Peppery cubes of tofu top steam-fried vegetables that have the lightest of garlic sauces in this low-fat, vegan Thai tofu dish.
There’s a new Thai restaurant in town, and the first couple of times I ate there I had mixed feelings. While it was so much better than the other local Thai restaurant, I wasn’t quite satisfied with its take on dishes that I’ve liked in Thai places in other parts of the country. (This is just my opinion–D absolutely loves the place and often eats lunch there without me.)
Then one night I was studying the menu with such a worried expression, determined to try something new, that the waitress took pity on me and told me what to order: Black Pepper and Garlic Tofu. After a couple of questions to make sure that there was no fish sauce in it and that it contained vegetables in addition to the tofu, I ordered it and fell in love.
I’m not sure why I love this simple dish–peppery cubes of tofu atop vegetables that have the lightest of sauces–but I do, so much so that I became determined to make it myself at home, with a good bit less fat than the restaurant’s version.
Instead of frying the tofu, I bake it; instead of stir-frying the vegetables in oil, I steam-fry them. Steam-frying is a little trickier than frying because it requires frequently covering and uncovering the wok and adding liquid as needed, and if you’re not careful, you can burn, overcook, or under-cook the vegetables. But if you time it just right, you can get the same tender-crisp vegetables as a traditional stir-fry, with a whole lot less fat and fewer calories.
Thai Black Pepper and Garlic Tofu
Tofu and Seasoning
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 large cloves garlic pressed
- 1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 small onion halved and sliced into thin wedges
- 1 large bell pepper sliced
- 6 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 3 ounces shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 8 ounces kale (about 1 bunch) stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
- 1 bunch asparagus trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- additional broth or water as needed
- 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or other chile sauce or to taste
- 1/2-1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slices. Gently press each slice between paper towels to remove some of the moisture. Then cut each slice into rectangles. Place into a ziplock bag. Combine tofu seasoning in a small bowl and pour over tofu. Seal bag and gently turn it over until tofu is completely covered in seasoning. (You can do this ahead of time and allow the tofu to marinate for a stronger flavor, but it’s not mandatory.)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet or dish with parchment paper. (A silicon mat will also work, but parchment on a rimmed metal baking sheet yields the crispiest tofu with no sticking.) Place the tofu on the parchment in a single layer along with the marinade. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn gently and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
- While the tofu is cooking, chop all the vegetables and combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. About 10 minutes before tofu is done, preheat a large, deep non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Spray or rub it with oil if you wish, but this is optional. Have about a half cup of water or broth standing by. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until it begins to become translucent. Add a tablespoon of water or broth if it starts to stick. Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for another minute. Then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook another two minutes, adding liquid by the tablespoon if needed.
- Stir in the kale, add about 2 tablespoons of liquid, and cover quickly. After a minute, stir and add liquid if necessary. Cook covered for another minute and then add the asparagus and a little more liquid. Cover and cook until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the sauce and cook until it is heated through. Serve the vegetables with tofu on top, or stir the tofu into the vegetables and serve over rice or pasta.
Nutritional info is approximate.
KathleenJune 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm
This is delicious! I will definitely be making this one again! Thanks!
MaryNYCJune 4, 2012 at 11:44 am
Making this one! ASAP!
Christopher KandratJune 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm
The tofu absorbed the garlic perfectly, along with the kale and pepper, it was so tasty, what a great dish, love it.
LauraJune 5, 2012 at 8:10 am
Made this last night for the family and it was a hit! I thought my kids might think it a little peppery but they did not say a word. I used my wok to fry/steam my veggies and they were perfect. Thank you for yet another great recipe that will become another family favourite!
A MoserJune 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm
It’s very good, we’ve made it twice now, but I’ve tried the tofu both ways; on a silicone baking sheet and then separately on parchment: tofu does NOT get crispy in the oven. My only tried and true method is to pan-fry the tofu after it’s tossed in cornstarch.
