Caramelized Tofu Recipe

One of my favorite tofu recipes, caramelized strips of tofu served over sautéed shredded brussels sprouts. It come together quickly and uses just one pan.

Caramelized Tofu

Ten years ago, after coming home from a weekend trip to Big Sur, I ended up throwing together one of my favorite tofu recipes ever - caramelized strips of tofu served over sautéed shredded brussels sprouts. Toasted pecans go into the pan as well and get oh-so lightly candied as they cook alongside the tofu and sprouts. I thought I'd post a slightly updated version today. Enjoy!
Favorite Caramelized Tofu

Here's how it came together: a quick survey of my kitchen revealed tofu and a cluster of brussels sprouts. There was also a vibrant bouquet of cilantro tucked into the refrigerator door begging to be used. I scanned the cupboards and pulled down a small bag of (already toasted!) pecans and the remnants of a once full bag of my favorite sugar. Garlic? Check. If you don't love cilantro, swap in a big fistful of pea shoots.

Just a few minutes of knife work and a some fast work with a hot pan separated me from my dinner. I cooked the tofu first, then finished with the brussels sprouts. It worked out nicely that only one pan was dirtied in the process.
Favorite Caramelized Tofu


Some variations come to mind - throw in some nutty, chewy brown rice. You'll have a nicely balanced plate - vegetables, protein, and some complex carbohydrates from the rice. For those of you I failed to convert to fans with this brussels sprout recipe, spinach would be a nice alternative. With the pecans and the crusted sweetness, a few pinches of curry powder (or five-spice powder) would be delicious. There are now lots of great ideas in the comments (down below) as well.

More Tofu Recipes

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Caramelized Tofu Recipe

4.44 from 51 votes

Any extra-firm tofu will work here, but try to buy organic, non-GMO tofu. Also, if you don't love cilantro, feel free to swap in pea shoots, or even thinly sliced kale.

  • 7 - 8 ounces extra-firm tofu cut into thin 1-inch segments (see photo)
  • a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
  • a couple splashes of olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fine-grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, washed and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons
  1. Cook the tofu strips in large hot skillet (or pot) with a bit of salt and a splash of oil. Saute until slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and pecans, and cook for another minute. Stir in sugar. Cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Scrape the tofu out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the brussels sprouts.
  2. In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussels sprouts. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
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4.44 from 51 votes (39 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Delicious! I make tofu weekly and need a new go-to. Didn’t have brussels but had csa cabbage. A winner!5 stars


My favorite tofu recipe!! I use 1/2 the sugar and add five spice powder per the suggestion. Simply perfect5 stars


    Thanks Tracie!

    Heidi Swanson

Do you need to drain and press the tofu first? Thank you!! I love your recipes!!!


    Some extra-firm tofus still have quite a lot of moisture. If you feel like your tofu is very wet, yes, go ahead and press some of the moisture from the tofu.

    Heidi Swanson

This is hands down my favorite tofu recipe! I cook with tofu once a week for a family of five and this one never gets old. So easy and so delicious, thank you thank you thank you 5 stars


I made this last night and it was really good. I’d totally make it again. I forgot the cilantro! Oops. We put a bit of reduced balsamic vinegar on top and it was lovely.5 stars


Great recipe, just two suggestions:
Double the amount of brussels sprouts, and/or add some other veggies, like onions and mushrooms to the mix.
Reduce the sugar by 1 tablespoon.4 stars


Super yummy! My family enjoyed it so much! thank you!5 stars

Sandra Espinosa

Echoing the other reader comments about this one being in my regular rotation…for me, close to 8 years! I think I got the suggestion to use packaged Wildwood brand “savory” flavor tofu from the original recipe – I like the results so I think I will stick with this! The “teriyaki” flavor from Trader Joes also works well.5 stars


    Hi Lisa – yes! I think you’re right. I wrote the recipe before Hodo was in business (local company)…I also like Wildwood, and, really, you can use whatever firm tofu you like here. 🙂

    Heidi Swanson

This is one of my favorite recipes!! I stumbled across your site over 10 years ago and this is one of the first dishes I tried. It was AMAZING! Everyone I’ve served it to has raved about it. Since then, I’ve purchased your cookbooks and still follow the site for great food and photos. Thanks so much for re-posting a stellar dish!!5 stars


    Thanks for the nice note Michelle! 🙂

    Heidi Swanson

We’ve been making this original recipe since you first posted it and it is one of our favorites! It’s the recipe that got my tofu- and brussels sprout- hating husband eating both of them! Thanks for such a good one!5 stars


This recipe is delicious! I followed the recipe as written except I used toasted walnuts because that is what I had. I loved the tofu with the sweet flavor. I will do again and add the 5 spice. I am a tofu novice but my husband recently wanted try, and he said to make this again!!5 stars

Sally Mc

I’ve also been loving this recipe for ages! I think I found it 5 years ago? Your archives are so wonderful that I love you pulling old faves forwards!5 stars


Looks great. In lieu of sugar, have you ever tried date syrup? I recently bought one by “Date Lady.” A bit more nutritious….Bon Apetit!4 stars

Susan Iseman

    Oooh, yes. Love the flavor of date syrup, you could absolutely play around with it here. Great call.

