This teriyaki tofu is a west coast take on a Japanese classic. It comes together in just minutes, making it a wonderful dinner to feed a family. There is very little about this dish that is authentic to traditional Japanese teriyaki. Instead, this version takes it's origins in the west coast, back to the land, health food hippies of the 70s—in my case, the people I grew up around.

For some more of these hippy staple recipes, try my easy baked yam, staple quinoa congee, and Tessajara-style dairy free bread.

Close up of sticky teriyaki tofu on white rice with green onions and black sesame seeds.
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What is Teriyaki?

Teriyaki is a Japanese technique used for meat, mostly fish, and sometimes even burgers. In the west, it is often used for both white and red meat like chicken and pork.

The word teriyaki can be broken down into its two components—teri (the shine given by the sweet sauce) and yaki ( the method of cooking). In North America, however, the word has been used to describe any dish made with a teriyaki-like sauce.

This version is heavily influence by the original, but uses tofu instead of animal protein, and is cooked on the stove top instead of on grill or under a broiler. I've also added both chili flakes and garlic (which are not authentic) and omitted mirin in exchange for a little molasses.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Extra firm or pressed tofu: if you can only find firm tofu, press it under something heavy (like a cast-iron pot lid) for at least an hour before starting.
  • Tamari or soy sauce: to make this teriyaki tofu gluten free look for gluten free soy tamari.
  • Ginger juice: making ginger juice is easy! Just grate a large chunk of peeled ginger into a bowl using a small grater or microplane. After you have grated a good amount, pick up the grated ginger and squeeze it so that only the juice falls back into the bowl, leaving the pulp. Compost the fibrous pulp.
  • Cane sugar: I haven't tried using any sugar alternatives here, but I don't think they'd have the same stickiness that cane sugar has. Other sugars like coconut will be too flavourful.

Method

Teriyaki tofu steps 1 to 4, making the sauce and frying the tofu.

Step 1: begin by making the sauce. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 2: next, slice your tofu—I am partial to cutting it into 1 cm (about ½ inch) thick slices, but cubes or triangles could be nice.

Step 3: add a little oil to your pan (I love to use a cast iron pan for this recipe) and fry the tofu on both sides until it is golden, about 5-7 minutes.

Step 4: once your tofu is crisp, add the teriyaki sauce and let it bubble until it becomes sticky and syrupy, about 2-3 minutes.

Top Tips

  • Make it without tofu: if you don't eat soy, try using this sauce on pan fried eggplant, broccoli, or a chickpea / lentil tempeh.
  • Serve it as a meal: I like to serve teriyaki tofu with rice or another grain, some greens like broccoli, and lots of green onion and seeds. It is also great on its own or as a side to a noodle salad.
  • Grease your spoons: since molasses is very sticky, it is best to grease your measuring spoons lightly for a quick release.
  • Pour off the oil: if you don't want any added oil in your finish dish, remove the fried tofu from the pan and drain out any remaining oil before adding the sauce.

How to Store

Storage: the teriyaki sauce can be made up to a week ahead and stored in the fridge for a super quick supper.

Freezing: keep the sauce in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.

Overhead image of bowl with rice and tofu on a white counter.

FAQ

Can vegans eat teriyaki sauce?

Usually yes! Teriyaki sauce is generally vegan, but some versions might have honey added. If you make it yourself you can be sure what's going into it will be vegan.

Which tofu is best for frying?

Extra firm or pressed tofu is best for frying because it contains the least water. The firmer it is, the better it will stay together while frying. You can press it yourself if needed.

Why is teriyaki so good?

It's the combination of sweet and sharp that makes teriyaki so delicious, but also that the sugars caramlise during cooking.

More Soy Recipes

If you make this Vegan Teriyaki Tofu or any other vegan mains on Wholehearted Eats, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more WHE, follow along on Instagram or subscribe for new posts via email.

Recipe

Close up pf sticky teriyaki on white rice with green onions and black sesame seeds.
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4.93 from 13 votes

Teriyaki Tofu

This teriyaki tofu is a west coast take on a Japanese classic. It comes together in just minutes, making it a wonderful dinner to feed a family.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Large frying pan

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons ginger juice*
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cane sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes depends on how much spice you like
  • 1-350 block extra firm or pressed tofu
  • 1-2 tablespoons avocado oil

Instructions

  • Begin by making your sauce. Combine the water, soy, molasses, ginger juice, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and set aside.
    ¼ cup water, ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons molasses, 2 tablespoons ginger juice*, 1 ½ tablespoons cane sugar, 2 cloves garlic, ½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Slice the tofu into desired shapes.
    1-350 block extra firm or pressed tofu
  • Next, heat a large frying pan to medium heat. Once hot, add the oil. Start with 1 tablespoon and add more as needed. How much oil you'll needed will depend on the pan you are using.
    1-2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • Place the tofu in the pan so that all the pieces are in contact with the pan and can crisp up. If your pan is too small, you may have to fry them in two rounds.
  • Cook until lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side until golden, another 3-5 minutes.
  • Once the tofu is golden as crisp you can pour in the sauce and turn down the heat to medium low.
  • Let the sauce bubble and simmer for about 2 minutes or until it thickens and becomes a glaze, then remove the pan from the heat and serve.

Notes

* Making ginger juice is easy! Just grate a large chunk of peeled ginger into a bowl using a small grater or microplane. After you have grated a good amount, pick up the grated ginger and squeeze it so that only the juice falls back into the bowl, leaving the pulp. Discard the fibrous pulp.
This recipe is adapted from Green Cuisine.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 188kcal

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