This epic tofu adobo is vegan and features thick textured chunks of tofu in a thick sticky adobo sauce, perfect for serving with steamed white rice.
Note that this is not an authentic Filipino recipe, it was born of me looking for more inspiration on how to make tofu tasty and my non-veggie husband waxing lyrically about how great adobo chicken was.
I’ve made several changes that traditional adobo sauces don’t have, like using cracked black pepper instead of whole, braising and roasting the tofu instead of frying it, etc. But it sure is tasty! For authentic vegan Filipino dishes I’d suggest trying Astig Vegan.
⭐Why you’ll love it
- It has a really unusual tangy salty peppery flavor that is completely addictive.
- The tofu is carefully prepared and gives a tasty almost meaty texture.
- No marinating time is needed.
- It’s vegan and vegetarian.
🛒Ingredients and substitutions
Glance at the image below to get an idea of what simple ingredients you’ll need, and scroll down beneath it to see if you can swap anything out if you’re short on ingredients.
Oil: Use any plain flavorless oil, such as canola, vegetable, corn, or sunflower oil.
Tofu: Use extra-firm tofu preferably, if you can’t get extra-firm just use firm. Don’t use silken or soft tofu as it will just fall apart.
Soy sauce: Use regular soy sauce, not dark, light, or low-sodium. If you do use low-sodium soy sauce for health reasons, be aware that you may also need to adjust the seasoning with a low or no-sodium salt at the end.
Garlic: Lots of it, preferably large fresh cloves. I don’t recommend using frozen chopped garlic or garlic paste unless you’re desperate, and you would need to add extra to make up for the weaker flavors. Do not use ground garlic or garlic granules.
Cornstarch: Also known as cornflour in the UK, is a white very fine starch powder used for thickening, not to be confused with cornmeal which has a denser texture and is used for making cornbread and arepas. Cornstarch is important in this recipe as it helps the tofu get a more textured exterior and also thickens the sauce. If you don’t have any you can substitute with half the amount of regular flour or ground arrowroot, though it won’t yield exactly the same results.
Brown sugar: it’s the molasses in brown sugar that give extra flavor to this recipe but if you don’t have any you can substitute with maple syrup or white sugar.
Vinegar: I use white vinegar but you can also use apple cider vinegar.
Black pepper: Use freshly cracked black pepper or fresh coarsely ground black pepper. If you don’t have any, double the amount and use whole black peppercorns. Don’t use finely ground prepackaged black pepper.
Onion: I normally use yellow onion for this recipe, but sweet, red, or white onions are fine too.
Bay leaf: Use large bay leaves, preferably ones from a sealed package that isn’t too old.
Water: Just use plain water, don’t be tempted to substitute with stock.
👩🍳How to make it
This tofu adobo is simple to make but it does require quite a few steps. I follow the steps below without getting everything measured and chopped as you’ll have time to do that while the tofu is baking or air frying.
- Mix together the crushed garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and bay leaves.
- Tear the tofu into one-inch chunks and add to a medium-sized saucepan. Chopping the tofu would be faster but we want those ragged edges to create a more chewy texture later.
- Add the garlic-soy vinegar mix to the pan and heat on high. When it’s boiling, reduce the heat to medium-high and let the tofu cook at a lively simmer for ten minutes. Braising the tofu this way adds lots of flavor and changes the texture. Set the oven to preheat at 400ºF (200ºC) if you’ll be baking the tofu, if you’re using an air fryer you just need to preheat it for five minutes to get a really sizzling pan that will crisp up the tofu edges.
- You can chop and prep the rest of the ingredients while the tofu is braising and start making the sauce if you have time (if not you can just make it while the tofu is in the oven). Add a tablespoon of oil to a large skillet or frying pan, heat on medium-high, and add the chopped onion. Fry for about five minutes until lightly browned.
- When the ten minutes are up, drain the tofu (reserving the braising liquid).
- Gently toss the hot braised drained tofu with half a tablespoon of the oil (use spoons to do this so you don’t burn yourself). Then add the cornstarch and toss again until the pieces are evenly coated. You want to be gentle here as the tofu will be softer after braising.
- Place the tofu on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake at 400ºF for 25 minutes, or air-fry for 13. You don’t need to flip the tofu if you’re baking it in the oven but you should open the air fryer halfway through if using and toss the pieces a little to flip them over.
- After the onions have been frying for five minutes, add four cloves of chopped garlic and fry for one minute, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.
- Add the cracked black pepper and toast for one minute, stirring often.
- Measure the reserved braising liquid and if you have less than one cup, add a little water to bring it up to 1 cup (240ml). Add to the pan along with the sugar. If your tofu isn’t ready yet you can take the pan off the stovetop.
- When your tofu is done, it should look like the picture below with some browning and some crispy edges and texture but still soft.
