Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
When I read Ruth Reichl’s description of this warm tofu with spicy dipping sauce — “a beautiful dish, which takes ten minutes, costs very little, and is so utterly delicious” — in this month’s Gourmet, I couldn’t not make it.
And I’m so happy I did. This is by far the easiest — my friends who hate to cook are you listening? — method of preparing tofu I have encountered:
First, you simmer tofu in water — yes, water — then you make a simple sauce, a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, chile flakes, and scallions; then you pour this sauce over the tofu.
It is as delicious as Ruth promises. Truly. Please try it. I think you will be pleased.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your sauce ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, chile flakes, scallions, garlic (if you wish), sugar, and sesame seeds.
Toast the sesame seeds:
Place a block of firm tofu in a skillet and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to keep warm.
Often I’ll cut the block in half before simmering it.
After about 20 minutes, place each tofu half into a bowl.
And spoon the sauce over the top.
Serve with vegetables on the side. I love this spicy broiled broccoli but steamed edamame (see below) is a great, simple option.
Way back in the day, I worked at a catering company in Philadelphia. At nearly every party I worked, ‘peking duck rolls’ served straight from a bamboo steamer were passed with a soy dipping sauce … everyone raved.
Of course I went to Chinatown immediately following the first party I worked to purchase one of these three-tiered bamboo steamers. And while it is not a gadget I use often, I find it comes in handy here and there, and it’s kind of fun, too.
I love using it for edamame, which steam in under five minutes. If you have one, place it right into a wok filled with just enough water to reach below the first tier. Bring the water to a boil and then place edamame pods into one of the tiers. Cover and steam until done. Sprinkle with a nice sea salt according to taste.
Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 2
Adapted from Gourmet
The original recipe calls for both toasting and crushing the sesame seeds. For simplicity, I often just toast the seeds. If you want to also crush the sesame seeds, you can mince them with some of the garlic and the scallions, which helps keep the seeds from flying off the cutting board.
The sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. Consider doubling it if you want to serve it with rice.
Regarding Korean hot red pepper flakes: you can use crushed red pepper flakes in their place or a chili paste such as Sriracha or Sambal Oelek.
The tofu can be kept warm for as long as 4 hours.
As noted in the post, I love the tofu with this broiled broccoli.
- 1 (14- to 18-oz) package firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- ¼ cup chopped scallion, or about 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted, see notes above
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium or Tamari if you are sensitive to salt
- 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes, see notes above
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Place the tofu in a shallow sauce pan and cover with cold water. Noe: I like to cut the block of tofu in half. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat for at least 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mince and mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with the remaining ingredients.
- Just before serving, carefully lift the tofu from the saucepan with a large spatula and drain on a towel (or simply use a slotted spatula and skip the drying step). Transfer the block or blocks of tofu to a shallow bowl or bowls. Spoon the sauce over the tofu and serve warm.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Tofu
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Asian
Keywords: warm, tofu, spicy, dipping, sauce
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
79 Comments on “Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce”
Made this tonight and it is heavenly. Thanks!
Pensgirl10 — So happy to hear this! Love this one too.
The first tofu recipe I ever tried, can’t get enough. Now I cube up the tofu about soup size and marinate in the sauce in a ziploc bag in the fridge, easy addition to weekly dinners. Thanks for the taste.
Jayme — so happy to hear this! Love the idea of marinating the tofu.
You’ve convinced me to try tofu, but not to have “soy with a side of soy” for dinner. How else would you serve this? Over pasta/with shrimp/with a vegetable?
Haha, I love it. Good call. What about soba noodles with peanut dressing — it’s one of my favorites from the Moosewood Cookbook: https://alexandracooks.com/2013/04/18/soba-noodles-with-peanut-dressing/
Thanks! Will try it.
Hi Ali – came to this link from your broccoli post today. I’ve only ever stirfried or baked tofu (like in you baked tofu with coconut and kale recipe) in small pieces but I love agedashi tofu, and would like to try this recipe. I’ve also only ever bought the cheapest tofu or whatever is available at the big grocery store, so my question is, does tofu quality/brand matter for this recipe? If so, do you have a brand you prefer? My local small Asian market sells fresher tofu but I think its softer. Thanks! Huge fan of your blog and website!
Hi Shelley! I wish I did … I truthfully am not a connoisseur, and every time I buy a more “artisanal” tofu from a co-op or health food store, I never remember if it was worth the extra few bucks or not … I need to take better notes. My little local co-op sells Nasoya Organic Firm, so that’s what I always buy. I bet the fresh, more silken tofu you get from your Asian market is fantastic! I will report back if I make any discoveries re tofu. Hope you like this one! I love it 🙂
I love this tofu!!!
