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!
- 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: 554 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 16g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 1355mg Carbohydrates: 89g Fiber: 10g Sugar: 25g Protein: 12g