Salt and Pepper Tofu (椒盐豆腐)

4.67 from 3 votes
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Salt and pepper tofu has a crispy texture and is bursting with spicy, savory flavors that make it a crowd-pleasing appetizer that will surprise and delight everyone at your table. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Tofu is a healthy and nutritious protein that I love to cook with. So many people don’t realize how easy it is to use, or how delicious it can be. I’m here to change all that with this salt and pepper tofu recipe. It’s absolutely one of my favorite tofu appetizers because it is so simple to make. It takes 10 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. You’ve got a dish that everyone – even those that claim to dislike tofu – will devour.

Chinese fried tofu

Ingredients

There’s brown sugar in this salt and pepper tofu which slightly caramelizes in the pan. The caramelization adds so much delicious flavor to this savory and spicy tofu. Cornstarch is another key ingredient to give you that wonderful crispy-crunchy exterior.

Ingredients for making salt and pepper tofu

Cooking process

You’ll need to use a bit of oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan so you can get the best shallow fried result. I recommend a medium-sized high-walled pan for this, as it will prevent oil splatter.

All you need to do is:

  1. Toss the tofu with the seasonings
  2. Coat the tofu with cornstarch 
  3. Pan fry the tofu
  4. Toss the fried tofu in the salt and pepper mix
Making salt and pepper tofu step-by-step

NOTE:

It’s totally OK if the tofu crumbles a bit as you coat it with the ingredients. Alternatively, you can add all the tofu and the seasonings into a large zip lock bag and shake it, which can keep the tofu more intact.

When you coat the tofu with cornstarch, it’s OK if the coating is not even. The unevenness actually creates a more interesting texture once you cook the tofu.

Chinese salt and pepper tofu

And since no one likes soggy tofu, you’ll be happy to know that once cooked, this salt and pepper tofu will retain its crispness for a while. Yes, even after it cools down. When does it get soggy? That question I can’t answer, since any time I make this dish, no one can stop snacking on these tasty morsels, so it never sits for very long.

Salt and pepper tofu close up

Final thought

One last thing…don’t forget to give this salt and pepper tofu a squeeze of lime before eating it. The bright lime juice is a perfect match for the crunchy and savory bites. It’s the perfect finishing touch that elevates all these flavors, and I know you’re going to love it!

Fried tofu in a bowl
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Salt and pepper tofu has a crispy texture and is bursting with spicy, savory flavors that make it a crowd-pleasing appetizer that will surprise and delight everyone at your table. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Salt and Pepper Tofu (椒盐豆腐)

4.67 from 3 votes
Salt and pepper tofu has a crispy texture and is bursting with spicy, savory flavors that make it a crowd-pleasing appetizer that will surprise and delight everyone at your table. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}
To make a gluten-free version, use dry sherry to replace Shaoxing wine.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Tofu

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 block (16 ounces / 450g) firm tofu , cut into ½ inch (1 cm) squares
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine

Spice Mix

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon five-spice powder

Cooking

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup peanut oil (or just enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
  • sliced pepper , for garnish (Optional)

Instructions

  • To marinate the tofu: Combine the garlic powder, ginger powder, brown sugar, and salt in a big bowl. Stir to mix well. Gently pat the tofu dry with kitchen paper towels. Then add it to the spice bowl and gently mix with a spatula. Pour in the peanut oil and Shaoxing wine. Stir again to mix well. Marinate while preparing other ingredients.
  • For the spice mix: Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl and stir to mix well.
  • To cook the tofu: When you’re ready to cook, Add the cornstarch to the bowl of tofu, 1 tablespoon at a time, and gently mix until the tofu is evenly coated with a thick coating.
  • Add the oil to a medium-sized skillet, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tofu carefully without overlapping. Cook the tofu until the bottom turns golden brown, 3 minutes. Flip to brown the other sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Turn to medium heat if the pan starts to smoke too much. You can stop the cooking once most sides have turned golden and there’s no raw starch left on the surface. But you can also continue browning the tofu a bit more if you like a crunchier texture. Transfer the cooked tofu to a large plate.
  • While the tofu is still hot, sprinkle about half of the spice mix onto it and gently toss it with a pair of tongs. Adjust the taste by adding more spice mix if needed.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature as an appetizer with the remaining spice mix on the side for dipping. Garnish with sliced chili pepper if desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 238kcal, Carbohydrates: 11.4g, Protein: 9.5g, Fat: 18.3g, Saturated Fat: 3.3g, Sodium: 306mg, Potassium: 181mg, Fiber: 1.2g, Sugar: 2.3g, Calcium: 230mg, Iron: 2mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Maggie! Is it really that easy?? I’ve had this at Chinese restaurants before but I think I just assumed the seasoning was a secret mix I would never find out about! Do you think I could sprinkle the salt mix onto crispy baked chicken wings?? I have a feeling that might give me the flavour of the wings I get at Chinese restaurants too!

    • Maggie says:

      Sometimes a restaurant features regional cuisine might grind the chili powder or peppercorn from local grown plants, which makes the seasoning special. But the mix is always simple and easy!
      Yes, you can absolutely dip the chicken wings with the salt blend. I actually have a baked wings recipe that used the exact blend. It worked out wonderful!

  2. Jessica @ Jessica in the Kitchen says:

    I just had tofu last night at a Chinese restaurant! I also love its versatility and taste – and this one looks amazing!!

  3. Thalia @ butter and brioche says:

    Love tofu.. can’t remember the last time I had some. Definitely inspired to make this dish now!

  4. Culinary Flavors says:

    My son loves tofu! I bet these little bars would be perfect for him!

  5. Kelly - Life Made Sweeter says:

    This tofu looks incredible! Love how crispy and flavorful it is! The presentation is so pretty and definitely has me craving for some tofu right now!

  6. Kathleen | HapaNom says:

    5 stars
    This look incredible!!!! I seriously can’t get enough crispy tofu – I could literally eat it everyday! And such gorgeous photos! I’ve never cooked with Sichuan pepper sea salt – I’m going to have to add that to my spice cabinet! This recipe is definitely going to be my next tofu dish!

  7. M. Alex 1977 says:

    4 stars
    Usually I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but this one definitely piqued my interest. Looks really, really delicious, I think I will try this out, since it’s really easy to make.

  8. John-Mark says:

    Since Season with Spice has closed their online store, what proportions of Sichuan pepper and sea salt might you suggest to approximate the seasoning?

    • Maggie says:

      For this recipe, I would use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 ground Sichuan peppercorns.

  9. Soo says:

    the link for the Sichuan pepper sea salt is no good. Can I just make it with sea salt and ground Sichuan pepper? and if so, can you advise what kind of ratio? thank you!! can’t wait to try this recipe during shelter in place!!

    • Maggie says:

      Of course! Try starting with 2 parts salt and 1 part Sichuan pepper. And you can adjust the flavor by slightly increase either.

  10. Alison A says:

    Hi there, I’d love to make this recipe as part of a meal and would love some recommendations on what to serve it with!

  11. okurelin says:

    Hello! I just tried making this and the flavor is amazing, but the tofu I used broke apart when I was preparing it and I got more of a mush than crispy blocks 😂 Maybe I should use extra firm tofu next time?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Yes you can totally use the extra firm! The tofu can be a bit finicky to mix in a bowl. To keep their shape, you can use a ziplock bag (like in the general tso’s tofu) and that should help too.

  12. W2 Wang says:

    5 stars
    Delicious. Even my tofu-rejecting husband liked it.

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