There are many ways to turn plain, uninteresting tofu into a culinary masterpiece. My preferred method is rather simple, and it’s ideal for those occasions when I want to get dinner on the table in under half an hour: fry or bake until crispy, then combine with a sauce of my choice. The sauce here is of an umami variety, which works well with the chewy, crispy tofu.   Reprinted with permission from Earthy Vegan Eats by Maria Gureeva, Page Street Publishing, Co. 2021. Photo credit: Maria Gureeva.

Crispy Tofu in a Sweet and Sour Sauce [Vegan]

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  • 1 (10-oz [283-g]) block extra-firm tofu, pressed if necessary and cut into triangles
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (1-inch [2.5-cm]) piece ginger, grated
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) tamari
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon (16 g) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons (18 g) sesame seeds
  • Chopped scallions


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, or gas mark 6). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the tofu triangles on the lined baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until a light brown color.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and carrot, sautéing for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften and the onion is translucent.
  3. Make the sauce by stirring together the tamari, maple syrup, rice vinegar, lemon juice and tomato paste. In a separate bowl, whisk together ¼ cup (60 ml) of water and the cornstarch.
  4. When the tofu is ready, pan fry it for 5 minutes, rotating each triangle frequently. Pour the sauce into the frying pan and stir well to coat all the tofu cubes. Allow to simmer lightly for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.
  5. During the last minute of cooking, stir in the sesame seeds, garnish with scallions and serve with a side of your choice.
NOTE: It’s important to get as much water as possible out of the tofu. Depending on the brand you use, pressing may be necessary. You can also freeze it overnight to get a firmer and chewier texture.


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