This Teriyaki Tofu has a crispy exterior with a creamy inside. It is outrageously delicious and is ready in about 30 minutes. The homemade sticky sauce is better than takeout!
What Is Teriyaki? The word derives from the noun "teri", which refers to a shine given by the sugar content in the tare (which is the sauce), and "yaki" (which refers to the cooking method).
Invented by Japanese chefs in the 1700s, any protein is marinated and brushed several times with the sauce, during cooking. The synonymous bold, tangy, and sweet flavor is devoured the world over.
Pressing the tofu compresses it and squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and drier, which gives a wonderfully crisp exterior when you cook it. The entire block is wrapped in paper towels or muslin cloth, placed on a plate, and then the weight is added on top and left aside for about 30 minutes. It also helps to get rid of the excess moisture.
I like to buy firm or extra firm blocks and don't bother pressing for the teriyaki sauce recipe. It makes a softer interior with a crusty outside. However, it is important to make sure, to pat dry the block well on all sides, to remove all moisture before cutting and again after cutting.
Teriayaki tofu is amazing served in a bowl with white rice, along with a vegetable like broccoli on the side. This recipe is simple and easy and tastes like it came straight from a restaurant, just like this Teriyaki Chicken made in Air Fryer.
Authentic Japanese teriyaki sauce recipe combines soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and/or sake to create a distinctively sharp taste. Westernized versions may incorporate other ingredients like honey, garlic, and ginger for added flavor. Cornstarch is often added as a thickener.
Mirin is a Japanese rice-based cooking wine that has a lower alcohol content than sake and is usually lightly sweetened. Besides soy sauce and sugar, it is an important ingredient that gives the teriyaki sauce its deep, rich umami flavor. You can usually find it in the Asian section of your grocery store, at your local Asian supermarket or Amazon.
It features frequently in Japanese food, introducing sweetness to dishes and when reduced gives glazes like teriyaki their sheen. Our favorite to use is "Kikko Manjo Aji Mirin" , other popular brands include Takara and Hinode.
Store bought simply doesn’t compare to something made at home. It just takes 3 ingredients to make from scratch with minimal effort and it's truly worth it because you control the ingredients when compared to the unrecognizable ingredients in a bottled sauce.
Why this recipe works?
For perfectly crispy tofu with a creamy interior, I coat extra-firm tofu in cornstarch, which helps it develop a crispy brown crust. It also allows the teriyaki sauce to cling on to the chunks, for a tasty bite.
The 3-ingredient homemade teriyaki sauce is rich, deep, and full of flavor. It's crave-worthy!
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Tofu: Use one 16-ounce block labeled "firm" to "extra firm" in this teriyaki tofu recipe. It holds its shape during high-heat cooking.
- Cornstarch: Seals and makes the exterior crisp and crusty.
- Oil: Any neutral oil like vegetable or corn oil.
- Garlic: Fresh is always best, but if you're in a pinch, you can sub in 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder in the teriyaki tofu recipe.
Teriyaki sauce ingredients
- Soy sauce – Kikkoman is a well-known Japanese soy brand and excellent for all Asian dishes. Don't use “dark soy sauce” or “sweet soy sauce”.
- Mirin – It is a Japanese rice-based cooking wine with a lower alcohol content than sake. It is usually syrupy and golden colored with a deep flavor. You should be able to find a bottle in the Asian section of your supermarket or on Amazon. Our favorite to use is "Kikko Manjo Aji Mirin".
- Sugar - It's essential for the characteristic sweetness.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
- Drain excess water from the package and pat dry on all sides using paper towels to remove all excess moisture. Slice the block crosswise into planks.
2. Cut the planks into triangles. Spread the tofu on a paper towel lined plate and press with more paper towels to remove any remaining moisture.
Tip: Should tofu be pressed? If you have the time, then yes. Tofu is spongelike with full of water and will result in firmer pieces if pressed down beneath a heavy plate. To make this teriyaki tofu recipe approachable on a busy weeknight, I skipped the pressing and removed as much moisture as possible with thick paper towels.
