Sesame-Crusted Tofu With Spicy Dipping Sauce


For the best tofu you've ever had, look no further than this recipe from The Woks of Life.

Sesame-Crusted Tofu with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Photo: Heami Lee
Hands On Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

The Leung family—parents Bill and Judy and their adult daughters Kaitlin and Sarah—built a huge following on their popular website The Woks of Life, cracking the code on both traditional Chinese dishes and Chinese-American restaurant classics. This recipe from their first cookbook is proof that ordinary tofu can be utterly irresistible. The secret is to dredge thin slices of it in a mixture of sesame seeds, cornstarch, and five-spice powder before a quick pan-fry. The coating forms a crispy, flavorful crust that even tofu skeptics will devour. A delicious garlic-chili dipping sauce brings the dish to the next level. Pro tip: make a double batch of the sauce for dipping dumplings, drizzling on rice, or even topping roasted veggies.


  • 1 14-to-16-oz. pkg. firm tofu, drained

  • cup sesame seeds

  • ¼ cup cornstarch

  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

  • ¼ teaspoon five-spice powder

  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder or freshly ground black pepper

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 scallions, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (from about 2 cloves)

  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan chili flakes or crushed red pepper

  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil (such as canola), divided

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • ½ teaspoon rice vinegar


  1. Cut tofu in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices. Combine sesame seeds, cornstarch, salt, five-spice powder, and white pepper powder in a shallow bowl. Carefully coat tofu slices in mixture on both sides, pressing mixture into tofu evenly and thoroughly.

  2. Add cilantro, scallions, garlic, and chili flakes, in that order, to a small heatproof bowl. (You will pour hot oil over it, and you want the oil to mostly hit the garlic and chili flakes on top.) Heat a large nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet over medium. Add 3 tablespoons oil and spread it around pan. When oil is shimmering, add tofu slices. Fry, cooking in batches if needed, until golden brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer tofu to a serving platter.

  3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to same pan and heat until shimmering. Pour hot oil over garlic-chili mixture, using a rubber spatula to scrape every last drop! Stir in soy sauce, 2 tablespoons water, sugar, and rice vinegar to make a dipping sauce. Serve with crispy tofu.

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