Spicy Black Pepper Tofu

Air fried tofu is tossed in a spicy sauce flavored with lots of freshly ground black peppercorns. This Black Pepper Tofu is also vegan!
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Tofu cooked in a spicy sauce flavored with lots of freshly ground black peppercorns. If you love spicy food, then you have to try this Black Pepper Tofu! It is also vegan.

tofu served with white rice in a bowl

Tofu is such a versatile ingredient. You can pretty much flavor it any way you like it. Some people are of the opinion that tofu is bland and honestly yes if not seasoned well it can be pretty bland.

I have been once served a full block of tofu with just some salt and pepper sprinkled on top and drizzled with little olive oil. Even if you are a tofu fan, I am not sure you could have eaten that. It was just so bland.

But toss tofu in a flavorful sauce like in kung pao tofu or with Indian spices like in this tofu matar and then we are talking!

This Black Pepper Tofu is another flavorful recipe that I am sharing with you guys. I usually am not a spicy person but for this I made an exception!

Why We Love This Recipe

If you love spicy food and tofu, then this recipe is for you. Don’t be afraid of the spice though, it’s not too spicy, I mean you can still very much eat but it’s spicy (for my standards at least).

The flavor of the sauce comes from soy sauce, maple syrup and there’s also gochujang and chili bean sauce (I have these in the fridge ever since I made mapo tofu) which add to depth of flavors.

The main heat in the recipe though comes from freshly ground black peppercorns. It’s sprinkled right at the end, so the flavor is quite prominent. You can definitely tone it down by reducing the amount (refer to the recipe on this).

This is an easy recipe where the tofu is air fried and then tossed in a sauce. The main prep work honestly is mixing all the sauces together. It’s also vegan and you can make it gluten-free.

It makes an easy weeknight meal and who doesn’t love easy meals on busy days.

Ingredients

plate with tofu, another with veggies and bowl with peppercorns arranged together

Tofu: for this recipe, use extra-firm tofu. It’s always important to press the tofu with a heavy object for 20 to 30 minutes before using in the recipe. This drains the water and tofu soaks up the flavors better.

Veggies: peppers, onion, jalapeño adds to the texture and flavor in this one. There’s also green onion which is used for garnishing. There’s also lots of ginger and garlic which is always my absolute favorite way to cook tofu.

Sauce: the flavorful sauce is made of regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, gochujang, chili bean sauce.

Peppercorn: the recipe uses freshly ground coarse black peppercorns which add to the flavor of this dish and makes it hot. The peppercorn is ground using a spice grinder and added in this recipe right at the end so that it’s flavor is all the more prominent.

Step by Step Instructions

Before you start, make sure to press your tofu for 20-30 minutes with a heavy object to get rid of excess moisture from the tofu. Also using a spice grinder, grind 1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) or 3/4 tablespoons (9 grams) of whole peppercorns (adjust to taste). You don’t want a fine powder, just ground it coarsely and keep it ready.

1- To a large bowl or jar, add all the ingredients listed under “sauce”- soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, gochujang, chili bean sauce, 1//3 cup water and cornstarch. Set aside.

2- Pre-heat air fryer to 390 F for 2 minutes. Then add in the cubed tofu (which was pressed for 20 minutes and then cut into cubes). Spray with a oil spray and air fry at 390 F for 12 minutes, shake once in between. If you want you can also season this tofu before air frying with salt, pepper or soy sauce. I simply air fried tofu directly.

3- While the tofu is air frying, heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add sesame oil and avocado oil. Then add in the chopped garlic, ginger and jalapeño.

4- Sauté for few seconds then add the onion. Cook the onion for 1 minute, you want it firm.

step by step picture collage of making black pepper tofu

5- Add in the peppers and continue to cook for another 1 minutes. Veggies should cook a little but not become super soft.

6- Add in the prepared sauce and stir. Remember to whisk the sauce once before adding to the pan as cornstarch settles at the bottom. The sauce will begin to thicken immediately.

7- Now, add in the air fried tofu and stir until all of the tofu is well coated with the sauce.

8- Stir in the freshly ground black peppercorn. You can grind 1/2 tablespoon for milder black pepper flavor and 3/4 tablespoon for a stronger flavor. Stir well and remove pan from heat. Garnish with green onions and serve.

step by step picture collage of making black pepper tofu

Black Peppercorn Quantity

First time I tried this recipe, I used 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of whole black peppercorns in the recipe. I thought it was a bit too much – for me at least. But if you prefer spice you can definitely use 1 tablespoon here.

I think somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 tablespoons is perfect. I would suggest grind only 1/2 tablespoon at first and use that. Taste your tofu and if you feel it needs more of that black pepper, then grind some more and add. Remember it’s easier to add more but difficult to remove the flavor if you add too much of it.

tofu and veggies on a cast iron skillet

Serving Suggesitons

My favorite way to eat such tofu dishes is always with rice. Sarvesh like it with jasmine rice while I love to eat it with brown rice.

