Not a fan of tofu? I bet you will be if you try this vegan chilli and black pepper tofu! It's the perfect dish to convert anyone to tofu. If you like chillies, garlic, black pepper and soy sauce then you'll love the punchy flavours in this oriental stir fry!
I first made this delicious chilli and black pepper tofu about 10 years ago. At the time I was a big fan of Masterchef and every week I made a recipe at home inspired by the show.
One week on Masterchef all the recipes were vegetarian and so who better to have on the show than Yotam Ottolenghi. Although not a vegetarian, he is well-known for his modern vegetarian recipes. I have to admit that although I had heard a lot about him I hadn't read any of his books or made any of his recipes at that point. Although now, quite a few years later I have made loads of Ottolenghi recipes and have at least two of his recipe books!
As I was watching that old Masterchef episode I was quite impressed by Ottolenghi. He also came across well on the show. He was supportive of the contestants, approachable and just nice, which cannot always be said for John and Greg! If I was looking for someone to help, teach and encourage me with my cooking, he is exactly who I would choose.
I chose to make this chilli and black pepper tofu as it contained lots of chillies, onions, garlic and black pepper. Those are of course some of my favourite ingredients. Also, Ottolenghi said that until he tried this dish, he didn't really like tofu. As I would also consider myself to not really like tofu, this seemed like a good dish to make as a first-time tofu cook.
Another dish, I've since made with tofu and love is this tofu katsu curry
And the verdict?
I would agree with Ottolenghi. Even if you think you don't like tofu, this dish is delicious. The flavours soak into the tofu so that in the end the soy sauce, chillies, garlic and black pepper are what you are actually tasting and so if you like those, then you will like this. Since I first made it, this black pepper chilli tofu recipe has become a regular choice, especially when we feel like eating something vegan.
What ingredients do you need for chilli and black pepper tofu?
To make this tofu stir fry you'll need:
- Tofu - I use extra firm tofu as it contains the least amount of water and we prefer the firmer texture.
- Cornflour - By coating the tofu cubes in cornflour before frying it enables the tofu to crisp up as well as providing a thicker coating for the flavours to soak in once it is stir fried. If you don't like tofu because of the soft texture, this method makes it much more palatable.
- Large red chilli peppers - Depending on how much heat you want in the stir fry, it's best to remove some of the seeds.
- Onion - I usually use a brown onion but a red one is fine too
- Spring onions - These add colour, crunch and flavour!
- Ginger - You need to use fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into batons
- Garlic - You also need to use fresh garlic cloves as you need to be able to stir fry the little slices of garlic along with the ginger, onion and chilli peppers.
- Soy sauce - I use light and dark soy sauce
- Sugar - This dish is best with a little sweetness
- Black peppercorns - I usually crush them in a pestel and mortar but if you don't have fresh black peppercorns you can use a generous teaspoon of ground black pepper
- Vegetable stock - You only need a little to make the sauce and you can use water instead of stock if that's easier.
How to make chilli and black pepper tofu
This tofu recipe is really easy to make.
- Start by pressing the tofu. You can do this in two ways. If you have a tofu press, use that. If you don't, just wrap the tofu up in a clean tea towel or kitchen paper. Place it on a tray and put a heavy saucepan on top. Leave it for half an hour.
- Prepare the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic. Cut them into thin slices so they are ready once you begin stir frying as the stir fry cooks very quickly.
- Once the tofu has been pressed, cut it into 1cm cubes. Put the cornflour in a container with the tofu and shake to coat the cubes in the cornflour.
- Heat about ½ cm of oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the tofu and fry for about 4-5 minutes then turn over and fry on the other side for another 4-5 minutes. It should be crispy and golden brown all over.
- Remove the tofu from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with some kitchen roll underneath to soak up any excess oil.
- Pour away some of the oil from the pan and then stir fry the onion, chilli, garlic and ginger strips. After a couple of minues add the soy sauces, sugar, black pepper and stock. Bring to the boil and then stir in the tofu and spring onion.
- Stir to coat in the sauce and then serve.
Can you adapt the black pepper tofu recipe?
I have adapted this recipe so of course you can adapt it again. You can find the original tofu recipe on the Guardian website if you want to see it. I reduced the amount of black pepper but it you want it to be really peppery then do add some more.
There are lots of other simple additions you could make. Why not add extra vegetables? Mushrooms, sugar snap peas or baby sweetcorn?
