Beautiful tofu! It comes in all shapes, sizes, and textures, and we can’t get enough of it. Today, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite tofu recipes from across the blog.
These are some of our best recipes—some go far back, but most are so popular that we’ve since replaced old photos with newer updated images!
What makes a favorite recipe?
Recently at the dinner table, I turned to my mom and said—you know what I wish we had? A cookbook purely of famous chefs’ ACTUAL go-to recipes. What are the things that they really actually cook on repeat—that is, the recipes that make it into the coveted repertoire when you’re cranky or on autopilot.
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen has the right idea with her upcoming cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files, which we are very much anticipating. For us, the process is a bit trickier, as all four of us have different criteria for what constitutes a “favorite.”
Sarah loves certain textures and flavors, and a need for a specialty ingredient or two won’t hold her back. I don’t mind a couple of fiddly ingredients, but they have to do double duty. I prefer recipes that are easy and forgiving (for when I inevitably need a substitution or my hand slips with the oyster sauce bottle).
My mom Judy likes simple and fresh flavors, or zingy pickly or chewy things that go well with a bowl of rice porridge, and my dad tends to lean on showstoppers that he trots out for family gatherings.
So here’s an amalgamation of all four of our favorite tofu recipes! Maybe you’ll recognize some favorites here, or discover something new for dinner tonight.
SEAFOOD & TOFU
Spicy chili peppers, tender fish, and that silky tofu—spiked with fermented black beans and lots and lots of garlic? It’s a kind of perfection that we go back to again and again. We all can agree on this one!
These easy soup is savory with fish and chicken stock. It’s chock full of protein, so you could perhaps more generously consider it a kind of “stew” in terms of fill power. With just a little heat, it’s another way to pair up tender flaky white fish and silken tofu!
CHICKEN & TOFU
This recipe was born out of an attempt to recreate the bubbling Cantonese casseroles we grew up eating—perfect for scooping over a bowl of rice. (Parents of picky eaters, we’re betting that kids will like this one!)
BEEF & TOFU
This stir-fry is pretty irresistible. It’s also one of those dishes that achieves the coveted balance of juuuust enough vegetables to serve as a one pot meal you can feel good about.
On childhood trips to Chinatown past, we would head to a good Cantonese restaurant to place a pickup order for dinner on the ride back home through the Holland Tunnel. This is one of our go-to’s—maybe it’s because all that protein helps replenish the strength in your arms, tired from carrying bags stuffed with fresh produce back to the car.
PORK & TOFU
6. Mapo Tofu
Our famous mapo tofu recipe—’nuff said—improved over the years with plenty of notes to make sure you succeed every time!
If the intense spicy numbing flavor of mapo is a bit too much for you, try this spicy garlic tofu. Garlic is the star in this version, and it’s also on the milder side. (We use sweet hoisin sauce in addition to spicy bean sauce, and don’t use Sichuan peppercorns.)
We’ve been eating some version of this since we were small. The five spice tofu is one of the best ingredients to have on hand when you need a tasty dinner on the table fast. Just ask my mom, who made this often when she and my dad were working full-time, commuting to and from the city each day.
When my mom first developed this recipe, I’m not exaggerating…I think we ate it once a week for a few months. The long hot green peppers make it addictive without adding too much heat!
10. Spicy Hunan Steamed Tofu with Mushrooms (Vegan)
Our ardent love of the first recipe on this list inspired this recipe, which if we’re being totally honest, may have dethroned the fish version. The mushrooms are a meaty substitute, and they absorb all that chili sauce beautifully. Hurrah for sustainability AND deliciousness!
11. Vegan Mapo Tofu (Vegan)
The best of our classic OG mapo tofu, but with mushrooms as the “ground meat” to make this favorite friendly for all dietary needs.
When I write these posts, I think to myself—what’s the most salient piece of information that folks should know about this dish? But with this one? JUST LOOK AT IT. Glistening silken tofu, wok-fried to crisp perfection so it doesn’t fall apart, in a luscious shining sauce with mixed veggies. Don’t forget the rice!
13. Spiced Tofu Stir-Fry with Garlic Chives (Vegan)
Another one of my mother’s ridiculously easy recipes that relies on her favorite stand-by—five spiced tofu—and one of her favorite things to grow in the garden. Garlic chives taste astoundingly savory in this recipe and they rep the veggies to boot.
14. Ma La Xiang Guo (Spicy Numbing Stir-fry Pot) (Vegan)
Okay so technically with this one you can add tofu—or not! While we offer up a starting point for what you can include in your “dry pot” of spicy goodness, it’s ultimately up to you!