3. Stir cornstarch, salt and pepper in a plate. Working with one piece at a time, gently toss to coat all sides with the cornstarch.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and cook the triangles until deep golden on both sides. Remove to a plate and wipe most of the oil using paper towels.
Pro tip: The cornstarch clings and coats the tofu pieces, creating a protective sheath that slows the loss of moisture, thus resulting in juicy teriyaki tofu.
5 & 6. Saute minced garlic in the remaining oil and then add mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. Cook until it reduces to a thick glaze.
7. Remove pan from heat and gently stir in browned tofu, chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
How to serve?
The teriyaki tofu is simply flavorful on its own and is perfect with a bowl of cooked white rice.
How to store and reheat leftovers?
It is best eaten hot because that’s when it’s the crispiest. Refrigerating teriyaki tofu will soften them and lose it's crispiness. If you have leftovers, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Reheat on the stovetop: Add to a small pan with a splash of water. Heat on medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until warmed through.
- Reheat in the microwave: Add to a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1-2 minutes or until warmed through.
If you'd like to freeze teriyaki tofu, then freeze the pan-fried pieces, without tossing in the sauce. Thaw overnight in the fridge and then toss in the freshly cooked glaze for a quick meal.
- Make it Gluten-Free - Use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Use non-stick pan - It is essential so that the triangles don't stick to the pan.
- Tofu sticks to the pan - Often times it sticks in your pan if you’re trying to flip it too early or the heat is too low.
- Use Firm or Extra-Firm Tofu.
- If your sauce reduces very thick, then stir in a splash of hot water to loosen it up.
Made using just three ingredients like soy, mirin, and sugar, it is a sweet, savory, and sticky Japanese sauce with bold umami flavors.
Soy is made with soybeans, wheat, salt, and a fermenting agent. It has a more salty flavor and is one of the main ingredients in the teriyaki sauce.
Whereas, teriyaki sauce is a combination of different ingredients and sauces.
Pan frying is usually more authentic and quicker than baking, but baking works just as fine with less mess. However, it takes more than an hour, since the oven method works best if the tofu is pressed and then baked for about 30 minutes.
If baking in the oven, then begin by draining the excess water, wrap in paper towels, and place on a large plate with a lip. Place another heavy plate (adding a cast iron pan on top adds more weight and helps with the process) on top and leave for 30 minutes.
Cut the pressed block into triangles or 1-inch cubes, and toss in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and an equal quantity of vegetable oil. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through baking, until browned and crispy.
Use firm or extra firm block and press following the instructions above. Cut into 1-inch cubes and dip the cubes in cornstarch, making sure they are evenly coated on all sides.
Spray the air fryer insert with nonstick spray and add the cubes, making sure to not overcrowd the basket. Spray the tops with another coating of cooking spray, cook at 375°F for 15-18 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Allow them to cool for 3-4 minutes before you sauce them to maintain crispness in the teriyaki tofu.
More take out ideas
- 1 14-ounce package firm tofu, drained and patted dry
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar white
- ¼ cup mirin
- Chopped scallions to garnish (optional)
- Toasted white sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
- Drain excess water from the package and pat dry the block, on all sides using paper towels to remove all excess moisture. Slice the block crosswise into planks.Cut the planks into triangles. Spread the tofu on a paper towel lined plate and press with more paper towels to remove any remaining moisture.
- Stir cornstarch, salt and pepper in a plate. Working with one piece at a time, gently toss to coat all sides with the cornstarch.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan. When hot, place tofu in a single layer and cook on medium-high heat, until golden brown on the bottom. Gently turn over and cook until the other side is golden brown. Transfer to a plate.Tip: The cornstarch clings and coats the tofu pieces, creating a protective sheath that slows the loss of moisture, thus resulting in juicy tofu.
- Using paper towels, wipe out most of the oil. Place pan over medium heat, add chopped garlic and cook until it begins to turn golden.
- Add soy sauce, sugar and mirin, stir occasionally and reduces to a thick sauce. Take pan off heat, gently toss in tofu. Sprinkle chopped scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with white rice.Pro tip: If your sauce reduces very thick, then simply warm with a splash of water to loosen it up.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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