Here's an easy and versatile 30-minute tofu stir fry with your favorite veggies and a tasty sauce that makes it better than a takeaway.
Serve this quick Asian-inspired meal with noodles or rice as a weeknight dinner or wholesome lunch idea.
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Firm and extra-firm tofu is an excellent ingredient and meat substitute in stir fries thanks to its compact texture, high protein content, and neutral flavor that goes wonderfully with most veggies and sauces.
In this blog post, you'll learn how to make a tasty Asian-inspired tofu stir fry in less than 30 minutes without having to press the tofu.
Also, there's no need for a wok or unusual ingredients.
We'll show you how to serve it with noodles and rice.
What is stir-frying?
Stir-frying is a cooking method that originates in China and is now popular worldwide, including in America and Europe.
It's similar to sautéing, and although in Asian cooking, a wok is used, you can easily stir fry at home with a western-style nonstick pan or cast iron skillet (we strongly recommend nonstick for tofu).
While millions of regional variations exist, one should know two main stir-frying techniques: Bao and Chao.
Both use high temperatures; the main difference is that Bao stir-frying is essentially done with oil as the only liquid; there is no sauce and a little seasoning.
Chao stir-frying uses oil at first to create a flavor base and adds a sauce towards the end to flavor the ingredients.
For our tofu stir-fry, we use the Chao method and add a quick and tasty sauce to coat the tofu and the veggies and make them extra delicious.
The result is an incredible combination of flavors, textures, and colors and one of the best stir fry tofu dishes you'll ever have.
Use firm or extra firm tofu for this tofu stir fry recipe. They are more compact and won't fall apart in the pan.
They also pan-fry well and turn crisp and golden brown without too much trouble. To pan-fry the tofu, you'll need vegetable oil (we use canola oil or sunflower seed oil).
Avoid soft tofu and silken tofu here. They would disintegrate in the pan.
Note: although the vast majority of food sites instruct their readers to press tofu like the world would end if they didn't, there is no need to press tofu.
Pressing tofu is not common in Asian countries where tofu is consumed as a staple, and we don't recommend doing it in our blog.
We took plenty of cooking classes in Asia and ate a ton of tofu, but never was it pressed. Pressing takes time and ruins the texture of tofu, making it dry, crumbly, and rubbery.
We stir fry with broccoli, yellow or red bell pepper, and mushrooms. You can use your favorite veggies; we recommend sticking to three max.
Some vegetables that stir fry well are:
|Bell peppers of any color||Cut into 1-inch squares or sliced into strips|
|Green beans||Trim edges and cut in half|
|Baby corn||Cut in half lengthwise|
|Carrots||Cut into thin slices|
|Bok choy||Whole or chopped|
|Peas and snap peas||Whole|
|Scallions||thinly slice the white and light green part|
|Zucchini||Cut in half lengthwise, then into half moons|
|Eggplant||Cut into dice|
Ginger, Garlic, and Chili
Grated ginger, grated garlic, and red pepper flakes (or Chinese dried chilis) add a ton of flavor and aroma to the stir fry. Plus, they make your kitchen smell amazing.
Scallions (green onions)
Green onions, scallions, or spring onions are helpful to add flavor, freshness, and color to the tofu stir fry.
Use the white and light-green part in the stir fry with the other veggies and the darker green part to garnish on top.
If you can't find scallions, replace them with basil or coriander.
Stir fry sauce
- Soy sauce: you can use soy sauce, reduced-sodium soy sauce, tamari sauce, and coco aminos for a gluten-free alternative.
- Vinegar: you can use rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
- Sugar: white or brown. It also works with maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup.
- Sesame oil: we use raw sesame oil (not toasted sesame oil) for stir-frying. If you don't have that, use vegetable oil such as canola or sunflower. Sesame oil makes the stir-fry taste somewhat authentic, and we love it. You can order it online.
- Corn starch: to help make the sauce a little thicker and make it stick to the tofu and veggies.
