This is a brand new recipe that’s part of our Fall 2022 SOS Series! View the full series.
Prepare your mind today, because torn-up tofu is getting pan-fried into crispiness and made saucy, sticky, and sweet into this sesame apricot tofu that almost kind of resembles fried Asian-takeout-style chicken. There’s a kick of fresh garlic and a bunch of freshly ground black pepper over the top, some chives, cilantro, or whatever greens you like in there along with all of it, and that’s the show. That’s how you do it. And it is deliciously saving my life right now.
If you’re already a tofu lover – treat yourself! If you’re just curious – this is a great gateway recipe. It’s such a fun way to prep and cook tofu (TEARING APART WITH YOUR HANDS), the sauce is super simple / shortcut, and the end result is just kind of crispy, sticky, and magical.
These golden little tofu chunks are most popular in our house when served with rice and a side of steamed green beans, but it’s also amazing thrown into a big batch of fried rice (more on that in a second).
Why Tofu Chunking Is The Best
This might be the most fun you’ve ever had with tofu because it involves – wait for it – PULLING A BLOCK OF TOFU APART WITH YOUR HANDS!
I’ve always been a tofu cuber – standard method with the cut horizontally, then the cuts lengthwise, then the cuts into cubes (as shown here) but recently I saw a video about “chunking” tofu aka pulling it into chunks that have more of a rough edge, and after trying it I can confirm: I love this for tofu and I love this for us.
Tofu chunking is my new way with tofu! It looks fun, it is fun to do, and with a light coating of cornstarch, the tofu cooks up nice and crispy and textured, almost like the shape and feel of little crispy chicken pieces just waiting to be coated in sticky-sweet, garlicky, finger-licking sauce.
I also love this method because it’s not precious at all. Tofu breakage (which is inevitably going to happen a bit anytime you’re dealing with finnicky tofu) is not a problem with this method. We don’t need to be overly delicate here because we’re not trying to preserve some perfect tofu shape – cube or otherwise. The shape of tofu chunks is meant to be a little more rugged and un-perfect!
Here’s how to do it:
I start by cutting the tofu block in half lengthwise and pressing it under a heavy book for a few minutes to remove extra water.
Then you literally take the piece of tofu and start to just pull chunks off with your hands. I’d recommend going for small-ish bite-sized pieces because if the chunks get too big, they look cool but they can’t absorb as much flavor.
In terms of the shape, guess what? You just make it how you want. Square-ish, or long and skinny, however your hands guide you!
What Type Of Tofu To Use
The two types of tofu I would recommend in this recipe are:
- Extra Firm
- Extra Firm High Protein
Some stores now carry a variety of tofu called “high protein” or something similar – and I find the texture to be more dense, less springy, and less watery.
In the case of this recipe, that actually works really well. The high protein tofu cooks up and gets crispy faster than the other varieties, I’m assuming because there’s less water present so it’s able to dry out and crisp faster.
If you can’t find a high protein variety, extra-firm or even just firm will work fine! I have made it that way many times as well. Just make sure you a) press a lot of the water out, and b) give it plenty of time to cook in the pan so that it gets crisped on the outside.
Sesame Apricot Sauce
This is where the SOS-ness of this recipe really shines.
Here’s what we’ve got:
- apricot jam
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- some spices (cumin, paprika, onion powder)
- plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Shake that up in a jar and you’re ready to go.
And for the sesame flavor, you can either add a bit of toasted sesame oil to the sauce itself of just drizzle it over the finished product (my preferred method) to give it even more depth of flavor.
Other Ways To Use This Tofu
This sauce is kind of a mish-mash of flavors which makes it ideal for the tofu to land easily in multiple styles of recipes.
I like it in Asian-style dishes – in this recipe as written, it coats the tofu and makes it almost reminiscent of an orange tofu or sesame tofu recipe, just served with rice and greens!
It’s also AMAZING in fried rice, especially if you’re using the tofu the next day when it’s had a chance to sit and absorb all the flavors.
But it’s not just for Asian recipes (and it’s not a distinctly Asian flavor profile, anyway) which makes it also great for throwing on top of warm or cold salads, or better yet, a grain bowl! Just think: this saucy tofu plus roasted veggies, some pickled veggies, brown rice or quinoa, maybe a fried egg and some spicy sprinkle over the top? You’re in happy lunch business.
- 1 block of extra firm tofu (high protein tofu works really well in this recipe, if you can find it!)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon each cumin, paprika, and onion powder
- 1–2 cloves garlic, grated (2 for more garlic flavor, obviously)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
Extras for Serving:
- sesame oil to taste (I like about 1-2 tablespoons)
- chives and/or cilantro for topping
- steamed green beans
- cooked rice
- Cut the tofu block in half horizontally (like a hamburger). If using extra firm high protein tofu, it helps to cut it in half again horizontally. Press the water out of the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels and setting a few heavy books on top of it. Let it stay like that for a few minutes while you prep the sauce.
- Whisk the sauce ingredients together.
- Take each piece of tofu and gently pull it into small chunks with your hands (this just gives the tofu pieces a unique shape and texture that holds onto the sauce really well). Place the chunks in a bowl. Toss with soy sauce and a teaspoon or two of olive oil; then sprinkle with cornstarch and give it a few gentle tosses to coat.
- In a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and then add the cornstarched tofu. Leave it undisturbed for a few minutes on each side, letting it get really nice and brown and crispy – this can take 10-15 minutes. Flip and repeat until the whole batch is browned and crispy.
- While it’s browning, you can start up your rice and/or sides!
- Finally, add the sauce to the tofu and remove from heat – the pan will still be hot, so it’ll be sizzly and smell really good from the garlic. The sauce will coat the tofu right away. *heart eyes*
- Top with the green onions and/or cilantro, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Serve with rice and green beans, and finish with more salt and lots of black pepper to taste. The tender crunch of the beans with the steamy rice and sticky tofu! SO good.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Asian-Inspired
Keywords: tofu recipe, dinner recipe, sesame stir-fry, vegetarian stir-fry, vegan recipe