Seasoned, crispy fried tofu in a delicious coating of sweet and spicy sauce. This Sweet Chilli Tofu has a nice and warming kick of heat to it that’s perfect for both warm and cool days. It’s easy to make, uses common ingredients and comes together in just 25 minutes!
Finally, here’s another tofu recipe for a classic takeaway dish! We’ve been fans of sweet chilli sauce for all our lives, and this sweet chilli tofu just hits the spot!
The flavours of the sauce are well balanced to let the sweetness and peppery flavour take the center stage. The tofu is seasoned and fried crispy to complement the sauce with its savoury deliciousness. It’s so tasty, I’m getting hungry just writing about it!
The method to make this sweet chilli recipe is really simple. It’s quite similar to our popular Sticky Lemon Tofu, but the sauce is fiery and peppery instead of sour and lemony. For this dish we also cut the tofu into triangles rather than cubes for frying, but this part is very much up to you!
You can control the level of chilli heat with the type of chilli flakes you use. We chose a milder variety, so we can use more in the dish and get more peppery flavour without burning off our taste buds.
A nice thing about chilli is that it warms you on a cold day, but can also help cool you down when it’s hot! Which means, this recipe is the perfect meal for any day of the year.
Here’s everything you need to make this tasty sweet chilli tofu:
- Soy sauce, salt and pepper
- Cornstarch also known as cornflour
- Chilli flakes / red pepper flakes (US)
- Pointed red pepper - also known as Red Romano Chile or Ramiro pepper.
- Vegetable oil and some optional sesame oil
- Garlic and spring onions
- Apple cider vinegar and vegetable bouillon
Extra firm tofu is always the best for frying because it can cope well with being handled without falling apart. We gently press it wrapped in a tea towel to remove some of its excess water.
We season the tofu with some soy sauce, salt and pepper before coating it in cornstarch so it gets more crispy when fried. This is our favourite way to make tofu taste and feel a bit like chicken.
And on the saucy side of things, the chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) deliver the chilli heat as well as that dried red pepper flavour, and the pointed pepper adds more flavour, some colour and texture. With the chilli flakes, watch out when you use a product or brand you haven’t tried before, as they can vary extremely in spiciness.
Granulated white sugar provides sweetness without putting itself in the foreground. For a more complex flavour, try light brown sugar or golden caster.
And to round off the flavours, we sauté some garlic and spring onion with the chilli flakes before deglazing with a bit of apple cider vinegar and vegetable bouillon. Then a bit more cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce.
You can add sesame oil when sautéing the aromatic ingredients to add an extra dimension, but it’s completely optional.
Step by step
You can find the detailed instructions for how to make the sweet chilli tofu in the recipe card at the end of the post, but here’s a visual guide.
Step 1 - Season the tofu and toss it in cornstarch to coat.
Step 2 - Fry the tofu in vegetable oil until golden and crispy.
Step 3 - Remove the tofu from the pan and fry the sliced pointed pepper.
Step 4 - Add spring onion, garlic and chilli flakes and briefly sauté on medium heat.
Step 5 - Deglaze the pan by adding water and vinegar, then stir in and dissolve the sugar and stock powder.
Step 6 - Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water and stir it into the sauce over medium heat until it thickens.
Step 7 - Place the tofu back in the pan with the sauce, add the spring onion greens and stir to coat.
Before the fried tofu goes back in the pan, you can stir in small amounts of water to adjust the quantity and consistency of the sauce.
We also like to save the greener parts of the chopped spring onions and sprinkle them on when mixing tofu and sauce.
Throw in some extra vegetables like carrots, green beans, mushrooms and extra peppers, to bulk up the dish or even replace the tofu. Chop them into chunks and fry them with the sliced pepper. You might want to double the sauce if you add extra veggies.
If you’re a fan of ginger, you can mince or grate some and add it in with the garlic and chilli flakes for sautéing.
To make our sweet chilli tofu gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy sauce to season the tofu. Also, if you serve it with noodles, use gluten-free noodles or simply serve with rice.
You can use red bell pepper instead of the pointy Romano.
Apple cider vinegar can be easily replaced with rice vinegar or lemon juice. If you want to use white or red wine vinegar, check the label to make sure it’s vegan. The wine it’s made from might not be vegan!
In place of cornstarch, it’s fine to use tapioca starch as 1:1 substitute. Arrowroot powder can be used too, but you might need to increase the amount to get the same thickening effect. Plain flour could be used but makes the sauce cloudy, so only use it as a last resort.
Our favourite way to serve the Sweet Chilli Tofu is on noodles. Many store-bought noodles have egg in them, so check the ingredients label on the package. We’ve recently discovered wholewheat noodles and have become big fans!
Rice is another great side dish for this meal. If plain rice is too boring for you, try our Vegan Egg Fried Rice.
Stir fried or steamed green veggies such as pak choi or tatsoi also are a great addition to the bold flavours of the sauce and tofu. They also look great as a garnish.
Sweet Chilli Tofu
Sweet Chili Sauce
- Drain and gently press the tofu (wrapped in a paper or tea towel) to remove excess moisture. Cut into triangular slices about ¼ inch (6mm) thick.
- In a bowl, drizzle the soy sauce over the tofu, add salt and pepper and briefly stir. Then add the cornstarch and stir to evenly coat the tofu.
- Heat up vegetable oil in large frying pan on medium-high to high heat and fry the tofu on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Remove tofu from the pan and set aside.
Sweet Chili Sauce
- Add more vegetable oil to the hot pan if necessary. Fry the sliced red pepper for two minutes on medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat to medium and add sesame oil (if using), the white/yellow part of the spring onions, garlic and chilli flakes. Saute for 1 minute while stirring.
- Add the water, vinegar, sugar and stock powder. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Stir together cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir the slurry into the sauce, and keep stirring gently until the sauce thickens up. Remove from heat or keep warm covered on very low heat until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, place the fried tofu back in the pan with the sauce. Sprinkle in chopped spring onion greens and stir to coat the tofu in sauce.Serve on noodles, rice, or another side of your choice.
Chilli flakes / red pepper flakesThe heat level of chilli flakes (called red pepper flakes in the US) in the varies widely, depending on which type chilli pepper they are made from. For us, mild to medium chilli flakes are perfect for this recipe, as they provide a lot of pepper flavour while keeping the heat kick to a tolerable level. How hot chilli flakes are is not always obvious from the product label. In our experience in the UK, most commercial chilli flakes found in supermarkets fall into a range from mild to medium, which work well for us in this recipe. Specialty and high quality brands can be very spicy though. So try around and find chilli flakes that suit your taste. Also, find out how different types of chillies compare in heat - useful if you know the name of the chilli pepper you are dealing with. You can also decrease or increase the amount of chilli flakes to suit your heat preference.
This information is calculated per serving and is an estimate only.