- Salt and black pepper
Note: if you like your stir fry saucier, add ½ cup of vegetable broth or water to the sauce.
Serve it with
Rice: it's perfect with any boiled rice, including white rice, brown rice, and cauliflower rice.
Noodles: tofu stir fry works with most noodles, so pick your favorite one. Cook the noodles per package instructions and toss them in the stir fry. We tried rice noodles, udon noodles, lo mein noodles, soba noodles, ramen, and vermicelli.
Sesame seeds: to garnish.
Prep the ingredients
Take the tofu out of the package, pat it dry with a paper towel, and cut it into ⅔ Inch (1.7 cm) cubes.
Cut the mushrooms into quarters, the bell pepper into ⅔ Inch (1.7 cm) squares, and the broccoli into small florets.
Cut the scallions into thin slices, then separate the white and light-green parts from the darker-green tops.
Make the stir-fry sauce in a small bowl by whisking together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper.
To a large nonstick skillet, warm up half the vegetable oil, add the diced tofu, season it with salt, and fry on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping it every 3 minutes.
When the tofu is golden-brown, transfer it onto a plate and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean with a kitchen towel, and add the remaining vegetable oil and chopped mushrooms, bell pepper, and broccoli.
Stir fry the veggies on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, moving them around the pan often until they brown slightly.
Tip: if you like crunchy veggies, cook them less; if you like softer veggies, stir fry them for longer.
Add the white and light-green parts of the scallions, grated garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.
Toss for 1 minute until you smell their fragrance, then add the tofu and stir with the veggies for one more minute.
Add the sauce
Turn the heat down to medium, add the sauce, and stir fry for 2 more minutes, moving the ingredients around the pan often.
Tip: if you like a saucier consistency in your stir fry, add ½ cup of vegetable broth.
Serve immediately on boiled rice and sprinkle with a pinch of sesame seeds, green onion tops, and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil.
Alternatively, boil your favorite noodles per package instructions, add them to the pan with the stir-fried tofu, add ½ cup of vegetable broth and toss on high heat for 1 minute.
Serve the stir-fried tofu with noodles in a bowl with a pinch of chopped scallion tops, sesame seeds, and a drizzle of sesame oil.
You can serve it alongside an Asian-style starter or side dish, such as:
- Spring rolls
- Hot and sour soup
- Korean cucumber salad
Kung pao tofu
Kung pao tofu is a type of marinated stir-fried tofu with crunchy peanuts and a piquant, sweet, and savory blend of flavors.
It's easy to make and delicious, perfect as an alternative to our tofu stir fry recipe.
Check out our Kung Pao Tofu recipe.
Braised tofu is almost like a stir fry but with more sauce. The tofu and the veggies are first stir-fried in a pan; then, they are simmered in a rich, delicious, dark sauce that you can make with a few simple ingredients.
Check out our braised tofu recipe.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. Reheat in the microwave or on a pan with a dash of water.
Freezer: you can freeze leftover stir-fried tofu. However, its texture will change slightly—Thaw in the microwave. Reheat on a pan with some sauce to boost flavor.
Stir fries cook (and burn) fast; prep all your ingredients before you start cooking for the best result and an enjoyable cooking experience.
Use a nonstick pan
We are big fans of cast iron skillets, except when cooking tofu. Tofu sticks badly to cast iron unless your pan is perfectly seasoned or you add a ton of oil, so we recommend using nonstick instead.
Use firm tofu or extra firm tofu for stir fry.
Tofu takes about 8 to 12 minutes to fry on a nonstick pan on medium heat with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Flip it every 3 minutes when frying tofu, and don't move or touch it while it fries.
No, you don't have to press tofu. Pressing tofu is a mostly unnecessary step that renders the tofu dry, rubbery, and crumbly if done improperly.
There is no need to press the tofu for stir fry. Pressing tofu is not common in Asian cooking, and we do not recommend you do it. It's an extra step that adds time and ruins the texture of the tofu.
