Crispy sweet-sour tofu is a super simple and superfast healthy tofu dish. With its crunchy edges and soft core every piece of tofu gussied up in a sticky, yummy, thick glaze is an explosion of flavor. The light crunchy texture of a handful of vegetables amps it up from an everyday dish into a festive appetizer.
This is the crispy sweet and sour tofu recipe that I grew up eating. So, I don’t claim it to be the authentic fried tofu with sauce recipe, but this is the taste my palate has developed an appreciation for.
My mom would keep things simple or, when the mood struck her, towards the sweeter side, sneaking in pineapple pieces in there. If you’re a sucker for sweet fried tofu, I recommend switching sugar for pineapple juice.
Me? I love things a bit saucier, so this crispy tofu has impeccably balanced sweet and salty flavors.
And that’s what makes me a fan of tofu recipes – it’s a blank canvas that you can paint in infinite, inventive ways. And the texture is all kinds of heaven: fried and crunchy, tender and moist.
WHY TRY THIS PAN-FRIED TOFU?
Healthy and hearty
Easily customizable and incredibly versatile
HOW TO MAKE CRISPY SWEET-SOUR TOFU?
Step 1: Cut your block of tofu into small pieces and lay them down on a tray lined either with a kitchen towel or a paper napkin.
Step 2: Now cover them with another towel or napkin and weigh them down with a tray. This helps squeeze out the excess moisture and make crispy tofu bites.
Step 3: Leave the tofu pieces to drain for half an hour (or an hour if you have the time). If you’re pressed for time, 15 minutes will suffice; just make sure you ring out as much water as you can.
Step 4: Use this time to get the sauce ready by whisking together cornstarch, soy sauce, white vinegar, tomato paste, ketchup, sugar, and water. Set it aside.
Step 5: Next, chop your sweet and sour tofu ingredients - finely minced ginger and garlic, diced onion, and green, red, and yellow bell peppers.
Step 6: Take your drained tofu and toss it with cornstarch. It’s a simple coating, but I’ve learned it gives the crispiest result.
Step 7: In a skillet, heat the peanut oil, and then pan-fry the tofu pieces until each side is nicely golden and crispy.
Step 8: The tofu goes into a bowl, and then you stir-fry the rest of the ingredients in the same skillet. Toss the ginger and garlic first, until fragrant. Then add the onions and bell peppers. I don’t like to cook them for very long. A few tosses, and they’re done.
Step 9: Add the tofu sauce and cook for a minute or two till it is reduced into a thick, bubbly glaze that packs a flavorful punch.
Step 10: Throw in the tofu, cook for a minute or two, and your pan-seared tofu recipe is ready.
Final step: Serve piping hot with a garnish of green onions and sesame seeds!
SERVING & STORING CRISPY TOFU WITH SAUCE
Crispy sweet-sour tofu keeps great company with anything: a bed of sticky white rice, regular rice, or as a side to noodles. The trick is to serve immediately. The longer the tofu soaks in the sauce, the more it loses that tender-crisp texture.
You can refrigerate leftovers. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Is this a make-ahead recipe for sweet and sour tofu?
Yes, it is.
You can make the sauce and chop the ingredients ahead of time. Drain the tofu and pan-fry it beforehand, too. Assemble everything in the pan just before it is time to serve.
NOTES ON HOT AND SOUR TOFU
- Don’t worry if the tofu breaks a bit when you toss it with cornstarch. They merely add to the texture.
- The cornstarch helps the tofu stay crispy, plus we’re not cooking it too long in the sauce. Just enough to let the syrupy glaze lend flavor.
- There are no hard and fast rules with crispy tofu sauces. You can bring it to any consistency you like. If it’s too thick, add water or stock.
- You can taste and adjust the seasoning before you take it off the heat:
- Make it a sweet tofu recipe by upping the sugar.
- Give it some heat with chili flakes or sauce.
- Pack it with a sharp tang with more vinegar.
- The portions of my recipe are perfect for 2 people with a good appetite, but you can easily double or triple it.
MY TIPS ON PAN FRIED TOFU RECIPE
- It’s an easy pan-fried tofu recipe that comes together in a blaze. Prep all the ingredients, and you'll make it without a glitch.
- Crispy is not a fan of moisture, so it is really, really important to dry the tofu thoroughly. The drier it is, the crisper its exterior, and the more tender its interior.
- Slicing the tofu first and then drying it is simpler and, let me tell you, much faster than drawing water from a whole block of tofu.
HOW TO COOK TOFU IN A PAN?
Make sure the oil is hot and you don’t overcrowd the skillet. Spread the pieces in an even layer, and if they stick together, carefully separate them using a wooden spoon or chopsticks.
Pan-fry them over medium-high heat until crispy on both sides. I used a non-stick pan, but a cast-iron one will work too (you may need to add more oil).
HOW LONG TO PAN FRY TOFU?
Take your time. Let the first side of the tofu cook undisturbed till it is deep brown, and then flip it gently so there is less of a chance of it breaking.
VARIATIONS OF SWEET AND SOUR TOFU
Bake it: If you don’t want to sweat over a stovetop, instead of a fried tofu recipe, make it baked. Place your cornstarch and oil-tossed tofu pieces on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 mins at 200 °C. Oven temperatures differ, so do keep an eye on it toward the end.
You can also use your air-fryer for this step!
Tofu: Paneer is a fantastic substitute for this Asian tofu dish. Or you can leave both out and use only vegetables. If vegan sweet and sour tofu is not what you’re looking for, switch tofu with chicken or fish. This recipe pairs deliciously with literally anything.
MORE VEGETARIAN TOFU DISH RECIPES
Half the joy of cooking is sharing it with others, which is why I’m always eager to hear from you. So go right ahead and drop a comment or reach out on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or Facebook. I hope you love the crispy, sweet, and sour tofu as much as we do!
Crispy Tofu With Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 12.3 oz / 349 gms Extra firm Tofu
- 1 tbsp Cornstarch
- 1 tbsp Peanut oil
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Cornstarch
- 3 tbsp Light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp Tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1/3 cup Water
- 1 tbsp Peanut oil
- 1 tbsp Ginger, finely minced
- 1 tbsp Garlic,, finely minced
- 1/2 Onion, cubed
- 1/2 Green bell pepper cubed
- 1/2 Yellow bell pepper cubed
- 1/2 Red bell pepper cubed
- Spring onion, sesame seeds for garnishing
- Cut the tofu block into cubes.
- Place in a single layer on a tray lined with a kitchen napkin/paper towel. Cover with another napkin and place a heavy tray or saucepan on top. This will help drain the tofu. Leave for 15 minutes.
- Toss the drained tofu with 1 tbsp cornstarch.
- Heat 1 tbsp peanut oil in a skillet and add the tofu. Cook for 4-5 minutes before turning the tofu pieces over. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until they are golden and crisp. Set aside in a bowl.
- While the tofu is cooking, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and keep aside.
- Heat oil in the same skillet you used for tofu.
- Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 10-15 seconds, stirring continuously.
- Add the onions, and bell peppers. Cook for another 45-60 seconds.
- Add the sauce. Let it cook until it thickens. Add the tofu and let it cook for another minute.
- Taste and adjust for seasonings.
- Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with rice/noodles. Enjoy!