This black pepper tofu is easy to make in under 30 minutes with simple, everyday ingredients and wonderful served over rice for a complete plant-based meal.

A bowl of tofu in black pepper sauce served over right and topped with sliced green onions.

Recipe Features

  • vegan and can be gluten-free – the recipe is nut-free and vegan and can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce
  • simple – you’ll need just a handful of ingredients and less than 30-minutes to have this on the table
  • a complete meal – serve with rice for a healthy, filling and complete plant-based based

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • tofu – use firm or extra-firm tofu, do not use silken tofu
  • light soy sauce – use regular or light soy sauce, not dark soy sauce
  • sugar – I used coconut sugar but cane sugar or another dry sugar also works
  • rice wine vinegar – seasoned or unseasoned works
  • scallions – otherwise known as green onions, you’ll need standard bunch of onions, or enough to make about 1 cup roughly chopped
  • onion, garlic and ginger – for all the flavour!
  • black pepper – fine or medium ground black pepper or freshly ground peppercorns work
Two bowls of black pepper tofu with scallions served over rice.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1 (optional). Press the tofu. If you have an extra 20-30 minutes you can press the tofu before cooking. Find complete instructions on how to press tofu here.

Step 2. Fry the tofu. Cube the tofu and toss in 1 tbsp each of soy sauce and cornstarch until all the pieces are coated. Set aside and heat 1 tsp of coconut, avocado or sesame oil in a wok or skillet over low to medium heat.

Tofu coated in cornstarch and soy sauce in a bowl.

Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook the tofu in 2 batches. It’s best not to overcrowd the pan, so use two if needed.

Add the tofu cubes to the pan and let them cook about 60 seconds per side until they’re brown and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate.

Browned, cubed tofu frying in a skillet.
Cooked, crispy tofu cubes on a plate.

Quick Tip: While the tofu is cooking, mince the garlic and ginger, dice the onion and chop the scallions.

Chopped onions, ginger and garlic in a small bowl.
Chopped green onions in a bowl.

Step 3. Using the same pan as the tofu, add the ginger, garlic and onions and saute them for 3-4 minutes in avocado, coconut or sesame oil until softened and translucent. While those are cooking, mix up the sauce ingredients.

Black pepper sauce in a bowl with a spoon.

Step 4. Add the sauce and the sliced scallions to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan often, until the sauce starts to get thick and sticky.

Scallions, onion, ginger and garlic cooking in a dark sauce in a pan.

Step 5. Add the tofu to the pan and stir for a minute or two until the tofu is hot and coated in sauce.

Tofu cooking in sauce with onions, garlic and ginger in a pan.

Serve right away over rice and topped with thinly sliced scallions and fresh chopped cilantro.

A close up of a bowl of tofu in a dark sauce, served over brown rice.

Recipe Tips

  • To make this recipe oil-free, saute the ginger, garlic and onion in water or broth and either bake or “dry-fry” the tofu.
  • To bake the tofu, toss in the soy sauce and cornstarch and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until browned and crisped.
  • To “dry-fry” the tofu, toss in cornstarch and cook in a good quality, non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned on each side.
  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.

How to Store

This recipe is best served fresh but if you have leftovers, here’s how to store:

  • Refrigerator: Store in a sealed container for 4-5 days.
  • Reheat: Heat on the stovetop over lower heat, adding a splash of water if needed to thin the sauce a little. It can also be reheated in the microwave in 30-second increments. Feel free to enjoy it cold too!

Serving Suggestions

  • serve over rice, quinoa or another grain of choice
  • top with thinly sliced scallions and fresh cilantro

Related Recipes

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Black pepper tofu in a bowl with a pair of chopsticks beside it.

Black Pepper Tofu

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Diet: Vegan

A delicious and flavorful black pepper tofu that’s easy to make and amazing served over rice for a complete plant-based meal.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Tofu

For the Stir Fry

  • 12 tsp sesame, avocado, peanut or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced white onion or shallots (100 g)
  • 1 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger (10 g)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (15 g)
  • 1 cup lightly packed, roughly chopped scallions (50 g)

For the Black Pepper Sauce

  • 5 tbsp soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp fine or medium ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Optional: press the tofu for 20-30 minutes following this how-to press tofu tutorial. Pressing the tofu will help it get a little crispier and absorb more flavour but it’s not necessary to the success of the recipe.
  2. If you plan to serve this recipe with rice as recommended, start cooking that now, according to package instructions.
  3. Cut the tofu into approximately 1/2-inch cubes and toss with the cornstarch and soy sauce. Set aside and heat 1 tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add the tofu and cook for about 60-seconds on each of the 6 sides until each piece is browned and crispy. Remove from the pan.
  5. Gently wipe the pan to remove any residue from the tofu. Add the oil, then add the ginger, garlic, and onion. Saute for 4-5 minutes until softened, fragrant and translucent.
  6. While the onions, ginger, and garlic are cooking, mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Make sure the sugar and cornstarch are fully incorporated before you add the sauce to the pan.
  7. Add the sauce and scallions to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan often, until the sauce is thick and sticky.
  8. Add the tofu to the pan and mix to coat with the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the tofu is hot and coated in sauce.
  9. Serve or your favorite rice and topped with thinly sliced scallions and fresh chopped cilantro.

Notes

This is inspired by Chinese cuisine and the black pepper tofu recipe in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I have not used authentic ingredients like oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, or a mixture of dark, sweet and light soy sauce as you might find in traditional Chinese black pepper sauce recipes.

To make this recipe oil-free, bake or dry-fry the tofu and saute the ginger, onion and garlic in water or broth. To bake the tofu, toss in the cornstarch and soy sauce and bake at 400 F for 25-35 minutes until browned and crisped. To dry-fry the tofu, follow the recipe but omit the oil, just make sure you use a good non-stick or cast-iron skillet. 

For a gluten-free recipe, be sure to use gluten-free tamari instead of soy suace.

This recipe is best served hot and fresh, however, the tofu can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days and reheated as needed in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.

This recipe has a very strong pepper flavor, which makes it on the spicy side. If you don’t like pepper or spice, this probably isn’t the recipe for you.

I use this recipe to serve two but it could serve 3-4 with a smaller serving of tofu. If you cut a 350 g block of tofu into 32 cubes, it works well for 4 small servings of tofu.

The tofu can also be served as an appetizer (try it with toothpicks), side dish to other recipes or addition to a veggie stir fry.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 301
  • Sugar: 13.3 g
  • Sodium: 1200 mg
  • Fat: 10.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32.5 g
  • Fiber: 5.2 g
  • Protein: 23 g

Keywords: black pepper tofu, black pepper tofu recipe