Crispy (breaded or plain) tofu is drizzled in a tangy sriracha sweet and sour sauce with peppers and garlic to make this delicious, better-than-takeout spicy sweet and sour tofu!
I am totally obsessed with this sweet and sour tofu right now. This recipe was originally posted to my blog in 2014, but we remade it recently and decided it could be even better! Out is the slightly underwhelming amount of sweet and sour flavor. In is dousing the whole thing in sweet and sour sauce that’s big on flavor but low in added sugar!
Back in 2014, my sweet and sour tofu photos were good by my standards, which means they were taken at an awkward slant with a scrunched up kitchen towel in the background. Cool. I think I like these new ones better 🙂
Tofu is a strange beast. For the longest time I didn’t love tofu at all, but I now gobble it down. In my early vegan days, I tended toward ambivalence about its soft, boring texture. I kind of felt like I needed to buy it and like it because of all of the stereotypes, but whenever I did, it would fall apart in the pan, or taste like nothing, or just be kind of weird.
Oh, but I had also been completely ignoring everything I was hearing about thoroughly pressing the tofu before using it. Once upon a time I had a pathological inability to follow the instructions of any recipe. I would uncontrollably ignore ingredients that the recipe author included and somehow couldn’t bear to give a thorough reading to the recipe steps.
I saw the pressing step in tofu recipes as something that was easy to skip. I just wanted to do the part where you cook it. I was in Tofu Denial. Even as I pitifully attempted to work with wet, soggy pieces of tofu that CLEARLY hadn’t had liquid removed properly, I would soldier on as if this was totally normal and bound to taste good.
One time I even crumbled a raw block of extra-firm tofu into chili because I saw somewhere, out of the corner of my eye, that it could make chili “meaty”. Guess which can-shaped object that chili ended up in?
Thankfully, I’ve now learned a thing or two in my almost 10 years of being vegan, and I can reliably make tofu that I love! This sweet and sour tofu uses my most common go-to method, which is to press it well, and then simply cube it and bake it until chewy and crisp. No oil needed!
You can then toss your crispy tofu cubes in this delicious sweet and sour sauce, which is sweetened with pineapple juice in place of most of the sugar. I also use tomato paste instead of ketchup. And of course, I add a good dose of sriracha for a kick. The result is a healthy sweet and sour tofu that’s much lower in sugar than the Chinese takeout kind (and not as sickly sweet).
I include juicy bell peppers in this recipe because bell peppers with sweet and sour tofu is a classic pairing. Pictured here I’ve served this recipe as a simple meal with white rice and garnished with scallions and sesame seeds. A side of steamed broccoli, bok choy, or even some fried rice if you’re feeling ambitious, is a great addition too.
I know that a select few folks enjoyed the previous breaded version of this recipe so I’ve also included instructions for that, in the recipe notes. (It’s slightly improved and streamlined from the previous version too).
Baked Spicy, Sweet and Sour Tofu
For the tofu and saute mixture:
- 1 package extra-firm tofu (about 14 oz.)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 bell peppers cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper (optional)
For the sweet and sour sauce:
- 1 cup 100% pineapple juice
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp sriracha or other chili sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tsp cornstarch
Bake the tofu:
- Open the package of tofu and drain it completely. Use a tofu press if you have one, otherwise, layer the tofu with clean towels and place a heavy object on it to press out excess liquid. Let it press for at least 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut the pressed tofu into bite-sized cubes, and arrange them on the baking sheet. Don't crowd the pan - use a second baking sheet if needed.
- Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, flipping the pieces over after 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp on the outside. The tofu will continue to get crispier as it cools.
Meanwhile, prepare the sweet and sour sauce base:
- In a wok or large pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the bell pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the bell pepper is juicy and softened somewhat, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and white pepper (if using), stir, and cook for just 30 seconds more.
- Add the pineapple juice and stir, scraping around the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until the pineapple juice has reduced somewhat.
- Add the rest of the sauce ingredients EXCEPT for the cornstarch, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add more soy sauce, vinegar, or sriracha if desired.
- Whisk the cornstarch together with 2 tablespoons of cold water, then add that mixture to the pan and stir well. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the sauce has become glossy and thickened slightly. If the tofu isn't done baking, you can turn off the heat and wait at this point.
- After taking the tofu out of the oven, add it to the pan with the sauce, and stir together to coat the tofu. Serve hot, garnished with scallions and sesame seeds if desired. I like mine with a side of rice.
Other Asian-inspired tofu recipes on the blog: