Baked Tofu w/ Peanut Sauce

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This recipe marries two of my favorite things: tofu and spicy peanut sauce! It's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser – the first time I made it, I almost ate the entire batch in one sitting. No joke.

I've been making some variation of this peanut sauce ever since high school; I used to add it to spaghetti noodles, sliced celery and carrots for the best after-school snack or lazy dinner of all time. It also makes a kick-ass dipping sauce for spring rolls or the crispy sesame tofu that I shared last week.

The key to a good sauce is to add dimensionality with sweet and sour elements to balance the umami of the soy sauce. Vinegar and lime add tartness – the lime especially brightens up the flavors.  Brown rice syrup is my favorite to add a bit of sweetness to many Asian-inspired dishes (since it has a flavor and texture similar to honey), but any sweetener works. Taste your sauce and adjust to preference, adding more chili sauce if you're a spice lover.

I usually use chunky peanut butter in this recipe for extra texture. I've also made it with almond and cashew butter. Tahini is a great option if you must avoid nuts. I finish the sauce with a hefty dose of fresh garlic and ginger, as well as a drizzle of sesame oil for a subtle roasted flavor.

After coating the tofu and transferring it to your tray, you'll have a few tablespoons of leftover sauce. I like to heat it briefly with a few tablespoons of water to cook out the raw garlic flavor, and then drizzle it over the baked tofu or steamed vegetables I'm serving on the side. You can also save it for later use with spring rolls, on salads or in a stir fry.

This tofu is a fantastic protein option for Buddha bowls or rice vermicelli bowls, but I also suspect you'll find yourself eating it straight off the tray all on its own (speaking from experience).

Yield: 3-4 servings

Baked Peanut Tofu

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 35 MINStotal time: 45 mins

ingredients:

  • 1 package firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice*
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili paste
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste

instructions:

  1. Drain tofu. Wrap in a clean tea towel and allow to drain for 30 minutes, then cut into cubes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Combine all ingredients for the peanut sauce in a mixing bowl. Toss tofu cubes in sauce to coat.
  4. Transfer tofu to a lined baking tray. (Save the extra sauce left in the bowl.) Bake for 30-35 minutes until deep golden brown, rotating tray halfway through baking time.
  5. Combine the remaining sauce with 2 to 4 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened. (We take this step to mellow out the flavor of raw garlic in the sauce.)
  6. Serve tofu with rice and steamed vegetables. Drizzle with extra peanut sauce if desired, or save the sauce for spring rolls or another dish.

notes

*My favorite sweetener to use in this recipe is brown rice syrup, but you can also use maple syrup, Bee-Free Honee, agave or just brown sugar.
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