If you’re a peanut lover, you will love this tofu with peanut sauce. Even if you are not a tofu lover.
The spicy peanut-y little pillows are packed with flavor and delicious in veggie bowls and appetizers.
My husband scrunched up his face – not in a good way – when I told him I was trying something with tofu. Until he tried this tofu with peanut sauce appetizer. “This should go on your blog. What is it?” He seemed to not realize (or forget?) the tofu thing. My guests the next night loved it too.
I spent some time researching what type to buy and how to cook it before experimenting with this recipe.
Note to beginners: I’ve shared a few good tips and tofu resources below. Even if you are making this recipe for the first time, you will have no problem nailing it.
I’m always surprised to hear people ask “you made a homemade peanut sauce?” Little do they know it takes about 2 minutes with just a few ingredients.
While there are a few tricks to cooking peanut butter tofu, it’s pretty easy and uses simple ingredients. I’ll definitely be doing more of it.
What is tofu?
Tofu, originating from China, is a food with good nutritional value made of condensed soy milk pressed into solid white blocks.
It’s low calorie (120 calories for 4 ounces), low carb and contains a good amount of protein, iron, calcium and other nutrients. And it’s gluten-free and vegan (with the appropriate ingredients). Sadly, it’s not low fat 🙁
Tips for How To Cook Firm Tofu
Type of tofu to buy
For baking, frying or grilling, use a block of extra-firm tofu or firm tofu. Most come in 14-16 ounce packages, packed in water. Here’s a great article by Kitchn on types of tofu for different uses.
How to drain the tofu
If you want soft and chewy or crispy tofu that doesn’t fall apart, you have to extract the water. This takes at least 20 minutes for a block. Wrap the block in many layers of paper towel or a tea towel. Lay a heavy skillet on top, weighed down by cans or anything heavy. Walk away. Most of the water will soak into the paper or towel.
How to get tofu crispy:
Before baking or frying, to ensure some crispiness, toss the tofu lightly with 2-3 teaspoons of cornstarch. You just need a light dusting. Arrowroot starch is fine too.
Tofu has no taste so it needs a marinade or seasoning. In this recipe, the tofu is tossed before serving with a very flavorful sauce. So all you need for the initial step is a bit of salt.
More resources on how to cook firm tofu
- Pinch of Yum video on how to cook tofu 4 ways,
- Kitchn guide to cooking tofu and
- Delish tofu cooking tips.
Tailor To Your Taste
Here are several variations or adjustments you can try.
- I used a delicious peanut sauce for this recipe, but many other sauces would be great. Teriyaki, Thai, curry and taco-flavored are some good examples.
- You can add more flavor to the peanut sauce if you like with fresh ginger, garlic or a splash of soy and sesame oil.
- And vary the heat with more or less sriracha sauce (or none). I gave quantities in the recipe, but it’s best to taste and adjust as you see fit.
2 Cooking methods
- The tofu can be baked or pan fried as per the instructions in the recipe.
- Baking takes about 15 minutes longer, uses a touch less oil, needs less hands on time and has no fry smell.
- The tofu tastes the same in this recipe with either method so choose what you’re more comfortable with.
- Here’s where you can get creative. Use the tofu in peanut sauce in veggie bowls with quinoa, white rice, rice noodles, avocado, veggies, cauliflower rice, mango, snap peas or whatever you have on hand.
- I used it in an appetizer, filling endive cups (as pictured) or lettuce cups.
- Some good garnishes are chopped cilantro, green onion or parsley, lime/lemon zest, pomegranate seeds (pictured), sesame seeds, chopped peanuts or water chestnuts. Or whatever you like!
How to make tofu with peanut sauce (step by step)
- Instead of making the peanut sauce, buy a good brand at your local store.
- Some Asian stores sell tofu already fried, ready to be mixed with a sauce. The ones I’ve tried, though, tasted too oily to me.
- Instead of fresh garlic and ginger, use frozen cubes or garlic and ginger that comes in a jar.
- Except for the final few minutes to combine the tofu and peanut sauce, you can make everything ahead – draining/pressing the tofu, baking or frying the cubes and making the sauce.
- Leftovers the next day are great cold, too, if you have any.
Other vegetarian appetizers you might like
- endive appetizers with ricotta and gems
- tomato tart with puff pastry
- stuffed mini peppers with goat cheese
- dukkah recipe
- oven roasted garlic recipe
Tofu With Peanut Sauce
- 1 block extra firm tofu or firm tofu packed in water 14 – 16 ounces/397-450 grams)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon canola, avocado or grape seed oil or other vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoon smooth creamy peanut butter (for less sugar, use natural peanut butter)
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce Note 1
- 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (about 1/2 a lime or 1/4 of a lemon)
- sriracha hot sauce to taste start with 1/2 tsp, taste and adjust
- optional: 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce
Options for Garnish or Fillers (choose 1 or more)
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds,
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- drizzle of balsamic reduction
- DRAIN AND PRESS TOFU: You can cut tofu block in half horizontally for this step if you want. Wrap tofu block(s) in a couple of layers of paper towels (or a tea towel). Lay on counter. Place heavy pan or plate over it with cans or other heavy objects to weigh in down. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. 30-60 minutes even better. This will extract most of water from tofu.
- MAKE PEANUT SAUCE: While tofu is draining, combine all peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust to how you like it.
- PREPARE TOFU: Cut tofu in cubes. For appetizers, use small cubes (1/2 inch/1.27 cm). For main course, tofu can be in larger cubes or rectangles. Here's a video on how to cut tofu. Toss gently with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons cornstarch until lightly dusted all over.
- PAN FRY TOFU (Note 2 for baking instead): Heat non stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes. Flip and shake pan as needed until all sides are lightly browned – about 12-15 minutes. If starting to burn, lower heat to medium heat.
- ADD PEANUT SAUCE: Add sauce to pan reserving 2 tablespoons if desired for extra drizzle at serving. Stir gently to coat tofu evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens, browns a bit and coats tofu well.
- SERVE: For appetizers: spoon portions into endive cups or lettuce cups. For main course, place portions into bowls along with rice, avocado, vegetables, etc. Drizzle on reserved extra sauce. Garnish with 1 or more of suggested garnishes or any others you choose. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Substitute for sweet Thai chili sauce: Instead, use a combination of garlic chili sauce (or sriracha) and maple syrup or honey.
- To bake tofu (instead of pan-fry): Note this method takes an extra 15 minutes than pan frying. Heat oven to 400F/204C. Place tofu cubes in a bowl, sprinkle with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper (and a pinch of garlic and 1 tsp sesame oil is optional). Toss gently to coat evenly. Spread onto a baking tray lined with parchment lined paper so pieces aren’t touching each other. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, bake another 15 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
- Serving variation: Instead of using the peanut tofu as an appetizer in endive cups, try it in veggie bowls with quinoa, white rice, rice noodles, avocado, veggies, cauliflower rice, mango, snap peas or whatever you have on hand.
- Make Ahead: Except for the final few minutes to combine the tofu and peanut sauce, you can make everything ahead – draining/pressing the tofu, baking or frying the cubes and making the sauce. Leftovers are great cold, too, the next day if you have any.