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.
Adapted from an older adaptation of mine from Kristy Turner‘s fabulous cookbook, But I Could Never Go Vegan.
Other Asian-inspired tofu recipes on the blog:
Wonderful cook says
I made this tofu dish for dinner last night. Absolutely delicious! I made this for dinner last night. Absolutely delicious!
Awesome recipe! I especially like the breaded version. I used to pan-fry my tofu but now only baking it-comes out better and much easier!
I would definitely warn that that this recipe is quite spicy, but I really like it. I would reduce the chili sauce if you have kids or something. It’s completely delicious though!
My family liked this but I didn’t. I should have been more careful since the title is SPICY Sweet and Sour Tofu. I used only 1/2 the siracha and it was so hot it was almost inedible. The flavor of the tomato paste came out on top of the rest of the flavors in the sauce so it wasn’t so much of a ‘sweet and sour’ sauce. The tofu needed a marinade because it was flavorless and then after it was done baking it was too hard to soak up any flavor. I left the tofu in the oven for the full 40 minutes but should have taken it out after 20 as the bite-size pieces had gotten pretty tough at this point. Also, I try to not comment if I haven’t followed the recipe but this really needed the onions, ginger, both red and green peppers, carrots, broccoli, kale, and pineapple chunks that I added.
I was pleased with how easily this recipe came together, and how authentic it tasted! The only thing I would change next time is to flavor the tofu before baking–maybe making a batch of sauce ahead of time and letting the tofu marinate. Even my picky kid eat it up. 🙂 Thanks for a great and easy-to-follow recipe. I love that there aren’t a million ingredients, and that the ingredients are fairly simple and strait forward, items I would easily have on hand or could pick up a the regular grocery store. Thank you! This will become a regular in our rotation. 🙂
I’m the middle of eating now and my goodness it is so good!!
I’ll have to reduce the sriracha sauce to about 2tsp next time as it’s too spicy for my daughter, but for my husband and I, it’s incredible and it was very quick and easy to make. I’ve already saved the recipe into my regular recipes cookbook.
This was easier than I was expecting and I really enjoyed.it! We dipped the nuggets in ketchup. How long do you think the leftover will last and how do you suggest reheating it?
Karen @ Kama Fitness says
Believe it or not…I have never tried tofu…but your recipe is really making me want to! Yum!
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Thanks, Karen! And I can’t blame you. If I hadn’t tried it before I wouldn’t be appealed to very much by a food that’s basically a beige-colored block =]. But the best thing about tofu is that you can make it whatever flavor you want!
Katie @ Produce on Parade says
What a beautiful crust!! Dang, you’re a superstar 🙂
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Thank you so much, Katie! I still cannot believe that the crust stayed on as well as it did. It’s always tense waiting to find out if things like this will be good when they come out of the oven.. 🙂
Laura @ the gluten-free treadmill says
You had me at hello with Sriracha! I am definitely making these this week! Ah-mah-zing!
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Thanks Laura! Sriracha just has some kind of power over me =]
Yum! These look awesome. And I think your cooking-as-black-box experience is extremely common. I know I get a lot of comments on my recipes like “this did NOT work for me” and I ask if they changed it and they’re like “well I didn’t use X or Y and I skipped this direction and only baked it fifteen minutes BUT..” Haha, well yeah, I think I know why it didn’t work for you!
We’re starting our first veggie csa soon and I’m so stoked! Such a relevant note to end on… But oh! Freezing and thawing tofu changed my life! Changed. My. Life.
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Thanks. And seriously. I guess I used to be that person, but at a certain point, I realized that if I changed a recipe a bunch and it didn’t work, then I at least didn’t have the right to complain about it to the recipe author. Oh well..
That’s great you’re starting your first CSA! I think you’re gonna love it 🙂 I don’t think Maryland will thaw anytime soon so I probably have to wait at least another month for mine.
Oh yeah, we’re not starting ours til we’re back from the honeymoon in about May! But to me that’s soon, since I’m excited 🙂