Black Pepper Tofu features a sweet and peppery sauce that you won’t be able to get enough of! It’s easy to make at home, and the tofu is ripped then baked until crispy. Throw in some crisp bell peppers, onions and celery, you’ll think you ordered take-out from your favorite restaurant!
Totally crave-worthy, this Black Pepper Tofu resembles the popular take-out dish you know and love. Just like the restaurant favorite Chinese black pepper chicken, but for this vegan recipe we will first press the tofu, then gently rip it into chunks, coat with a mix of olive oil, cornstarch and a few simple seasonings and bake until crispy.
I use the same method of ripping tofu (instead of slicing it into uniform squares) in my Vegan Butter Chicken, General Tso’s Tofu and Vegan Chicken Nuggets. Ripping gives tofu a wonderful texture and makes it look and feel a bit like chicken.
Once the tofu is done baking, simply stir it into the vegetables and add the intensely flavored black pepper sauce, and you’re ready to eat! There is plenty of spicy sauce so make sure to serve over rice.
How to make Black Pepper Tofu
Find the complete recipe with measurements below in the recipe card.
Press the tofu first for about 30 minutes. TIME SAVING TIP – On the weekend or when you have time, press several blocks of tofu at a time. Place in large ziplock bags or glass containers and store in the refrigerator for the week. When dinnertime rolls around, you will be ready to go!
Next, slice the tofu into 4-6 slices, then rip into bite sized pieces with your fingers. Place in a large bowl, add olive oil, cornstarch and seasonings and stir gently to coat. Transfer tofu to a parchment lined pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp on the outside.
While the tofu bakes, whisk the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the onions, bell peppers and celery until crisp-tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.
When the tofu finishes baking, add to the skillet.
Stir the sauce one last time before pouring over the tofu and vegetables. Stir and cook for a minute or so until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and serve over rice.
Frequently asked questions
- Can I use different vegetables? Yes! My family doesn’t care for bell peppers, so I like to swap them for a mixture of asparagus, broccoli, zucchini or carrots. Or double the tofu and leave out all the veggies, serving steamed broccoli on the side.
- Can I use a different protein? Sure you can. Try using my Vegan Chicken, tempeh or even chickpeas (I’d use two cans, drained and rinsed, no need to bake, just throw them in with the vegetables and sauce).
- How long will the leftovers last? This dish saves well in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It’s perfect for meal prep, and can easily be doubled.
Want more take-out favorites featuring tofu?
Black Pepper Tofu
Crispy Baked Tofu
- 14.5 ounces extra-firm tofu (1 block)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Black Pepper Sauce
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari for gluten free
- 3 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup agave or pure maple syrup, brown sugar
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced optional
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
Bake the tofu
- Press the tofu – Wrap the tofu in paper towels (or a clean dry tea towel). Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books or cast iron pan on top of that. Let the tofu press for about 30 minutes. You can skip this step if you buy the super firm variety in a vacuum pack.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the tofu into about 4-6 slices, then rip each slice into bite sized chunks. You want a ripped texture; it makes the tofu taste crispy and amazing!
- Add the tofu pieces to a large bowl, then add the olive oil, cornstarch, salt and pepper and stir gently to combine. You want the tofu to be coated.
- Arrange in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Stir the sauce
- In a small bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients until cornstarch is dissolved and set aside.
Cook the vegetables and finish
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
- Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until the vegetables brighten in color but not until they are super soft.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the baked tofu to the skillet with the vegetables. Stir the sauce one last time before pouring into the skillet.
- Stir to combine, and cook for another minute. The sauce will thicken slightly.
- Serve with rice and enjoy!
- Gluten free – To make the dish completely gluten free, use gluten free tamari and NOT soy sauce.
- Less spicy – The sauce is pretty spicy/peppery. If you want a less intense sauce, start with only 1-2 teaspoons of black pepper. Add more as desired.
- Arrowroot or tapioca starch will work in place of the cornstarch if needed.
- Feel free to swap out any veggies you don’t like. Other good vegetables to try include zucchini, carrots, broccoli or asparagus.
- Nutrition facts are for the tofu only and not any added rice you serve it with.
I’ve made this like three times over the past month because it’s just that good. Super pepper-heavy and all the better for it. And plus, when i made it at 2x scale, there was so much extra sauce that i just simmered some canned chickpeas in that the night after for dinner. Truly a staple meal and so easy to make!
How fantastic you are loving the pepper tofu! I love the idea of simmering chickpeas in leftover sauce! Thanks for sharing your fantastic feedback and review!
I’ve loved many many recipes on this blog but found this to be far too peppery. And I adore black pepper. I did 2 tsp and really can’t imagine 3. I must be a wimp though, based on the other comments here. Wish I had done 1 tsp.
