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Make takeout-style Salt and Pepper Tofu in under 40 minutes! It’s super crispy and loaded with flavor but baked not fried, free from MSG & perfect for fakeout Fridays!

completed Salt and Pepper Tofu on a plate

Bring your favorite takeout dish home with this crowd-pleasing homemade baked salt and pepper tofu recipe. It’s a healthier and cheaper alternative to ordering in, so simple it’s practically foolproof, and a great low-fuss weeknight dinner.

You might also enjoy Asian-inspired easy tofu adobo, teriyaki tofu stir-fry, General Tso’s tofu, and spicy sesame tofu stir-fry.

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What Is Salt and Pepper Tofu?

Despite its name, Cantonese-inspired salt and pepper seasoning is so much more than just that. It combines salt and pepper—often white pepper or Sichuan pepper—with other seasonings like Chinese five-spice powder. It also sometimes contains MSG and sugar, but that’s completely optional, and I don’t even miss it.

Salt and pepper seasoning is typically served over a crispy protein (this time baked crispy tofu) complete with sautéed garlic, ginger, onions, and bell peppers (+ optional chilies for heat) for an amazingly umami-rich, warm, savory, slightly spicy dish.

Bonus Tip! You can also try this seasoning over battered and fried oyster mushrooms, vegan buffalo cauliflower wings, oven-baked sesame fries, and even scrambled tofu with veggies.

Ingredient Notes

Refer to the recipe card for the full list of ingredients and quantities.

ingredients for Salt and Pepper Tofu measured out on a white surface

Recipe Variations

  • Chili: Add very finely sliced green or red chili – like a bird’s-eye chili or other. Adjust the type based on your preferred spice level. Alternatively, add chili flakes.
  • Mushroom powder: Just a little provides natural umami-rich flavor in place of MSG.
  • Sugar: Some versions add just a hint of sugar (½ – 1 tsp) for balancing sweetness.
  • Sesame oil: A few drops mixed with the other oil adds a toasty, nutty depth.

Takeout versions also often contain the ingredient MSG (monosodium glutamate). If you want to add it, about ¼ tsp should be enough.

How to Make Salt and Pepper Tofu

process shot showing tofu being mixed with cornstarch in bowl
process shot showing tofu on baking sheet

Step 1: First, if you haven’t already, drain, press the tofu then, preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper/a silicone mat. Next, toss the tofu and three tablespoons of oil into a medium bowl. Add a tablespoon of cornstarch and toss to coat evenly. Then add a second tablespoon of cornstarch and toss once more until most has adhered to the tofu (not the bowl).

Step 2: Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping it halfway until golden-brown and crisp.

Optionally, add about ⅓ of the salt and pepper seasoning to the cornstarch first.

process shot showing veggies added to pan
process shot showing veggies cooking in pan

Step 3: Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping it halfway until golden-brown and crisp. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice the red onions and bell pepper, and mince the ginger and garlic while you heat a large saucepan/skillet over medium heat with the remaining oil.

Step 4: Once hot, sauté the veg and aromatics for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add half the seasoning to the pan, mix well, then add the remaining seasoning, sauté for a minute, and set aside.

process shot showing tofu added to pan

Step 5: Finally, combine the seasoned vegetables and tofu and toss thoroughly, then add the green onion, mix well, and serve. Enjoy!

Enjoy salt and pepper tofu with fluffy steamed rice/fried rice (vegetable fried rice) or noodles and other favorite takeout sides, like crispy spring rolls, spicy cucumber salad, steamed bok choy/broccoli, etc.

FAQs

Could I air fry the tofu instead?

For simple air fryer salt and pepper tofu spread the tofu in a single layer, with space between for airflow. Air-fry at 400F/200C for about 10-14 minutes, flipping halfway. Add the aromatics/veg in the last few minutes then add the seasoning immediately out the air fryer and toss well.

You could also pan-fry the tofu, if preferred, for 2-3 minutes per side.

Can I use less oil?

You could try tossing the diced tofu in the cornstarch and then spraying it with some oil/cooking spray – though it might not become as crispy.

Pro Recipe Tips

  • Press the tofu: This is important for the best texture and crispiness. Learn how to press tofu here.
  • Finely dice the veg/aromatics: That way, you get a bit of everything in every bite.
  • For more flavor: Optionally, brine the tofu in salted water (use 1 tbsp salt per 2 cups of water) for 1-2 hours before patting dry and coating with oil/starch.
  • To adjust flavor: Feel free to experiment with how much salt and pepper seasoning you use depending on how robust you prefer the flavor.
completed Salt and Pepper Tofu on a plate

Storage Instructions

Store the cooled salt and pepper tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

For the best texture, reheat it in a skillet with a little oil OR in the oven/air fryer at 375F/190C until heated through and a little crispy once more.

completed Salt and Pepper Tofu in a storage container

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 2 – 4
Make takeout-style Salt and Pepper Tofu in under 40 minutes! It’s super crispy and loaded with flavor but baked not fried, free from MSG & perfect for fakeout Fridays!

Ingredients 

  • 1 (1-pound) block of super firm tofu, pressed, dried, and cubed
  • 5 tablespoons of high heat oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (or tapioca starch, arrowroot,potato starch, or rice flour)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1- inch fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of five-spice powder, or to taste
  • ¼ cup of green onions, thinly sliced

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside
  • In a medium bowl, toss the tofu cubes with 3 tablespoons of oil until evenly coated.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and toss. Add the second tablespoon of cornstarch and toss until evenly coated and until most of the cornstarch is stuck to the tofu and not the bowl.
  • Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet and flip the tofu cubes. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until all sides are evenly golden.
  • While the tofu is baking, in a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot, add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes regularly mixing to prevent them from burning.
  • In a small bowl, mix the salt, black pepper, cumin, and five-spice powder.
  • Add half of the spice mixture to the pan with the veggies, mix well, and then add the remaining seasoning mixture and mix again. Continue to cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat and set aside while the tofu is in the oven.
  • Once the tofu cubes are ready, transfer them to the pan with the veggies. Add the green onion, mix well, and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Press the tofu: This is important for the best texture and crispiness. Learn how to press tofu here.
  • Finely dice the veg/aromatics: That way, you get a bit of everything in every bite.
  • For more flavor: Optionally, brine the tofu in salted water (use 1 tbsp salt per 2 cups of water) for 1-2 hours before patting dry and coating with oil/starch.
  • To adjust flavor: Feel free to experiment with how much salt and pepper seasoning you use depending on how robust you prefer the flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 514kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 19gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 26gSodium: 733mgPotassium: 613mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 354IUVitamin C: 55mgCalcium: 112mgIron: 4mg

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: Jake
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American, Asian, Asian>Chinese, English
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Jake

Jake switched to a plant based diet in 1996 and quickly realized he had no idea how to cook. All these years later and he’s still trying to figure it out…

More about Jake

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