I live for a dish that has it all, texturally and flavor-ally. This dish is one of those that gives you everything: crunchy and creamy; savory, salty, bitter, sweet, and tangy. Make just the Air-Fried Sesame Crusted Tofu to dip in sweet chili sauce, or just make the Lemon Tahini Slaw with black lentils as a side or main course salad. Either way, you’ve gotta make these recipes! They are just too good to pass up!

A few weeks ago I was in quite a rut, and I couldn’t find any food inspiration anywhere. I didn’t want to cook anything, and I didn’t have any genius ideas that I wanted to share with y’all. In my efforts to putt some ideas back itno in my head, I decided to subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine. They’ve had their issues (no pun intended) over the past year, but I really think they’ve made some meaningful changes to their staff that’ll help the magazine overall… I thought I would see if a regular influx of food content would lift my creative spirits.

All that aside, I subscribed, which gave me immediate access to their digital collection. I started scrolling through recipes to see if anything sounded good, and I saw a picture for Za’atar Chicken Cutlets With Cabbage Salad, and thought it sounded like something I could veganize. 

I didn’t follow the recipe even slightly. I started with tempeh as the protein, and a store bought za’atar seasoning mixed with sesame seeds and panko. The first test was kind of a success, but I literally hated the flavor of the seasoning blend (Could have been my palate? Could have been the particular blend I bought?), and cooking it on the stovetop made a smoky mess.

The next test, I used a pressed block of tofu, and made the coating with a lot more sesame seeds, and my own blend of seasonings and spices. This time I decided to air-fry the tofu instead, and I found that it not only tasted so much better, but that it was also so much easier to make (and used so much less oil!)

To go with the Sesame Crusted Tofu, I saw that Bon Appetit had paired theirs with a cabbage salad with some tahini-based sauce on the side. Taking inspiration from the ingredients I saw listed, I decided to go in more of a coleslaw direction.

I loved the slight bitterness of the tahini with the sweetness of the cabbage, and the brightness of the lemon. The Lemon Tahini Slaw instantly became my favorite component of the dish.

My first bite of the completed dish was good, but it felt like it was missing something to bring the two components together. My brain spit out: “It needs ‘sweet brown’,” and so I searched through my fridge to see what I could find to match that order. In the very back was a squeeze bottle of homemade vegan eel sauce, and took it as a sign. I drizzled a bit over the top of the whole dish, drenching the Sesame Crusted Tofu, and well, the rest is history.

Honestly, the Sesame Crusted Tofu is amazing on its own, and is even great to snack on cold, out of the fridge, the next day. The Lemon Tahini Slaw is the same way. It’s great by itself (especially now that I’ve added black lentils!), and it’s just as good the second day as it is the first

Sesame Crusted Tofu with Lemon Tahini Slaw

Easy Air-Fried Sesame Crusted Tofu with Lemon Tahini Slaw (Vegan + GF + Oil-Free Option)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Press tofu
1 hr

Delicious and protein packed vegan dish that can be served together or separately.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian-Inspired
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 453 kcal
Author: Michael Monson
For the Sesame Crusted Tofu
  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • ¾ cup gluten free panko or bread crumb of choice
  • ½ cup white, untoasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoon black sesame seeds (or more white sesame seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil or neutral oil (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the Lemon Tahini Slaw
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • ½ head red cabbage, shaved
  • 1 cup cooked small black lentils (beluga)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To serve
  • vegan eel sauce (link in notes) or teriyaki sauce
To make the Sesame Crusted Tofu
  1. Using a tofu press, or trusted heavy objects, press your tofu for about 1 hour, or until it has reduced in thickness by about ⅓.

  2. Preheat air-fryer or oven to 400 F.
  3. Divide the tofu into quarters, cut the thickness of those quarters into thirds, and then cut the squares in half, diagonally, to form thin triangles. You should have 24, ¼ inch thick triangles of tofu when finished.

  4. In a rimmed plate or bowl, combine the chickpea flour with enough water to form a mixture the consistency of a thinner pancake batter. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper, but don’t taste the mixture because raw chickpea flour is highly unpleasant.
  5. In another rimmed plate or bowl, combine the panko and sesame seeds. Drizzle with a bit of sesame oil and add the seasonings, and gently toss to mix. Taste to make sure that the mixture is well seasoned and salted.

  6. Working in batches, transfer the tofu to the chickpea flour batter, coat each triangle completely, and then transfer them to the panko mixture. Gently press the crumbs into the surface of the tofu so that the crust sticks and completely covers each triangle of tofu. Set coated tofu aside.

  7. Air-fry or bake your tofu, for about 20 minutes, flipping once, until the coating is lightly browned but not burnt. If using a small air-fryer, you may have to work in batches as to not overcrowd the tofu.

To make the Lemon Tahini Slaw
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine tahini, lemon juice, Liquid Aminos, and sriracha. Add salt and pepper (or more sriracha) to taste.
  2. Cut your ½ cabbage in half, remove the tough core, and then cut the cabbage into the thinnest ribbons you possibly can.
  3. Transfer the ribbons of cabbage to the bowl with the dressing, add cooked and well-drained lentils, and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper if the dressing feels a bit flat.

  4. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.
To serve:
  1. Divide the Lemon Tahini Slaw evenly among 4 plates. Top with Sesame Crusted Tofu. Drizzle with eel sauce or teriyaki sauce (optional)

Recipe Notes

453 Calories

26.5g protein

11g fiber

I like to drizzle homemade vegan eel sauce on top (not included in nutritional info). Here is a link to the recipe. Store-bought teriyaki sauce would work just as well.