A bit of chopping and up to ten minutes in the pan is all you need to make this tasty spicy soft silken tofu recipe. Serve hot over steamed rice to soak up the luscious sauce. Perfect for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who likes good food!
This recipe is my copycat version of my favorite dish at our local Chinese restaurant. There it’s simply called Do Fu con salsa china (Tofu with Chinese sauce).
⭐Why you’ll love it
- It has a salty spicy addictive broth.
- It’s super quick to make, especially if you use a food processor to do the chopping.
- It’s much healthier than takeout due to the low amount of oil used.
- It’s high in protein yet low in calories.
- It’s dairy-free and egg-free (vegan).
- It’s gluten-free (just make sure the north and cornstarch are both GF).
- You can easily tweak the spiciness or substitute your veggies of choice to make it your own recipe.
- It’s super warming and comforting – this is not a cold tofu dish.
Vegetables: I use carrots, mushrooms, green bell pepper, and onion because that’s what is in the original dish from my favorite Chinese restaurant. You can mix things up and change the vegetables if you prefer. Just make sure the tofu is still the star of the show.
Mushrooms: I use shiitake mushrooms as they add a ton of flavor. You can use fresh ones, or rehydrate some dried ones and use them instead. If you don’t have any shiitake mushrooms you can substitute with portobello, but it won’t be as flavorful.
Sesame oil: I use just a touch of toasted sesame oil to add extra flavor and a luscious mouth-feel. If you don’t like it you can omit it.
Chili garlic sauce: Do NOT omit or substitute this, it’s essential and adds a lot to the sauce. If you have never had chili garlic sauce then you’re in for a treat. It doesn’t taste just like chili and garlic, it tastes quite like a good salty spicy Indian-style pickle. I use Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce and that’s the one that I recommend (I also use it to make chili garlic tofu).
Rice vinegar: If you don’t have rice vinegar you can use any mild vinegar instead, e.g. white wine vinegar.
Soy sauce: I use light soy sauce to add a touch of flavor. If you don’t have light soy sauce, you can substitute it with half the amount of regular soy sauce or an equal amount of tamari. Do not substitute with dark soy sauce, which can be quite overpowering.
Silken tofu: The dish’s star, please don’t substitute this ingredient! Use high-quality firm or extra-firm silken tofu (not soft tofu, keep that for desserts) that you like the taste of. I use seventeen ounces in this recipe. This is about the size of the larger containers you get in Asian food specialty stores.
Cornflour/cornstarch: Cornstarch makes the sauce thicker and more restaurant-style. If you don’t have any cornstarch, then tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, potato starch, or rice flour can be used. You’ll need to adjust the amount depending on what you use – check this useful guide to see the ratios.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for exact quantities.
👩🍳How to make it
This is a super simple silken tofu recipe, just chop up the vegetables and tofu, stir-fry the veggies, whisk the sauce together, and add the tofu and the sauce to the pan to cook.
To get started, I recommend getting all your ingredients together. Chop what needs to be chopped, and measure the sauce ingredients into a bowl before you start cooking.
The tofu should be drained (not pressed) and cut into half-inch cubes or roughly one-inch rectangles. It may crumble a little when chopping or gently mixing in the pan later but that’s fine. Silken tofu (even firm silken tofu) is quite delicate.
Step 1: Chop your vegetables in small dice, apart from the shiitake mushrooms which you should wipe clean with a damp cloth, cut in half, and then slice thinly.
Step 2: Add all the sauce ingredients (vegetable stock or broth, light soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pressed garlic) except the cornstarch to a bowl, whisk together, and leave to one side.
Step 3: Heat the oil in a wok or large pan on high heat until smoking hot. add all the vegetables to the pan and stir-fry for three minutes until softened. Then add in the sauce and the tofu and gently mix. Keep the heat high and when it comes to a boil, let it cook for three minutes.
Step 4: Add the cornflour to a small bowl and whisk in a quarter cup of cold water. Mix into the wok/pan. Leave the heat on high and allow to boil for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Your sauce should be thicker and glossier.
Take off the heat, grab a teaspoon and carefully (it will be HOT) test the sauce for salt, and add up to one teaspoon of salt to taste.
- As I said above, I recommend having your ingredients prepared before cooking (mise en place). Once things get hot in the pan, this is a very quick recipe to cook so you don’t want to be stressing out trying to measure things or possibly burning your food.
- If you have a good food processor (I love my Ninja), skip the chopping and pulse the carrot, onion, and pepper until everything has been chopped into small pieces.
- When mixing cornstarch with water note that the water must be cold, not warm, or it will clump instead of forming a suspension.
- This recipe is what I would say is a mild-medium spice level, if you like it even hotter add extra chili garlic sauce at the end.
- Note that cornstarch in the US is the same as cornflour in the UK and Ireland, a fine white powder for thickening (not to be confused with corn flour, a yellow powder made from finely ground, dried corn).
Serve your spicy silken tofu:
- Over steamed basmati or long-grain rice.
- Over boiled or fried noodles.
- By itself as a delicious tofu stew.
- With a crunchy cucumber salad or Asian-style slaw on the side.
- With optional chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes for garnish.
For me, it’s a solid medium level of spice. If you’re not sure about your spice tolerance, try adding just one tablespoon of chili garlic sauce to the sauce initially. When finished, you can add more to taste. Keep in mind that different chili garlic sauces have different spice levels.
Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to five days. Keep in mind that the sauce will get slightly spicier the longer it sits. It can be frozen but I don’t recommend it because freezing silken tofu gives it a very different honeycomb-like texture.
Just zap (covered) in the microwave or heat in a non-stick pan on the stovetop until warm.
All types of tofu, including silken, can actually be eaten “raw”, without cooking.
Pretty healthy. It’s high in protein and is nutrient-dense (it supplies more nutrients than calories) and is also very low in fat. It’s rich in calcium and vitamin D and can even alleviate some symptoms of menopause.
🧈More delicious spicy tofu recipes
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, review, and/or comment below.
Quick Spicy Silken Tofu
- 1½ Tablespoons sunflower or canola oil any bland flavorless oil will do
- 1 medium carrot (or 2 small)
- 1 yellow onion
- 6 shittake mushrooms 4.6 ounces
- 1 green bell pepper
- 17 oz silken tofu firm or extra-firm
- Salt to taste
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar Or substitute white/red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Small dice the carrots, onion, and green pepper. Wipe the shiitake mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, cut in half, and then slice thinly.
- Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, apart from the cornflour which you will add later.
- Add the sunflower or canola oil to a wok or large pan and heat on high. Drain the tofu (don't press it) and slice into 1/2 inch to 1-inch squares or rectangles.
- When the oil is smoking hot, add the vegetables and stir-fry for three minutes.
- Add the whisked sauce and the tofu and gently mix. Keep the heat high and when it begins to boil, set a timer for three minutes.
- Whisk the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water and add to the pan when the three minutes are up. Mix in quickly and carefully, when the tofu and sauce start to boil again, set a timer for two minutes.
- When the two minutes are up, take the pan off the heat. Salt to taste, I add between three-quarters of a teaspoon to a full teaspoon as this sauce really needs to be salted well, but this will depend on the stock and chilli garlic sauce you used.
- Serve hot over steamed white rice. Enjoy!