Crispy on the bite, yet delicately soft, this pan-fried Teriyaki Tofu is incredibly flavorful! Enjoy this Japanese dish as an appetizer, or even as the main dish accompanied with rice and a few of your favorite sides. It’s a dynamic recipe for anyone to try, with easy options to turn the dish into vegan or gluten-free!
There are so many delicious ways to enjoy tofu in Japanese cooking. We stir-fry, simmer, deep-fry, or steam tofu. We even eat it as Cold Tofu in the summer. One of the most popular tofu dishes you may already know is Agedashi Tofu, which is tender tofu bites in a deep-fried shell soaked in dashi broth.
Today, I’m sharing another winning tofu dish: Teriyaki Tofu (照り焼き豆腐). Pan-fried until crispy and golden on the outside while the inside is creamy and smooth, the tofu is then glazed in the sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. Every bite is pure satisfaction.
If you have someone in the family who needs some convincing on tofu deliciousness, serve them teriyaki tofu and there’ll be no turning back! Another big plus? It’s quick and easy to make, and perfect as an appetizer, side dish, or even as a main dish.
How to Make Teriyaki Tofu
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Medium Firm Tofu (Momen Dofu)—Don’t use silken or soft tofu as it has more moisture and will break easily. We will talk more about this topic below.
- Potato starch (or cornstarch)
- Cooking oil
- Teriyaki Sauce: sake, mirin, soy sauce
- Optional toppings: green onion, pickled red ginger, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
Overview: Cooking Steps
First time cooking tofu at home? Here are 3 simple steps to make delicious teriyaki tofu.
Step 1: Drain Tofu Well and Slice
The first thing you want to do is open the tofu package and start draining the tofu. If you drain for 20-30 minutes, it’s plenty. Cut the tofu into half-inch slices.
Step 2: Coat with Potato Starch and Pan-Fry
Prepare a tray or a large dish with potato starch. The potato starch—as opposed to flour—gives the tofu a lighter coating and helps it hold maximum crispiness. If you don’t have potato starch, the most common substitution is cornstarch. However, the texture is slightly different and it might not give you the best result in this recipe.
Heat the oil over medium heat, and start dredging tofu in potato starch. Shake off any excess starch and place the tofu in the frying pan. Be patient as you pan-fry the tofu. Try not to keep flipping the tofu. Wait until one side is firmed up and nicely seared before you flip to cook on the other side.
Step 3: Add Homemade Teriyaki Sauce and Coat the Tofu
Once all sides of the tofu are evenly browned and crisp, pour in the teriyaki sauce. You should hear some nice sizzles from the hot frying pan. The moisture in the sauce will evaporate as the sauce thickens. Gently coat the tofu with the sauce.
To serve, garnish the tofu with green onion and red pickled ginger. This is optional, but I sprinkled katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) over for an extra umami and protein boost!
Choose the Right Tofu Firmness
If you go to the grocery store, there will be various brands of tofu with different firmness levels. Which level is good for Teriyaki Tofu?
Since Teriyaki Tofu is a pan-fried dish, you have to pick a tofu that’s firmer and won’t break easily. I choose medium-firm level of tofu (momen dofu in Japanese).
The firm tofu is too dry and crumbly for my preference, so I rather drain more moisture by pressing medium-firm tofu to the firmness I like. I usually drain for 20-30 minutes, but in a pinch, you can just drain for 15 minutes at least.
Authentic Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
For this recipe, you’ll need only 3 ingredients to make authentic teriyaki sauce:
Combine equal parts of these must-have Japanese pantry items in a measuring cup or small bowl, and you’ll have a flavorful sauce to coat the pan-fried tofu. There’s no need for the store-bought stuff.
The potato starch coating for the tofu will absorb the sauce nicely and thicken the sauce at the same time. This is why we do not need to add starch to the teriyaki sauce.
Delicious Sauce Variations for Japanese Pan-Fried Tofu
In addition to the teriyaki sauce, you can change up the pan-fried tofu with different sauces. Here are other equally easy and flavorful variations that my family loves!
1. Homemade Ponzu Sauce
Ponzu is an all-purpose Japanese citrus-based sauce. I have an easy Homemade Ponzu recipe, but you can also get bottled ponzu from the grocery stores. When serving your tofu with ponzu sauce, garnish it with grated daikon and green onion. For an extra kick, sprinkle shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice).
2. Tonkatsu Sauce
Give the tofu dish a street food vibe by seasoning it with tonkatsu sauce, aonori (dried green nori), zig zag-ing some Japanese mayonnaise on the top, and garnish with green onion and red pickled ginger. It will remind you of the fabulous Okonomiyaki or Takoyaki.
3. Scallion Soy Sauce
This is another versatile sauce that goes with a wide variety of Asian finger foods or appetizers. I shared this addicting sauce in my Fried Chicken with Scallion Soy Sauce recipe. Cook together sesame oil, scallion, dried red chili pepper, sake, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. You can also add grated ginger, minced garlic, and toasted sesame seeds as variations. Now you have a marvelous sauce for the pan-fried tofu.
4. All-Purpose Miso Sauce
If you love miso, definitely try this All-Purpose Miso Sauce over your pan-fried tofu! Sweet, savory, versatile, and full of umami! I know you’d have fun integrating the sauce into more of your cooking.
5. Garlic-Chili Sauce
If you like things spicy, you can smother the pan-fried tofu with a quick homemade garlic-chili sauce. It’s as easy as chopping up some garlic and mixing it with Sriracha sauce or sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey/ sugar, and a generous squeeze of lime juice. This version will really kick-start your palate.
Make It Vegetarian, Vegan or Gluten-Free
For those of you who are vegetarian and vegan, all you need to do is to omit katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).
If you are gluten-free, swap the regular soy sauce with gluten-free soy sauce.
What to Serve with Teriyaki Tofu
I love pairing teriyaki tofu with steamed rice or mixed rice, miso soup, and a side of veggies for a healthy, well-rounded meal. Here are some of my favorite:
- Miso Soup
- Broccoli Blanched with Sesame Oil
- Green Bean with Sesame Dressing (Gomaae)
- Salad with Wafu Dressing
- Instant Pot Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Mixed Rice)
- Mame Gohan (Green Pea Rice)
You can also serve it over whole grains and greens for a teriyaki tofu bowl. Any leftovers can be packed in your bento lunch the next day!
For the Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
For the Toppings (optional)
- 1 green onion/scallion
- pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga) (to garnish)
- 1–2 packs katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (3–6 g, more if you like; skip for vegan/vegetarian)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- [30 Minutes Before Cooking] Wrap 14 oz medium-firm tofu (momen dofu) with a paper towel and place it between two baking sheets or plates. Then put a heavy object on top in order to press and drain water from tofu for 20–30 minutes. Discard the water. Alternatively, you can wrap the tofu with a paper towel and microwave it for 2–3 minutes.
- To make the teriyaki sauce, combine 2 Tbsp sake, 2 Tbsp mirin, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce in a measuring cup or small bowl.
- Cut the tofu into small square pieces. The thickness should be about ½ inch.
- Chop 1 green onion/scallion. In a non-stick frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp neutral oil on medium to medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, put ⅓ cup potato starch or cornstarch in a tray or bowl. Coat the tofu with the starch.
- Shake off excess starch and gently place tofu pieces in the pan. Cook the tofu until the bottom side is crispy and golden brown. Flip and cook the other side.
- When both sides are nicely brown, pour in the teriyaki sauce.
- Flip tofu and shake the pan to evenly coat the sauce over the tofu. Sprinkle 1–2 packs katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) before turning off the heat.
- Serve the tofu on the plate and garnish with green onions and pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga). Serve immediately.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on March 28, 2011. The images and content have been updated in May 2018.