    Heidi Swanson

Do you think I could use a whole tub of tofu without doubling the sugar? Would it still carmelize? Thanks, this looks so good.


    Yes! You can play around with the amount, and think of the sugar as seasoning. So use as much or as little as you prefer. Enjoy!

    Heidi Swanson

This sounds amazing. I have a 10 month old & plan to introduce soy to her next & this sounds way more interesting than plain tofu! Do you usually drain/press your tofu before cooking?

Samantha Slaughter

    Just a quick, vigorous, press with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel in a pinch. Enjoy!

    Heidi Swanson

Tried this last night… it was great! My husband especially loved it, which is always a treat! Thanks for the great recipe.


I’ll be preparing this for my family later in the week. I usually roast my brussel sprouts flat side down (split brussel sprouts) and they are nice on the outside but a tad undercooked inside. Is this because their cooking too fast? I was contemplating baking them for a few minutes covered to steam them a bit and then remove the cover to caramelize them. This recipe, I’m going to take your suggestion and shred them.


Two of my favorite foods! This MUST be made this week! Thanks for the inspiration!

Jen O

This was a great recipe! Though I am a novice at cooking tofu (I used med-high heat to cook tofu, which took long and left burnt remnants in the pan), I found you can sub the sugar with teriyaki at the end. Oh I also added green onions and sub’d the pecans with almonds. It was yummy! Feeds 2 people perfectly!


This is the first recipe I’ve tried from your site. It was FANTASTIC. Truly exciting and unusual combination of flavors. Thanks so much for what will be a new standby in our house!


Just made this– am actually eating it right now. Topped it with a drizzle of chili oil! Yum!!!!


Thank you for the great recipe, Heidi. Just made this dinner tonight–so delicious (and believe it or not, it was the first time that I’ve tried brussels sprouts)! I am also a huge fan of your blog–your recipes never fail to inspire!


Thank for the great recipe, Heidi. Just made this dinner tonight–so delicious (and believe it or not, it was the first time that I’ve tried brussels sprouts)! I am also a huge fan of your blog–your recipes never fail to inspire!


Just made this tonite. And it was delicious. It was more of a mashed carmelized tofu but the flavor melded really well. We served with a red sticky rice and topped it with some tamari and rice vinegar. VERY YUMMY! Lots of compliments from others. Will definitely be making it again.

Ericka and Robert

stir-fryed this up this very eve–with a few minor alterations–and heidi, wow! the combination of flavors and textures (plus the lovely wholesomeness of the dish) was most impressive. (not to mention enjoyable.) alas, your brussels sprouts recipe (which I gave a fair try) has failed to convert me. so I used broccoli instead–just cut up the florets really, really small. also added some red pepper flakes because I love that sweet/spicy combo. served over rice–yum! thanks for another staple for my recipe collection.


Oh and for the guy who doesn’t like cilantro, neither do I, I just left it out completely and it was delicious.


I made it two nights ago and it was DELICIOUS!


Re: “help…love the brussel sprout recipe sounds awesome, but my husband really dislikes cilantro. any other thoughts?”
I really dislike cilantro, too, so I substitute parsley in any recipe that calls for cilantro. It’s a similar, but much more mild taste.


That just gave me one more reason to get more tofu in my diet… Beautiful!


Oh, thank you, Heidi. I was feeling so not in the cooking mood this evening and was thisclose to ordering some greasy takeout, but after reading that it had about a 10 minute cooktime, I decided to rally to try this. While it took a bit longer than 10 minutes, the end result was so worth it! I was out of pecans, so I threw in a small handful of toasted pine nuts. So often I fall into an Asian tofu rut–just stir frys or teriyaki, and while I can see this going the Asian route, it also reminded me quite a bit of that Southern-style nut and brown sugar combo. It was delicious! Will definitely be making again.

Olivia Leigh

who would of thought i would have BOTH brussel sprouts and tofu in my fridge screaming to be used! i made this last night and it was absolutely yummy!!!!! but i used mint instead of cilantro (what i had instead) and left out the pecans. the best thing is that my husband ate his portion happily and he HATES tofu 🙂 thanks!


I made this last night with soba noodles instead of rice. So yummy! I think it’s going to be tomorrow’s dinner too. I added just a bit of crushed red pepper flakes because I like a spicy/sweet combo.