What can you serve with this tofu?
Why not cook some simple sticky rice or jasmine rice? Or if you don't want it to be a vegan recipe then egg fried rice?
It is also delicious with noodles. Just use your favourite kind.
Do you need to press the tofu?
You don't have to press the tofu first if you don't have time. However, if you press it, it removes some of the moisture and helps it to crispen up.
How do you press tofu?
It's easy to press tofu. Put some sheets of kitchen roll on a plate. Place the block of tofu on the kitchen roll. Put some more kitchen roll on top and then put a heavy pan on top. Leave it for 30 minutes.
Alternatively you can use a tofu press. I have a TofuBud press which is really easy to use and make it really simple to get the moisture out of the tofu. What I really like about it is that I don't waste as much kitchen roll or have to set up a complicated stack of things on the kitchen counter.
Storing and reheating the leftovers
Any leftover chilli and black pepper tofu can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for at least 3 days.
You can reheat it in the microwave or stir fry it again. If you stir fry it again you will need to add a splash of water to the pan.
Can you freeze crispy stir fried tofu?
Yes, you can freeze this for up to three months. Store it in an airtight container, defrost in the fridge overnight and then just stir fry again with a little extra water if necessary.
More Easy Vegan Recipes
Are you looking for more vegan recipes that are great for main meals too?
How about this one of these:
- Black bean and sweet potato soup
- Spaghetti with an avocado, chilli and lemon sauce
- Nutty roasted romanesco curry
Chilli and Black Pepper Tofu
- 250 g tofu (firm or extra firm) cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2-3 tablespoon cornflour
- 4 large red chilli peppers cut into strips, discard some seeds to suit how hot you want it
- 1 onion cut into slices
- 8 spring onions cut into approximately 3cm long pieces
- 15 g fresh ginger cut into thin sticks
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1.5 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns crushed
- 50 ml water or vegetable stock
- If you have time, press the tofu for 30 minutes before cooking it. You can use a tofu press or wrap it in kitchen roll or a tea towl and place underneath a heavy saucepan to get rid of some of the moisture.
- Heat about ½ cm of oil in a wok. Dip the cubes of tofu in the cornflour and then put in the wok. You may need to do this in two batches. Fry for about 4-5 minutes then turn over and fry for another 4;5 minutes or until each side is golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Pour away most of the oil. Keep the temperature hot. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and onion. Stir fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add the black pepper, soy sauces, sugar and a little water or vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then add the tofu. Heat through then add the spring onions. Give a final stir then serve with rice.
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I am surprised noone has said this, but i followed this original Ottolenghi recipe and it was inedible. 5 tablespoons of crushed pepper! I now know why they reacted as they did when tasting it on masterchef, but noone would say anything. I adore hot food, but this was sickly, and i could not finish it.
I compremised between your version and the original, and it is fantastic.
Like other people, i have added mushrooms, peppers ,broccoli whatever.
it has worked with everything so far.
Tip..stand the tofu on kitchen paper for a good hour before coating and frying. it drys it slightly , so it frys better and becomes more firm.
love it. Having it again tonight.
I Loved this recipe ... but added Mushrooms too ... just a twist!
I really need to give tofu another try. Every time I try to make it, it crumbles in the pan. Even with patting it dry and buying extra firm. Argh. So frustrating. This dish looks delicious. Wish I could have had a try!
Ooh yum, lots of lovely flavours here. I only ever watched Masterchef once and was put off by the general nastiness. But as I like Ottolenghi and you've give this episode such a glowing reference, I'll see if I can watch it on iPlayer.
Corina, this sounds a great recipe. I've always shyed away from tofu so this is now on my to do list. Colourful and hot!
Ellie (Almost Bourdain)
I love tofu in my stir-fry dishes. Love the flavours!
Not a huge tofu fan but I love Ottolenghi recipes. I was lucky enough to dine at the Islington branch and it was fabulous (if expensive). I have the first cookbook and can definitely recommend it.
I have never tried tofu and I see so many recipes that are really mouthwatering. I like this stir fry too. It makes me want to make some tofu right now!
love the recipe. i bet it taste good too!
Leave it to ottolenghi to convert a non-tofu lover. That man is a genius when it comes to vegetarian food! i'll have to try this.
ooh, this looks good - I'm a tad obsessed with tofu and Ottolenghi.