JemJune 7, 2014 at 12:04 pm
Hi. I’m new to tofu and tried frying it yesterday and it started to stick to the pan (I used 1T sesame oil) and fall apart. How do you fry tofu without using too much oil? I haven’t read anything about cornstarch. What I used was the extra-firm tofu and I pressed it for about an hour, turning it and “helping” it a little to get the water out……but I failed anyway! I’d appreciate some help with this. Thank you1
Shirataki NoodlesJune 11, 2012 at 2:15 am
Mouth Watering recipe..looking so yummy !!
Mary H.June 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm
I made the whole recipe once (with kale & broccoli- delicious!), but the tofu part is now my favorite! I’ve been making it to eat with salad, chap chae, anything. So good! Thank you for your blog- it’s my go-to place when I need a recipe these days. 🙂
BobJuly 6, 2012 at 10:53 am
Just FYI: Huy Fong “Sriracha” (aka Rooster Sauce) isn’t actually Sriracha sauce (as used in Thailand – http://www.amazon.com/Thai-Sriracha-Sauce-Shark-Brand/dp/B000EISJXS/ref=sr_1_20?ie=UTF8&qid=1341589930&sr=8-20&keywords=sriracha). See http://www.shesimmers.com/2010/03/homemade-sriracha-how-to-make-authentic.html.
SharonAugust 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm
We just finished having this for dinner and it was wonderful. I used the full amount of black pepper, but only 1/4 tsp sriracha, and it was just the right amount of spiciness for us. I can see adapting this with many different kinds of veggies–it’s a keeper!
ElizabethAugust 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm
I made this for dinner tonight. My boyfriend and I loved it – and he usually only eats vegan for me. But we both wanted to make more. Great recipe!
lamermanSeptember 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm
Another outstanding recipe – thank you for making me look like such a good cook! I made this tonight (along with Thai pineapple fried rice) and the final result was even better than I expected!
I broke my knee and because my husband has to work during the day I am staying with my parents as I cannot drive anywhere (my leg is locked in a straight cast). I can however stand in the kitchen and prepare meals so I made this for them tonight. Everyone went back for 2nds!
My Mom has adopted my vegan diet since I have been here – about 3 weeks at this point and my Dad has been eating a vegan dinner every day. My Dad is a typical southern man from Texas, raised an omnivore but he even went back for another helping. There were absolutely no leftovers. My husband wants this recipe in regular rotation.
You never fail to amaze me. I don’t know how you come up with these masterpiece recipes but I am so very glad that you do! Thank you for your talent and creativity must most of all thank you for sharing with us!!
Susan VoisinSeptember 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm
Thank you so much for the kind words, Leslie. I hope your leg heals quickly!
VeganinhaDecember 29, 2012 at 10:55 pm
I’m sure this is delicious, Ill try the lentil wonderful soup first then one day this one.
Thanks for the sheet + metal = crispy tofu chip.
krysiJanuary 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm
I am making this tonight for dinner. I have made a resolution to use less fat in my cooking, and I think this recipe will be a hit. I do a lot of Asian style cooking, but have always used a lot of oil while stir – frying. It will be broth from here on out, but I will use a little sesame oil( Since you only need a bit) because I love that flavor! I have you bookmarked now, and cant wait to go through ALL of your recipes! Thanks so much.
LeslieJanuary 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm
We just got back from Chiang Mai Thailand & I am going to make your delicious sounding recipe tonight! Can’t wait to try it – sounds great! I will post my results 🙂
If you’d like, I took a cooking class while there & I’d be happy to share a recipe in return for your kind postings. It was a wonderful class & everything was superb. Thank you!
Susan VoisinJanuary 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm
I would love to see one of the recipes. Thanks!
LaylaJanuary 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm
Love this recipe! My first with tofu so I was weary about how it would come out. I didn’t have kale and used green chlli sauce in place of srirachi. The detailed techniques for cooking the tofu and veggies I think are what make the flavors really come together at the end.
SilFebruary 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm
I made this tonight…thank you! DELICIOUS!!!! I didn’t have all the veggies, only kale, red peppers, but still was so good! A keeper…
systemaMarch 24, 2013 at 4:01 am
This is my current favourite tofu recipe – passed the recipe on to many people who have said the same.
