This vegan (baked, air fried, OR) pan-fried tofu with peanut sauce is hearty, wholesome, and super versatile! Serve over a bed of spinach and grains, transform into a stir-fry, peanut tofu noodles, and more! All you need is a few simple ingredients and 10 minutes of cooking time (pan-fried) for this frugal but delicious gluten-free, dairy-free lunch/ dinner recipe with tofu!
Versatile, Crispy (baked or) Pan-Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Whether you’re looking for a low-effort vegan lunch/dinner recipe with tofu or a restaurant-quality meal at a fraction of the price – this fried tofu with peanut sauce has it all! It's creamy, rich, and satisfying while packed with plant-based protein, iron, calcium, etc. Even better, this peanut tofu recipe is impressively versatile!
In fact, we've included methods for pan-fried, air-fried, or baked tofu with peanut sauce. There are also tons of ways to adapt this recipe. Serve it as a simple appetizer (perfect for potlucks!), main alongside the grain of your choice, or adapt it to a peanut tofu stir-fry or peanut tofu noodles – the options are plentiful. Even better, this dish makes for a great 'clear out the fridge/pantry' meal, perfect for using up leftover veggies, grains, etc to avoid waste.
Peanut butter sauces are incredibly popular in Asian cuisine, but unfortunately, supermarket sauce options in the US are usually pricey, chemical-laden, and provide lackluster results. With just a few pantry staples, though, you can pull together a far superior spicy peanut butter sauce from home. Pair that with crispy tofu, spinach (and/or extra veggies), and a grain of your choice, for a simple but impressive crowd-pleasing meal!
Sriracha: For an optional kick of extra heat, add some sriracha (to taste). Alternatively, use red pepper flakes.
For this particular recipe, we used the below to serve alongside the fried tofu with peanut sauce. However, keep reading for recipe add-ins and variations!
Spinach: We use ½ bunch of spinach (baby or regular).
Grains (optional): You could use brown rice, quinoa, low-carb cauliflower rice, etc., to serve alongside the peanut butter tofu.
The Add-ins and Variations:
Ginger: Adding a little fresh minced ginger (around ½ teaspoon up to 1 ½ tsp) to the peanut sauce is a great way to add extra flavor if you have some lying around.
Peanuts: You can garnish the dish with some crushed peanuts for texture.
Sweetener: Like maple syrup, agave nectar, or coconut sugar (only add granulated if you’re baking/cooking the sauce). This will help to balance the flavors in the sauce and will caramelize when cooked. I recommend using between 1-2tbsp of sweetener.
Swap the citrus: The peanut sauce calls for lemon juice but can easily be subbed for lime juice or orange juice.
Herbs: You can garnish the peanut butter tofu with green onions or cilantro if you have some.
Other vegetables: This peanut tofu recipe is really easy to pair with all sorts of sauteed veggies (or to make a peanut tofu stir-fry). This includes broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini, cabbage, carrots, etc. Use what you have available! You can also use frozen/ tinned veggies.
Peanut tofu noodles: You can use the noodles of your choice; rice, udon, ramen, etc. You could even use veggie noodles! Cook according to the package instructions.
How to Cook Tofu with Peanut Sauce?
Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.
First, cube and press the tofu – follow our guide to pressing tofu, if needed. If you plan on serving the peanut butter tofu with a grain, prepare that simultaneously (follow the package instructions). If you haven't already, while the tofu is pressing, it is the perfect time to prepare the spicy peanut sauce.
Then, heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the oil and soy sauce/tamari. Once hot, add the tofu cubes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté the tofu until browned, then flip the tofu and repeat – cooking until evenly browned (approx. 4-5 minutes per side).
At the same time, lightly sauté or steam the spinach until it's slightly wilted and a nice deep green color.
Then, serve the tofu over the bed of spinach and top with the peanut sauce and sriracha (optional) to taste.
