Salt and Pepper Tofu: Authentic Recipe - The Woks of Life (2024)

Our Chinese Salt and Pepper Tofu recipe is a vegan/vegetarian interpretation of a classic Cantonese flavor pairing. If you love the combination of salt and white pepper as much as we do, this recipe will become a new favorite!

White Pepper: An Underrated Ingredient

White pepper is really an underestimated ingredient. You all loved Kaitin’s Baked White Pepper Chicken Wings! Also, classic Cantonese Salt and Pepper Pork Chops are a lifelong favorite in our family.

That’s why we wanted to create this salt and pepper tofu recipe. It’s a healthier alternative to the traditional fried salt and pepper pork chops.

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As we start to get on in our years, Judy and I have become more aware of watching our diet. Eating less meat and having more leafy green vegetables has become a bigger priority, so we can continue to indulge in our favorites every now and then.

What Kind of Tofu is Best?

Tofu is delicious, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore like me. The key is knowing your tofu, so you can work in maximum flavor and understand how to take advantage of each type’s texture.

Blocks of tofu come in three basic types: firm, soft and silken.

Silken tofu is what we use for Mapo Tofu, while soft or firm are more flexible for miscellaneous stir-fries and braises. For this salt and pepper tofu dish, we recommend using afirm tofu.

Learn more about different types and forms on our Tofu Ingredients glossary page, and explore other recipes like General Tso’s tofu, Kung Pao Tofu, or our Ultimate Braised Tofu recipe.

What’s the Right Shape to Cut the Tofu Into?

The shape that you cut your tofu into—for any dish—is largely a personal preference. Generally speaking, however, the more you are going to fuss with the tofu, the more you want a sturdy and standard shape.

Hence bigger cubes for silky mapo tofu (which can break up easily when stirred) or smaller matchsticks for five-spice tofu stir fries (this very firm tofu can handle getting moved around in the wok).

As for frying, some find that small cubes take too long to cook and flip, so I prefer a simple rectangle for this. It’s bite-sized, and requires just one flip. The thin edges will get fried without the need for much gymnastics in the wok.

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A Couple Other Ingredients

This dish has a couple other seasonings that really complement the white pepper: sand ginger powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder.

If you can’t find Sichuan peppercorn powder, simply sub the same volume of ground white pepper.

If you can’t find sand ginger powder, galangal powder or five-spice powder will do, or you can simply omit it.

Recipe Instructions

First, brine the tofu:

A quick brine infuses an extra layer of flavor in the tofu which has little flavor by itself. Slice the tofu into ½ inch (1 cm) thick, 1 ½ inch x 2 inch (4×5 cm) rectangles. Make the brine by stirring together the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, and warm water.

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Place the tofu into the brine for 1-2 hours.

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After 1 to 2 hours, drain the liquid from the tofu completely, and let it sit for 5 minutes to drain. Again, remove any standing liquid, gently toss the tofu pieces in the sesame oil and Shaoxing wine.

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Next, make the salt and pepper tofu seasoning, and dredge the tofu:

Combine the salt, ground white pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and sand ginger powder. You’ll use half of this salt and pepper spice mix for the tofu coating and the other half to finish the dish in the wok.

Add half of the spice mix to the all-purpose flour and cornstarch, and sprinkle the mixture over the tofu to coat. Flip the tofu pieces over, and sprinkle them with the remainder of the flour mixture.

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The moist tofu will soak up the dredge, and a batter-like coating will form on the surface. You can add a little more cornstarch if the mixture looks too wet, or if you want the tofu crispier.

Next, make the crispy garlic:

Restaurants use a deep fryer to make fried garlic, but with some patience, you can make the same fried garlic by shallow-frying over medium low heat.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in your wok over low heat for 30 seconds. Add the garlic. It should bubble and sizzle very slowly at this low heat and not burn.

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Be patient, because burnt garlic has a very bitter flavor. Move the garlic around in the oil so it cooks evenly. It’s done when it has turned a light golden brown.

Remove it using a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer, leaving the oil in the wok. Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with a paper towel.

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Pan-fry the tofu:

Heat the oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Place the tofu in the wok in a single layer, and brown the tofu, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t walk away, as you don’t want to burn the crust!

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After the tofu starts to brown, flip the tofu to brown the other side.

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Here are some quick tips for frying the tofu:

  • Some tofu pieces will likely be stuck together at the sides so when you flip them. You may end up flipping multiple pieces at a time. This is ok and very efficient!
  • Don’t be afraid to add a little more oil around the perimeter of the wok if you need it. More oil will brown the tofu more evenly and prevent sticking. You can pour off excess oil after frying the tofu.
  • Once the tofu is flipped, be sure to separate the individual pieces. You can use a wok spatula, chopsticks, or fork to do this.

When done, transfer the tofu to a plate.

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Finish the salt and pepper tofu in the wok:

Have the rest of your ingredients ready (the peppers, shallots, etc.)

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Use the remaining oil in the wok to coat the sides of the wok, and pour off any excess standing oil to use in another dish.

