Crispy Tofu Buddha Bowl with Tangy Ponzu Sauce Recipe

Enjoy the best of Japanese plant-based cuisine in this Crispy Tofu Buddha Bowl starring pan-seared tofu flavored with homemade ponzu sauce and topped with nutty sesame seeds.

What are Buddha Bowls?

When it comes to eating sustainably and colorfully, we’ve started thinking more in terms of a simple, nutritious one-bowl meal.

Essentially, a Buddha bowl is a one-bowl arrangement of nutritious foods. The term comes from the appearance of the bowl, packed so full of goodness that it resembles the rounded belly of Buddha!

It starts with a base of grains or greens. Then you scoop in two big handfuls of vegetables. Add in a lean protein. Finish it with a savory sauce or dressing plus a sprinkle of crunch.


Use up leftovers or what you have on hand!

The Buddha Bowl formula is so flexible. We want you to reinvent leftovers into another meal that tastes completely different with the choice of flavorful sauce and a crunchy topping!

Buddha bowl leftover usage

  • For grains: what do you have on hand? Rice, quinoa, barley? Use what you have.
  • For veggies: what’s in the refrigerator? Raid your veg drawer, and chop up your favorites.
  • For lean protein: we chose crispy tofu (we’ll teach you how to make it), or maybe you have leftover roasted chicken or pork chops?
  • For sauce: let’s make a homemade Japanese citrusy soy sauce – or just use store-bought bottle.
  • For crunch: we love sesame seeds! What do you like?

For this Crispy Tofu Buddha Bowl, here’s our formula:

how to make crispy tofu buddha bowl recipe with ponzu sauce

How to make Crispy Pan-Seared Tofu

pan searing tofu for crispy tofu buddha bowl recipe

The key to extra crispy tofu is to remove as much water as possible. If you have time, press the tofu between two plates or under a baking sheet topped with a heavy can of tomatoes for 15 minutes. Discard the water. Pat the tofu very dry on both sides with paper towel.

  1. Cut extra firm tofu into thick slices. Pat very dry with paper towel.
  2. Brush on a little bit of soy sauce on both sides
  3. Heat up your frying pan with a little oil. Brown the tofu on each side.
  4. Brush more soy sauce sauce as you go.

What is Ponzu Sauce?

Kikkoman ponzu sauce for buddha bowlsAvailable online and in Asian supermarkets, Ponzu sauce is a brightened up kind of soy sauce–a savory, piquant dressing that freshens up any dish with its citrusy-soy flavor.

The sauce is delicious because it hits every single flavor note:

  • sour
  • salty
  • sweet
  • savory

Store-bought Ponzu Sauce is easy to find. The most popular brand is Kikkoman, which is great to use.

My favorite brand is Mizkan Ponzu (it’s a 200-yr old family-owned brand from Japan). I also like this brand sold on Thrive, which contains no oil, refined sugar, artificial coloring, additives, or preservatives.

Ponzu sauce for buddha bowls

How to make homemade Ponzu Sauce

To make 1 cup of Ponzu, whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice and/or orange juice (I like a combo – half and half)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) – or substitute with 2 tablespoons sake or water + 2 teaspoons sugar)

Give it a taste. Is it tangy, but still slightly sweet? Feel free to add more sugar. If it’s too salty, add more water.

Alternative Crunchy Topping: Furikake!

japanese furikake as a crunchy topping for buddha bowls

If you are feeling a little adventurous, try Japanese Furikake (pronounced fu-ree-KAH-keh). I know. It sounds funny (giggle).

furikake for budda bowlsFurikake is like salty/savory spice for your rice!. Think nori flakes, “wasabi” granules (horseradish usually), sesame seeds, dried bonito flakes and miso powder sold in a small jar.

I’ll recommend this organic, vegan furikake by Muso from Japan–clean and simple, with toasted seaweed and sesame seeds. A couple shakes give your rice plenty of character!

pssst…..Furikake sprinkled on freshly popped popcorn is THE BEST.

Other recipe resources

More uses for Ponzu Sauce

Asian Slaw with Ponzu Sauce
Uni Shooter with Ponzu Sauce
Beef With Daikon and Ponzu Dressing

Asian slaw with ponzu sauce recipe

Crispy tofu buddha bowl

Crispy Tofu Buddha Bowl with Ponzu Sauce & Sesame Seeds Recipe

Use up all veggies in your refrigerator with this Japanese inspired Crispy Tofu Buddha Bowl with either a homemade or store-bought Ponzu Sauce and Sesame Seeds. For extra protein, add an hard boiled egg to the bowl.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Japanese
Servings 4 people
Calories 313 kcal


For the GRAIN

  • 2-3 cups cooked quinoa or other grain of choice (for low carb, choose a base of greens)


  • 4-6 cups vegetables of choice: lettuce, kale, shredded carrot, steamed broccoli, roasted butternut squash, sliced cucumbers, shredded cabbage, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, etc.


  • 14 ounces tofu extra firm
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

For the SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup citrus juice lemon and/or orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons mirin

For the CRUNCH

  • 4 teaspoons sesame seeds toasted in dry pan until fragrant


Ponzu Sauce

  • To make the Ponzu sauce, whisk all the ingredients together. Give it a taste. Is it tangy, salty, but still slightly sweet? Feel free to add more sugar. If it's too salty add more water.

Crispy Tofu

  • Place the tofu block on a plate lined with a couple pieces of paper towel. Place another plate on top of the tofu. Stack on something heavy, like a couple cans of soup. Let sit 15 minutes. Drain and discard water. Slice tofu into 1/2" slices. Pat the tofu very dry on both sides. Brush soy sauce on both sides of each slice of tofu.
  • Heat a frying pan with the cooking oil on medium-high heat, until shimmering. Carefully add the tofu slices. Pan-fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown. Brush on more soy sauce. Flip tofu slice and fry an additional 1 minute. Brush on more soy sauce.

Assemble Buddha Bowl

  • Get four large bowls ready. Add to bowl: Grains, veggies, tofu. Drizzle on sauce. Sprinkle on sesame seeds.


Calories: 313kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 13gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1620mgPotassium: 665mgFiber: 11gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 9242IUVitamin C: 31mgCalcium: 86mgIron: 4mg
Keyword buddha bowl, buddhabowl
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