Sticky tofu is an easy tofu recipe with a flavorful sauce. Pan fry tofu in cornstarch for crispy edges, then add the soy sauce based sauce to thicken up and add sticky flavor to your tofu. Serve with sides for a 20 minute dinner.
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I love this easy sticky tofu recipe because it's bursting with flavors from the sauce, can be paired with lots of sides to make for an easy dinner for one. Serve your tofu with rice, ramen, or rice noodles.
And add any veggies you have on hand, if you want any.
I'm new to using tofu in recipes. I've mostly just blended it to make Protein Packed Mac & Cheese, and Sweet Potato Soup. But, when seasoned well and/or topped with super flavorful sauces, tofu is delicious.
Find tofu tips in Substitutions/Tips section.
Scroll down to the sticky tofu recipe card for the amounts of each ingredient, but here's a quick visual + description of what's in this recipe.
- Firm or Extra Firm Tofu: Since you'll pan fry tofu in this recipe, you'll want tofu that doesn't fall apart when cooking.
- Cornstarch: For crispy tofu that absorbs the flavors you add to it, you'll need to get rid of as much liquid in it as possible. Pressing the tofu before preparing it is important, as is a toss in cornstarch to remove liquid and get crispy edges.
- Neutral Oil: I recommend cooking your tofu in oil instead of cooking spray or nothing to get a nice crispy crust. You might want to crack a window too, it may get smoky, cooking over high heat.
- Soy Sauce: For a deep, earthy, and salty flavor, good soy sauce is key to this sticky tofu recipe.
- Brown Sugar: I like to use light brown sugar to add sweetness to this recipe. You can also use honey, which is in lots of sticky tofu recipes online. Sugar makes this tofu slightly sticky, when the sauce is cooked down to thicken up.
- Tomato Paste: Adds sweetness to the sauce, and cuts through the sharp soy sauce flavor. Definitely important to add.
- Water: This sauce was a bit too salty and sharp tasting on it's own, and I love bold flavors. Adding a couple Tablespoons of water tames it a bit and balances out the soy sauce well.
- Garlic: Minced garlic adds some sweetness and earthy flavors to the sauce. It's a great addition, especially since it's a pantry staple for sure.
- Sesame Oil: Just a dash of sesame oil adds some depth of flavor, and nuttiness to your sticky tofu sauce. Adding more sesame oil can overpower the other flavors, so definitely measure it out.
Scroll down to the recipe card for more detailed instructions. Here's a quick overview + photos to see how to make this recipe in general.
1. Ahead of time, wrap tofu block in towel/paper towel and press with a heavy skillet or object for 30-60 minutes. You can do this right before preparing to make sticky tofu or earlier.
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge until use.
2. Cut tofu into bite sized pieces.
3. Toss tofu pieces in cornstarch, salt, pepper mixture.
4. Cook tofu for 3-5 minutes per side in oil, in skillet over medium-high heat. Or medium/medium-low for cast iron.
You can cook on 2 sides, or all 6 sides, depending on how much time you have, the tofu won't be super crispy after adding the sauce, so you don't need to cook all 6 sides. I like to cook 2-3 sides to heat up the tofu.
5. While tofu is cooking, prepare sweet sticky tofu sauce. Add all sauce ingredients to small mixing bowl. Combine. Set aside.
6. Pour sauce over cooked tofu, stir until sauce thickens.
7. Serve your crispy sticky tofu and sauce over rice/noodles. Add vegetables if desired (you can cook the vegetables with tofu). Top with sesame seeds and/or sliced green onion, chili sauce.
Store vegan sticky tofu in airtight container for about a week. If it smells good, it's ok to eat.
Crispy tofu with sauce won't have the nice crispy texture after being reheated, but if you don't mind, you can reheat it in the microwave, oven, air fryer.
If you really want crispy tofu with the sauce, just remove some tofu to store for leftovers before adding the sauce. Reheat tofu in oven, toaster oven, or air fryer, and add leftover sauce after.
- I'm pretty new to cooking tofu, but check out my friend Stephanie's tips to cooking great tofu, and how to press tofu.
- Taste the sauce before adding it to the pan. If it kicks you in the face (you want it to be a bit more bold than you'd like because it infuses the tofu when cooked), you can add more water or sugar.
- Pan frying the tofu creates a barrier between the sauce and tofu, so you get a slight crunch, but when you add the sauce, it's not the crispiest. So you don't need to spend time cooking each side. I cook 2-3 sides to fully heat it up.
- Tofu will release from pan easily when it's cooked enough. If it's sticking, it just needs to be cooked a bit longer.
- If you like spicy food, you can add red pepper flakes, chili sauce, or sriracha to your sticky tofu and rice.
- Substitute brown sugar for more orange juice or honey, or your favorite neutral-ish sweetener. I probably wouldn't use maple syrup, though.
