All images and text © Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
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Can this be made without egg and baked in the oven?
The egg is what helps the breading adhere to the tofu; without it it’s really not going to stick to the tofu. I haven’t personally tried baking it. Seems like it should work in theory, just might not get as golden/crispy.
Well, these were delicious- in spite of making a fairly big mess. I served with garlic – soy green beans and forbidden rice to make sure I made an even bigger mess. That said, a big hit with my husband. He wants them again. Can anyone suggest a substitute for the egg wash? Trying to lean vegan.
Very crunchy. Added salt to the panko mixture, but ended up using twice as much of the mixture for coating. everything else was spot on and the dipping sauce was so good!
My boyfriend used to scoff when I’d tell him I planned on cooking tofu for dinner. But I’ve finally converted him! He actually sent me this recipe the other day along with some others askin which I’d prefer he made. Since this has already been on my list since you first posted it it was an easy decision and it did not disappoint! Loved the crispy-ness provided by the seeds!
I swear this recipe would convert even the most devout tofu-hater. So glad you enjoyed it as much as we did!!
I made the tofu portion of this recipe tonight for dinner and it was amazing! I served it with broccoli and some potatoes I diced up and fried in a bit of oil. Instead of sesame seeds I used onion powder, garlic powder and dried basil tossed with the Panko. My husband is a vegan so I used egg replacer instead of a regular egg. The breading stuck to the tofu and stayed on during frying. Great recipe that I will definitely make again.
I made this tonight and it was absolutely amazing. Easy to follow and looked almost as good! Tasted fantastic!
Would love to try this. Your photos and presentation are beautiful :)
I just made this and it was GREAT! The crispy crust with the bright, flavorful sauce is perfect. Thanks for sharing.
Will the recipe work with baking instead of frying?
I tried this out and it was so delicious :) thanks for the amazing recipe!
I had to write to compliment you on this recipe. This is in all seriousness one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! It is quite exceptional. Your recipes and blog never disappoint! Thanks for creating and sharing!
This recipe is so easy and absolutely delicious! I love it!!!
Thank you for the recipe! We’ve made it twice now, its on the stove at the moment. We love it.
I just made this for dinner – delicious! It was really easy and didn’t take terribly long. Thanks for posting. I may adapt this and post it on my blog (http://pistachiojar.wordpress.com/) but will credit the inspiration back to you!! Cheers :)
Just made this, really lovely, thank you so much for sharing :)
This is the best recipe for tofu I’ve ever tried! Thank you so much! :)
I made this last night and it was fabulous! Like anything that is breaded and fried, it took some time and effort, but the pay-off was worth it. I’ve always been afraid I can’t cook tofu as well as the restaurants where I eat it regularly, but this shows the value of a good recipe. I probably won’t make it frequently (because I don’t make the effort to prepare breaded-and-fried anything frequently, but it’s nice to have for a special occasion. Many thanks for sharing.
We have baked tofu often and I look forward to trying this. Thank you so much for sharing.
Fixed this for dinner tonight! Was fantastic. This is the first time I have ever liked tofu! Thank you for this!
Your photos are perfect! This dish looks so so delicious, I love it :)
Yummmmm so good! I love fried tofu =) Bt the way, if you ever want a vegetarian vietnamese nuoc cham, I have a version on my blog
okay now something to intro my peeps to tofu. think the 10 yr old will love it. brandie from country cook sent me!!
Nice texture and browning, but tofu needs to be salted. Yes, I know, there’s salt in the fish sauce. But if salt isn’t mixed into the sesame-seed/panko crust, the tofu itself will be bland. Really good recipe, technique-wise, though.
This looks like a perfect gateway recipe for tofu. Tofu is something I would like to make but never knew how. I can’t wait to try it!
I have been looking for a new and inspiring tofu recipe! I am so sick of the ones I usually make. I also happen to have all of those ingredients on hand! I feel a touch giddy at the thought!
By the way – I also find fish sauce revolting but I pinch my nose and power through because it does magical things when cooked!
I love tofu, and this recipe looks and sounds so yummy! Will have to try it.
Ehat a lovely coinsidence. My hubby came back home today and said that he found a place with home made tofu :)
This looks fabulous! Love tofu dishes and this sesame panko crust sounds amazing!
This looks amazing! Do you have any ideas of a vegetarian substitution for fish sauce?
I’m not even a big fan of tofu but that looks lovely – might be convert afterall :-)
I definitely don’t repeat many recipes – only the good ones make recurrent appearances, and I’m sure this one will make the cut!
That looks delicious, a simple but beautiful dish!
I’ve been looking for a good tofu recipe and this hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing; can’t wait to try!
Ohhh, this is tofu I can get behind!!
I like eating this kind of tofu with a ponzu dipping sauce, but the nuoc cham sauce sounds good too!
Wow this looks so stunning. This is normally not something I would eat but I am seriously intrigued now.
These look amazing! I will have to make this next time my vegan friends are over! (once I sub out the egg and fish sauce)
Beautiful! I’m alwayyssss looking for new ways to make tofu!
This is absolutely lovely!! Gorgeous recipe!
I’m always looking for new ways for tofu and I love this one. I know what you mean about one recipe, then on to the next and the next, although some do become family favourites.
teehee! tell me about it. Somedays hubby would say ‘ will you never make that dish again’. Bloggers and our hunt for something new to eat everyday :)
I’m honestly terrified of trying tofu but you sure do make it look delicious.
My dinner invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail. :D
I never thought to use panko! I’ve done oven-fried and pan-fried before, but I usually don’t do an egg wash, but it’s definitely essential to a crispy crust that stays attached (I’m just too lazy).
I didn’t know there was fish juice in those sauces. :(
So gorgeous! I can’t wait to try this!
Oh, yes please! Crunchy sesame seed crust plus hot soft tofu sounds like the best plan ever. :)
I make this all the time and it is soooo good. Such a winner. I actually have some leftover nuoc cham in my fridge so maybe it’s happening again tonight!
What a great recipe! But it’s so true no matter how obsessed I am with a recipe it seems like I continue to try new things instead of remaking it. I’ll have to try this!
You just gave me a new way to cook tofu. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe.
Yum! My mother and sister would love this recipe. It might actually get me to get regular tofu that I have to drain rather than the pre-baked kind they have at Trader Joe’s. That. Is impressive. Thanks for the recipe!
I love tofu! This looks terrific :)
The recipes that stand the test of time are priceless. This looks amazing Lindsay – I often order crispy tofu whenever I see it on the menu. I need to make it at home!
I have always wanted to try that sauce, I’ve heard about it. Sound so easy to make. The crust on this tofu looks absolutely perfect.
I know what you mean about never having anything twice…the food blogging life!
this looks SO good. i love that golden brown crust you have on there and i adore tofu and that dipping sauce you always get at Vietnamese restaurants. I’m bookmarking this! I want to make it asap!
This looks seriously yum. We eat tofu about once a month but I’d like to use it a little more – this looks like a lovely, toasty, simple recipe.
OMG! Looks wonderful!
This looks and sound amazing!
This looks utterly delicious! Usually I’d bake my tofu to get the crispy texture but fried looks so much better!!
I struggle with finding ways to cook tofu. This recipe sounds absolutely delicious and I’m looking forward to trying it.
Ooh this looks really yummy. I love some fried tofu, but never really knew how to get it just right. I can’t wait to try this (and remember the draining process!).
Ahhh! I can’t wait to make this. It looks incredible! I definitely need more ways to cook tofu =)