LauraMay 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm
I’ve been making a version of this I found in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty but I really hate deep frying anything. Looking forward to making a baked tofu version. Thanks for making us healthier!
AngelaMay 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Ai liked all the vegetables in this, and the idea of coking the tofu in the oven. But I found the flavor rather bland.
LeeJune 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm
Great recipe. Snapped my variation of this together tonight to great reviews. I particularly appreciate the tips on baking the tofu, as it delivers just the right texture, consistency, etc. Thanks!
BrendaOctober 22, 2013 at 10:08 am
Thanks for another tasty-looking recipe! I want to make this tonight, but I only have frozen tofu. Do you think that would work for this recipe?
Susan VoisinOctober 22, 2013 at 10:25 am
I think it should work fine. Hope you enjoy it!
BrendaOctober 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm
This was another winner, with great flavor! I think the frozen tofu soaked up more of the marinade–I ended up mixing up more. The baked slices ended up nice and crispy on the outside. Thanks!
NKJanuary 22, 2014 at 2:38 pm
just cooked this dish for my dinner tonight. it looks and taste awesome. I am ravishing about it all over my chatting groups….lol.
Thanks Susan for numerous such excellent recipes.
I will make tomorrow asparagus pesto with my leftover asparagus!!
orthohawkFebruary 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm
I second the post about frozen tofu: it soaks up the marinade like a sponge. You definitely have to make extra marinade. I also browned the outside in some oil; I just added a teaspoon in the second batch of marinade and the next night dumped it into a wok that I had spritzed with olive oil pam till the outside was crispy, then proceeded with the veggies (I only had broccoli, carrots, onion, and asparagus, which actually is my go-to combo for stir frying). I also served it over quinoa (I almost never use rice anymore!). Yummy! Another keeper from FFV!
RossyMarch 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Made it today, simply amazing!! The tofu was nice and crispy.
dianneApril 2, 2014 at 7:54 pm
I made this for dinner tonight, and my husband, son and I all loved it! There was the right amount of spice, and the tofu had a great texture and flavor, and it was beautiful on the plates. I’m going to grate some ginger into the cooking sauce next time, just to see. And there WILL be a next time!!!
Jean HeathMay 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm
I have made this lots of times and love it – thank you for the recipe.
JemJune 7, 2014 at 11:58 am
Susan, Here’s a really stupid question from a ‘tofu newbie”. You said in the direction to “Place the tofu on the parchment in a single layer along with the marinade”. What does that mean? Do you mean that I should dump the tofu along with all of the marinade onto the parchment paper?!
Susan VoisinMay 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Yes! Just pour it all on the parchment, and arrange the tofu in a single layer. The marinade will boil down and season the tofu.
KarenJanuary 28, 2015 at 2:56 pm
I have made this several times and it is always very good. I went to make it for dinner the other night and found that I didn’t have any tofu (life has been rather chaotic lately). There was a 12 ounce package of Surata tempeh though, so I cut that into cubes, marinated it, and baked it according to the directions for the tofu, then followed the rest of the recipe. We liked it better than the tofu version, more substantial seeming and very tasty. Have you made this with tempeh?
JillFebruary 21, 2016 at 8:04 pm
I doubled the recipe but had to substitute a bit on the veggies. Broccoli for asparagus and cremini and white mushrooms for the shiitake. I was also out of greens so I chopped up a zucchini. This is such a great recipe. I love this sauce and I use it pretty frequently for stir fries during the week. It’s always a hit with my friends and I could recite the recipe in my sleep!
I gave my house guest leftovers to eat on the plane on his way home to New York (along with some red grapes and a Lower Fat Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie). :p
Gayatri MantraMay 22, 2016 at 10:36 am
That looks amazing!
Stephanie DAugust 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm
Tried it tonight, using broccoli instead of asparagus, and serving over rice noodles. Hubby even liked it, and he is an omnivore. As I had previously frozen the tofu, which I have read changes the texture, he remarked that it was a lot like chicken and he liked that, as he usually hates tofu. This one is a keeper!
Carolyn DoneganAugust 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm
Susan, this was delicious. Thanks for the recipe.
Mandy MilletteDecember 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm
This is extraordinary! Delish!