You can also serve this black pepper tofu with noodles.

Tips & Notes

  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce. Also the chili bean sauce that I used has wheat in it. So read the labels carefully and then use them in the recipe if you want to make this gluten-free.
  • Pressing the tofu for 20 minutes at the least is very important. This way the tofu absorbs more flavor.
  • If you don’t have chili bean sauce, you can use a regular hot sauce like sriracha in place. If you don’t have gochujang, try making a paste of red chili flakes, with some sugar and soy sauce and use that though it won’t give the same depth of flavor that gochujang does.
  • If you don’t have an air-fryer, you can simply pan the tofu cubes in a skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until they are browned from both sides and then use that in the recipe.
  • I air fried the tofu as such with just a spray of oil but you can definitely season it salt, pepper and soy sauce and then air fry. I tried a batch where I tossed the tofu in cornstarch and then air fried and I did not like the texture of that tofu.

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Black Pepper Tofu

tofu served with white rice in a bowl
Manali
Air fried tofu is tossed in a spicy sauce flavored with lots of freshly ground black peppercorns. This Black Pepper Tofu is also vegan!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4
Calories 244 kcal

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce adjust to taste
  • 1/3 cup water can add up to 1/2 cup for saucier tofu
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Tofu

  • 1 lb tofu extra-firm, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or use any other oil of choice
  • 6 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 inch ginger chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 medium red pepper chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 tablespoons whole black peppercorns 6 tp 9 grams, adjust to taste (refer notes)
  • 3-4 stalks green onion chopped

Instructions
 

  • Before you start, make sure to press your tofu for 20-30 minutes with a heavy object to get rid of excess moisture from the tofu. Also using a spice grinder, grind 1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) or 3/4 tablespoons (9 grams) of whole peppercorns (adjust to taste). You don't want a fine powder, just ground it coarsely and keep it ready.
  • To a large bowl or jar, add all the ingredients listed under "sauce"- soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, gochujang, chili bean sauce, 1//3 cup water and cornstarch. Set aside.
  • Pre-heat air fryer to 390 F for 2 minutes. Then add in the cubed tofu (which was pressed for 20 minutes and then cut into cubes). Spray with a oil spray and air fry at 390 F for 12 minutes, shake once in between. If you want you can also season this tofu before air frying with salt, pepper or soy sauce. I simply air fried tofu directly.
    You can also pan fry your tofu on a pan with 1 tablespoon oil until it's light golden brown if you don't have an air fryer..
  • While the tofu is air frying, heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add sesame oil and avocado oil. Then add in the chopped garlic, ginger and jalapeño.
  • Sauté for few seconds then add the onion. Cook the onion for 1 minute, you want it firm.
  • Add in the peppers and continue to cook for another 1 minute. Veggies should cook a little but not become super soft.
  • Add in the prepared sauce and stir. Remember to whisk the sauce once before adding to the pan as cornstarch settles at the bottom. The sauce will begin to thicken immediately.
    Add in the air fried tofu and stir until all of the tofu is well coated with the sauce.
  • Stir in the freshly ground black peppercorn. You can grind 1/2 tablespoon for milder black pepper flavor and 3/4 tablespoon for a stronger flavor. Stir well and remove pan from heat. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Notes

  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce. Also the chili bean sauce that I used has wheat in it. So read the labels carefully and then use them in the recipe if you want to make this gluten-free.
  • Pressing the tofu for 20 minutes at the least is very important. This way the tofu absorbs more flavor.
  • If you don’t have chili bean sauce, you can use a regular hot sauce like sriracha in place. If you don’t have gochujang, try making a paste of red chili flakes, with some sugar and soy sauce and use that though it won’t give the same depth of flavor that gochujang does.
  • If you don’t have an air-fryer, you can simply pan the tofu cubes in a skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until they are browned from both sides and then use that in the recipe.
  • I air fried the tofu as such with just a spray of oil but you can definitely season it salt, pepper and soy sauce and then air fry. I tried a batch where I tossed the tofu in cornstarch and then air fried and I did not like the texture of that tofu.

Nutrition

Calories: 244kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 13gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 1063mgPotassium: 250mgFiber: 3gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 1056IUVitamin C: 46mgCalcium: 187mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

 

2 thoughts on “Spicy Black Pepper Tofu

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Manali,
    Hope you are doing well. Made this recipe yesterday and it turned out very good. I should admit this is the first time I tried making a recipe that calls for tofu. I usually swap tofu with paneer. But this recipe was good. I might try more of tofu recipes moving forward.
    Thanks

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