Sweet and Sour Tofu Recipe is crispy tofu in a healthy sweet and sour sauce served with sauteed vegetables on a bed of brown rice and then drizzled with extra sauce for added bliss.
I whip up sweet and sour tofu whenever I crave Chinese food to replace my former love for sweet and sour chicken. Of course, I don't eat chicken anymore, but you can easily make sweet and sour tofu vegan. And don't worry, this sweet and sour tofu recipe doesn't taste anything like chicken. Instead, it's a combination of crispy tofu in a sweet and sour sauce, served on a bed of brown rice with sauteed vegetables.
I love Chinese food, but I've yet to discover a healthy vegan Chinese restaurant. Or even a Chinese restaurant that offers vegan fare. Since I love Chinese food, I create dishes that replicate my favorite dishes before transitioning to a plant-based diet.
So, let's make a sweet and sour tofu stir fry for a vegan Chinese treat!
How to Make The Sweet and Sour Sauce
As a general rule, I never buy bottled sauces because of all the unknown ingredients as well as most contain oil and a ton of sugar. Instead, I rely on fresh juice and maple or date syrup if I want to make something sweet.
Yes, these natural sugars are still sugars, yet they are processed differently, making them a healthier alternative.
Avoid Store-Bought Sauces
For instance, a popular store-bought brand called Kikkoman Sweet and Sour Sauce contains:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Vinegar Modified Corn Starch
- Pineapple Flakes
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Tapioca Flour
- Natural Flavors
- Ascorbic Acid Salt
- Dehydrated Red Bell Pepper
- Extravtives of Paprika
For that reason, I make a homemade sweet and sour sauce for tofu.
Easy Sweet and Sour Sauce Ingredients
- Pineapple juice: Using fresh pineapple juice is best, but in a pinch canned pineapple juice works just as well. Choose sugar-free or natural for a healthier option.
- Maple syrup or date syrup: Used as a thickener and different sweetness to bring out the natural flavor in the pineapple
- Rice Vinegar: This sweet vinegar provides a balance to the fruit's sweetness and provides tanginess to the sauce
- Ketchup: it's a seasoning tool and flavor enhancer with a fantastic umami quality. I like sugar-free organic ketchup.
- Soy Sauce or Tamari: Provides a savory component.
- Arrow Root Powder mixed with water or substitute corn starch mixed with water. Arrowroot is a natural thickener for the sauce.
- Date syrup or agave nectar is a great substitute for maple syrup.
- Tomato paste can replace ketchup.
- Cornstarch relaces arrowroot powder. Any type of flour is also a great substitute, but often it takes an additional Tablespoon of flour and more time for the flour to thicken the sauce.
- Choose Tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for a gluten-free option.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Tofu
First, press tofu. If using extra-firm tofu, follow the instructions for Pressed Tofu for Grilling, Baking, Air-frying, or Cooking in a Skillet. To avoid pressing, choose sprouted tofu, which is already pressed and ready for marinating.
- Cut the tofu into equal-sized cubes to cook evenly
- Then, I suggest always marinating tofu overnight
- Using ¼ cup of the sweet and sour sauce, marinate the tofu overnight, making sure to coat the tofu with the sweet and sour sauce.
- Another suggestion is to flip the container over a few times while refrigerating to coat all the tofu pieces.
Next, choose to bake, air fry, grill, or pan sear. My favorite method for cooking tofu is air-frying or grilling.
While the tofu cooks, prepare brown rice and cut vegetables and pineapple into similar sizes to cook evenly.
- Red Bell Pepper: Offers beautiful red color and sweetness to a recipe
- Fresh PIneapple: cooking pineapple softens the fruit and brings out the sweer flavor as well as provides natural sweet, pineapple juice.
- Mame (shelled edamame): Edamame beans are whole, immature soybeans, sometimes referred to as vegetable-type soybeans. They are green and differ in color from regular soybeans, which are typically light brown, tan, or beige.
- Jalapeno: seeded and diced jalapeno provides a mild spice to a dish. Add a few seeds f you like it hotter, but if you are sensitive to spice, add sparingly.