- Add the tofu to the pan with the sauce, tossing to coat, on high heat until simmering, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for ten minutes. Then cover with a large lid or aluminum foil and simmer for an additional ten minutes.
You should have some delicious tofu in a thickened glossy adobo sauce like in image twelve above. If after cooking you’d like the sauce to be reduced more just put it back on the heat and simmer it uncovered until at your desired consistency.
What you’ll need:
- A garlic crusher.
- Measuring cups and spoons (or just use your cutlery and a measuring jug).
- A large sharp knife and chopping board.
- A medium-sized non-stick saucepan or pot.
- A large frying pan or skillet, either non-stick or well-seasoned, and a lid to cover it (or use aluminum foil).
- To crack black peppercorns, just lay them on a chopping board and squash them with anything flat, like the bottom of a mug or bowl. No need to bang at them, just gently press down on them and they should crack.
- Don’t skip braising the tofu, it gives it tons more flavor and keeps it soft on the inside.
- If you really can’t bear turning on the oven or air fryer then you can fry the tofu until a similar texture but it will be drier, chewier, and not as moist as the baked version.
- For crushing the garlic, remember you don’t need to peel it, just crush the whole clove, skin, and all, and easily scoop the peel out between cloves. If you leave the skin in between cloves, it takes some superhuman strength to crush!
Tofu adobo is best served with a starchy side dish to soak up the delicious sauce. I personally like to serve it with steamed long-grain white rice but it’s also great over mashed potatoes or with quinoa.
To lighten the meal or stretch it further you can also add in a simple green salad or some steamed chard or spinach.
You can store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. Note that freezing this dish will change the texture of the tofu a bit and make it spongier but in my opinion, it’s a great “meatier” texture.
❓Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I’ll be honest, my husband hates tofu and he told me this recipe is the first time he’s enjoyed tofu, so I do recommend trying it. If you’re really set against tofu, you can use torn strips of seitan instead but skip baking it and fry it instead, or use torn strips of oyster mushrooms and follow the recipe as is.
Yes, I think it actually tastes better the more time it sits! You can also just prepare the tofu and sauce ahead of time and then add them together until thickened as in the last steps of the recipe.
I use this method of braising in flavorful liquid a lot in my other tofu recipes and it adds much more flavor, a better texture, and eliminates the tedious step of pressing the tofu.
Did you make this dish? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐and a comment below.
- 2 garlic cloves,
- 1 quarter cup soy sauce (60ml)
- 1 quarter cup plus one tablespoon white vinegar (74ml)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup water (240ml)
- 17.5oz firm tofu (500g)
- ½ Tablespoon oil
- 1½ Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 -1.5 Tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
- 1½ teaspoons coarsely ground or cracked black pepper
- First, let's braise the tofu. Mix together the two crushed cloves of garlic, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the vinegar, and the bay leaves in a medium-sized saucepan.
- Tear the tofu into rough two-inch chunks and add to the pan. Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce the heat to medium-high and leave at a lively simmer for ten minutes.
- Preheat the oven or air fryer to 400ºF (200ºC) for ten minutes for the oven or just five for an air fryer.
- When the tofu has finished braising, drain off and reserve the remaining sauce. Then gently toss the well-drained tofu with half a tablespoon of oil. Now add the cornstarch and toss until the tofu is well-coated. The tofu will be hot so use spoons or a spatula to toss it.
- Place the tofu on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, making sure there is space between the pieces so they don't just steam, and bake for 25 minutes in the oven or 13 minutes in the air fryer. If you are air-frying the tofu you should shake the basket halfway through to turn over the pieces.
- Now chop and prepare your ingredients for the sauce and start to cook it. Add one tablespoon of oil to a large skillet or non-stick pan and heat on medium-high.
- When hot, add the chopped onion and fry for five minutes until lightly browned.
- Now add the garlic and fry for one minute, then the black pepper and fry one minute more, stirring to prevent burning.
- Add the remaining braising liquid, you should have at least one cup. If you don't, add enough water to make up one cup. Add the sugar, I recommend adding one tablespoon and then tasting, later on, to see if you need to add another half a tablespoon. If the tofu hasn't finished baking, take the skillet off the heat until it's ready.
- When the tofu is ready, add it to the sauce, and stir to coat it well. Increase the heat to high until boiling then lower it to medium and maintain at a simmer for ten minutes.
- Cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook for up to ten minutes more or until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Done! Serve hot over steamed white rice.
Oil - you can use any plain flavorless type such as canola, vegetable, corn, or sunflower.
White vinegar - if you don't have this you can substitute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar but you may need to add extra to taste at the end as they are not as tangy.
If the sauce hasn't thickened up to your liking simply uncover it and reduce for more time.
Serving SizeA third of a plate
Amount Per Serving Calories 238Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 0mgSodium 4388mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 3gSugar 6gProtein 20g