For Baked Tofu with Peanut Sauce: After pressing the tofu, coat it with the oil and soy sauce. Then toss with around 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch for a light dusting (remove any excess- this will help produce crispier baked tofu) and the salt and pepper. Then bake in the oven at 400F/205C for 25-30 minutes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, flipping once halfway. You can then serve the baked tofu with peanut sauce OR transfer both to a pan and sauté until the sauce is warm and the tofu thoroughly coated.
You could optionally half-bake the tofu before adding the sauce and continuing to bake. However, the tofu won't become as crispy this way, and the sauce can burn to the pan where it touches and cause wastage.
Peanut Butter Tofu Recipe Variations
Peanut tofu stir-fry: Cook the crispy tofu using your favorite method above. In the last 10 minutes (or so), heat a large wok and add a swirl of oil and your veggies of choice and sauté until firm-tender – tender. Then, add the peanut sauce to the pan and the tofu and cook for a further minute or two to make sure everything is coated in the sauce.
Peanut tofunoodles: Follow the above note. However, also prepare your noodles of choice according to their package instructions. Then add them to the pan along with the cooked tofu to ensure everything is thoroughly coated in the sauce.
How to Make-Ahead and Store?
This fried tofu with peanut sauce is very meal-prep friendly. Firstly, you can prepare the peanut sauce 5-7 days in advance and store it in the fridge (a slight separation is normal with natural peanut butter). Alternatively, you can freeze it (in portions) for between 2-3 months.
You can also pre-cook the tofu and/or veggies store them in the fridge for 3-5 days before assembling with the sauce. Then, when you want to enjoy the peanut butter tofu, reheat the tofu using your method of choice (pan, air fryer, or oven) until it crisps up again.
Once prepared, store the leftover coated tofu in peanut sauce in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Then, reheat the peanut sauce tofu either on the stovetop or in the microwave (the tofu won't be as crispy when reheating).
Top Recipe Tips and FAQs
Can I substitute the peanut butter? Yes, you could also prepare this recipe with almond butter or cashew butter – though the other ingredients in the sauce may need to be tweaked too, to taste.
Adjust the spice: This tofu with peanut sauce recipe is very easy to adjust. Simply increase or decrease the amount of sriracha/chili sauce added to the recipe.
Adjust the sauce to taste: Every element in the peanut sauce is tweakable – feel free to add or reduce the amount of anything, to taste.
The color of the peanut sauce: This will vary based on the type of peanut butter you use.
For a thinner peanut sauce: You can add a little of your favorite dairy-free milk (or canned coconut milk).
More Vegan Tofu Recipes
If you’re still struggling for more ideas of what to make with tofu, here are some of our favorite tofu recipes:
This is another really quick, easy meal that is a great source of protein, iron, and calcium. You’ll need to prepare and use the (Sorta) Spicy Peanut Sauce – which is really simple and easy – and, if you’d like, serve with a side of rice or quinoa.
2teaspoonsof sesame oilyou could use water but the sesame oil adds a great flavor
2teaspoonsof soy sauce
Salt, Pepper to Taste
Sriracha to Taste
Cube and press the tofu. Here’s a guide to pressing tofu, if you need some advice.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil and soy sauce. Add the tofu and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute one side of the tofu until it lightly browns, then flip it and repeat. (approx 5 minutes per side)
Steam the spinach until it turns a nice green. Make sure to not over-steam!
Serve with rice or quinoa (optional) and top with peanut sauce and sriracha to taste.
For Air Fried Tofu: You can follow this process for air fried tofu then combine it with the remaining elements to serve.For Baked Tofu with Peanut Sauce: After pressing the tofu, coat it with the oil and soy sauce. Then toss with around 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch for a light dusting (remove any excess- this will help produce crispier baked tofu) and the salt and pepper. Then bake in the oven at 400F/205C for 25-30 minutes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, flipping once halfway. You can then serve the baked tofu with peanut sauce OR transfer both to a pan and sauté until the sauce is warm and the tofu thoroughly coated.