Sweet and Sour Tofu is a quick and easy dish that can be served for dinner on busy weeknights. It cooks up faster than you can order take out! In this recipe, crispy tofu is cooked with peppers, onions, pineapple, and a tangy sauce. It's vegan and gluten-free.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
Sweet and sour vegan chicken is one of my favorite dishes to order from our local veggie Chinese restaurant. Sweet, sour, and a hint of heat – what more could the taste buds ask for?
Since it comes together so easily, it's one of my favorite busy weeknight dishes, too. You just need to cook the tofu. Then cook the veggies and mix together the sauce. Easy peasy! If you have two pans, you can cook the tofu in one and the veggies in another, so the dish comes together even faster.
What is Sweet and Sour?
What we know as sweet and sour is actually westernized Chinese food, rather than authentically Asian. It’s been popular in England and throughout Europe for hundreds of years. In China, sweet and sour sauce is usually used as a food dip, rather than as a cooking sauce.
Here in the US, sweet and sour dishes are usually made with chicken or pork, peppers, pineapple, and a sugary sauce.
Preparing your Tofu
To prepare your tofu, you need to drain the water from the container. You can do this the night before by wrapping it in a clean towel and placing it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. The towel will soak up the excess water. If you’re going to cook with it right away, you can wrap it in a towel and place it under something heavy, like a cast iron pan. You can also use a tofu press. I have a TofuXpress, which I also use to drain frozen spinach and kale.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Tofu
Most recipes for sweet and sour call for the protein to be battered and fried, and while I do find that tasty, I have found that it often falls apart after it’s mixed with the sauce, and it never reheats well. For my version of Sweet and Sour Tofu, I’ve simply fried the tofu in tamari until it’s crisp and brown, which is one of my favorite ways to cook it.
- First you cook the tofu in a little oil and tamari until it's brown and crispy. Then you remove it from the pan and set it aside.
- Next you add the onion and a little more oil to the pan and cook until the onion starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Then you add the bell peppers and pineapple to the pan and cook until the veggies soften, about 10 more minutes.
- While the veggies are cooking you whisk together all of the sauce ingredients.
- Next you add the tofu back to the pan along with the sauce and cook everything for a few more minutes, until the sauce is heated.
- Finally, you serve your sweet and sour tofu over cooked brown rice and topped with scallions.
- If you'd like to add more vegetables to your dish, throw in some broccoli or snow peas.
- Instead of tofu, try vegan chicken. I like Gardein's Vegan Chick'n Strips.
- I like to serve this dish with cooked brown rice, but you can serve it with noodles, if you prefer.
- Because I like a hint of heat, I add a little garlic chili paste to my sweet and sour. If you're sensitive to spices, you can leave it out.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil divided
- 3 tablespoons tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos divided
- 1 14-ounce package firm tofu drained, pressed, and cut into cubes
- ½ cup diced sweet onion (about half an onion)
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 cup diced pineapple
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic chili paste
- 2 cloves cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 scallions sliced
- 4 cups cooked brown rice for serving
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of tamari in large pan over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the tofu for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan Add the onion and a pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent.
- Add the bell peppers and pineapple to the pan. Cook until the peppers have softened, about 10 more minutes, stirring often.
- Whisk together the remaining tamari, pineapple juice, water, agave, rice vinegar, cornstarch, tomato paste, garlic chili paste, garlic, and ginger.
- Add the tofu back to pan along with the sauce. Gently stir to combine. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the sauce thickens and is heated throughout.
- Remove from the heat and mix in the sesame oil
- Top with sliced scallions. Serve over the brown rice.
Originally posted January 23, 2017. Updated May 1, 2022.
More tofu recipes you might enjoy include:
- Tofu Teriyaki Stir-Fry
- Kung Pao Tofu and Broccoli
- Tofu and Shirataki Noodles
- Peanut Satay Tofu Triangles from 5-Ingredient Vegan by Nava Atlas
More quick and easy stir-fries you might link include:
- Spicy Soy Curl Stir-Fry
- Cashew Tempeh Stir-Fry from Fast and Easy Vegan Cookbook by JL Fields
- Spicy Orange Sesame Stir-Fry
- Snap Pea Stir-Fry