It was one of those days when I needed a clone–you know, someone to do the cooking while I did everything else that had to be done. Since science has yet to reach the point of providing me free kitchen help, I reached into my cabinet and pulled out the next best thing: The Crockpot.
I rarely plan far enough in advance to use the crockpot, but for those times when I know I’ll be busy doing other things right before dinnertime, the crockpot is a must. The trouble yesterday was that my family had had their fill of the usual crockpot fare–soups and stews–and were ready for something else. Besides, the crazy Mississippi weather was playing one of its frequent tricks on us by going from chilly soup weather to nearly 90, so it just wasn’t the day for cozy comfort food. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I thought, “if you could make Chinese food in the crockpot.” I just had to give it a try.
Actually, a crockpot is perfect for tofu. Slow cooking in sauce infuses the tofu with flavor and, since the sauce is thick and the tofu is dried slightly by pan-frying first, its texture is firm and not mushy. The vegetables are added at the end of the cooking so that they do not disintegrate. I used a large, oval crockpot for this, but I think it would probably work better in a smaller one, so don’t be afraid to try it in one of the traditional-sized slow cookers. For some other cooking options, see the end of the recipe.
Chinese Barbecued Tofu and Vegetables
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu not silken tofu
- 1 small onion minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger root minced
- 8 ounces no salt added tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- salt to taste optional
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2-3 stalks broccoli stalks only; reserve florets for another use
- 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 large red or green bell pepper cut into 1-inch squares
- 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts
- Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place them on a few paper towels and cover them with 2 or 3 more. Press lightly to remove some of the moisture from the tofu. Cut the slices into triangles or other shapes.
- Heat a non-stick skillet until hot, and place the tofu slices in it. Brown well on both sides. When they are done, place them in a crockpot that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. (If you avoid all oil, try lining the crockpot with parchment paper.) Set the crockpot to high heat and cover.
- Using the same skillet, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and heat, stirring, until bubbly. Pour the sauce over the tofu and stir well to combine. Replace the cover and cook on high for 3 hours.
- Prepare the broccoli stalks by trimming off the tough ends and peeling off the outer skin. Slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. After the tofu has cooked for 3 hours, add the broccoli and other vegetables. Stir well to combine and cover tightly. Cook for about 1 more hour. Vegetables should be tender but not over-cooked. Serve over brown rice. Makes 3-4 servings.
Nutritional info is approximate.
SusanVAugust 1, 2009 at 2:52 pm
Here are the pre-2009 comments that were lost when the blog moved to WordPress:
Susan, I love Asian food and this looks delicious. What is five spice powder?
3:26 PM, October 20, 2006
>>> I needed a clone–you know, someone to do the cooking while I did everything else that had to be done.
I totally understand, Susan! Although if I have a clone, it would do everything else while I do the cooking. That sounds like a better deal to me!
I’m still following your blog with admiration. I am looking forward to when I could follow your recipes again. (Hopefully very soon.) Right now, I’m just glad they’re all in one place! Thanks, and keep up the great posts!
(Btw, this one would be on the top of my list.)
3:52 PM, October 20, 2006
Susan, you are a genius! I thought I would miss grilling tofu in the winter, but now I won’t. Personally, I could eat a crockpot full of barbecue sauced onions!
I think this recipe will become everyone’s new favorite and “must try.”
4:06 PM, October 20, 2006
Yay for Crock Pots! This dish looks divine, Susan.
5:56 PM, October 20, 2006
Another must make! I was caught already by the title, and it only got better from there. I want a remote control robot to pick up a crock pot for me and fill it with the right things so that this meal will be ready to eat when I return from my trip and walk in the door.
At least I have something pleasant to dream about tonight.
10:19 PM, October 20, 2006
Hi Puddy–Five spice powder is a combination of seasonings that is used in some Chinese dishes. You can read more about it here: Five-Spice Powder.
Hi Kai! It’s good to hear from you. Normally I, too, would want to be cooking, but on this particular day I needed to help E. with a school project, and I just couldn’t trust a clone with that! 🙂
Gosh, ATxVegan, thanks!
Karina, I know you know your way around a crockpot much better than I do!
Mark, I hope you get home from your trip and find that the cooking fairies have anticipated your every need. (That would be a different kind of trip, huh?) 😉
9:36 AM, October 21, 2006
This sounds interesting. What is the hoisin sauce ?
3:27 PM, October 21, 2006
What a great idea! I am (hopefully) getting a crock pot for Christmas, and you have given me another yummy idea!
4:40 PM, October 21, 2006
Virginie, here in the US, we can buy hoisin sauce in grocery stores and in Asian markets. I found this one labeled Vegetarian Hoisin Sauce in an Asian market. Here is the definition of hoisin sauce that I got from cooking.com:
“Hoisin sauce, used as an ingredient or a seasoning, is a thick, reddish brown sauce of fermented soybeans or wheat, chiles, garlic, vinegar, sesame seeds, and Asian spices. Sold in bottles, it keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator or at room temperature.”
11:26 AM, October 22, 2006
This sounds (and looks) very yummy! I’ve never used just the stalks of brocolli before- very interesting. I’m definitely going to be giving this a try soon. I’ll just have to try it in the overn or on the stove, seeing that I don’t have a crockpot.
11:45 PM, October 22, 2006
Oh! Must try this!
Wait. I don’t have a crockpot.
11:37 AM, October 23, 2006
Ktina Marie said…
This was INCREDIBLE!