Heidi, I wanted to share the praise my girlfriend gave me after making her this dish, She loves her vegetables, and I made this dish for her, and she ate a plate full, and took the left overs to work…
Thank you for a great site, we look forward to trying other delicious foods listed on your site, we even put up a link on our site back to yours, so we could share it with others..Thanks again
Thanks again
Tony and Charleen
Fairbanks, Alaska


Longtime lurker but this is my 1st comment…..I was BLOWN AWAY by how freakishly delicious this was. Officially my new favorite dinner. I had to restrain myself or I would have eaten the entire pan in one go. Fortunately, I have enough left for tomorrow’s lunch. Thank you THANK YOU for posting this 🙂

DC Sarah

oh my goodness, this was so good. I want to make it again tomorrow night!


Interesting, Heidi. I’ve been looking at tofu in the store for quite some time, but ended up leaving without buying any since I don’t really know what to do with it. The times I’ve had tofu has been a pretty bland experience, but perhaps your recipe will change my mind. Tofu seems like something that should be added to my menu.


I just had this for dinner it was amazing. My roommate, a meat and potatoes kind of guy, walked into the kitchen and asked what smelled so good. Then he actually ate some after I told him it was tofu. And he liked it. That is, in my opinion, some very high praise.
I also want to echo everyone else who has said thanks for the everyday recipes!


Count me in as one of the readers who loves loves loves it when you share your ‘everyday’ recipes. I am an emergency medicine resident, so I don’t have much time some days to cook, but being able to throw something healthy and not processed out the wazoo makes everything in my life feel so much more grounded. You have become a hero in our house, to the extent that we refer to you just as “Heidi”, as in “Heidi recommends slicing it like this”, like you are an old friend rather than a stranger across the internet.
So, thank you.


I made this last night because one of my husband’s favorites things to eat is golden tofu.
I did find that this a bit bland though. I added some ginger with the garlic and about a teaspoon of pesto I had. Make everything just pop.
Thank you for the great recipe. Always love finding recipes I can make for vegan friends.

Jenny Mack

Your post was timely – the title of Ruhlman’s latest is “Carnivore” as he describes the struggle of the meat lover trying to eat a more balanced diet and be more aware of the origins of his meat. Of course I want to know the origins of my tofu and veggies…but I don’t worry about the impact on my health or humaness of animal treatment with this dish. Two fewer things to fret over! Thank you, Heidi.


What a great combination! I already love both those ingredients and think this would be an ideal pairing. The idea of the ribboned brussels sprouts is inspired. And caramelized tofu? YUM.


YUM! I love tofu, brussels sprouts and cilantro! I can’t wait to try this recipe.
Also, just made the Vegan Caesar Salad this weekend–that dressing is magically delicious! Wowza! It was a HUGE hit!


This looks delicious! I’m curious though- why do you choose to season the oil and not the food?


I subbed in walnuts and green beans since I had them on hand. Damn girl! I can’t stop eating it.


Carmelized tofu has been a fave of mine for quite some time. My spin on it subs the brussels sprouts with leeks or spinach. Add some mushrooms, ginger syrup and peppadew peppers and voilà.
And like you said fast, tasty and only one pan to clean.


I made this for dinner tonight. I think I practically tripled the recipe due to our large crew ;o) (family of 6) and EVERYONE LOVED IT! Even our 19 month old.
So easy! I used frozen organic brown rice since I was in a pinch for time.
It came together like a dream.
The cilantro really brought it to fruition.
And to think, most folks snub their noses at brussels sprouts and tofu.
Thank you again for sharing your wonderful wisdom, artistic touch, and talented palate.
You’re the best!!!!
Much love~

Nikki Graham

Heidi – I was introduced to your site and cookbooks through my very good friend, Cathy (Kiki) and let me tell you….I’ve loved every bit of it. I ran home tonight and made this for my lunch tomorrow – and from my test tasting….IT IS WONDERFUL!


you know what? i bet i would actually like shredded brussel sprouts a lot more than whole ones! Huh! Never would have thought of that!


I’ve done the tofu on the grill with extra firm and after a marinade of sesame oil and soy sauce. Not quite caramelized but nice. And served with grilled mushrooms. I like the pairing with brussel sprouts.


Oh Heidi, you just made my day! Not only am I a vegetarian, tofu and brussel sprouts are 2 of my favorite foods! I’m on my way to Whole Foods right now so that I can make this dish tonight. Thank you!!!


I wish I was eating this RIGHT NOW!

mz priss

nita –
When I first started cooking tofu, I tried to brown it and crisp the edges up to no avail. After a few failed attempts, I happened to try another pan (I think the one I usually used was dirty) and it browned right up. The new pan was a nice heavy non-stick frying pan, nothing special. You might try cooking the tofu in a few different pans to see if there’s a difference.
Also, I’ve found that a really hot pan makes a big difference.


