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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Sweet And Sour Tofu

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This flavorful sweet and sour tofu packed with lots of yummy vegetables is the perfect family-friendly meal. Fragrant garlic, sweet pineapple, crunchy bell pepper, hearty broccoli, crispy tofu pieces and brown rice are tossed in a homemade sweet and sour sauce, making this simple recipe taste even better than takeout!

Vegan sweet and sour tofu, served on a white plate with chopsticks.

Homemade sweet and sour tofu loaded with veggies and a delicious tangy sauce over brown rice — what could be more satisfying? It’s a healthier version of sweet and sour chicken or sweet and sour pork from your favorite Chinese restaurant with all of the flavor but none of the guilt.

I love recreating healthy, vegan or vegetarian versions of our favorite takeout meals at home, and this recipe is no exception! This vegan sweet and sour tofu recipe is super easy to make, so colorful and satisfying, and has become a staple at my house and one my whole family enjoys.

Typically, sweet and sour recipes are packed with sugar — after all, that’s where the “sweet” comes from. But I figured out a way to recreate that classic flavor with way less sugar than the traditional version!

Using tofu instead of meat is another healthy vegan-friendly swap, and pan-frying it with a bit of oil (olive oil or vegetable oil) gives it great texture without the added fat of deep-frying.

The tangy-sweet flavor of this sweet and sour stir fry pairs perfectly with brown rice, and I guarantee it will leave your entire family wanting more!

👩🏽‍🍳 Why You’ll Love This Sweet And Sour Tofu

  • Packed With Veggies: Getting veggies into picky eaters is hard, even if those picky eaters are adults! The thick sweet and sour sauce coats the perfectly cooked veggies and makes them more palatable in this easy recipe. You’ll definitely want to add this recipe into your meal plan rotation!
  • Loaded With Plant-Based Protein: Looking for a great way to get more protein into your family? Tofu has plenty of protein, but the other plant based ingredients have protein too, making this recipe for sweet and sour tofu with vegetables one you’ll want to make again and again.
  • Simple And Inexpensive: This sweet and sour veggie stir fry includes inexpensive ingredients like tofu, veggies, and brown rice. You may even have all the sauce ingredients stocked in your pantry right now, making this a budget-friendly dish.
  • Versatile: Swap out the veggies for whatever you have on hand, serve over noodles or white rice instead of brown, or change the protein to something like tempeh or a store-bought meat alternative. One of my favorite things about this recipe is how customizable it is!

Latest Recipe Video!

🥘 Ingredients

This tofu sweet and sour recipe contains wholesome simple ingredients so you can feel good about cooking it for your family. If this is your first time trying tofu, I bet you’ll love it and start looking for more tofu recipes after this!

Ingredients for sweet and sour tofu recipe on a white background.
  • Tofu: I recommend extra firm tofu because it has the best meaty texture. If you can find super firm tofu that comes vacuum-sealed (instead of packed in a tub of water), you don’t even need to press it! I do not recommend silken tofu or soft tofu in this recipe.
  • Onion, Garlic And Ginger: These aromatics add tons of flavor to this sweet and sour tofu with pineapple and vegetables! You can use a red or yellow onion.
  • Veggies: I used red bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and bok choy — but you can use any veggies you have on hand!
  • Pineapple: Optional, but I love the texture of it in this stir fry and it adds to the sweet and sour feel of this recipe!
  • Olive Oil, Salt To Taste: Critical for any dish!
  • Green Onions: For garnish and crunch. You can also use toasted sesame seeds for a lovely crunchy and nutty flavor.
  • Sauce Ingredients: You’ll need lemon juice, soy sauce, some sort of sweetener (honey, agave, maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar), sweet chili sauce, cornstarch and water.
  • Brown Rice: I use about 1/4 cup of cooked brown rice per serving — it’s a great accompaniment to this dish!

