Vegan Black Pepper Tofu Recipe – Better than Takeout


Looking for a vegan tofu recipe to curb your takeout cravings? Try this quick and easy black pepper tofu stir fry recipe. Crispy tofu cubes tossed in a sticky-sweet & spicy black pepper sauce. 

side view of a bowl of rice topped with vegan black pepper tofu

 Sweet & Spicy Chinese Black Pepper Tofu might be the king of all Vegan Tofu recipes 

Tofu – a vegan meat substitute that has left me seriously underwhelmed many many times. Enter Black Pepper Tofu. Sweet, sticky, spicy, chewy, crispy! It rocked my world and I KNOW it will rock yours! A flavor-packed takeout meal that’s totally doable on a weeknight.

Black pepper tofu! Let’s talk about this: The sauce is a punchy combo of umami bombs laces with freshly crushed black pepper, spring onions and a kick of heat.

This restaurant favorite is Chinese in origin and traditionally prepared with chicken. This vegan recipe uses a full tablespoon of black pepper, which may seem like a lot and yes, it does add spiciness. But somehow it’s still not too overpowering. Plus, the maple syrup helps level out the heat.

side view close up of vegan black pepper tofu stir fry served on white rice

How to make tofu taste good? 

When it comes to tofu dishes it really all comes down to the correct cooking method…For me, the way to go is pressing the tofu, then marinating the dried, well-pressed tofu in a little umami – like soy sauce. Now you can either go the low-fat route and bake the tofu or sprinkling it with cornstarch and frying it in a little oil until golden and beautifully crispy.

In this take-out style vegan tofu recipe, lovely chewy tofu pieces are served with an aromatic Chinese-style black pepper sauce.

The delicious sticky sweet sauce has the same fiery, umami-qualities you love about classic Chinese takeout dishes while foregoing the grease and tons of sugar.

black peppercorns on a silver spoon

Is Black Pepper Tofu spicy? 

Add just as much chili and pepper to this vegan recipe as you can handle, bearing in mind that chilli seeds will also add another kick dimension. The amount listed in the recipe makes for a medium spicy Black Pepper Tofu, that I feel anyone should be able to handle. 

However, if you aren’t a fan of spicy food, start with 1/2 chili and make sure to remove the seeds and those little white ribs to make this dish even milder. You could also cut back on some of the black peppercorns!

side view close-up of Chinese tofu in black pepper sauce served over white rice

Speaking about peppercorns. I made this recipe with both just black pepper and a peppercorn medley, so a combination of red, white, green, and black peppercorns. I liked both versions – so whatever pepper you have at home, use that. 

So, I run the peppercorns through my spice grinder or crush them with a mortar and pastel – depending on my mood that day. I don’t mind coarse peppers, but if you’re particular about that, and don’t like bits of peppercorn running through your sauce, grind finely. 

What to serve with Vegan Black Pepper Tofu: 

  • Serve this meatless Asian-inspired main over rice, black rice or cauliflower rice for an easy, flavorful weeknight meal. 
  • Zoodles or sweet potato noodles are also a great idea if you want to keep the sides low carb.
  • Sauteed Bok Choi makes for a brilliant healthy side. 
  • I have served this as a filling for lettuce wraps as part of a Korean-American-Chinese mishmash kinda dinner. It was fantastic.

a bowl of vegan black pepper tofu served over white rice

Recipe variation: Black Pepper Tofu with Eggplant: 

I sometimes add onion, eggplant and red bell pepper to this recipe get in some more veggies. 1 sliced onion, 1 Chinese eggplant, and 1 cubed red bell pepper to be more specific. 

Cut the eggplant into 1 cm thick rounds, rub with salt and put them aside for 10 minutes. Then rinse and pat dry, cut into cubes. Fry them in 2 tbsps of coconut oil until creamy on the inside.

In step 3 of the recipe, start by sauteeing the onion, add the bell pepper cubes and stirfry 2 minutes, then add the chili, spring onions, garlic, ginger, etc like in the recipe. Add eggplants in when you add the tofu.

Tips for making this Vegan Black Pepper Tofu recipe: 

  • Pressed tofu absorbs flavors better so take the extra minutes to press it. To press the tofu, take a bunch of kitchen towels and a heavyweight pan. I always use the lid of my Dutch oven. Wrap your tofu in a bunch of layers of paper towel, place it on a flat plate and weigh it down with something heavy. A pan, heavy lid, a can, etc. Once the paper towel becomes soaking wet, change for a new double layer. Repeat a few times until the paper towel stays almost dry. 
  • This vegan tofu stir fry is a little spicy because of the red chilis and black peppercorns. If you aren’t a fan of spicy food, start with 1/2 chili and make sure to remove the seeds and white ribs to make it milder. You could also cut back on some of the black pepper to preference!
  • Make sure you use EXTRA firm tofu. It will produce the crispiest cubes by far. 
  • You can use all black peppercorns or a medley of different colored peppercorns. 
  • If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use a mild white vinegar.

