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!

close up of cooked tofu and peppers with pepper all over

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.

white bowl with black pepper tofu and peppers, grey/black background and towel

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.

tofu in chunks with seasoning on parchment lined pan

While the tofu bakes, whisk the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.

brown sauce with bubbles in a glass bowl

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.

golden cooked tofu added to pan with peppers and onions

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.

looking down on a pan full of tofu and peppers

Frequently asked questions

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
pan full of black pepper tofu with peppers, onions and a lot of sauce

Want more take-out favorites featuring tofu?

square image of black pepper tofu
4.86 stars (14 ratings)

Black Pepper Tofu

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.
Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Tofu pressing time: 30 mins
Total: 1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 
 

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

Vegetables

  • 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

Instructions 

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!

Notes

  1. Gluten free – To make the dish completely gluten free, use gluten free tamari and NOT soy sauce.
  2. 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.
  3. Arrowroot or tapioca starch will work in place of the cornstarch if needed.
  4. Feel free to swap out any veggies you don’t like. Other good vegetables to try include zucchini, carrots, broccoli or asparagus.
  5. Nutrition facts are for the tofu only and not any added rice you serve it with.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 4 servings | Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 1379mg | Potassium: 458mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 210IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese-Inspired
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. I’m thrilled you loved the tofu! I love all the delicious ways tofu can be cooked! Thank you for your great feedback!

  4. 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. ??

    1. Hi Joanne. I love that you dream about it in between! Thank you for sharing your fantastic feedback and review! Happy cooking!

  5. 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)! 

    1. Thank you for your positive feedback and review, Diana! I’m thrilled you loved the tofu recipe! Wishing you happy cooking!

  6. 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!

    1. Hi Danielle. Thanks for your wonderful feedback and review! I’m so glad you loved the tofu! You’re going to love the leftovers!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

    1. This is wonderful to hear, Connie! Thank you for your wonderful feedback and I’m so glad you loved the recipe!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. Love this recipe! The peppery tofu and sauce are amazing ? I added some pineapple chunks as well. Thanks for another tasty recipe, Nora!

    1. 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.

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