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This quick and easy one-pan Thai basil tofu stir-fry (tofu pad krapow) is packed with salty, savory, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors, is super versatile, low-budget, protein-rich, and perfect for enjoying alone or alongside rice or quinoa as a hearty, healthy meal! Even better – it’s ready to be enjoyed in just 15 minutes!

completed Lemon Basil Tofu plated on a white plate

15-Minute Thai Tofu Stir-Fry with Lemon and Basil

There is honestly no limit to the ways you can flavor and serve tofu (aka the ultimate flavor sponge). We’ve already shared several marinated tofu recipes, including rich and spicy buffalo tofu, buttery lemon tofu, and sweet and salty tofu bites. Now it’s the time for this simple, aromatic, savory, and delicious Thai basil tofu (aka Pad Krapow inspired) stir-fry!

This easy Thai tofu marinade combines 10 simple and inexpensive pantry-friendly ingredients and utilizes some of our favorite flavors. Like soy sauce, ginger and garlic, enhanced with bright and tangy lemon and aromatic basil, balanced with just a little maple syrup for minimal ingredients and maximum taste. The result is an aromatic, tangy, savory, salty, and slightly sweet blend.

Even better, swap out the basil between Thai basil, Thai holy basil (our preferred option), and regular basil based on availability and budget for a dish that is either sweet and anise-like, hot and peppery, or sweet and peppery. Either way, you’ll be blown away by the amount of flavor with such simple ingredients.

When combined with equally versatile veggies (we went with onion and bell pepper this time), this Thai tofu stir-fry is perfect for a last-minute, low-fuss, high-protein, and nutrient meal. Enjoy it alone, in lettuce wraps, or alongside your favorite grain/noodles. Plus, you can save the leftovers for several days with this meal-prep-friendly dish!

The Ingredients and Substitutes

Just 10 ingredients make up this simple and delicious Thai tofu stir-fry (tofu pad krapow).

ingredients for Lemon Basil Tofu on a white surface
  • Tofu: Use high-protein super firm tofu or extra-firm tofu.

If you use the former, you don’t even need to press the tofu. For extra-firm tofu, we press it if it seems overly watery, pressing it simply with our hands to release excess water or for just 15 minutes pressed under a heavy object. Read more about tofu pressing here.

  • Oil: Any neutral-tasting cooking oil will work. I.e., avocado oil, veg oil, etc.
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice (or lime juice) is best, but bottled works in a pinch. If you have neither, rice wine vinegar should also work.
  • Soy sauce: We like to use dark soy for the deep umami depth (or a combination of light and dark for flavor depth), but use a reduced-sodium option if preferred. Use tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free.
  • Maple syrup: Or another sweetener, like agave nectar, coconut sugar, or brown sugar. This balances the salty and acidic flavors well.
  • Aromatics: This lemon basil sauce relies on garlic and ginger (minced) for plenty of flavor depth.
  • Basil: If you’re able to, we highly recommend using Thai holy basil when possible. However, regular basil works amazingly in its stead. Regular Thai basil would also work.
  • Vegetables: The traditional options for tofu pad krapow would be the below. However, the veggies you can use are pretty versatile.
    • Red onion (or shallots)
    • Bell pepper (red or green)

Basil Vs. Thai Basil Vs. Holy Basil

Whereas regular basil has a slightly sweet and mildly peppery flavor, Thai basil is far more robust, with a slightly sweet anise/licorice-like, slightly spicy flavor. In comparison, holy basil is spicy (sometimes referred to as hot basil), peppery, and almost clove-like.

Usually, we wouldn’t recommend substituting one for the other, but we often use regular basil in this Thai tofu stir-fry recipe in place of holy basil, and it tastes great (you can add other hot ingredients to make up that missing spice).

The Add-ins and Variations:

  • Chilies: To add heat, add some Thai red pepper flakes or finely sliced Thai chilies (de-seeded). Sriracha or another hot sauce would also work for extra heat in the Thai tofu marinade.
  • Vegan oyster sauce: Just a splash will add an umami depth to this easy tofu marinade.
  • Nuts: Garnish the Thai tofu stir-fry with toasted, unsalted crushed peanuts or cashews for extra crunch and heart-healthy fats. For a nut-free version, sprinkle the Thai tofu with sesame seeds.
  • Other vegetables: To turn this into a heartier Thai basil tofu stir-fry, add extra veggies, like:
    • Broccoli/broccolini
    • Green beans
    • Carrot
    • Mushrooms
    • Eggplant

How To Make Thai Basil Tofu (Tofu Pad Krapow)

A handful of simple, effortless steps are all that is required to prepare this simple lemon basil tofu recipe.

Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.

  • 1) First, slice the tofu. We cut it into ¼ to ⅓-inch triangle wedges (first slice them into rectangles, then cut each of those diagonally for triangles).