Nora this was fantastic! I made this exactly how you had it posted. So flavorful, spicy and easy to put together. Even my husband who is not big on tofu loved it. This will definitely be on the dinner rotation weekly! Thank you for creating such awesome recipes!
I’m so glad you and your husband liked it! And thank you so much for your review 🙂
I made this today and it was excellent. I may use a little less pepper next time. But otherwise perfect for my taste. Thanks for another great recipe.
I’m so glad you liked it! And thank you so much for your review 🙂
Soooo tasty! Love your recipes.
That is so terrific! Thank your for sharing your wonderful feedback and review!
Delicious! Added extra veggies and still had very little leftover – and my kids hate veggies AND tofu! The “ripping” did indeed render the tofu incognito from my usual cubes that my kids can spot a mile away…would absolutely make this again – don’t let the extra steps intimidate you; it came together easily.
Hi Alison. It’s always fun to make a meal everyone likes! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback! I’m glad you found the recipe easy and delicious!
This is DELICIOUS! It is absolutely not overwhelmingly peppery as I expected, and will become a regular in our dinner rotation. I had just cleaned out my fridge so instead of celery (which I didn’t have) I used the better part of a zucchini and a small head of broccoli. I would highly recommend that veggie combo for this dish! Served over rice and topped with green onion and red pepper flakes.
I’m so happy to hear you loved the tofu, Brittany! Thank you for your wonderful feedback and review!
This recipe is delicious and very quick and easy to pull together!
Thanks Melissa! I’m so glad you love the recipe! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review!
Just made this for the first time and it was delicious! The tofu was very crispy and the sauce was amazing! Will definitely make again!
I’m thrilled you loved the tofu! I love all the delicious ways tofu can be cooked! Thank you for your great feedback!
Since discovering this recipe I’ve made it once a week and I dream about it in between. It’s so good!!! I always double it so we have some left for lunch too. ??
Hi Joanne. I love that you dream about it in between! Thank you for sharing your fantastic feedback and review! Happy cooking!
This is the most delicious tofu! The heat from the black pepper really builds, but it’s definitely not too spicy. I love the cooking method for the tofu as well. It came out with the best texture. Also, I only used about 70% of the sauce mixture and it was plenty! 🙂 Can’t wait to make this again (as I sit here writing this review and devouring the leftovers haha)!
Thank you for your positive feedback and review, Diana! I’m thrilled you loved the tofu recipe! Wishing you happy cooking!
I made this today and it was delicious! I doubled the recipe and added broccoli and carrots to the veggies. I did have to bake the tofu for longer, but that was likely because I couldn’t space them out on the pan as much with twice the amount. The spice level of the sauce was perfect. Like the previous reviewer I served it over cauliflower rice. Looking forward to the leftovers!
Hi Danielle. Thanks for your wonderful feedback and review! I’m so glad you loved the tofu! You’re going to love the leftovers!
It was very delicious and very easy to follow the steps. Now is one of my top dishes. Thank you Nora! ?
You are welcome! I’m so glad you love the tofu recipe! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback!
This recipe is so delicious and l will be making it again and again! I used cauliflower rice instead of white rice and l couldn’t tell the difference. Thanks Nora for ALL your recipes! I am a big fan.
Hi Lee. Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback! I’m so glad you are enjoying my recipes!
This recipe was a delicious surprise as I’m not overly fond of tofu. I was looking for something different and this was it. The peppery sauce is sooo good and it was perfect with the wonderfully crispy tofu. This recipe is another keeper Nora!
This is wonderful to hear, Connie! Thank you for your wonderful feedback and I’m so glad you loved the recipe!
This was pretty good. I followed the directions as outlined. Next time I’ll cook the tofu between 20 – 25 mins as it came out a bit too crispy for my taste (I cooked it for 30 mins). Thanks for another creative way to use tofu, Nora!
Delicious! I’m glad you mentioned cutting back on the pepper. I used 1 and 1/2 tsp and it was just right. I love the baked tofu. It’s less messy and more hands off than frying.
Thank you for sharing your great feedback! I’m glad you loved the tofu recipe!
Looks yummy! I’m planning to tweak the recipe a bit and add hemp seeds which is a really good source of protein too.
I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Love this recipe! The peppery tofu and sauce are amazing ? I added some pineapple chunks as well. Thanks for another tasty recipe, Nora!
Hi Shelly. Pineapple chunks sound delicious! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback and ideas!
this was delish the next time I’m going to add additional veggies and hot pepper flakes
So easy to make and sooooo good!
How wonderful to hear! Thank you for your wonderful feedback!
Can you eliminate the maple syrup or any sugar and will it taste ok?
Hi Linda. Removing the sugar may make the pepper and vinegar a little overpowering but the dish will still taste good! If you can, try using half of the amount of sugar instead.