🍲 Ingredient Substitutions

  • Tofu: If you can’t find extra firm tofu by you or don’t like it, tempeh or a store-bought meat alternative will work well in this sweet and sour sauce tofu recipe. I recommend steaming tempeh before using it. If you purchased a meat alternative, prepare according to package directions and add to the stir fry near the end of the cooking process.
  • Onion, Garlic, And Ginger: If you’re wanting to skip a few steps, you can use garlic powder, onion powder, and ground ginger if you prefer. The flavor will be slightly different but it will still taste good. Add these to the sauce ingredients if you choose to make this substitution.
  • Pineapple: Feel free to leave this out, but I recommend you include it if you can! Fresh pineapple is best to create the sweet and tangy pineapple sauce, but if you need to use canned pineapple chunks, just get the kind packed in pineapple juice, not syrup.
  • Olive Oil: Vegetable oil also works. I don’t recommend using sesame oil in place of the olive oil, but you could definitely add a small amount (about a teaspoon) to the sauce if you want a nuttier flavor.
  • Lemon Juice: Acid in some form is essential to the sour flavor part of sweet and sour sauce. Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar work well in place of lemon juice. White vinegar can be a little too sour for this dish.
  • Soy Sauce: I used regular soy sauce in this recipe, but reduced sodium soy sauce works well too. Alternatively, coconut aminos are a great lower sodium option but keep in mind that they have a slightly sweet flavor that will affect the sauce. If you want a stronger soy sauce flavor, try dark soy sauce.
  • Cornstarch: Arrowroot powder is a great substitute for cornstarch. Rice flour or tapioca starch also work.
  • Brown Rice: If you don’t love brown rice, white rice or even quinoa will work fine too.

🔪 How To Make Sweet And Sour Tofu

There’s a few different components to this delicious easy sweet and sour tofu recipe, but there’s a lot of ways to save time. Keep reading for my favorite tips and tricks!

How To Prepare Tofu

Drain The Water: Remove the tofu from the package and drain the water. Then, you need to remove as much of the water as possible so that the tofu cooks up nice and firm (soggy tofu is not good).

Press The Tofu: That’s why I recommend buying extra firm tofu to start, so you’ll already have some of the work done for you. To remove the water, you can either let the block of tofu rest on a plate on a paper towel, press it with two heavy pans and paper towels, or use a tofu press. Sometimes I put the tofu between two small cutting boards and put a heavy weight on top of the tofu (like a kettlebell!) to help encourage the water to drain.

Block of tofu on a cutting board.

Save Time: Don’t want to press tofu? Vacuum-packed extra firm tofu (sometimes labeled super firm tofu or high protein tofu) will save you on prep time because it is pre-pressed and the excess water is already removed!

How To Make Tofu Crispy

Cut The Tofu: Cut the tofu in half, and if needed, place each half in 2 clean paper towels one at a time and gently press/squeeze to remove excess stored liquid (without breaking up the tofu). Once you have removed the water, cut the tofu into ½-inch cubes.

Tofu cut into cubes, on a wooden cutting board.

Add To A Large Skillet: Add the pressed tofu to the large pan (give a little breathing room in between each tofu cube) and pan fry on medium heat with half a tablespoon of olive oil and a couple sprays of olive oil cooking spray on top of the tofu.

Tofu cubes being pan fried in a pan.

Cook The Tofu: Mix and turn frequently (every 2-3 minutes) until all the water is burned off and the tofu is lightly golden brown on most sides (be sure not to burn the tofu). I recommend not doing anything else while the tofu cooks just because it does cook quickly (also make sure your stove is set to medium heat, not medium-high heat). If you find that the tofu is sticking to the pan, add a little more olive oil cooking spray. Set aside your crispy tofu cubes.

baked tofu on a baking sheet

How To Stir Fry The Veggies

Cook The Garlic and Ginger: In a large non-stick frying pan or (or a large wok), heat 1 ½ tablespoons of oil on medium heat. Add the fresh garlic and ginger and fry for about 10-15 seconds until fragrant.

