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Chinese Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry

A classic Chinese restaurant favourite, this Black Pepper Tofu is so delicious and simple. In less than 30 minutes you could have this succulent marinated tofu stir-fried with crisp bright bell peppers and sweet red onion coated in sticky Black Pepper Sauce on the table alongside fluffy jasmine rice.
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Black Pepper Tofu Video Tutorial

Watch this video for how to make black pepper tofu! You’ll see how simple it is and how quick the stir-fry process goes.

How to Make the BEST Easy Chinese Black Pepper Tofu

This dish is so easy, quick and delicious that it truly belongs in your regular plant-based rotation! But even the most simple recipe can be enhanced with a couple optional steps.

Two plates of Vegan Chinese Black Pepper Tofu with rice

Rice

While you can make fried rice or noodles to go with your Chinese Black Pepper Tofu, the classic for me is simple steamed jasmine rice. Start cooking the rice on the stove before beginning the recipe and you’ll have it perfectly ready when the stir-fry is done.

Tofu for Black Pepper Tofu

For me, it starts when I bring home a block of firm tofu; I unwrap it and immediately stick it in my tofu press. While this is an optional step, especially as you can buy extra firm or pre-pressed tofu, I like the texture that results from pressing firm tofu at home. And I think pressing it just before marinating the tofu works better for the flavours to soak in. 

Marinate the Tofu

Pat your tofu as dry as possible, then cut it into bite-sized pieces. The reason is, the less water is in your tofu, the more marinade it can soak up and the more flavourful the tofu will be on the inside. 

Separately, mix the marinade ingredients EXCEPT and cornstarch. That’ll be:

  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom stir-fry sauce (AKA veg. oyster sauce)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast (adds extra “meaty” flavour)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Marinate the tofu in a container that maximizes contact between the tofu surface and marinade. I used the plastic container that the tofu came in and it worked perfectly. Ever so gently, you can press on the tofu so it soaks up more marinade. Let rest for at least 15 minutes up to overnight in the fridge. Meanwhile, you can prepare your vegetables and stir-fry sauce.

Uncooked bite-sized cubes of tofu coated in black pepper marinade

Chop Vegetables and Make Stir-Fry Sauce

The perfect time to prepare all the rest of the ingredients is when the tofu is marinating. It’s just enough time to chop up your bell peppers and red onion and mix up the black pepper stir-fry sauce! It’s also good time to check on your rice if you’re cooking it on stove top (likely time to turn down the heat to low).

In the video, I prepped three different coloured bell peppers, using only a half cup of each for the recipe. It’s so convenient to do it this way so you’ll have more veggies prepped for other stir-fries or salad throughout the week. However, you could simply use a single large bell pepper for a black pepper tofu dish that is less colourful but just as delicious. Just make sure you have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped bell peppers at the end.

Also, while I used red onion, you can use any onion you like (white, yellow, or even try shallots instead). Chop them into large pieces and then separate the layers. You should have about 1/2 cup or 60g.

Separately you can simply combine the stir-fry sauce ingredients and stir them smooth. That’ll be:

  • 2 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or 1 ½ teaspoons monkfruit & erythritol sweetener
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon mushroom stir-fry sauce (AKA veg. oyster sauce)

Stir Frying Black Pepper Tofu

After your tofu has marinated for 15 minutes, you can transfer it to a sieve to drain off any marinade that hasn’t soaked in. Typically, that’ll be less than a teaspoon leftover. But waste not, want not! Add any leftovers to the stir-fry sauce. Then toss the tofu in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to absorb some of the surface moisture. Then, along with your vegetables and stir-fry sauce, you’re ready for the stove!

close up of vegan chinese black pepper tofu

Heat a large non-stick pan or wok with about two tablespoons of cooking oil over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the tofu one at a time so they are not touching. You may need to cook in batches. Cook until well browned on the bottom, then flip and repeat a few times. Then remove the tofu.