Same idea works well with bok choy in place of the brussels sprouts. Mighty tasty!

Susan S

Oh caramelized tofu sounds so good!


Thanks Heidi for the wonderful recipe! I love tofu, so this will be something I will definitely try in the near future.


Love this recipe!! Appeciate you sharing. =)


There is a Vietnamese recipe (ca kho to) for fish in caramel sauce: you basically make a caramel in the pan, then add fish sauce, add onions and peppers and cook the fish in the sauce. This sounds like a lovely vegetarian version.


I cannot wait to make this. I have all the ingredients except the tofu and the pecans, and I was just about to step out the door to get groceries when I decided to check my Reader. So glad I did!

pen and paper

This looks AMAZING! Just bought some tofu tonight. 🙂 I was just going to do a plain ol’ veggie stir-fry. This will be perfect instead.
Love your site! I’m always looking for delicious healthy vegetarian recipes & I’ve found so many here!


What about finely shredded red cabbage? It would make a colorful cold weather dish.


Oh my goodness…. this reminds me of a dish I had in a Japanese restaurant in New York nearly 20 years ago. I’d totally forgotten about it until now. Wow. This will definitely be a go-to for me. Tomorrow night, in fact!

French Laundry at Home

I love tofu and have even converted my husband into a soy-lover. However, we have a terrible time getting out tofu nice and crispy and we are desperately searching for a Thai Basil Tofu recipe, the one with the peppers and brown sauce. Any suggestions?


This looks really tasty! We’ve been using sliced sprouts a lot in stir fry dishes of late. But before I could do this I had to convert my husband into sprout eating with your method of cooking them Heidi (turns there’s nothing like a smattering of cheese to make something more appealing).


That looks like a really good way to sneak brussel sprouts into my husbands diet. I also like your pan-fried brussel sprouts.


I think I make this every night for myself. Brussel sprouts and tofu are a great combination, and I even throw in some bok choy too. Quick, simple and very tasty!


easy, simple, healthy = a winner trio, and you made me add brussels sprouts on my shopping list )I haven’t had those since terrible experience at high school cafeteria) .. we’ll see what happen …


I have never been a big fan of tofu, but this makes me want to give it another chance. The caramelized tofu looks delicious!


delicious! had it for dinner tonight, barely any leftovers for lunch tomorrow !


wow. great tofu recipe. i like how you threw your ingredients together, which is usually how i feed myself — scrounging around for what i can find around the kitchen. plus it uses one of my favorite food groups — sugar. =D
seriously though, i’ve recently started a journey to eating a more balanced diet. i think i’ll try this out, but may replace the brussel sprouts with spinach…


I made this tonight it was wonderful!!! Thank you!


i just made this and used the coconut & turmeric palm sugar from big tree farms and it turned out beautifully! thanks heidi. another winner.


This sounds amazing! I love cilantro and brussel sprouts. What do you think is the best sugar to use?


MHSuzy, I looked at this recipe and though, aha, I know what to do with my pork loin…so there you go. Sorry, veggies!
I even have brussel sprouts I intended to make tonight. Perfect. 🙂


This recipe looks great! I will have to get the sprouts from the garden under the snow here in New York. If you want to check out my garden, visit:


This looks absolutely delicious! I hadn’t thought to combine tofu and brussels sprouts before, though I love both.
Also, THANK YOU for introducing me to the best way to cook tofu ever (in your cookbook) — slice and heat in a dry non-stick pan until the tofu has a nice light-golden crust. It’s so simple, and the tofu turns out beautifully every time


This sounds so delicious, I can’t wait to make it! I was wondering what else you could use besides brussels sprouts to throw in some variety?


Maybe instead of tofu, use a root, like potatoes, just do it a lot smaller! or use ones that were roasted previously.
love the combo, i’ll try it soon! DH isn’t a sprouts fan, but he loved your earler sprouts recipie that i did for thanksgiving. yummy! maybe with it being shreaded, he’ll not guess what it is…
if sprouts aren’t available, would very fine cabbage work with this?


Not a tofu fan, makes me curious to try. In the meantime, what could be used as the tofu substitue?


wow, delicious! maybe this will bring my husband around on tofu after all. He just learned to like brussels sprouts, so there’s hope. Heidi, this is a really interesting combination — can’t wait to try.


help…love the brussel sprout recipe sounds awesome, but my husband really dislikes cilantro. any other thoughts?


I LOVE you “everyday” recipes. Keep ’em coming! Got your e-mail exactly 25 minutes ago, and I’m eating it for lunch right now. Worked great without the cilantro, and I didn’t have any sugar in the house (diabetic), so I tried a couple teaspoons of agave nectar in the pan — delicious!


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