Red Hot Chili Tofu

I often find myself craving tofu and like it prepared in a variety of ways. One recipe that has a regular spot in my menu rotation is the Red Hot Chili Tofu from Vegan Fire and Spice. The tofu gets dredged in cornstarch and cooked to a crisp golden brown. It is then cloaked in a spicy red sauce that coats the tofu with flavor.

The “red hot” in the title has as much to do with the color as with the heat. With one teaspoon of chili paste, I’d call it moderately spicy, and since we like our food extra-hot, I usually toss in an extra “oops” of chili paste into the sauce. This recipe makes just enough sauce to coat the tofu, so if you want extra sauce, simply double the amount of sauce ingredients in the recipe.

Red Hot Chili Tofu

The tomato paste and chili paste combine to turn the tofu a lovely red color. Add more or less chili paste according to your heat tolerance. (From Vegan Fire and Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes.)

3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon soy sauce
3 teaspoons sake or dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch strips
3 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil
1/4 cup minced scallions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon hot chili paste (or more, to taste)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, water, soy sauce, sake, and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
In a shallow bowl, combine the cornstarch and salt. Dredge the tofu strips in the cornstarch mixture, shaking off any excess.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in batches and cook until golden brown. Transfer to a platter.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the same skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, and chili paste, and cook, stirring for 15 seconds. Add the reserved tomato paste mixture and stir until well blended.
Add the reserved tofu and toss gently to coat with the sauce, cooking until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with cilantro

Serves 4

15 responses to “Red Hot Chili Tofu”

  1. DJ Karma says :

    Looks so good and spicy! I love the red color.

  2. veggievixen says :

    i have been craving something like this for the past week or so. i just bought some dried ancho chiles and am wondering how to use them. do you think i could add them to this recipe?

  3. Robin says :

    Karma: Thanks! I like the color (and the flavor), too!Veggie Vixen: You can certainly use dried chiles instead of chili paste (I just chose chili paste here because it blends nicely with the tomato paste mixture). But if I were using whole chiles for this recipe, I’d probably stick with those small slender Asian chiles for this recipe to get the desired heat and flavor. Anchos tend to be mild with an almost sweet (some say “raisin-like”) undertone. I prefer to reserve them for Mexican cooking, such as a mole sauce. On the other hand, if the ancho flavor and heat profile is what you’re looking for, you might like using them as a substitute for hotter chiles. There are several ways to use dried chiles in cooking: you can add them whole to certain recipes (especially Thai, Chinese, and Indian dishes) so that their flavor and heat is imparted into the dish. You can also grind dried chiles in a spice grinder (remove the stem and seeds). The ground chiles can then be used in recipes or as a component in a chili powder or other spice blend.Another way to use dried chiles is to reconstitute them in a bowl of hot water until softened. They can then be cut into smaller pieces and used in recipes or ground to a paste to make “wet” spice mixture, such as a Thai curry paste or used in a spicy condiment such as harissa sauce. I hope this is helpful. Enjoy your anchos!

  4. VeganWoman says :

    I love heat so this should be great! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Anonymous says :

    I’m off to buy the ingredients for this. Looks so yummy!

  6. Anonymous says :

    Hi Robin (and the handsome Gary!!)William and me never did get our copy of Vegan Fire and Spice…Sob sob….guess someone else is reading it instead of us.Jane

  7. Robin says :

    Jane: I’ll need your mailing address in order to send you the book. Please e-mail me with your contact info and I will get the book right out to you — it’s been sitting here waiting for you!!To e-mail me, simply click on “My Complete Profile” — my e-mail link is listed there under “Contact”. Thanks, and congrats!

  8. Summer Fae says :

    Ooh my hubby will love this. I will have to try it. Thanks 🙂

  9. Elaine says :

    I knew I had to make this for dinner tonight as soon as I saw the photo! Like everything else I have tried from Fire & Spice, I loved this recipe. Now I know how Chinese restaurants get the tofu so crispy. This will be a regular at my house. I am looking forward to your next book!

  10. Anonymous says :

    Hi RobinI have tried twice to send an e mail via your “complete profile address” but they came back to me as undeliverable.Ooh this is frustrating…I can’t wait to try the recipes!Jane (and William).

  11. Robin says :

    Hi Jane! I’m sorry you couldn’t get through. I just checked and there was a broken link, but we fixed it now, so you can try again and it should work fine. If you do have a problem this time, just go to my website at and e-mail me through the Contact” link on that site. I hope you like the book once you get it and that it will have been worth the wait!

  12. Karen says :

    I made this tonight for dinner, it was great. I swapped the amount of tomato paste and chili paste because I like it hot and spicy, and it was. I’m going to try this was soy knot.

  13. بناتي says :

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Paula says :

    Delicious! I loved the tomato-chili combo. Using the 1 teaspoon hot chili paste that the recipe called for didn't really make this spicy, therefore my boyfriend who doesn't like spicy food could also eat it. If making for those who like spice, I'd definitely increase the chili paste. Thanks, Robin!

  15. Robin at Vegan Planet says :

    So glad you liked it Paula – and also that your boyfriend liked it too! I find that the different brands of Asian chili paste vary in heat, so it's good for you that you have a fairly mild one — the one we use is hot!

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