Bake NOT fried. Simple NOT complicated. Flavorful NOT bland. Budget friendly NOT expensive. Crispy NOT greasy. I guess I just described this Baked Panko Crusted Tofu. I cannot be more excited to share this recipe with you. This recipe is one of my most favorite tofu recipe among the many other recipe that I have in my website. Take my word when I tell you that this is the BEST crusted tofu that you will ever make. But don’t just take my word for it, make it and taste for yourself then let me know what you think about it.
Bold statement for a tofu, but I wouldn’t call it the BEST if it is not the best. I was truly surprised happy how this Panko Crusted Tofu with Sesame Sauce turned out. I wasn’t actually on making this one, I have a different recipe in my mind (also using tofu) but then I was again reminded on my Summer vacation in Whistler where I had this Panko crusted tofu the first time. It tasted so good that I cannot get it out of my mind. So I came up with this recipe, my own version of Baked Panko Crusted Tofu and might I say that I think I nailed it and made it even better than the one that I had at Whistler, BC.
When I first made this, I used the extra firm tofu. It was ok, but I find the texture too hard (well it’s a firm tofu after all), and thought of making it again using a medium soft tofu. I wouldn’t go back to using the firm tofu for this dish again, the medium soft turned out to be the perfect one for this recipe. It has the right firmness, not too soft and not to firm, but just the right softness that it melts in your mouth when you eat it. It’s so silk smooth and soft, and yet it’s firm enough to hold its shape and not break apart while baking and transferring it.
It’s the Panko Breading
What made this tofu dish special is the panko bread crumbs coating. Panko bread crumbs have a lighter and crunchier texture, a perfect complement to the softness of the tofu. The breading have quite a lot of spices in it, just because tofu doesn’t have any taste at all. So adding more spices to make it not bland is mandatory if you want to have a flavorful tofu. And this goes for mostly all tofu dishes, not only this one.
If you are not a tofu believer and you think tofu is bland, I will not disagree with that. Tofu is really bland on its own. You have to cook it the right way to make it a delicious meal. You ask how do you do it? Simple, by using generous mix of spices, fresh or dried herbs but most of all, a flavorful sauce that will carry the overall taste of the dish. This is exactly what I did for this recipe
- Be generous with spices – this is not the time to shay away with spices. I like using mix of powdered peppers, the likes of paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and red chili flakes. If you are not a fan of spicy food, you can go easy on them but try to spice it up a bit for flavor. Please do NOT forget to add salt, it is a MUST
- Use dried of fresh herbs – just like spices, be open to using dried of fresh herbs. I personally like using dried herbs. I used dried Parsley but oregano, Italian seasoning or basil will work as well
- Do NOT skip the sauce – you can probably get away using less herbs and spices as long as you make a flavorful sauce. The sauce is what will carry the majority of taste and flavor of this dish. I like making simple garlic teriyaki sauce as the sweet, spicy and salty taste really works well with the baked crunchy soft tofu. It almost melt in your mouth when you eat it, and the sauce really takes it up to another level. You can use other sauce, just do not skip it. Peanut Sauce will work too, BBQ sauce, sweet and sour sauce or make a sesame garlic Teriyaki sauce by simply adding 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.
What is the difference between regular bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs?
- Panko Bread Crumbs (or Japanese Bread Crumbs) is made from a bread without a crust, basically a crustless bread (without the brown edges). The bread is coarsely ground into airy, large flakes that give fried foods a light, crunchy coating. It doesn’t absorb as much grease so the texture tends to be crispier and drier and the color is whiter. It’s commonly used in Asian countries but now it’s gaining popularity even in Western dishes.
- Regular Bread Crumbs – Having said all these, regular bread crumbs is just the opposite. It uses a bread with crust thus making it darker in color. It has a fine coarse texture, but not as flaky and light as panko bread crumbs. It also absorbs grease a lot more than panko.
The Garlic Teriyaki Sauce
Even without the sauce, this tofu can be enjoyed on its own, but there’s nothing like eating it with a sauce. I am going to say it again, tofu relies heavily on spices and sauces for taste and flavor, that’s just how it is. So taking few minutes to make this simple and easy Sesame Garlic Teriyaki Sauce is worth it, trust me. It makes a lot of difference. This sauce was an adaptation of the Sauce I used for my Teriyaki Tofu with a little bit of adjustment. If you already have a ready to use bottled Teriyaki Sauce, you can also use that, but if you don’t have it, there’s really no reason to buy an entire bottle because you can make your own at home.
The Type of Tofu
It is VERY important that you use the right kind of tofu for this recipe, and that is MEDIUM FIRM Tofu. Not soft, not extra firm. Remember this when you are buying the tofu. Read the label carefully and make sure that you get the right one. The medium soft has the perfect texture that is suitable for this recipe. Perfect softness, not too soft that it will break and melt easily when you eat it, like the dessert tofu. Not to hard and firm too. Although firm or extra firm could work, but it will not be as pleasant and as enjoyable experience eating it as to when you use medium soft tofu.
Just a recap, flavor generously and spice up the tofu, bake until the coating is crispy then make the sauce to seal the deal. Easy! Let’s get started!
- 1/3 cup Panko Bread crumbs
- 2 1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil (divided between the tofu and bread crumbs mixture)
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon Dried Parsley
- 454g/ 1 1 Pack Medium Soft Tofu
- 1 tablespoon chopped Green Onion – optional
Garlic Teriyaki Sauce:
- 1/2 cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 2 cloves fresh Garlic Powder – minced
- 2 teaspoon Cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Pepper
- Press the Tofu: Remove the tofu from the packaging. Lay on a flat surface (like a cutting board or plate) and put a heavy pan or glass on top. Leave for at least 30 minute. You can also do this overnight and leave in the refrigerator. Pressing remove extra water from the tofu.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- Mix the Spices: In a small bowl, mix salt, cayenne pepper, red chili flakes and garlic powder.
- Prepare the Tofu: Cut the tofu into bite size pieces and transfer in a big bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture and toss to coat.
- Mix the spices and bread crumbs: In a small bowl, mix panko bread crumbs, remaining spices and olive oil. Using your hands, gently mix to combine.
- Coat the tofu with panko: Sprinkle the spices and panko bread crumbs mixture into the tofu. Toss to make sure the tofu is coated with bread crumbs.
- Bake: Spray a baking tray with olive oil. No need to line with parchment paper. Transfer the tofu in a baking tray, including the excess panko coating. Pickup the leftover bread crumb and sprinkle them on top of the tofu. Spray tofu with olive oil and sprinkle more cayenne pepper, black pepper and dried parsley on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the bread crumbs becomes toasted and browned. Remove from the pan.
- Make the Sauce: Add water, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic , cornstarch and red chili flakes. Stir until cornstarch is fully dissolved. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously until the sauce has thickens. The mixture will start to become transparent as it cooks. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Serve: Transfer the baked tofu in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce or have the sauce on the side. Garnish with chopped green onions (optional). This dish is great to serve with steamed rice or can also be used with noodles.
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