Today’s recipe for sweet chili tofu and vegetables is a vegan twist on the traditional Thai-style stir-fry. Crispy peppers, onions and broccoli are combined with bite-sized bits of tofu (pan-fried or baked), and tossed in a vibrantly flavored sweet chili stir-fry sauce.
This recipe has a gluten free and a reduced oil options.
This sweet chili tofu stir-fry has quickly become one of my family’s favorite Asian-style dishes. It’s super easy to make – just prep and cook the veggies, pan-fry or bake the tofu, whisk a simple stir-fry sauce, and mix everything together.
I got an idea for this recipe after staring at a half-full bottle of sweet chili sauce in my fridge. I’d only used it in one recipe (an easy tofu Pad Thai), so I decided to expand my culinary horizons and make something else with it.
The resulting sweet chili stir-fry was an instant hit with my husband and 3 year-old daughter. I’ve made this dish countless times since that day. In the process I went through the rest of the sauce in that bottle and then some.
By the way, a version of this recipe is a part of my 3-week vegan dinner meal plan, a.k.a. the Vegan Meal Planning Blueprint.
In case you’ve never cooked with sweet chili sauce, here are a few things you need to know about it.
What You Need to Know About Sweet Chili Sauce
Sweet chili sauce, a.k.a. sweet Thai chili sauce, is a sweet, slightly spicy condiment widely used in Thai, Afghan, and Malaysian cuisines. (Source)
It’s usually made with red chilies, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sugar, and sometimes fish sauce. (The latter ingredient isn’t suitable for vegans.)
When selecting sweet chili sauce at the store, make sure to look at the list of ingredients. If fish or oyster sauce are listed, then obviously that sauce brand isn’t vegan.
Making sweet chili sauce at home is another option. Take a look at this homemade sweet chili sauce recipe.
What is Sweet Chili Sauce Used for?
Sweet chili sauce is a pretty versatile ingredient. You can use it in different ways:
- As a spread for sandwiches and veggie burgers;
- As a dipping sauce for spring rolls, veggie nuggets, carrot and celery sticks, etc.;
- As a sauce ingredient for veggie stir-fry, Asian-style noodle dishes, etc.
See the sweet chili tofu recipe web story over here.
Ingredients for Sweet Chili Tofu and Vegetables
Here’s the list of ingredients that I use in my sweet chili tofu stir-fry. Note that the amounts of each ingredient are listed in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Extra-firm tofu. A single 14 or 16 ounce block of tofu is just right for this recipe. My preferred way to cook it here is slicing the block into 1/2-inch thick rectangles, then pan-frying those on both side in a little bit of oil. After that I cut up each rectangle into smaller bite-sized pieces.
If you’re following a low-oil diet, I have another way of cooking tofu for this recipe – by baking it in the oven. See how I cook tofu with no oil over here.
Vegetables: one medium onion, one red pepper, and large head of broccoli. My favorite way to prep onions and peppers for this dish is to cut them into bite-sized cubes. As for broccoli, I split it into bite-sized florets.
The square shape of prepped onions and peppers helps them retain some crunch when we cook them quickly over high heat. If done right, this high-heat cooking method also helps some of the veggie pieces get slightly charred around the edges. That adds a nice, slightly smoky flavor note to the finished stir-fry.
Fresh herbs – cilantro, scallions, basil. Each of these is delicious in this recipe, but if you don’t have all of them handy, just use what you have.
Avocado or grapeseed oil OR cooking spray. I use these as needed for pan-frying the tofu and vegetables. Both of these types of oil have a high smoke point, which means that they won’t break down when used in high-heat cooking.
(When oils do break down, they can make the food taste bitter or burnt, plus they release free radicals that may harm us over time.)
Sweet chili sauce. The star of this recipe that gives this stir-fry an unmistakable sweet flavor with vibrant notes of ginger and garlic.
My go-to brand of store-bought sweet chili sauce is Mae Ploy, but most other brands will work too. Just make sure it doesn’t contain fish or oyster sauce if you’re vegan.
Sriracha sauce (optional). Sriracha adds a touch of spiciness to our stir-fry sauce. You can use more or less of it depending on how hot you want your food to come out. Or skip it altogether if you like.
