Pan-Seared Tofu

Andrea Nguyen

"The Pho Cookbook"

"Super easy to make, this is a vegetarian convenience food that I keep on hand for adding to noodle soup, stir-fries, fried rice, and rice paper rolls. It’s tasty and healthier than deep-fried tofu, albeit not as rich. Sometimes I eat the pan-seared tofu as is, right out of the fridge. The initial cooking in a dry skillet efficiently rids the tofu of surface moisture so you don’t have to blot or drain the tofu beforehand." –Andrea Nguyen, The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2017)

Reprinted with permission from The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  


  • One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu 
  • 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce 
  • About 1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil


Cut the block of tofu crosswise into 2 pieces, then cut each piece crosswise into 4 thick pieces; imagine big dominoes or Zippo lighters. You’ll have 8 pieces total. Put the tofu into a medium or large nonstick skillet. Drizzle in the soy sauce and coat both sides. 

Cook over medium heat until sizzling, seared, and dry looking, about 5 minutes. There will be little moisture visible in the skillet. Drizzle the oil over the tofu, then use a spatula to flip the pieces. 

Let cook for 4 to 5 minutes to sear and brown the second side. Shake the skillet to check if the tofu will dislodge from the bottom. When there is a little movement, use a spatula to flip the tofu over to add extra color and character to the first side, if needed. Aim for a rich, mottled brown surface with dark brown edges. When satisfied, transfer the tofu to a rack to cool and dry for about 5 minutes before using. 

The tofu can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. To reheat, let it warm up to room temperature then gently refry to return a bit of crispness to the tofu.


2 to 3 servings