Alternatively, you could cut the tofu into cubes, strips, smaller triangles, or any other shape of your liking around a similar thickness. You could also use a fork to tear the tofu into a ‘ground’ consistency.

  • 2) Then, prepare the various veggies by thinly slicing the peppers and onion and mincing the garlic and ginger.
  • 3) Whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Set it aside.
  • 4) Heat the cooking oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a further few minutes.
  • 5) Add the tofu wedges to the pan, moving the veggies to the sides, and cook them for about 1-2 minutes per side (until lightly golden).
  • 6) Then, pour in the sauce, add the basil, stir, and cook for 6 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • To make the tofu more tender: Freeze and thaw it before carrying out the recipe. This process makes for a chewier, more tender tofu texture.
  • The cooking time will vary: Based on whether you prefer tender-crisp or tender veggies.
  • Adjust the consistency: Based on the shape of the tofu and how you cut the veggies.
  • For crispier tofu: Dust it in cornstarch before pan-frying and cook it untouched until golden and crispy on all sides.
  • Tweak the sauce ingredients: Add more soy sauce for salty flavor, maple for sweetness, lemon juice for tang, etc.

FAQs

Can I make the tofu Pad Krapow without sugar?

It’s possible to use a sugar alternative, like a brown sugar alternative, and adjust the amount accordingly. However, we don’t recommend omitting it entirely, as the sweetness helps balance the various flavors in the dish.

Is this Thai basil tofu gluten-free?

Use tamari/coconut aminos instead of regular soy sauce. Otherwise, yes, this Thai basil tofu recipe is naturally gluten-free.

Which basil is best?

This depends on your desired flavor. For a more traditional Thai tofu Pas Krapow dish, we recommend using Thai holy basil, which is peppery and spicy. In comparison, regular sweet basil is lightly peppery but not spicy, and Thai basil (the only one we haven’t yet tested) has a licorice-like flavor.

completed Lemon Basil Tofu plated on a white plate

What To Serve With Thai Basil Tofu Stir Fry?

If you want a light meal, enjoy this lemon basil tofu alone. However, I enjoy mine alongside brown rice or quinoa for more of a complete meal. It also works well with noodles, like rice noodles, tossed in with the stir fry.

For a lower-carb option, cauliflower rice or even mashed cauliflower would work, or you can even serve them in delicious Thai tofu lettuce cups. Ramp up the meal further with extra sauteed or baked vegetables, too.

Storage Instructions

Allow any leftover Thai basil tofu to cool and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend freezing the dish, as the veggies will become mushy/watery upon thawing.

Reheat the Thai tofu stir-fry in the microwave or gently on the stovetop until heated.

More Easy Tofu Recipes

Also, you might enjoy browsing our list of 16 savory tofu recipes you need to try!

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

completed Lemon Basil Tofu plated on a white plate

Lemon Basil Tofu

5 from 51 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 3 servings
This quick and easy one-pan Thai basil tofu stir-fry (tofu pad krapow) is packed with salty, savory, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors, is super versatile, low-budget, protein-rich, and perfect for enjoying alone or alongside rice or quinoa as a hearty, healthy meal! Even better – it's ready to be enjoyed in just 15 minutes!

Ingredients 

  • 1 (16-ounce) package of extra firm tofu
  • ¼ cup of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of agave or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • ½ large yellow or red onion sliced
  • 1 small green or red bell pepper sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • ¼ cup of packed basil leaves
  • Brown rice optional

Instructions 

  • Turn the tofu onto its side lengthwise and cut it into slices. Then, cut those slices into 2 triangles. This should yield between 8-16 triangles.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, and agave or maple syrup. Set aside.
  • In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the garlic and ginger and saute for 1 more minute.
  • Place the tofu slices directly onto the pan (scoot the veggies out of the way with a spatula) and cook for 1 minute on each side.
  • Pour in the soy sauce mixture and add in the basil, cook for 3 minutes, flip the tofu slices over and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Serve over brown rice (optional).

Notes

  • To make the tofu more tender: Freeze and thaw it before carrying out the recipe. This process makes for a chewier, more tender tofu texture.
  • The cooking time will vary: Based on whether you prefer tender-crisp or tender veggies.
  • Adjust the consistency: Based on the shape of the tofu and how you cut the veggies.

Nutrition

Calories: 171kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 14gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.03gSodium: 1178mgPotassium: 405mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 882IUVitamin C: 43mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 3mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Keywords: asian recipes, basil, easy dinner, easy tofu recipes, lemon, lemon tofu, plant protein, quick recipes, tofu dish, vegan dish, vegan recipe, vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this for supper last night paired with quinoa and my husband devoured it! I added broccoli and cauliflower but next time I’ll omit the cauliflower. I couldn’t find extra firm tofu so I followed your instructions for pressing the tofu as well as coating it with cornstarch before searing. Yummy recipe 😋

  2. 5 stars
    Absolutely love the look and sound of it. Saved the recipe and will try it this week. Thanks so much for inspiration!!