Cornstarch. The go-to thickening agent in a lot of Asian-style sauces. Cornstarch is the easiest to dissolve in cool liquids (as opposed to hot or syrup-like ones).
That’s why, when making my sweet chili stir-fry sauce for this dish, I first combine cornstarch and soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), then whisk them until the cornstarch is dissolved. Only after that I mix in the Mae Ploy sauce and sriracha.
Low sodium soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free). I use it in this recipe to counterbalance the sweetness of Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce. Soy sauce also adds a note of umami.
Most soy sauces on the market contain way too much sodium. Try to use a low-sodium version of your favorite soy sauce (or tamari) to cut down on that.
Minced garlic. As I’ve said above, garlic is one of the ingredients in traditional sweet chili sauce. I like to add 2-3 cloves of minced fresh garlic to my stir-fry sauce on top of that to really bring out that unmistakable spiciness and aroma.
How to Make Sweet Chili Tofu and Veggie Stir-fry
(Please note that you can find a printable version of this recipe with ingredient amounts, etc. at the bottom of this page.)
1. COOKING THE TOFU. Drain and press a block of extra-firm tofu. (A tofu press like this one makes it easy).
Slice the tofu block crosswise into 8-10 rectangles about 1/2-inch thick.
If you’re pan-frying the tofu (with oil or cooking spray): Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat with 1 tsp of oil (or spray with cooking spray).
Arrange tofu rectangles in the skillet in a single layer. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until each side turns golden brown. Set aside.
If you’re baking the tofu (oil-free): Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Arrange tofu rectangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes until the top surface starts turning golden, then flip and cook 5-7 minutes more.
Once the cooked tofu (pan-fried or baked) is cool to handle, slice each tofu rectangle into bite-sized pieces, set aside.
2. COOKING THE VEGETABLES. Chop the onion and the red pepper into 1-inch cubes.
Split the head of broccoli into individual bite-sized florets. (Do this while the tofu is cooking.)
Preheat a wok over medium-high heat with 1 teaspoon oil (or spray with cooking spray). Add the vegetables, toss well.
Cook quickly to let some of the pieces get slightly charred around the edges, about 2-3 minutes. You don’t want to cook them too long – they need to retain some of the crunch.
Take the vegetables out and set aside.
3. MAKING THE SWEET CHILI STIR-FRY SAUCE SAUCE. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, whisk soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free), water and cornstarch until cornstarch is dissolved.
4. PUTTING EVERYTHING TOGETHER. Return the emptied wok to the stove on medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil (or spray with cooking spray).
Add minced garlic and cook quickly until it releases its aroma, about 30 seconds.
Pour in the sweet chili stir-fry sauce. Continue heating the sauce until it gets bubbly around the edges.
Stir the sauce gently until it thickens and slightly reduces in volume, about 1 minute. If the sauce gets too thick, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of water.
Add the sliced tofu and cooked vegetables to the wok, and stir to cover with the sauce.
Take the wok off the heat. Mix in the chopped herbs (I like using cilantro, scallions, and basil in this recipe, but feel free to omit the ones you don’t have).
My favorite way to serve sweet chili tofu and vegetables is over white rice. Brown rice or other neutral-tasting grains will work too.
You can also venture out a bit and serve this stir-fry as a filling for Asian-style burritos, tacos, etc.
How to Store Sweet Chili Tofu Stir-fry
Store leftover sweet chili tofu and vegetables in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you’re planning to freeze this stir-fry, it’s best to do so before you mix it with the sauce in the final step. Add cooked vegetables and tofu into a freezer-safe container or bag (I’ve been using these freezer bags for over a year, and they’re still holding up well).
Use another container to store the sauce. The sauce and the cooked veegtables will last 1-2 months in the freezer.
By storing the veggies and tofu separate from the sauce, you’ll ensure the best texture of this dish once you defrost and reheat it. If you freeze everything in the same bag or container, then the defrosted stir-fry may come out mushy rather than crispy.
MORE TOFU RECIPES FROM THE BLOG:
I hope you enjoy my vegan recipe for sweet chili tofu and vegetables as much as my family does!
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