Cook The Veggies: Add the onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, and broccoli and toss to combine. Mix frequently and sauté until all the vegetables are cooked and tender, yet still remain crispy. Note that all the water released from cooking the mushrooms should burn off while sautéing the vegetables. If you have too much water, you can let it cook off a bit or you can drain the water, using tongs to keep the veggies in the pan. In the meantime, prepare the sweet and sour sauce.

sauteed veggies in a wok

To Prepare The Sauce

Mix All Ingredients: Whisk all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until all the cornstarch has dissolved. Add more or less sweet chili sauce depending on your preference of spice. Taste the sauce prior to adding it to the dish to make sure you have the right amount of sweetness and saltiness.

sauce ingredients mixed in a bow

Final Steps

Add The Cooked Tofu and Sauce: Once the vegetables are tender and crispy, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the pan-fried tofu to the vegetables. Slowly add the sauce and toss with the vegetables and tofu. After about a minute, add the pineapple chunks and chopped bok choy.

tofu added to veggies in wok

Cook On Medium Low, Then Serve: Mix slowly on medium-low heat until the sauce starts to thicken and coat the vegetables and tofu. Be sure not to burn off all the sauce (this should only take 5-10 minutes). If for some reason you have too much liquid, you can sprinkle in a tiny bit more cornstarch (try ¼ to ½ teaspoon as little goes a long way). Turn off the heat and add the chopped green onions. Toss once more and serve hot on a fresh bed of rice.

Vegan sweet and sour tofu stir fry in a wok on the stove.

💭 Expert Tips

  • Use Different Veggies: Feel free to substitute in different veggies based on your tastes and what you have on hand. Just watch the cook time, as firmer veggies will need to cook longer and softer veggies (like zucchini or squash) will cook much faster!
  • Cut Veggies Consistently: Try to cut your veggies in similar sized pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Press Excess Water From Tofu: Be sure to get out all the extra moisture from the tofu. It will crisp up better when the excess moisture has been removed.
  • Pay Attention While Cooking Tofu: I recommend babysitting the pan of tofu while it cooks. You’ll want to turn the tofu often to keep it from burning, so keep. I especially recommend staying by the pan if this is your first time cooking tofu.
  • Don’t Overcook It: It’s important not to overcook the sauce, tofu, and veggies together. The sauce will reduce and burn off quickly if you don’t keep an eye on it. Stir frequently!
  • Try Freezing Your Tofu In Advance: Freeze your tofu (in the unopened package) overnight (or longer, up to 3 months) and thaw in the refrigerator fully. Drain and press as instructed. This process of freezing the tofu and thawing it can change the texture of the tofu, making it meatier and chewier (and helps it crisp up even more). You can freeze and thaw it twice for even more of a chewy and meaty texture if you like.
  • Add More Sweetener If You Prefer: While everything is cooking down, carefully taste a bit of the sauce. Not sweet enough for you? Add a splash more and stir well.

📖 Variations 

  • Sweet And Sour Tempeh: Steam your tempeh block for 10 minutes, then cut into ½-inch cubes. Pan fry as directed (the same as the tofu) until lightly golden brown. Continue with the recipe or serve directly on top of cooked veggies.
  • Sweet And Sour Veggies: If you just want the veggies, you can skip the whole tofu section and just follow the rest of the recipe to make a sweet and sour stir fry.
  • Sweet And Sour Cauliflower: Similarly, you could make cauliflower the star of the dish instead of tofu. Cauliflower easily takes on the flavors of the other ingredients, and you can pan fry or roast it (similar to tofu) to give it that meaty texture.
  • Sweet And Sour Sauce With Tomato: Many sweet and sour sauces contain a tomato flavor. Some folks accomplish this with tomato paste, tomato puree, or tomato sauce. I like my homemade sauce without that, but you’re welcome to try adding a little and tasting until you get a sauce you love.

🍽 Serving Suggestions

Serve this easy sweet and sour tofu as a healthy and hearty main. Here are a few of my favorite pairings:

  • With Rice: This vegetarian sweet and sour tofu recipe is paired with brown rice, but white rice is also delicious here and may be preferred by kids or picky eaters. You could also try it with fried rice like my tofu fried rice for a fun Chinese food night.
  • With Noodles: Try rice noodles, buckwheat/soba noodles, or your favorite noodles with this dish.
  • With Cauliflower Rice Or Zucchini Noodles: If you’re watching your carbs, try cauliflower rice or spiralized zucchini noodles for easy healthy eating. For more protein, serve it with my pressure cooker quinoa.
  • A Fancy Presentation: Want to impress your friends? Serve the sweet and sour tofu stir fry in two hollowed out pineapple halves (cut the pineapple in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh). Drizzle on extra sweet and sour sauce and top with finely sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
  • For Kids: Most kids love everything about this sweet and sour tofu. With the pieces of pineapple, the tangy sauce, and the overall sweetness in the dish, it’s pretty irresistible. Once in a while, you will have a kiddo that isn’t a huge fan, but it’s usually because he or she doesn’t like a lot of vegetables. In that case, I recommend either cutting up the veggies super small so they don’t really notice it, or serving them the tofu + brown rice and giving them a taste of the veggies on the side. You can always make the sauce in a small saucepan to just add sauce for the adults.

🙌 Dietary Adaptations

  • Gluten-Free Option: To make this recipe gluten-free, use certified gluten-free tofu and substitute gluten-free tamari for the soy sauce. 
  • Vegan Option: To ensure this delicious recipe is vegan-friendly, use agave or coconut sugar instead of honey to make a vegan sweet and sour sauce.

🫙 Storage Directions

Here is how to store and keep this sweet and sour tofu:

  • Refrigerating: Allow this veggie sweet and sour tofu to cool to room temperature, then place in an airtight container (a large bowl with plastic wrap works) and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. I don’t recommend freezing this recipe as the tofu will change texture once frozen and reheated.
  • Reheating: You can reheat this tofu dish in the microwave or on the stovetop in a skillet. Use medium heat on the stovetop and warm until it’s hot. Then serve as you normally would. 

❓Recipe FAQs

IS TOFU GLUTEN-FREE?

Yes, tofu is actually gluten-free. However, some tofu can be exposed to gluten during the manufacturing and preparation process. So if you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure to purchase tofu that is certified gluten free.

CAN I AIR FRY THE TOFU?

Yes, you can definitely air-fry the tofu. I recommend tossing the cut tofu cubes in a little bit of oil and spreading them in a single layer in the air fryer. Cook at 400 F / 200 C for 10-14 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through. Add your air fried tofu to the pot right before you add the sauce.

CAN I BAKE THE TOFU?

Yes! If you prefer baked tofu or you don’t use oil, add the tofu cubes to a lined baking tray in a single layer (space the cubes apart by at least an inch so they cook evenly). Bake at 400 F / 200 C for 15-20 minutes, flipping the pieces about halfway through. Add the baked tofu to the pot right before you add the sauce. 

CAN I USE A CAST IRON SKILLET?

The short answer is yes, but sometimes tofu can stick in a cast iron skillet. Use plenty of oil and flip the pieces often.

Sweet and sour tofu with veggies, served on a white plate with chopsticks.

🍛 More Healthy Tofu Recipes!

The vegan recipes below feature tofu in some form. There’s so many ways to prepare this versatile protein!

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🎥 Watch How to Make It

https://youtu.be/TytnXCiKNhw
Vegan sweet and sour tofu, served on a white plate with chopsticks.
Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Sweet And Sour Tofu

This flavorful sweet and sour tofu packed with lots of yummy vegetables is the perfect family-friendly meal. Fragrant garlic, sweet pineapple, crunchy bell pepper, hearty broccoli, crispy tofu pieces and brown rice are tossed in a homemade sweet and sour sauce, making this simple recipe taste even better than takeout!
Prep Time40 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Vegan
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 272kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

For The Stir Fry

  • 14 oz extra firm tofu typically, 1 block
  • tbsp olive oil or any other neutral oil for cooking
  • 4-5 sprays olive oil cooking spray
  • 5 cloves garlic minced­­­
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger grated
  • cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups red bell pepper cubed (~ 1 medium red bell pepper)
  • cups broccoli florets ~1 medium head of broccoli
  • 1 onion cubed
  • 3 small “heads” bok choy rinsed, trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 cremini mushrooms or white button mushrooms, de-stemmed and quartered or halved depending on the size of mushrooms. If you don't like mushrooms, sub for asparagus or zucchini.
  • 2 green onions chopped finely

