Make sure to add this easy vegan sweet and sour tofu recipe to your meal plan this week! It's ready in 30 minutes and tastes delicious over rice. You might also like this eggplant masala over rice.
Why you need this recipe
This vegan rice bowl is one of our favorite tofu dinner recipes and here's why:
- This crispy tofu in sweet and sour sauce is a healthier version of your favorite sweet and sour dish. It's a plant-based and nutritious meal with carbs, protein and veggies.
- The recipe is naturally gluten-free, vegan and nut free and suits many different diets.
- The sweet and sour pineapple sauce is made with clean ingredients you most certainly already have in your pantry. I dare you to have a look at the ingredients on a jar of sweet and sour sauce at the store. It often contains gums, thickeners, preservatives and other additives that you can avoid by simply making your own.
Step-by-step with pictures
Start by cooking the rice according to the instructions provided on the package.
Cut up the veggies and the tofu. Mince the onion. Seed the bell peppers and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Press excess water out of the tofu block (e.g., by wrapping it into a tea cloth and weighing it down with a heavy pan or skillet for several minutes) and cut it into cubes.
Coat tofu in corn starch and sauté until crisp. Make sure the pan and the oil are very hot before you add in the tofu. Flip every single tofu cube individually with a fork for best results. Set aside.
Knowledge bite: pressing out excess water out of the tofu block and coating it with cornstarch allows it to crisp up in the pan.
Sauté the bell peppers. Use the same pan you used for the tofu to sauté the peppers. Start over medium-high heat to get them golden. They should be soft after 10 minutes. Add the tofu back to the pan.
Make the vegan sweet and sour sauce. While the bell peppers are cooking, make the sauce by whisking all the ingredients (pineapple juice, tomato paste, tamari, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar) together.
P.s. this is also an incredible tofu stir fry marinade.
Ingredients check: check the ingredients list of the pineapple juice when buying it at the store. Try to find fresh pineapple juice that is not made from concentrate. Chose a brand that is free from added sugars or preservatives.
Add the sauce to the pan and simmer. The sauce will thicken with the heat and cornstarch that is left in the pan from when you sauteed the tofu.
What if the sweet and sour sauce gets too thick? If the sauce is too thick, simply thin it out by adding a splash of water.
Quick tip: chose fast cooking rice (about 10 minutes). These kinds of rice are pre-cooked and therefore cook much quicker than regular rice. It's a great time-saver when cooking dinner.
- Corn starch: you can use the same amout of arrowroot powder or potato starch instead of corn starch. However, corn starch crisps up the best.
- Pineapple juice: feel free to substitute pineapple juice for apricot juice.
- Tamari: you can use any other gluten free soy sauce or coconut aminos instead of tamari.
- Apple cider vinegar can be replace by rice vinegar if necessary.
Storage and freezing tips
You can make the sweet and sour sauce ahead of time and store it in the fridge for 2 days. If you have vegan sweet and sour tofu leftovers, you can transfer the entire meal to an air-tight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Note that the tofu won't be crispy anymore if you leave it in its sauce.
Before reheating it, add a splash of water to thin out the sauce and give it a good mix. Reheat it over medium heat in a saucepan or in a bowl covered with a plate in the microwave.
About freezing the marinade
If you have pineapple juice leftover, make some additional healthy sweet and sour sauce and store it in the freezer. it will save you time when you make this recipe again. Simply mix all the marinade ingredients together pour the sauce into an air-tight container. You can store it in the freezer for 3 months. To defrost it, simply place it in the fridge overnight and give it a good shake before using.
About freezing the entire meal
Although you could freeze the rice, tofu, peppers and sauce already mixed together, I don't recommend it. The tofu becomes rather chewy and the rice dries up. Think about freezing away some of the sweet and sour sauce as described above.
If you absolutely want to freeze it as an entire meal, make sure to thaw it in the fridge overnight. Add a splash of water to thin out the sauce and reheat it over medium heat in a saucepan. If you're using the microwave, transfer the meal to a bowl and cover it with a plate.
Frequently askes questions
There are two things that may prevent tofu from getting crispy: either the frying pan was not hot enough and/or the tofu was not pressed well enough. You need to remove excess water out of the tofu block for it to crisp up and absorb flavors.
Once you take it out of its package squeeze it several times between your hands. Then, wrap it in a clean tea or kitchen towel (or paper cloth) and place heavy objects on it (e.g., a skillet, books). Weigh it down like that for a few minutes (30 minutes for best results).
The vegan sweet and sour sauce provided in this recipe is definitely healthier than what you mostly find in stores or restaurants. It contains less sugar and is free from gums or thickeners.
If you don't like pineapple, you can use apricot juice to make the sweet and sour sauce.
If you're serving rice as a side, a ¾ cup (125-150 grams) uncooked rice is enough for 2 people.
More vegan rice recipes
- Cauliflower dahl to serve with rice
- Eggplant masala over rice (think tikka masala but vegan)
- Fried rice with carrots and peas (ready in 20 minutes)
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30-Minute Vegan Sweet And Sour Tofu
- 2 servings fast-cooking rice ¾ cup (125-150 g)
- 1 small onion
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 7 oz firm tofu (200 g)
- 2 teaspoons corn starch or potato starch or arrow root powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon sesame seeds optional
For the sweet and sour sauce
- ½ cup pineapple juice (120 ml) or apricot juice
- ¼ cup tomato paste (70 g)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder optional
- Bring water to a boil. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- Mince the onion. Wash the bell peppers. Cut them into quarters to remove the seeds, then into bite-sized pieces (see step-by-step pictures in post above).
- Press excess moisture out of the tofu block (see notes). Cut it into small cubes. Place them in a bowl and add the cornstarch. Make sure the cubes are well coated.
- Heat a large pan with vegetable oil. Make sure the pan is very hot before you add the tofu. Fry for 1 minute over high heat. Flip the tofu cubes and fry for another minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion and the bell peppers to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes until the peppers are golden.
- In the meantime, make the sweet and sour sauce. Add the pineapple juice, tomato concentrate, maple syrup, tamari, apple cider vinegar and a pinch of ginger powder (if using) to a bowl. Whisk until combined.
- Add the tofu back to the pan with the sweet and sour sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes while stiring occasionally. The sauce will thicken.
- Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
- Press excess water out of the tofu block by wrapping it into a clean tea or kitchen towel (or paper cloth) and weighing it down with a heavy object (like a pan or skillet) for several minutes (30 minutes for best results).
- If the sauce is too thick, simply thin it out by adding a splash of water.
- If you have leftovers, you can transfer the entire meal to an air-tight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Note that the tofu won't be crispy anymore if you leave it in the sauce.
- You can store the sweet and sour sauce in the freezer for 3 months. This is great if you have some leftover pineapple juice.
- It’s not recommended to freeze the rice, tofu, peppers and sauce already mixed together. The tofu becomes rather chewy and the rice dries up.
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