15. Spicy Sichuan Boiled Tofu (水煮豆腐干) (Vegan)
While it’s technically Sichuan, this was inspired by one of our favorite Hunan restaurants that you might have heard us mention in the past. It’s called Fortune Cookies in Bridgewater, NJ. When we ate this spicy five spice tofu, we couldn’t believe how delicious it was. Now, there’s a good chance they used some kind of meat stock in their sauce, but we took care to make our version fully plant-based.
16. Salt and Pepper Tofu (Vegan)
It was really only a matter of time before tofu got the salt and pepper treatment around here, and we’re so glad it did. When eating more plant-based, I rely on tasty (admittedly, meat-like-ish) dishes like this one to satisfy my cravings for Cantonese salt and peppery goodness.
17. Spicy Cold Tofu – look out for an update!
This is an oldie but a goodie, that we recently updated with new photos, nutrition info, and light adjustments to the recipe. It’ll be out in a few days. Everything goes into a bowl. Mix. Eat. That’s it!
18. Cantonese-Style Steamed Tofu (Vegan)
The same flavors of a steamed Cantonese fish, but with silky tofu. Okay, it’s not like the tofu tastes like fish—we won’t go that far, but it’s just plain old delicious this way.
This is a quiet favorite among readers, and a great recipe to make if you’re like me and you find yourself in Chinese girl desperation mode—i.e., all you have in your refrigerator are condiments, a lone box of tofu that you bought when you were more optimistic about your kitchen exploits, and not much else.
If there are wood ear mushrooms involved, I’m sold. But in case you’re still skeptical—cooked cucumbers are actually the bomb (I know, my millennial is showing—shh…cover any nearby Zoomers’ ears). It seems unlikely, but this dish is light, refreshing, and also incredibly satisfying at the same time. It’s a great stir-fry for a hot summer night when maybe you’ve just plucked a cucumber out of the garden.
20. Tofu with Black Bean Sauce (Vegan)
Sarah makes this dish regularly, because who can resist the salty funk of the fermented black bean? No one. Ya hear?!
21. Stir Fried Bok Choy with Tofu Skin (腐皮青菜) (Vegan)
This easy bok choy stir-fry is a great way to get in some extra protein. Light and mellow flavors are perfect for when you’re craving simplicity, and they let the flavor of the tofu skins really shine through.
22. Crispy Tofu without Deep Frying (Vegan)
This is more of a building block recipe—you can prep the tofu as is with this simple sauce drizzle, or throw the tofu into a stir fry after this to make it extra savory. Sarah and I make this on nights when we need an easy protein source.
Remember when everyone was obsessed with “bowl-ifying” everything? One recipe that stuck is this 10-minute broccoli tofu stir-fry (and if you have a good rice cooker, it truly can just take 10 minutes).
I’m gonna go off and say that hot and sour soup is one of THE MOST difficult quality Chinese takeout items to find out there. Let me explain.
Is it “hot” enough? (And we don’t mean chili oil, we’re talking white peppah.) Is it SOUR enough?! Where’s the white vinegar??? Because most of the time we end up splashing more into our soup bowls.
If you’ve found a hot and sour true love out there, hold on and hold fast. But if you haven’t yet—consider this recipe. When you make it at home, you can customize it to your exact hot / sour specifications. Plus you have the option to omit the meat with our Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup.
This is my mom’s go-to special occasion soup. Chinese New Year? Popo (our grandma) is in town from Flushing? Just slayed a wicked series of tests? (What? I’m not still scarred by high school…why are you looking at me like that?)
This soup shows up, and it is so incredibly satisfying and tasty thanks to the salted pork, generous number of floating tofu knots, and bamboo.
Bet you weren’t expecting this one to show up here, but once we learned from Maangchi to make our own soondubu jigae at home, we felt like we had the power of the kitchen gods.
Making your own little bubbling ttukbaegi of fiery red broth (milder than its appearance makes it seem), and cracking an egg in like they do at the restaurant? Feeeel the power, baby.
27. Vegan Detox Soup
On a less exciting note, this feels like a fitting one to end on, because it’s so darn simple and my mom really does make a version of this on the regular.
It’s also worth mentioning that some of our readers educated us that “detox” is not the most appropriate term, so suffice it to say this soup is super good for you and we always feel better after having a bowl or two.
Hope you enjoyed our favorite tofu recipes! Let us know in the comments if you find a new favorite to add to your repertoire.