First, pick the correct type of tofu, which in most stir fries would be firm or extra firm tofu. Second, don't press the tofu. Third, cut the tofu into ⅔ to 1-inch dice with a sharp knife before stir-frying it.
There are several reasons why your vegetables might turn out soggy in a stir fry:
1) you overcooked them - stir fry at medium-high heat for a short time, not low heat for a long time.
2) you added too much liquid - only add liquid at the end, not much of it.
3) you overcrowded the pan - use a large pan or fewer veggies.
4) you didn't stir enough - stir fry requires almost constant stirring of the veggies so that the steam gets out of the pan and the veggies scorch evenly on the hot pan without getting soggy.
More tofu recipes
If you love cooking with tofu, check out these quick and easy tofu recipes with plant-based ingredients:
- Tofu curry: an easy and delicious curry in 30 minutes
- Air fryer tofu: the easiest way to cook tofu in a quick and crispy way
- Lemon tofu: sliced tofu fried with a quick 10-minute lemon sauce
- Tofu scramble with veggies, a perfect breakfast or quick lunch
- Marinated tofu in 30 minutes; it's perfectly charred and chewy!
- Italian pizzaiola tofu with plenty of tomato sauce and Mediterranean herbs
- Cream cheese made with tofu and perfect in bagels and with bread!
- Tofu salad with fried tofu and ultra-smooth tahini dressing
More Asian-inspired recipes
For more Asian-style recipes, try these wholesome and vibrant dinner ideas:
- Kung pao tofu with peanuts, chili, and jerky-like tofu cubes
- Sweet and sour eggplant: a great side dish with rice and noodle-dishes
- Vegan orange chicken: the best plant-based alternative to orange chicken
- Asian-style tofu soup with seasonal vegetables and noodles
For many more tofu ideas, check out our tofu category page.
Tofu Stir Fry
- Large non-stick pan
- 14 - 16 ounces tofu firm or extra-firm
- 1 bell pepper yellow or red
- 6 mushrooms white or brown
- 1 - 1½ cups broccoli cut in small florets
- 2½ tablespoons canola oil or sunflower oil
- 3 scallions
- 3 cloves garlic grated
- 2 teaspoons ginger grated
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
Stir fry sauce
- ⅓ cup soy sauce we use reduced-sodium
- 2 tablespoons vinegar rice, white, or apple cider
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
PREP THE INGREDIENTS
- Take tofu out of package, pat dry, and cut into ⅔ Inch (1.7cm) cubes.Cut mushrooms into quarters, bell pepper into ⅔ Inch (1.7cm) squares, and broccoli into small florets.Thinly slice scallions, then separate white and light-green part from dark green tops.
- Make stir-fry sauce in a small bowl by whisking together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper.
- In a large nonstick pan, warm up 1½ tablespoons of oil, add diced tofu, season it with salt, and fry on medium heat for 10 minutes.Flip it every 3 minutes. When golden-brown remove transfer onto a plate and set aside.
- Wipe pan clean with kitchen paper, add 1 tablespoon of oil, chopped mushrooms, broccoli, and bell pepper. Stir fry veggies on medium-high heat for 2 minutes, moving them around the pan often, until slightly brown.
- Add the white and light-green parts of the scallions, grated garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.Toss for 1 minute then add tofu and stir for 1 more minute.
- Turn heat down to medium, add sauce, and stir fry 2 more minutes, moving ingredients around the pan.Tip: if you like a saucier consistency add ½ cup of water or vegetable broth.
- Serve on boiled rice with a pinch of sesame seeds, scallion tops, and a few drops of sesame oil.
- Alternatively, boil your favorite noodles per package instructions, drain them, add them to the pan with stir-fry, add ½ cup of vegetable broth, and toss on high heat for 1 minute.
- Serve the stir-fried tofu with noodles in a bowl with a pinch of chopped scallion tops, sesame seeds, and a few drops of sesame oil.
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