- White or yellow onion: Yellow onions have a taste balanced between pungent and sweet, making them an all-purpose onion, while white onions have a more intense flavor that doesn't go over well in some dishes
- Brown rice: brown rice is nutty, a bit bready (like whole-wheat bread), and quite earthy.
- Sesame seeds (optional): Toasting sesame seeds makes them crunchier and can enhance their flavor
- Saute the vegetables together in a non-stick pan until onions are translucent and vegetables are al'dente (approximately 10 minutes on medium-low).
Then, serve by placing the cooked brown rice on the base of a large plate or tray. Add the cooked tofu to the middle and surround it with sauteed vegetables and pineapple. Next, drizzle with extra sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
One serving of this dish contains 241 calories
The air-frier is the best invention for oil-free cooking. The secret to crispy tofu is a combination of well-marinated tofu and an air-fryer. But using a convection oven yields the same results as an air-frier, so if you don't have an air-fryer, the convection oven works just as well.
I recommend fresh pineapple, but if fresh pineapple isn't available, choose canned pineapple in natural juices, not syrup. Pineapple canned in syrup contains a lot more sugar and is too sweet.
- Choose extra-extra from tofu or sprouted tofu to skip the step of pressing the tofu.
- Marinating the tofu overnight helps the tofu absorb the marinade for a deeper flavor.
- Making the sauce ahead of time is a time-saving tip. Since the sweet and sour sauce is used for the tofu marinade and the sauce for the recipe, it makes sense to make it the day before.
- The brown rice can also be prepared ahead of time and reheated right before serving. I often make a large portion of brown rice at the beginning of the week to use for recipes throughout the week.
- The store-bottled sweet and sour sauce can be substituted for homemade sauce, but if you seek a healthier option, homemade sauce is the better option.
Try these Asian Recipes
If you love this sweet and sour tofu recipe, give it a 5-star review below.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
Easy Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1 cup pineapple juice fresh is best
- ¼ cup maple syrup or date syrup
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 ½ Tablespoons arrowroot powder with 1 Tablespoon water or substitute corn starch mixed with water.
- 14 ounces extra firm or sprouted tofu cut into equal-sized cubes
- ¼ cup sweet and sour sauce
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 cup brown rice prepared
- 1 cup fresh pineapple cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 red bell pepper cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 white onion or yellow onion cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup mame shelled edamame
- Sesame Seeds optional
Easy Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Combine all ingredients, except the corn starch and water, and heat on medium-low until heated.
- Combine arrowroot or corn starch and water, forming a paste.
- Add to the hot sauce mixture.
- The sauce will thicken in a few short minutes.
- Remove from heat.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Press and cut the tofu into equal-sized cubes
- Marinate in ¼ cup sweet and sour sauce overnight
- While the tofu cooks, make the brown rice.
Preparing the brown rice
- Saute vegetables and pineapple while the rice and tofu cook
- In a large skillet, add the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and pineapple.
- Cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low until onions are translucent and vegetables are al'dente.
Serving the Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Begin plating the brown rice on a large plate or platter.
- Add the sweet and sour tofu to the center of the plate.
- Add half the vegetables on each side of the tofu
- Drizzle with additional sauce
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional)
- Serve extra sauce on the side
- Add Thai basil for additional flavor (optional)
- As a time-saver, use extra-extra firm tofu or sprouted tofu instead of extra firm tofu allows you to skip pressing the tofu.
- Because the sweet and sour sauce is both a marinade for the tofu and the sauce for the recipes, make it a day ahead of time so that you can marinate the tofu overnight.
- Fresh pineapple is always better than canned, but in a pinch, canned pineapple works well. However, choose the canned pineapple in natural juice instead of the type in syrup, which is too sweet for this recipe.
- The tofu can also be prepared ahead of time in the oven or the air fryer and reheated when cooking the vegetables.
- Sweet and sour tofu can be stored in a airtight container with the rice and sauce for up to 5 days.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