Sweet and Sour Tofu

Sweet Sour Tofu | Omnivore's Cookbook

“Sweet and sour” is such a popular flavor profile for Chinese food that you see it everywhere. No matter whether with pork, chicken, veggies or tofu, if the food is indicated as “sweet and sour”, it must taste good, right? My answer is a big YES, after I did this experiment to cook tofu with sweet and sour sauce.

I never tried to cook sweet and sour tofu until today, and I’m so regretful; I really should have cooked this earlier, because it is SO GOOD.

The truth is, I’m a big fan of meat and poultry dishes, so if I ever decide to make stir-fry, chicken and pork are always at the top of my list as far as ingredients go. I like tofu, no matter whether the appetizing mapo tofu, or the tofu in the soothing hot and sour soup. However since I am not a vegetarian, I never consider using tofu as a substitution for meat or poultry to create new dishes. That is, not until I came across this sweet and sticky cashew tofu on olives for dinner.

Sweet Sour Tofu | Omnivore's Cookbook

This sweet and sour tofu tastes so satisfying with this thick savory sauce with a wonderful fragrance of sweetness. It has a texture similar to that of pan-fried cheese (saganaki, anyone?) and feels a bit like eating meat. The tofu is pre-grilled, so it has a crispy and smoky surface, with a soft texture inside. The grilled tofu is much easier to handle during cooking and won’t break apart when stirred. It also absorbs more sauce than normal tofu.

This sweet and sour tofu is a no-fail dish and is very versatile. Since you need to grill the tofu and prepare the sauce and vegetables separately, you could easily double the sauce to serve with rice, or add/reduce the variety and amount of vegetables. Assemble the bowl any way you like!

If you add a few types of steamed or blanched vegetables to serve with the tofu on top of steamed rice, it would be a great post-run or post-workout dish, which provides high quality protein, and good amounts of fiber and carbs. Plus, the dish has numerous health benefits. It contains no cholesterol and is high in manganese, selenium, and vitamins B6 and C.

If you’re a fan of the sweet and sour flavor, try this one out and you’ll fall in love with tofu!

Sweet Sour Tofu | Omnivore's CookbookSweet Sour Tofu | Omnivore's Cookbook


5.0 from 3 reviews
Sweet and Sour Tofu
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The recipe will generate 2 serves as main dish with steamed rice, or 4 serves as side dish.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 2 - 4
sweet and sour sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or water for a non-alcoholic dish)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons water
tofu and vegetables
  • 1/2 head small broccoli, cut into bite size florets
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pack tofu (385 grams), cut into squares (*see footnote)
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 4 - 6 shiitake mushroom, sliced
  • 2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  1. Mix all the ingredients for sweet and sour sauce in a bowl, set aside.
  2. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add broccoli and boil until cooked through. Drain well and place in a plate.
  4. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  5. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet at medium high heat. When oil is warm, carefully place tofu into skillet. Grill the tofu until the bottom side turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip tofu with a spatula and grill the other side to the same doneness. Transfer tofu to a plate and set aside.
  6. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  7. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  8. Add a tablespoon of oil into the same skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add onion and stir several times. Add mushroom and stir fry till onion turns golden and mushroom is fully cooked. Lightly season with salt and mix well. Transfer the cooked onion and mushroom to a plate and set aside.
  9. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  10. In the same skillet, add the rest of the oil, garlic and ginger. Cook at medium heat and stir until fragrant. Add the sweet and sour sauce and simmer until the sauce is getting thick, for 1 to 2 minutes, while stirring continuously. Add the cooked tofu and mix well with the sauce. Cook until the sauce has reduced to the desired thickness and stop heat.
  11. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  12. Sweet Sour Tofu cooking process | Omnivore's Cookbook
  13. In a large bowl, add broccoli, onion and mushroom. Pour the tofu and all the sauce on top. Serve with steamed rice or noodles.
You can either choose to press or not to press the tofu before cooking. For pressed and grilled tofu, it will be tougher and have the texture of pan-fried cheese. If you do not press the tofu, it will have a tender texture after cooking. The grilled tofu will still contain some water and might dilute the sauce when added them back into the skillet in the last step. You should boil it a bit longer in this case in order to thicken the sauce.

The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 4 servings produced by the recipe.

Sweet Sour Tofu nutrition facts | Omnivore's Cookbook


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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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22 thoughts on “Sweet and Sour Tofu

    1. Maggie Post author

      Me too! I forget about tofu all the time. But thinking about how healthy it is, I’m trying to use tofu to create more dishes lately. Let me know how the cooking goes! 🙂

    1. Maggie Post author

      Yep, it’s so easy to cook, and definitely a no-fail dish! Tofu will be filling and give you satisfaction like meat if you make some appetizing sauce. Happy cooking! 🙂

    1. Maggie Post author

      Thanks Sarah! Tofu is indeed very versatile, great in stir-fry, soup or stew. I really need to look into this and to use tofu more. It’s a very healthy ingredient and low in calories too.

  1. Thomas

    I just cooked this and it totally rocks!

    I didn’t realize how much better tofu gets if you press it with paper towels to get the water out. That made a huge difference in the texture, and I’m going to do that to all my stir fried tofu from now on.

    Also – tomato paste in sweet-n-sour? Who knew? It adds a perfect slightly sweet umami to the dish that I hadn’t tasted in Chinese food before. Great recipe!

    1. Maggie Post author

      Thanks! So glad you like this dish 🙂
      Yes, the tofu will get quite firm during cooking if you press the water out. If you want the tofu become drier, you could put is in a drainer (I often use 2 chopsticks to do this) to let the water drip in about 30 minutes. Same idea for draining normal yogurt to get Greek yogurt. 🙂

  2. riska

    Hi Maggie,

    This is so perfect dish for beginner and very easy, such no fail dish. Can i replace tomato paste with tomato sauce? if can will it be the same amount as tomato paste? thank you.

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Riska, yes, you can use 1/2 cup tomato sauce to replace the tomato paste and skip the water. The dish might end up a bit sweeter, since tomato paste is a bit sour than tomato sauce. What you can do is only adding 1/2 tablespoon sugar when you’re mixing the sauce and taste it. You can add the rest sugar if it’s not sweet enough. Hope this could help and happy cooking! 🙂

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Janet, if you’re based in the US, you can try “House Foods” (you should be able to find it at most Asian market, Whole Foods or other upscale supermarket). If you cannot find this brand, actually you won’t go very wrong with the dish if you just pick any packaged tofu with the right type. If this is your first time cooking with tofu, you can get the firm type (http://www.house-foods.com/product/PREMIUM+TOFU+FIRM+16+oz./). When you get used to handling tofu, I will suggest using medium firm type (http://www.house-foods.com/product/PREMIUM+TOFU+MEDIUM+FIRM+16+oz./). It’s a bit delicate, so you need to pay some attention not to break them during the cooking. But it will generate a very tender texture with a crispy surface, which I enjoy the most. Hope this is helpful.
      Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out 🙂