Immediately add red onions, peppers, and 1 tsp minced garlic and stir-fry for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Finally, turn the heat to low, give the stir-fry sauce a quick mix to redistribute the cornstarch, and pour it in. It will thicken very quickly. Add the tofu back in and quickly but gently to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a little broth or water, a teaspoon at a time — this dish should not have too much sauce but should be able to coat all ingredients. Then turn off the heat.

Finally, drizzle on sesame oil and sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon more black pepper (freshly ground, if possible). Fold again and then you’re ready to serve this alone or over steamed rice! Enjoy!

Special Chinese Ingredients

One of the great things about this dish is that it doesn’t call for very many special ingredients. If you cook Chinese food on any regular basis, you’ll have these in your pantry. But, depending on where you live or if you need gluten-free versions, it may be slightly more difficult. Luckily, all of them are available widely online.

Soy Sauce

Could it be THE staple? Regular or Light Soy Sauce is a classic Chinese cooking and seasoning ingredient made from fermented soy beans and wheat. Adding salt and complexity to any savory foods, use it in small amounts to add oompf to just about anything! In this recipe, it provides all the saltiness you need; no additional salt required. My go-to regular soy sauce is the Cantonese favourite: Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce (retail $2 CAD/500ml).

 

Dark Soy Sauce

Similar to regular or light soy sauce, Dark Soy Sauce is salty, umami, and used to season the same foods. However, with it’s thicker texture, darker colour, and deeper flavour, it is used a bit differently. It also tastes a bit sweeter than regular soy sauce and comes across as less salty. However, it contains just as much sodium as regular soy sauce. In this dish, we want it for the flavour but more so for the colour. And as such, you can easily substitute it for regular if you just cannot source it. My go-to brands of dark soy sauce is Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce (retail $2.50 CAD/500ml).

Please note the product affiliate links are for information only. The listed prices at time of this posting are atrocious! I’m sure you can find them at more reasonable prices at your local grocery stores.

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Thick dark brown Oyster sauce is an important flavouring ingredient in Chinese cooking, especially the Cantonese cuisine I grew up on. It’s super key in good fried rice. However, as vegetarianism is practiced by many Chinese people for religious and other reasons, vegetarian oyster sauce has long satisfied the demand! Vegetarian oyster sauce is typically made with mushrooms and is a total dupe for the original. If you’re new to vegetarian oyster sauce, please use it sparingly as it’s extremely concentrated and salty. Also, it may be labelled Mushroom Stir Fry Sauce. Don’t be confused by Mushroom Soy Sauce; it’s not the same thing.

My go-to Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is whatever happens to be at the store! Recently I bought Wan Ja Shan Vegetarian Mushroom Oyster Sauce 1200ml for $7 CAD.

Can this be gluten-free?

While you can substitute gluten-free varieties of soy sauce for the two soy sauces used in this dish, the vegan-friendly oyster sauce would be more difficult to replace. Both Chinese oyster sauce and the vegetarian versions (AKA Mushroom Stir fry Sauce) usually contain wheat. Online, I have found Kikkoman Vegetarian Oyster Sauce which is labelled gluten-free and is advertised as vegan-friendly. However, I have not been able to find it available in Canada.

Locally, I have found this “Vegan Oyster Sauce” on but it was quite expensive and I have not tried it yet. To be honest, looking at the ingredients and their claim to be 75% less sodium than “traditional soy sauces”, it doesn’t look good. Why compare to soy sauce and not other oyster sauce? It makes me skeptical. But please let me know in the comments if you’ve tried it or any other gluten-free vegetarian oyster sauce.