6:57 PM, October 23, 2006
This is my first time visiting your blog, I have been missing out! I can’t wait to try some of your recipes!!
4:43 PM, November 01, 2006
Wow. This was great! At noon I emailed this post to my live-in honey to make for dinner. When I got home our entire (small) apartment complex smelled AMAZING! I think the neighbors were jealous. And of course, the food tasted great. I’m thinking of trying this method of cooking tofu again soon, but with an Italian flavor. Thanks for another great recipe!
1:26 PM, November 02, 2006
Vivacious Vegan said…
I never thought you could put tofu in the crockpot. I guess I worried it would get mushy. I can’t wait to try it.
10:56 AM, March 18, 2007
Vivacious Vegan said…
Oh, by the way, I’m making your eggplant parmesan again tonight. This is probably my 10th time making it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it and so does Marty. This is one of your best recipes ever. I have found that there is no need to salt and drain the eggplant. It works just fine without it. Also, in a pinch, I use jarred marinara to save time.
10:59 AM, March 18, 2007
one can never have too many tofu recipes! thanks!
10:37 PM, March 18, 2007
i made this a few days ago and i loved it !! i didn’t make it in the crockpot because i was starving so i fried it up in the skillet. it was still AMAZING.
12:39 PM, November 08, 2008
thank you for this recipe! I made the sauce to go with some stir-fried tofu, broccoli, and water chestnuts as you suggest. my vegan partner and I loved it! how nice to have a tomato-based stir-fry sauce in my file.
9:00 PM, January 12, 2009
i am making this next Sunday for Mom’s bday – her first time having tofu and I want to ensure that I get this right. I have frozen extra firm tofu – do I need it COMPLETELY defrosted to make this. I have never frozen and defrosted it b4. Any insight you can provide will be helpful.
9:14 AM, January 10, 2010
dna, with frozen tofu you must defrost it completely. It is like a sponge that is full of water, and if you don’t defrost it, that water will be in there, diluting your sauce. After it’s defrosted, you can cut the block in half and gently squeeze out the water before cutting it into pieces. It will amaze you how much water comes out.
I hope you and your Mom enjoy it!
dnaJanuary 10, 2010 at 10:14 am
i am making this next Sunday for Mom's bday – her first time having tofu and I want to ensure that I get this right. I have frozen extra firm tofu – do I need it COMPLETELY defrosted to make this. I have never frozen and defrosted it b4. Any insight you can provide will be helpful.
SusanVJanuary 10, 2010 at 11:26 am
dna, with frozen tofu you must defrost it completely. It is like a sponge that is full of water, and if you don't defrost it, that water will be in there, diluting your sauce. After it's defrosted, you can cut the block in half and gently squeeze out the water before cutting it into pieces. It will amaze you how much water comes out.
I hope you and your Mom enjoy it!
MersApril 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm
This was pretty good. I liked it when I ate it fresh from the crockpot but wasn’t so enamored with it as leftovers. Next time, I think I’ll try it without frying the tofu and see how that goes. 🙂 I would add some more water to make it more saucy as well.
LinJune 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm
Just wondering if this dish has heat please?
shereeJune 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm
What do you think about baking the tofu in the oven before putting in the crockpot. I don’t use oil and was wondering what I could do to not incorporate it? Do you think the spray of oil is absolutely necessary in the slow cooker too?
Susan VoisinJune 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm
You can try it without a spray of oil if you’re not worried about sticking or a more difficult cleanup. I don’t worry about the minute amounts it takes to oil pans because I know that that doesn’t even translate into a gram of fat per serving.
CaitlinJune 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm
Can’t wait to give this recipe a try! While my husband still eats meat on occasion he actually cares for tofu more than I do and requested that I prepare more of it. It was a huge relief to find this recipe. I’m making it in the oven instead of the crockpot, do I still need to brown it on the stove top first? Thanks!
Pat AroseMarch 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm
I made this recipe this evening and it is absolutely fabulous! Thanks for sharing.
Brian MarcinkowskiApril 17, 2014 at 6:46 pm
I know this was posted by you along time ago but I just wanted to say it was awesome! We don’t have hosin sauce so instead I used teriaki marinade instead. My wife is a vegitarian so when I cook dinner for us it can sometimes be an adventure of trial and error with recipes. This one is DEFINITELY going to be repeated. I am not even a vegitarian and, to be honest, I am not sure I could be. However, This recipe blew me away! Thanks!
NicholeJanuary 27, 2020 at 9:58 pm
Thanks for posting this!
I was looking for a kung pao recipe and found your Chinese BBQ.
I made a version without molasses and with homemade hoisin sauce.
The hoisin sauce recipe I found used miso instead of fermented bean curd, and stevia worked surprisingly well as the only sweetener.
I haven’t searched deeply yet, but I think one can make the fermented bean curd (a.k.a. su fu or dou fu) by extending the fermentation time of homemade soymilk yogurt by a couple of days… no salt needed, and salt actually impedes the lacto-fermentation I think, but should recheck that. The lacto-fermentation can tolerate a little for spice though.
I would have loved your recipe as a kid, especially. thanks for sharing!
SylvieAugust 20, 2020 at 9:17 am
I can’t wait to try the recipe. However, I have an instant pot with slow cooking option. I’m wondering if I can do this recipe in it as the instructions or I should make some modifications since the interior pot is made of stainless steel and not ceramic. Some advice would be appreciated. 🙂