For The Sauce

Shop Ingredients on Jupiter

Instructions

To Prepare The Tofu

  • Cut the block of tofu in half. Place each half in 2 clean paper towels one at a time and gently press/squeeze to remove excess stored liquid (without breaking up the tofu). (Alternatively, use a tofu press). Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and pan fry on medium heat with ½ tbsp olive oil and a couple sprays of olive oil cooking spray. Mix and turn frequently until all the water is burned off and the tofu is lightly golden brown on most sides (be sure not to burn the tofu). If you find that the tofu is sticking to the pan, add a little more olive oil cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a large non-stick skillet or wok, heat 1½ tbsp of oil on medium heat. Add the fresh garlic and ginger and fry for about 10-15 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, and broccoli and toss to combine. Mix frequently and sauté until all the vegetables are cooked and tender, yet still remain crispy. Note that all the water released from cooking the mushrooms should burn off while sautéing the vegetables. In the meantime, prepare the sauce.

To Prepare The Sauce

  • Whisk all the ingredients listed under sauce above until all the cornstarch has dissolved. Add more or less chili sauce depending on your preference of spice. Taste the sauce prior to adding it to the dish to make sure you have the right amount of sweetness and saltiness.
  • Once the vegetables are tender and crispy, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the pan-fried tofu to the vegetables. Slowly add the sauce and toss with the vegetables and tofu. After about a minute, add the pineapple chunks and chopped bok choy.
  • Mix slowly on medium-low heat until the sauce starts to thicken and coat the vegetables and tofu. Be sure not to burn off all the sauce (this should only take 5-10 minutes). Turn off the heat and add the chopped green onions. Toss once more and serve hot with a side of cooked brown rice.

Notes

  • To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free certified tofu and substitute tamari for the soy sauce. 
  • To ensure this recipe is vegan-friendly, use agave or coconut sugar instead of honey.
  • This recipe will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.
  • Feel free to omit the pineapple, or substitute in different veggies based on your tastes and what you have on hand. Just watch the cook time, as firmer veggies will need to cook longer and softer veggies (like zucchini or squash) will cook much faster!
  • Be sure to get out all the extra moisture from the tofu. It will crisp up better when the excess moisture has been removed. 
  • It’s important not to overcook the sauce, tofu, and veggies together. The sauce will reduce and burn off quickly if you don’t keep an eye on it.
Contributed by Vegetarian Gastronomy and modified by The Picky Eater. 

Nutrition

Calories: 272kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 902mg | Potassium: 1691mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 10.3g

33 responses to “Sweet And Sour Tofu”

  1. This recipe comes back very often at our house. And it’s easy to make, even my teens have learned to make it themselves.5 stars

  2. We eat lots of tofu and I’m always looking for new ways to make it – this looks like a great one! So colourful and bursting with veggies and flavour. Thanks!5 stars

  3. Sweet and sour is one of my favourites from the Chinese takeaway! So excited to make this at home. Love that is healthier with all the added vegetables.5 stars

  4. Such a wonderful combination of colours! I was looking for a sweet and sour vegetarian recipes and this looks the best, so I’m pinning to try later.5 stars

  5. Great tips on how to get crispy tofu and it sounds perfect with sweet and sour veggies. Can’t wait to try this recipe.5 stars

  6. Thanks for such a wonderful recipe Anjali! Everyone loved it!! I’ve been browsing through few of your recipes on and off, but this was the first one I tried and turned out amazing.
    We are vegetarians as well and am always looking for new things to try. Next on my list is to try your Lasagna recipe, hope I could get it at least close to yours :).5 stars

    • So glad you liked this recipe! Can’t wait to hear how my Lasagna turns out for you – that is one of my husband’s absolute favorites! Happy cooking!

  7. Your blog is so amazing! You totally give me inspiration! Thanks a million, I’m fixing to make this tonight!!

    ~Shelly @ mysexandfitness.com
    (can I list you on my site?)5 stars

    • Aw thank you so much Shelly – hope you like this recipe! And yes absolutely – you can list me on your site! Thanks again! 🙂

  8. Love it! Thanks so much for the opportunity to guest post for your site! I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do! And hope you are enjoying motherhood!

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