Caramelized Tofu

Caramelized Tofu Recipe

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

Variations

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.

Caramelized Tofu Recipe

4.35 from 32 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.

Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.
Serves
4
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • 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!

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

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

    Deb
  • 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.

    Carol
  • Heidi! 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!

    Dee
  • 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!

    katy
  • 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.

    Dave
  • 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!!!

    Mandy
  • 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.

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

    Susan S
  • Oh caramelized tofu sounds so good!

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

    Ty
  • Love this recipe!! Appeciate you sharing. =)

    Julie
  • 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.

    Mercedes
  • 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!

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

    Leslie
  • 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
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