Black Pepper Tofu

5 from 3 votes
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Crispy, pan-fried black pepper tofu and crunchy vegetables give you all the texture in a savory, peppery sauce – perfect for a healthy, vegan-friendly meal. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Chinese black pepper tofu on a plate

Black Pepper Tofu: Easy, Meatless, Delicious

Running out of ideas for meatless meals? Black pepper tofu is the perfect answer any night of the week. This satisfying and easy-to-make meal has crunchy tofu bites and vegetables in a wonderfully savory sauce with the fragrance and tang of black pepper.

I have many other tofu recipes. Though this black pepper tofu is becoming a fast favorite. It’s a vegan-friendly recipe so it’s something everyone can enjoy, one that is light yet filling all at once. 

I love the textures in this. And even if you’re not fully smitten with tofu, you will be after you try it in this crispy format. It’s so satisfying to sink your teeth into those goodies, and the sauce just seals the deal!

Best of all, you’ll only need five minutes of prep and ten minutes of cooking to put it all together. What are you waiting for!?

Chopped tofu and other ingredients on a table

The Simple Yummy Sauce

The sauce is a fairly typical brown sauce made with light and dark soy, Shaoxing cooking wine, black pepper, sugar, vegetable bouillon, cornstarch, and vegetable stock. It lends a nice rounded umami that isn’t overpowering on any single dimension.

If you have both dark and light soy, definitely use them both – the dark sauce is more potent and will create a deep brown color. But if you only have light, feel free to skip the dark, adding a touch more of the light sauce to hit the right saltiness level.

Close-up of crispy stir-fried tofu, green pepper, celery, and onion

How to Make the Best Black Pepper Tofu

Texture is a big reason this black pepper tofu is so enjoyable. And the key is to cut the tofu into smaller squares and then pan fry it until it turns golden brown on most sides. This will ensure the tofu is somewhat dehydrated, so the texture will have some chewiness to it.

While it won’t be as crispy as if you had deep-fried it, you’ll still get a nice crispy texture outside with a chewy interior. And it will still be able to soak up plenty of the peppery sauce, so each toothy bite will be full of flavor.

Step-by-step cooking photos for black pepper tofu

A Note on the Black Pepper

I’ve included a teaspoon of black pepper in the recipe below, which creates a pleasantly peppery dish if the pepper is relatively fresh and recently ground.

I’ve cooked with pre-ground black pepper in the past, and it will lose its potency the longer it’s stored. 

If you don’t have fresh-ground pepper (and even if you do) you should follow your taste buds – taste the dish and add more pepper until it hits the sweet spot for you. This brown sauce can withstand quite a bit of peppering and still taste great, so don’t be shy!

Final Thoughts

This is a light and healthy dinner that you can make from start to finish in just 15 minutes. I love black pepper tofu on a busy night because it’s ready to put on the table in no time at all. 

With the bell peppers, onions, and celery, you have all kinds of flavors coming together along with pleasant textures. Since tofu soaks up those flavors and is accented by the light bite of black pepper, you’re really going to love this tofu. 

And even though it’s very light and nutritious, it’s also filling so you’ll feel quite satisfied serving it as your main dish.

If you’re on the fence and can’t decide if you should try this, just do it! It’s a tiny risk to take, and the reward is totally worth it. 😉

Quick, easy, crispy black pepper tofu (vegan)
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Crispy, pan-fried black pepper tofu and crunchy vegetables give you all the texture in a savory, peppery sauce - perfect for a healthy, vegan-friendly meal. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Black Pepper Tofu

5 from 3 votes
Crispy, pan-fried black pepper tofu and crunchy vegetables give you all the texture in a savory, peppery sauce – perfect for a healthy, vegan-friendly meal. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make this dish gluten-free, use tamari to replace the light and dark soy sauce and use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: restaurant-style
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon (or 1 teaspoon mushroom powder)
  • 1/2 cup water (or vegetables stock)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Stir fry:

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil (*Footnote 1)
  • 1 block (14 oz/396 g) extra-firm tofu , cut to 1/2” (1 cm) squares and pat dry
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1/2 ” (1 cm) ginger , minced
  • 1/2 white onion , cut to 1/2” (1 cm) squares
  • 1 bell pepper , cut to 1/2” (1 cm) squares
  • 1 stalk celery , sliced

Instructions

  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tofu and spread it out without overlapping. Let cook without touching until the bottom turns golden brown. Flip the tofu. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most sides turn golden. Transfer the tofu to a big plate.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low. Drain most of the oil from the pan by wiping the pan with a few layers of paper towel held in a pair of tongs. Leave about 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan.
  • Add the garlic and ginger. Stir a few times until it releases the fragrance.
  • Turn to medium-high heat again. Add the onion, pepper, and celery. Cook and stir for another minute, or until the vegetables just start to soften.
  • Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely and pour it into the pan. Stir immediately and cook until the sauce has thickened.
  • Add the cooked tofu back into the pan and toss to coat evenly.
  • Transfer everything to a serving plate. Serve hot over steamed rice as a main dish.

Notes

  1. Using more oil will shallow fry the tofu and create a crispier texture. If you do not wish to use too much oil, you can use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil and pan fry the tofu instead.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 196kcal, Carbohydrates: 12.9g, Protein: 11.1g, Fat: 12.6g, Saturated Fat: 1.7g, Sodium: 742mg, Potassium: 243mg, Fiber: 1.4g, Sugar: 6.3g, Calcium: 186mg, Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

More plant-based Chinese recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Sara Akhand says:

    What’s a good halal/non-alcoholic substitute for Shaoxing wine?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      For this dish I would use chicken stock to replace the Shaoxing wine.
      It can work in many dishes if the wine is not a main ingredient and used in small quantity in a sauce / marinade.

  2. Naomi Y says:

    5 stars
    Tofu was crisp and sauce was delicious.

  3. Lauren says:

    5 stars
    This was great! Definitely will be keeping this in my regular dinner rotation.

  4. Catherine says:

    5 stars
    This was so delicious! I added some fresh jalapeno just because I had it and loved it.

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