How to Sear Tofu

Tofu used to be one of those ingredients that Asians or hippie vegetarians ate. Nowadays though it’s becoming more and more common. I was on vacation in rural Maine a few weeks ago and noticed 2 varieties of tofu being sold at a small grocer. To me, this was a sign that tofu has become sort of American mainstream, but many folks still hesitate to buy tofu. I’ll tell you it’s just as easy to cook tofu at home as it is to order it off of a restaurant menu, so no need to be scared anymore of this white blob.

I use all types of tofu in our home, but the most easy-to-work-with type is the super-firm, vacuum packed (non-water packed) variety. It’s denser and therefore doesn’t fall apart when cooking, which makes it a great candidate for tofu novices (or experts). One thing I’ll often do is sear off a batch of tofu on Sunday or Monday and then use it in different dishes throughout the week. Some of it might go into a tofu scramble and then the rest into a fried rice. In three quick steps, you can also have your own batch of golden-seared tofu to throw in your favorite stir-fry, soup, curry, or even sandwich.

Pan-seared Tofu


  • Super-firm, vacuum packed tofu – 1 lb.
  • Corn starch (optional) – 2 tbs.
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Canola / vegetable oil – 1.5 tbs.


  1. Chop tofu into cubes. They can be any size – the ones below are on the smaller side, about 1/3″. If you want a crispier tofu, toss with corn starch
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. You can use a frying pan, cast iron pan, or a wok (which is what I’m using below). Add canola / vegetable oil. When the oil is hot (tip the pan back and forth and make sure you see striations / texture in the oil), add the tofu + a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper

How to pan-sear tofu | Cooking Basics | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

  1. Toss the tofu so it’s coated in the oil and then let the tofu sit for 2 minutes so that it gets a nice sear. Continue to toss the tofu onto its different sides so that the whole cube gets some golden color

How to pan-sear tofu | Cooking Basics | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

Serve / Substitute / Supplements

  • Chop the tofu so they resemble “fries” and dip into your favorite dipping sauce
  • Chop it into larger rectangles and substitute tofu for cold-cuts in your next sandwich
  • Before searing the tofu, toss it with 2 tbs. of soy sauce and 1 tsp. of toasted sesame oil for additional flavor

How would you use this tofu?

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