Broiled Tofu with Cilantro Pesto

Pesto gets some Asian flair with cilantro, fish sauce, sesame oil and lime in this vibrant tofu dish.

It’s been a while since I cooked with tofu. My family loves it, and it’s a nice alternative to meat-filled main courses occasionally.

This dish is really simple to put together, and the flavor of the pesto goes really well with the tofu.

Broiled Tofu with Cilantro Pesto

I cut this recipe in half when I made it, and served it as a main course with a side of steamed basmati rice. Instead of spraying the baking sheet and then brushing both sides of the tofu, I just drizzled a thin layer of oil on the sheet, plopped down the slices of tofu and moved them around a little to coat with oil, flipped ’em and moved them around a little more so that both sides were coated. It worked really well.

The fish sauce really makes the pesto unique, but if you want to keep this vegetarian/vegan friendly, you can substitute soy sauce.

My family really enjoyed this meal. I particularly liked biting through the crispy exterior of the tofu and enjoying the silky center. Delicious!

Oh, and on a funny note – apparently I made this recipe back in 2009 and we didn’t care for the Asian twist in the pesto. I think we’re more into fish sauce than we used to be, which probably explains it. I mean, I do have more years of cooking under my belt now, so that’s probably part of it as well. I guess just proceed with caution if you aren’t really into the potent flavor of fish sauce (or go ahead and substitute soy sauce for a more mild flavor.

Broiled Tofu with Cilantro Pesto

Serves 12 as a side-dish or 4-6 as a main course

Broiled Tofu with Cilantro Pesto

Pesto gets some Asian flair with cilantro, fish sauce, sesame oil and lime in this vibrant tofu dish.


1/4 cup mild olive oil plus additional for brushing
2 (14- to 16-oz) packages firm tofu, rinsed and drained
2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce*
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Garnish: pine nuts; fresh cilantro leaves; lime wedges


  1. Preheat broiler and lightly oil a shallow flameproof baking pan with olive oil.
  2. Cut each block of tofu crosswise into 6 slices and pat dry between several layers of paper towels. Arrange in 1 layer in baking pan and brush tops of slices with more olive oil. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, without turning, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. While tofu is broiling, purée cilantro, pine nuts, lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor until bright green and smooth, about 1 minute.
  4. Transfer tofu with a slotted spatula to a platter and serve with cilantro pesto.


Recipe from Gourmet November 2004 via Epicurious

Pesto can be made 3 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container.

*Substitute soy sauce for fish sauce to make this dish vegetarian/vegan friendly


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