Turn stove up to medium high heat. Add the sliced long hot green peppers and shallots and stir-fry for 15-30 seconds.

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Next, add the warm tofu and gently toss the mixture for another 30 to 60 seconds.

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Add the scallions, cilantro, and crispy garlic.

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Continue tossing for another 15 seconds. Lower the heat if the wok gets too hot or increase the heat if you need to. Stove and wok combinations vary greatly, so use your own judgment!

Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper spice evenly over the tofu and aromatics. It will absorb into the freshly fried tofu for that extra kick. Toss for another 15 seconds, transfer everything to a plate, and serve!

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4.96 from 41 votes

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Our Chinese Salt and Pepper Tofu recipe is a vegan/vegetarian interpretation of a classic Cantonese flavor pairing. If you love the combination of salt and white pepper as much as we do, this recipe will become a new favorite!

by: Bill

Course:Tofu

Cuisine:Chinese

Salt and Pepper Tofu: Authentic Recipe - The Woks of Life (19)

serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes minutes

Cook: 15 minutes minutes

Total: 1 hour hour 35 minutes minutes

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Ingredients

For the tofu brine:

  • 14 ounces firm tofu (sliced into ½-inch thick rectangles; about 1½ x 2 inches)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine

For the tofu seasoning and dredge:

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan Peppercorn
  • 1/4 teaspoon sand ginger powder (or galangal powder, optional)
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (may add a little more if needed)

For the rest of the dish:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 long hot green pepper (seeds removed, thinly sliced; about 30g)
  • 1 shallot (sliced into round slices; about 20g)
  • 1 scallion (chopped, about 20g)
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (chopped, optional)

US Customary - Metric

Instructions

First, brine the tofu:

  • Slice the tofu into ½ inch (1 cm) thick, 1 ½ inch x 2 inch (4x5 cm) rectangles. Make the brine by stirring together the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, and warm water. Place the tofu into the brine for 1-2 hours.

  • After 1 to 2 hours, drain the liquid from the tofu completely, and let it sit for 5 minutes to drain. Again, remove any standing liquid, gently toss the tofu pieces in the sesame oil and Shaoxing wine.

Next, make the salt and pepper tofu seasoning, and dredge the tofu:

  • Combine the salt, ground white pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and sand ginger powder. You’ll use half of this salt and pepper spice mix for the tofu coating and the other half to finish the dish in the wok.

  • Add half of the spice mix to the all-purpose flour and cornstarch, and sprinkle the mixture over the tofu to coat. Flip the tofu pieces over, and sprinkle them with the remainder of the flour mixture. The moist tofu will soak up the dredge, and a batter-like coating will form on the surface. You can add a little more cornstarch if the mixture looks too wet, or if you want the tofu crispier.

Make the crispy garlic:

  • Heat 4 tablespoons oil in your wok over low heat for 30 seconds. Add the garlic. It should bubble and sizzle very slowly at this low heat and not burn. Be patient, because burnt garlic has a very bitter flavor. Move the garlic around in the oil so it cooks evenly. It’s done when it has turned a light golden brown.

  • Remove it using a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer, leaving the oil in the wok. Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Pan-fry the tofu & finish the dish:

  • Heat the oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Place the tofu in the wok in a single layer, and brown the tofu, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t walk away, as you don’t want to burn the crust! After the tofu starts to brown, flip the tofu to brown the other side. When done, transfer the tofu to a plate.

  • Use the remaining oil in the wok to coat the sides of the wok, and pour off any excess standing oil to use in another dish.

  • Turn stove up to medium high heat. Add the sliced long hot green peppers and shallots and Stir-fry for 15-30 seconds. Next, add the warm tofu and gently toss the mixture for another 30 to 60 seconds. Add the scallions, cilantro, and crispy garlic. Continue tossing for another 15 seconds.

  • Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper spice evenly over the tofu and aromatics. It will absorb into the freshly fried tofu for that extra kick. Toss for another 15 seconds, transfer everything to a plate, and serve!

nutrition facts

Calories: 260kcal (13%) Carbohydrates: 14g (5%) Protein: 10g (20%) Fat: 19g (29%) Saturated Fat: 12g (60%) Sodium: 771mg (32%) Potassium: 36mg (1%) Fiber: 2g (8%) Sugar: 2g (2%) Vitamin A: 30IU (1%) Vitamin C: 4mg (5%) Calcium: 131mg (13%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

nutritional info disclaimer

TheWoksofLife.com is written and produced for informational purposes only. While we do our best to provide nutritional information as a general guideline to our readers, we are not certified nutritionists, and the values provided should be considered estimates. Factors such as brands purchased, natural variations in fresh ingredients, etc. will change the nutritional information in any recipe. Various online calculators also provide different results, depending on their sources. To obtain accurate nutritional information for a recipe, use your preferred nutrition calculator to determine nutritional information with the actual ingredients and quantities used.

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Salt and Pepper Tofu: Authentic Recipe - The Woks of Life (2024)
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