Printable Recipe for Chinese Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry

Yield: Serves 4

Chinese Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry

Chinese Black Pepper Tofu with Steamed Rice

This Vegan Chinese Black Pepper Tofu is such an easy stir-fry dish to make that is sure to please everyone; not just the vegans + vegetarians! Glossy black pepper sauce lightly coats crisp bell peppers, sweet red onion and succulent marinated tofu; it's just perfect on fluffy jasmine rice😋

Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Tofu and Marinade

  • 1 lb firm tofu, pressed (454g)*
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom stir-fry sauce (AKA veg. oyster sauce)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Vegetable for Stir Frying

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cup chopped bell peppers (use different colours if you can) 170g
  • ½ cup chopped red onion (separate the layers) 60g

Stir Fry Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or 1 ½ teaspoons monkfruit & erythritol sweetener
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon mushroom stir-fry sauce (AKA veg. oyster sauce)

Finishing touches

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut your pressed firm tofu into bite-sized cubes (about ¾” or 2cm) and blot to absorb remaining moisture. Separately, mix the marinade ingredients EXCEPT the cornstarch. Marinate the tofu in a container that maximizes contact between the tofu surface and marinade. Let rest for at least 15 minutes up to overnight in the fridge. Meanwhile, you can prepare your vegetables and stir-fry sauce. If you are making rice, now is the time to start it too.
  2. Chop the bell peppers and red onion roughly into 1 inch pieces. For the stir-fry sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together and set aside until you’re ready to cook.
  3. After the tofu is marinated, thoroughly drain it using a mesh strainer but reserve the liquid. Combine any remaining liquid with the stir-fry sauce.
  4. In a large bowl, gently toss the tofu with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to absorb the surface moisture.
  5. Heat a large non-stick pan or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to coat the bottom very well. When the pan is so hot that the oil is shimmering, add the tofu one at a time so they are not touching. You may need to cook in batches.. Cook until well browned on the bottom, then flip with a spatula. Repeat two times. Then remove them from the wok.
  6. Immediately add red onions, peppers, and 1 tsp minced garlic and stir-fry for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Finally, turn the heat to low, give the stir-fry sauce a quick mix to redistribute the cornstarch, and pour it in. It will thicken very quickly. Add the tofu back in and quickly but gently to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a little broth or water, a teaspoon at a time -- this dish should not have too much sauce but should be able to coat all ingredients.
  7. Finally, drizzle on sesame oil and sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon more black pepper (freshly ground, if possible). Fold again and then you’re ready to serve this alone or over steamed rice! Enjoy!

Notes

Tofu

If you don't have pressed tofu to start with, you still make this recipe with firm or extra firm tofu. Do the best with the time you have by draining the tofu, wrapping it in clean cloth and weighing it down to get as much water out as possible. I use this tofu press and it works in as little as 15 minutes.

Gluten Free Substitutions

Use gluten-free varieties of soy sauce. GF dark soy sauce may be harder to find. GF Vegan Oyster Sauce is also harder to find. One brand I found online (but have not tried yet) is Kikkoman Vegetarian Oyster Sauce.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 246Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 473mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 13g

Nutritional Information automatically calculated by a plugin and may not be correct.

Showing 4 comments
  • sam
    Reply

    I love your recipes and your YouTube channel. I’m a single person and that many recipes just make too much for me. Is this recipe freezable? How long will it last in the fridge and what advice do you have for reheating? Thanks!

    • Mary
      Reply

      Hi sam,
      Thanks so much for the kind comment 🙂 While I wouldn’t freeze this one, it’s fine in the fridge for about 3 days. Just reheat in the microwave; the leftovers taste great!
      Cheers,
      Mary

  • Marie
    Reply

    Mary, I just finished making your recipe and am eating as I write! Delicious! If my spouse doesn’t hurry up and get home, I’m not sure there will be a suitable portion left over for him to eat. Haha 😉 Thank you for all the work you put into making recipes and videos for us!

    • Mary
      Reply

      😂😂😂 I’m so happy you’re enjoying this black pepper tofu so much! Sometimes the same thing happens here…and I pretend that I didn’t already make and eat dinner whoops

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