30 Minute Black Pepper Tofu

5 from 59 votes
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30 minute black pepper tofu has all of the fiery, umami-qualities you love about the classic takeout meal. Serve over rice with broccoli or bok choy for an easy, flavorful dinner.

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Black pepper tofu spooned over white rice in a pink bowl garnished with basil leaves.

Why You’ll Love this Black Pepper Tofu

Since 2018, this has been a reader-favorite tofu recipe on my blog. It also happens to be the first tofu recipe I cooked for my (now) husband when we first started dating.

Quickly followed by my Tofu Tikka Masala, which is also a must-make!

Beyond its ease and 30-minute time stamp, this tofu recipe:

  • Comes together in a single skillet.
  • Delivers BIG umami flavor with minimal ingredients.
  • Can also be made with chicken or shrimp.

Garnishing with a fresh herb like basil or cilantro right before serving adds a layer of freshness and pop of color.

I love serving this saucy tofu over steaming white rice (such as Jasmine or Basmati) alongside my Perfect Sautéed Broccoli.

And if you should wind up with leftovers, they reheat like a dream up to four days later.

The Ingredients

Recipe ingredients in bowls arranged on a wooden board with labels.
  • Tofu: Be sure to use EXTRA-FIRM tofu, which has the least amount of moisture to press out. This leads to the crispiest texture.
  • Corn Starch: Coating the tofu in a light dusting of cornstarch imparts ultra-crispy texture once the tofu is pan-fried. (I use the same technique in this Orange Tofu recipe!)
  • Black Pepper: This recipe calls for one full tablespoon of black pepper, which may seem like a lot, but keep in mind it’s the headliner ingredient. Using this much black pepper does add spiciness, however it’s not too overpowering.
  • Aromatics: A mix of ginger, shallots, and garlic create the aromatic backbone of the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: Use lower-sodium soy sauce or tamari to prevent the sauce from becoming too salty.
  • Sugar: To help balance the spice of the black pepper.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Substitutions/Additions:

  • Use Chicken or Shrimp: If you’re not a tofu fan, swap it for 12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or medium shrimp.
  • Add Veggies: Toss some green beans, mushrooms, or cabbage into the mix to punch up the fiber.
  • Make Less Spicy: Scale the black pepper back to 2 teaspoons if you’re spice-averse.

How to Make Black Pepper Tofu:

Step 1: Prepare Tofu

Press excess moisture out of the tofu using either paper towels or a kitchen towel. Slice into 1 inch cubes and and toss with cornstarch.

Cubes of tofu being tossed in corn starch.

Step 2: Prepare Black Pepper Sauce

Combine soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and ginger in a small bowl or glass measuring cup; stir with a whisk.

Black pepper sauce being whisked in a jar, and tofu being sauteed in a skillet.

Step 3: Cook Tofu and Aromatics

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook tofu until golden and crispy on all sides. Transfer to a plate and reduce heat to medium.

Next, cook garlic, shallots, and chile until soft. Add tofu back to the pan, along with black pepper sauce and green onion. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing often to fully coat tofu.

Aromatics being sautéed, and black pepper sauce being added to skillet.
Cubes of tofu in a grey skillet after being tossed in black pepper sauce.

Recipe FAQs

What is Black Pepper Sauce?

In short, black pepper sauce is a punchy combo of aromatics, black pepper, and a kick of heat. It’s Chinese in origin, and traditionally prepared with chicken

How to Make Tofu Crispy:

Coating the tofu in a light dusting of cornstarch imparts ultra-crispy texture once the tofu is pan-fried.

Another trick is patting the tofu dry before cooking to keep it soft on the inside while the outside gets golden and crisp.

And, of course, make sure you use EXTRA-firm tofu. It will produce the crispiest cubes by far.

How to Store and Reheat:

Refrigerate leftover tofu in an airtight container for up to 4 days. When ready to reheat, sauté in a skillet over medium until warm for the best texture.

Cubes of black pepper tofu arranged over white rice in a pink bowl with lime wedges.

More 30 Minute Tofu Recipes to Try:

If you give this Black Pepper Tofu recipe a try, be sure to snap a picture and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates.

5 from 59 votes

30 Minute Black Pepper Tofu

30 minute black pepper tofu has all of the fiery, umami-qualities you love about classic takeout. Serve over rice for an easy, flavorful weeknight meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Equipment

  • Large skillet

Ingredients  

  • 1 (14-oz.) block extra-firm tofu
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. neutral cooking oil, divided
  • 5 Tbsp. lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small Fresno chile seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced (or a drizzle of Chili Crisp for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • White rice and fresh basil for serving
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Instructions 

  • Press excess moisture out of the tofu using either paper towels or a kitchen towel. Slice into 1 inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Toss with cornstarch until tofu is well coated.
  • Combine soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, and ginger in a small bowl or glass measuring cup; stir with a whisk. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add tofu; cook for 7 to 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides, until golden-brown and crisp. Transfer tofu to a plate and reduce heat to medium.
  • Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan, along with garlic, shallots, and chile (if using); cook 2 minutes, stirring often, until aromatic.
    Add tofu back to pan, along with black pepper sauce and green onions; cook 1 to 2 minutes, tossing often, until the sauce fully coats tofu.
    Serve over rice and garnish with fresh basil and a drizzle of Chili Crisp (optional).

Notes

  • Be sure to press as much moisture out of tofu as possible. This will create the crispiest texture.
  • For LESS spice: Omit Fresno chile and scale black pepper back to 2 teaspoons.
  • Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat: For the best texture, reheat tofu in a skillet over medium heat. You can also microwave individual portions, however the tofu will be softer.
I use this brand of Chili Crisp (Crunch) and love it!!

Nutrition

Serving: 0.66cup | Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 650mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
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5 from 59 votes (21 ratings without comment)

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66 Comments

  1. Eliza says:

    5 stars
    Oh HELL yeah. This was so quick and so, so good. I anticipate making this a few more times this week. Thank you!!

  2. Lauren says:

    5 stars
    Loveee love love this recipe! It’s been my go-to for months now. I recently had a celiac diagnosis so I swapped the soy sauce for coconut aminos and it was just as good, if not better!

  3. Mona Shah says:

    5 stars
    My son and I are vegetarian and he’s in college and we made this together and he said this was the best tofu he’s ever had !!! Thank you !