Yay! Molly this makes me happy 🙂 🙂 🙂
I have made this recipe twice and really enjoyed it. The ingredients tend to be pantry/ refrigerator staples, so I an easily throw it together when I am low on time and behind on grocery shopping. My fiancee tried to eat primarily plant based, and he too likes this different take on tofu. I don’t purchase broccoli often, so I served it with blistered green beans and spicy, sesame-scallion sizzle. Just perfect!
So happy to hear this, Jami!
Made this for dinner and it was a hit! To avoid husband side-eye (“just… boiled tofu?”), I served it in a bowl with rice and blackened broccoli. The sauce coated the rice beautifully- yum! thanks as always for the great recipe.
So happy to hear this, Maria! And thank you … means a lot 🙂
I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty this was! And so easy too! I served with your recommended broiled broccoli (which was also amazing) and some brown rice. Super satisfying.
Versatile & delicious sauce for tofu or chicken or vegetable stir fry . Ali , thank you for simplifying this beautiful sauce.
Great to hear this, Nancy!
I never soaked tofu in water before. I thought it is supposed to drain on a dishcloth or a tofu press. What does the soaking do? So interesting. Will try this week. I never had sochu. It is similar to sake? I have some things to buy and try this week :). You always have such interesting twists to your recipes.
Hi Michelle! No need to drain the tofu for this one. I had never made anything like it before either, but it is one of my favorite ways to prepare tofu. So good. Hope you love it! Soju is similar to vodka, but it’s a little less alcoholic.
I made a big dinner for friends with many dishes and this tofu was the big winner!
Sooo good. Thank you and greetings from Germany
Great to hear, Feli 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for writing!
this is so so satisfying, ali. i used silken tofu and it performed beautifully. i love not having to fire up the oven to cook the tofu. and the sauce came together so quickly. i served it with steamed green beans from the farmers market. it was the perfect meal. thank you! jude
So nice to hear this, Jude! This is one of my favorites. Simmering tofu in water was such a revelation for me. Thanks for writing 🙂
I love this tofu. So easy. My only tip—double the sauce. You always need more sauce.
I loved the tofu. Have never simmered it before and it made a nice light texture that was amazing. By far the best way I have had it prepared.
My sauce was a different story, very salty and overpowering. I used reduced salt tamari. I made a double recipe but only ended using about 1/3 of it because of the saltiness. Is there a brand you recommend?
Hi Cindy! I don’t have a brand I recommend, unfortunately. Next time, I would try using less soy sauce: do 2 tablespoons as opposed to 3, and you could add a tablespoon of water to dilute the saltiness further.
This was easy and quick. We really enjoyed it. Thanks!
Great to hear, Lori! Thanks so much for writing 🙂
I generally don’t like tofu, and I’ve never had success cooking it. Saw this recipe posted on an Instagram video and decided to just go for it since it looked easy and the ingredients are cheap. Well WOW! This is really swell! It’s so simple and easy and really tasty (tofu still tastes like a flavorless sponge on its own) and that sauce is truly lovely! I paired it with that broccoli you linked which is outstanding and will go into heavy rotation at my house. Thanks!
Great to hear, Andy! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Something so very simple….tastes soooo gooood! I put the tofu on a bed of steamed broccoli and baby bok choy and topped with the sauce…. Definitely on the menu…..
Thanks for sharing it with us..
Yum! And yay 🙂 Thanks so much for writing.
Delicious! I was *really* hesitant to believe that cooking the tofu in water would yield anything palatable, but I’m so glad I trusted you and gave it a try. My whole family enjoyed & it came together quicker than my stand-by tofu recipe. I especially liked the crunchy sesame seeds in contrast to the smoothness of the tofu. We’ll be eating it again this week -thank you!
Great to hear, Amanda! Thanks so much for writing and sharing all of this 🙂
Killer recipe- so tasty and different, felt like something I would have been served at a upscale Chinese restaurant.
Great to hear, Carol! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Will be a regular on meatless Thursdays ❤️
Ps served with wilted spinach, beansprouts, chili and garlic 😋😋😋
Oh… And next time I’ll use silken tofu, as that was heavenly
Great to hear! Thanks so much for writing and sharing all of this 🙂 🙂 🙂
Love this one! Thanks.
Great to hear, Betsy!
Really enjoyed this but the quantities in the sauce were way off – there is no way you get the amount of liquid in the photo from 3tbsp of soy sauce – is there something missing? Water?
Nothing missing! The water from the tofu seeps into the sauce and extends it. Did you drain your tofu really well or pat it dry? I move it from the water with a spatula and place it directly in the serving bowls.