More vegan Asian recipes: 

Did you make and love this vegan tofu stir-fry recipe? Give it your review below! And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram!

side view of vegan black pepper tofu served over a bed of white rice
5 from 6 votes
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Vegan Black Pepper Tofu Recipe

Looking for a vegan tofu recipe to curb your takeout cravings? Try this quick and easy black pepper tofu stir fry recipe. Crispy tofu cubes tossed in a sticky-sweet & spicy black pepper sauce. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Keyword black pepper tofu, vegan tofu recipe, vegan tofu stir fry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 - 3
Calories 650 kcal
Author Kiki Johnson

Ingredients

Tofu

  • 400 g extra firm tofu I block, pressed - see notes
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce tamari sauce for gluten-free
  • cornstarch
  • 3-4 tbsp high smoke oil or l-2 tbsp if you bake your tofu

For the sauce

  • 5 tbsp tamari / 80 ml for gluten-free version or soy sauce
  • 5 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup or dark brown sugar / 40 ml
  • 3 level tsp cornstarch
  • 4 large garlic cloves chopped very finely
  • 6 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 red chilli pepper sliced thinly
  • 4 small spring onions sliced thinly
  • 3 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut pressed tofu (see notes)  into equal size cubes. Pour 2 tbsp of tamari or soy sauce over the dried tofu and toss so that it’s covered evenly. Only quick marination is needed. The tofu will be later coated in sauce.

  2. Dust the tofu in a thin layer of cornstarch, shake off any excess. If you prefer to bake your tofu skip this step.

For pan frying

  1. Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a wok or pan. Once the oil gets hot start frying your tofu in 4 batches. Watch over it carefully and turn often so that it does not burn. Once the first batch is nicely browned, remove tofu from the pan and place it in a piece of kitchen towel to drain the excess oil off. Continue with the remaining 3 batches.

For baking

  1.  If you prefer to bake your tofu, heat up the oven to 180º C / 360º F and spread tofu pieces on a baking tray. Bake them for about 20-25 minutes, flipping tofu once halfway through baking.

  2. In a bowl, mix tamari (or soy sauce), rice wine vinegar and maple syrup with 6 tbsp (90 ml) of water. In a separate small bowl prepare cornflour slurry (mix 3 tsp of cornflour with 2 tbsp of water), which helps to thicken the sauce slightly.
  3. Once you finish frying the tofu, wipe the wok with a piece of kitchen towel to get rid of any starchy residue. Pour another tbsp of oil in and add sliced white parts of spring onions and sliced chilli. Save the green bits as a garnish.

    Fry gently on medium heat until they both soften, for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes add pressed garlic cloves and grated ginger and fry for a bit stirring constantly so that they don’t burn.

  4. Push the contents of the wok to the side and pour in the frying sauce you prepared earlier along with the cornflour slurry (stir the slurry well before adding as the cornflour might be stuck a bit to the bottom). Mix the two together and let the sauce come to a gentle boil. 

    Let the sauce bubble gently for a minute or two so that it thickens a bit. Now incorporate softened spring onions, chilli, ginger and garlic mixture back into the sauce and add ground pepper to taste.

  5. Add fried or baked tofu to the sauce to warm it up gently. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

Recipe Notes

  • Pressed tofu absorbs flavors better so take the extra minutes to press it. To press the tofu, take a bunch of kitchen towels and a heavyweight pan. I always use the lid of my Dutch oven. Wrap your tofu in a bunch of layers of paper towel, place it on a flat plate and weigh it down with something heavy. A pan, heavy lid, a can, etc. Once the paper towel becomes soaking wet, change for a new double layer. Repeat a few times until the paper towel stays almost dry. 
  • Make sure you use EXTRA firm tofu. It will produce the crispiest cubes by far
  • This vegan tofu stir fry is a little spicy because of the red chilis and black peppercorns. If you aren’t a fan of spicy food, start with 1/2 chili and make sure to remove the seeds and white ribs to make it milder. You could also cut back on some of the black pepper to preference!
  • You can use all black peppercorns or a medley of different colored peppercorns. 


6 Comments


  1. I’m really coming to love tofu, but I’ve never thought of preparing it like this. I love the heat of pepper – I’m sooo going to make this!


  2. you had me at stick-sweet spicy sauce. this looks so YUMMY!


  3. Love tofu in any form. This sounds amazing delicious.yummy!


  4. I love how tasty this is!! Everyone at my house loved it.

  5. Shadi Hasanzadenemati


    I was looking for a recipe like this, thank you for sharing!


  6. I loved the tip about marinating the tofu. It gives it so much more flavor.

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