- Great toppings: sesame seeds, green onion, chili flakes, chili sauce or sriracha
- Great sides: rice, ramen noodles (or similar), rice noodles. Steamed or pan fried vegetables are great with this sticky tofu too. I like onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, bok choy, carrots, etc.
First, remove liquid from tofu by pressing it with a heavy object, then toss it with cornstarch. Cook over medium/medium-high heat with oil. Tofu should release from the pan once it's cooked enough, about 3-5 minutes per side.
Tofu has a very mild flavor and spongy texture. Season tofu with lots of seasonings or toss it in a flavorful sauce to make it taste delicious. It's best pan fried, baked, or air fried.
This easy sticky tofu recipe is bursting with flavor.
Other good vegetarian recipes
These easy recipes are vegetarian, just like this sticky tofu recipe is.
- Cheesy White Bean and Tomato Bake
- Delicata Squash Soup
- Single Serving Mac & Cheese
- Lentil Spinach Curry
- Refried Bean Tacos
What can I make with leftover ingredients?
When you're cooking for one, you often have leftover produce, cans of whatever ingredient, etc. Here are a couple ideas on how to use up the leftover ingredients from sticky tofu.
It'll help you save money by wasting fewer ingredients.
- Tofu: Honey Garlic Tofu, and I'm currently working on more tofu recipes, try any of these from the Pickled Plum or New York Times Cooking in the meantime.
- Soy Sauce: Coleslaw with Soy Sauce, Beef and Broccoli, Thai Inspired Beef and Spinach Bowl.
- Tomato Paste: Cheesy White Bean Tomato Bake, One Pot Chicken Parmesan Pasta, Pantry Rice and Bean Soup, or add ½-1 teaspoon to Canned Tomato Pasta.
- Sesame Oil: Coleslaw with Soy Sauce
Did you make this sticky tofu? Leave me a comment & rating to share how it turned out!
- clean kitchen towel/paper towel
- heavy skillet or other object
- cutting board
- storage container or bowl with lid for tossing tofu in cornstarch
- small/medium mixing bowl
- fork or whisk
- small or medium skillet
- Serving spoon
- ¼ block firm or extra firm tofu (3-4 ounces)
- 1 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
- 1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil canola, grapeseed, avocado, etc
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 2 Tablespoons regular soy sauce
- ½-1 teaspoon light brown sugar or honey
- ½ teaspoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ¾-1 cup rice or noodles or to preference
- 1 cup vegetables or to preference
- optional toppings: sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, sriracha, green onions, etc.
Prep Tofu by Pressing Out Water
- Before making sticky tofu, prepare tofu by removing block from packaging and liquid. Wrap block in a clean towel or paper towels. Place on top of plate, and place heavy skillet or other object on top of wrapped tofu. Stand for 30-60 minutes. This can occur before preparing sticky tofu, or earlier. Store in fridge until use, if pressing water out ahead of time.
Make Sticky Tofu
- Preheat skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Prepare rice/noodles, if desired.
- After water has been pressed out of tofu, cut about ¼ of the block into bite sized pieces.
- In a storage container/bowl with lid, add 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add tofu, and lid. Shake until all pieces are coated.
- Add 1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil to pan. When oil is hot and shimmering, add tofu in a single layer. Cook 3-5 minutes per side. Add vegetables to pan to cook, if desired (use larger pan for tofu + veggies).Cook 2 sides or up to all 6 sides, depending on how much time you have to cook tofu. It's not necessary to cook all sides. I usually like to cook 2-3.
- While tofu is cooking, prepare sauce. Add 2 Tablespoons water, 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, ½-1 teaspoon brown sugar, ½ teaspoon tomato paste, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, and ½ teaspoon minced garlic to a small mixing bowl. Mix together.
- After tofu is crispy on edges, turn off heat and pour sauce over tofu. Toss tofu so all sides are coated. Once sauce is molasses or oyster sauce thick, spoon tofu and sauce, and optional vegetables over rice.
- Top with sesame seeds, green onions, spicy sauce if desired.
- Check out these tips for great tofu.
- You can cook tofu in small pan, unless cooking vegetables with it. Use large pan if cooking tofu and vegetables, it helps them get crispy and is easier to stir/turn.
- Pan frying the tofu creates a barrier between the sauce and tofu, so you get a slight crunch, but when you add the sauce, it's not the crispiest. That means you don't need to spend time cooking each side. I like to cook 2-3 sides to fully heat it up.
- Sauce won't be very sticky, but it should be thick and coat all the tofu.
- Serve over rice, ramen noodles, rice noodles, etc.
- Serve with pan fried or steamed vegetables, like: cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, onions, cabbage, carrots, etc.
- Topping options: sesame seeds, sliced green onion, sriracha or chili sauce, red pepper flakes, etc.
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