This vegan black pepper tofu recipe is everything you ever wanted tofu to be. It’s crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside and smothered in a savory, sweet, fiery black pepper sauce that will have you licking your chopsticks. Tossed with meaty oyster mushrooms and creamy pan-fried eggplant served over rice, this easy tofu recipe is a complete meal on one plate.
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I recently found myself with an accidental overstock of black peppercorns in my pantry. That’s what happens when you and your husband make separate trips to the grocery store and don’t communicate. Luckily I have the perfect recipe for a good heaping of black pepper.
Now, if you google black pepper tofu, eight of the ten first page results are EXACTLY the same Yotam Ottolenghi recipe. That’s super annoying and, although Yotam is a great chef with a lovely vegetarian cookbook, his recipe calls for three different kinds of soy sauce and a whole eleven tablespoons of butter.
Don’t get me wrong, I do consider myself something of a soy sauce aficionado and have at least three types of soy sauce in my pantry now, but I’m well aware that most normal people do not.
So this recipe is my attempt at a simple black pepper sauce that most people will be able to make with basic pantry staples. (The butter can take a hike, though; this is a vegan black pepper tofu recipe!)
I also wanted to add a little more textural contrast and beef it up a bit with more vegetables. I rarely eat just a big plate of tofu on rice with nothing else. This orange and ginger glazed tofu has added broccoli, and this sweet and sour tofu has bell peppers and pineapple.
So to this black pepper tofu I added oyster mushrooms and eggplant. They are both delicious in the sauce and their meatiness and creaminess combine nicely with the crispy fried tofu.
This turned out to be one of those dishes that I was lucky to be able to photograph as I was gobbling it right out of the pan as I was preparing it. We took it for lunch and dinner and still wanted more! I just may be one of the most delicious tofu recipes I have ever prepared!
Black Pepper Tofu
Vegan black pepper tofu with eggplant and oyster mushrooms is a quick 20-minute dish that's full of sweet, savoury and fiery flavour!
- 2 - 4 tablespoons olive oil (as needed)
- 1 medium eggplant, cubed
- 200 grams (7 oz) oyster mushrooms
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce (regular, Chinese-style light soy sauce)
- 2 ½ tablespoons molasses
- ½ tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch mixed with ½ tablespoon cold water
- A block (400 g / 14 oz) of extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed
- Cornstarch for coating the tofu
- 5 small shallots (or 3 big ones), sliced thinly from top to bottom
- 6 cloves of garlic, grated or pressed
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 long red chili peppers, sliced (get a variety that has a bit of heat but won’t burn your face off either)
- 2 or 3 green onions, sliced into strips
- Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- Rice, for serving
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil and the eggplant. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned on all sides and soft and creamy in the middle. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and add the oyster mushrooms. Sautee until browned on both sides and then remove to the plate.
- While the veggies are frying, mix together the sauce. Combine the soy sauce, molasses, vinegar, sugar, pepper and cornstarch slurry and mix well. Set aside.
- Put the cubed tofu into a plastic or ziplock bag and add a few tablespoons of cornstarch. Shake the bag to cover the tofu in a thin layer of cornstarch. Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary then add the tofu. You may need to work in batches if it doesn’t all fit. Fry the tofu, flipping from time to time, until golden and crispy on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Carefully wipe any cornstarch residue from the pan and add the shallots, garlic, ginger and chili peppers. Stir fry for about 30 seconds or until the ginger and garlic is fragrant and the shallots are soft. Add the tofu, mushrooms and eggplant. Give the sauce another stir and pour it over. Mix everything together and simmer the sauce until thickened – about 30 seconds to a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the sliced green onion.
- Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 554Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1355mgCarbohydrates: 89gFiber: 10gSugar: 25gProtein: 12g
Wow! Great, I love the taste and it's so easy. Added green asparagus and red peppers and used brown champignons instead of asian mushrooms.
This dish is AMAZING. Such good depth to the flavour. I whip this out to impress anyone, vegans and meat eaters alike, and it gets em every time.
This is a great dish. It is pretty spicy, I might cut back a little on the pepper. And it takes much longer to prepare, but well worth the effort. We will be making it again.
Julie Bolton says
I made this for my husband and myself today and I thought it was lovely. There is a beautiful depth of flavour and although it has heat it grows rather than being harsh. I will be making it again but not often because I think it might be a little high in sugars. Next time I will serve it with a green vegetable like steamed kale for a bit more colour. Thanks 🙂
Great, so glad you enjoyed it! I agree with you that it's a lot of sugar so something to be enjoyed just from time to time!
Tried this and loved the combination of flavors. 2 teaspoons of peppercorns was perfect for our tastes. I added green peppers, snow peas, and served on cauliflower rice. Was lovely, thanks for the recipe!
Thank your for your comment, so happy you enjoyed it!
Way too much black pepper flavor for our taste! I wish I would have only added 2 tsp of peppercorns instead of 1 tablespoon since it overwhelmed the other flavors.
So beautiful! Photos are breathtaking!! Can't wait to try this!!
Mine didn’t quite look the same - I wonder if this is because I did not use molasses, but a combo of a little more brown sugar and agave instead. This tasted WONDERFULY, though. I will definitely be doubling it for more leftovers next time 🙂
A. Jannepori-Moran says
This sounds ike an amazingly delicious recipe! The rich textures, nutritious ingredients and a subtle hint of ginger... Mmmm mmm!
Hi all. So my family and I are on our 3rd day vegan life. We are so happy. I have a couple of questions. So now that I'm eating more carbs, rice, quienoa ext. I feel like i'm going to gain weight, is this true? Also of course i'm getting negative feed back about vegan diet. Do i need to take extra supplements? ppl have said to take iron and extra supplements. Please help this beginner LOL.
You should take a B12 supplement. As long as you eat a balanced diet with loads of grains, pulses, fruit and veggie you don't need any other supplement. Similarly, you will probably lose weight rather than gain it. I recommend reading The China Study and The Starch Solution for more guidance.
I made this for dinner today, and dear lord it was SPICY. I used two teaspoons pepper but that was still wayy too much for us. We love our red peppers but I think the spiciness of black pepper can be pretty harsh. Should have thought of that before I made a dish with black pepper in the name I guess 🙂
I do think it would be lovely if I only add a little bit of black pepper, so I'll definitely be trying that!
It's definately a dish for spice lovers!
I have just made this- I only used 1/2 red chilli and substituted the molasses with a rich honey (from avocado trees). It was delicious.