Silky tofu with a crispy coating, tossed in flavourful salt and pepper seasonings and crisp vegetables. One of the most popular Chinese takeaway tofu recipes that everyone loves. Learn how to make it at home with our simple tips and video instructions!
WHY YOU'LL LOVE THIS SALT AND PEPPER TOFU RECIPE
- It's a popular Chinese takeaway dish that has a fantastic mix of flavours
- It's an extremely versatile dish that can be tweaked to your tastes
- It's so delicious that meat eaters will love it too, making it ideal for those who want to cut down on their meat intake
- The ingredients are affordable, making this a budget-friendly recipe
EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- Large wok – a wok is the way to go when making any kind of Chinese dish. The height of the sides of the wok pan serve to retain heat within the pan, while the rounded shape of helps to conduct heat and keep everything cooking at a high temperature. This is ideal for flash flying and getting the best out of spices. Go for a wok that's at least 28cm, although 30cm would be ideal
- Curved spatula – a curved wooden spatula is the perfect companion for your wok. The curved shape helps to get into the corners to keep those fabulous ingredients moving as they quickly cook
- Chopsticks – want to eat this dish in an authentic way? Get yourself a good quality pair of chopsticks and immerse yourself in the Chinese dining experience!
- Tofu press – the secret to getting the perfect tofu? Use one of these ingenious gizmos! They squeeze all of the moisture out of the tofu block, allowing maximum flavour and the perfect crispy texture
HOW TO MAKE SALT AND PEPPER TOFU
Mix the cornflour, salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice in a bowl.
Dust the tofu cubes in the mixture and cover all surfaces.
Deep fry the tofu until golden brown and super crispy.
Fry the onions, peppers and chillies for a few minutes, then add the tofu and salt and pepper seasoning. Fry for a few minutes, then top with spring onions and serve immediately.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SALT AND PEPPER TOFU
Use a good quality basmati rice and if you have a rice cooker then even better. For a bit of extra flavour put a little bit of vegetable stock in the boiling water, and give the rice a faint herbal aroma. Plain white rice is of course also an option.
You could even go for more flavour and serve it with egg fried rice.
If you don’t feel like rice, you can also serve the meal with noodles. Choose from normal egg noodles, the thin, clear glass noodles, or even fried noodles.
In fact, if you want to eat the dish using chopsticks, noodles are much easier to handle! Try these leek and mushroom noodles for extra veggies!
A round, full bodied red pinot noir would work wonderfully well with the spices in this recipe, as would an off-dry white wine like a Riesling.
VARIATIONS TO THIS RECIPE
- You can fry the tofu and a few tablespoons of oil. While you won't get super crispy tofu, it will be healthier.
- You could also cook the tofu in an air fryer like in this buffalo tofu wrap recipe.
- Feel free to add more of the seasoning if you prefer, but remember it’s quite salty!
- If you don't want to make your own salt and pepper seasoning, you can buy it online.
- The spice mixture itself consists only of dried and ground spices. If you can’t get enough kick in your food you can add more chilli to the mixture.
- Alternatively, use extra-hot ground chilli powder instead of chilli flakes. For a more oriental aroma add a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom to the mixture. You can also consider these Aleppo pepper substitutes as well as these chilli powder substitutes.
- Add two tablespoons of rice wine to the pan after frying the vegetables. This will add a wonderful fragrance and flavour.
- Add a teaspoon of minced garlic for some extra flavour.
- Add a topping for a final flourish to this salt and pepper tofu recipe. Fresh coriander is of course an ever-welcome addition to Asian food.
- My favourite topping is actually finely chopped tops of spring onion. The green tops give a lovely freshness to the dish without overpowering it.
- Replace the tofu with seitan or mushrooms.
- Replace the vegetable oil with sesame oil when stir frying the tofu and vegetables to add a nutty, authentic Chinese flavour.
- You can substitute corn flour with potato starch for this recipe.
- Use a quality wok when cooking up this salt and pepper sensation! The wok is the way to go with authentic asian recipes, as you'll be able to cook on a high heat, while easily distributing the heat throughout all the ingredients.
- Don't crowd the pan when frying the tofu. The idea is to get them wonderfully crispy. In order to achieve this, they need space for the moisture to evaporate as they cook. If necessary, fry the tofu in batches.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough when deep frying the tofu. You can test to see if the temperature is hot enough by dropping a small small piece of bread into the oil. If it starts sizzling, it’s ready.
What is salt and pepper tofu?
This dish consists of firm tofu pieces cooked on a high heat and sautéed with a fragrant blend of spices, including salt, white pepper, Chinese five spices, garlic, onions, peppers and chillies.
What kind of tofu should I use?
I recommend extra firm tofu for this salt and pepper tofu recipe, as it holds its shape better than soft tofu when deep frying. Shop-bought tofu often comes immersed in water to keep it fresh. The problem is that this water prevents the tofu from crisping up and taking in the flavour from the other ingredients.
However, pressing this water out will improve the texture and allow it to absorb flavour, so make sure you remove excess moisture from the tofu by pressing the block after you've drained the water.
Wrap the tofu in paper towels and place something heavy on top of the tofu. You can buy a special tofu press to completely drain the tofu and get the perfect texture.
What shape should I cut the tofu into?
Generally speaking, the shape you cut the tofu into is up to you.
Personally, I recommend chopping your tofu pieces into small, bite sized one inch cubes, as you'll be able to crisp them up perfectly in the pan!
What is Chinese salt and pepper seasoning?
It’s a delicious spice mix that brings big bold flavour to a variety of dishes.
Salt and pepper seasoning is hugely popular in the UK, especially in Liverpool – it's where salt and pepper chips originated – as well as in Scotland.
Chinese salt and pepper seasoning has been used in Chinese takeaways since the 1960s. It's becoming more and more popular, leading to many foodies making their own batch at home.
How do you make Chinese salt and pepper seasoning?
To find out how to make the perfect batch of this flavourful spice blend, check out my Salt and Pepper Seasoning recipe.
What's in Chinese five spice?
Chinese five spice is a spice mix that contains cinnamon, star anise, cloves, Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.
How do you store salt and pepper tofu?
Salt and pepper tofu leftovers should be stored in an airtight container, once it has cooled down.
Your salt and pepper tofu leftovers will stay fresh for up to three days.
Can you prep this ahead of time?
The seasoning can be made in a large batch and stored in an airtight container. You can use it at your own pace because it doesn't go off.
As for the rest, I recommend you make it fresh for the best results.
More amazing vegan Asian recipes
If you're a fan of Asian cuisines, you'll want to try these incredible recipes:
- Tofu in black bean sauce – a flavourful and fragrant dish that takes little more than 15 minutes to prepare, tofu in black bean sauce is a perfect fakeaway budget-friendly meal
- Bami goreng – make this delicious Vietnamese recipe, replacing the chicken with tofu, for a spicy, fiery and fabulous Asian vegan dish
- Yasai itame – a wonderful Japanese recipe that can easily be adapted to make it fully vegan
- Chinese mixed vegetable stir fry – the perfect side dish for any meal, this dish is also a delicious lunch or dinner option
- Salt and pepper spring rolls - start your Chinese meal off with a bang
- Salt and pepper chips – a Chinese takeaway classic using the same spice blend as this salt and pepper tofu recipe, salt and pepper chips, also known as salt and chilli chips, is a delicious fried fusion classic that can be served as a side dish or shared, just like proper chip chop chips