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Hands-Off, No-Fry Tofu (It's Crispy, Too)

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Raise your hand—and raise it high—if you're excited to fry tofu on a weeknight. The brave among you are waving one arm in the air, pouring oil into a wok with the other. (You must have tasted Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu.)

While I salute you, I cannot join you. On any given weeknight, my psyche is not hardy enough to weather the frustrations of sticky skins; my paper towel supply is not plentiful enough to clean up errant oil splatters.

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And so, when I'm feeling weeknight weary, I follow the lead of Cookie and Kate (and The Kitchn): Give pressed tofu a quick run through oil, cornstarch, panko, and sesame seeds, and put it in the oven. Ta-da!

Crispy Sesame Baked Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms
Crispy Sesame Baked Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms

Thirty minutes and one flip later, your tofu emerges with a crust as defined as the fried version (with a little help from cornstarch and panko), and you'll have skipped the sputtering oil and spatula contortion. The crowd of cubes will be evenly browned; the clean-up will be minimal.

And while the tofu is roasting, you can take advantage of the warm oven to cook accompanying vegetables: In that amount of time, thinly sliced shiitakes will shrivel, their savory flavor concentrating as their sponginess turns to chewiness. Roast sweet potatoes chunks, cauliflower florets, or carrot spears. Add asparagus and halved cherry tomatoes to the oven halfway through cooking time, when you flip the tofu. Oh, the possibilities!

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Once you've dried out the tofu in the oven, it's more receptive to flavorful sauces: Mound atop a bowl of rice or sesame noodles; float in soup; or, add to your stir-fry.

Or simply drizzle with a bit of soy sauce (and fish sauce, too) and snack on them like you would chicken nuggets—or, you know, tater tots.

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Crispy Sesame Baked Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms

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Serves 2 to 3
  • One 14-ounce box extra-firm tofu
  • 7 ounces shiitakes, stems trimmed of woody parts and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce, divided, plus 1 additional teaspoon for drizzling at the end
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • Chives, for garnish

What's your favorite way to cook tofu? Tell us in the comments below.