Caramel-Cooked Tofu {recipe}

Caramel Tofu

Congrats to Emily and Jacqueline, who are getting the two copies of the Herbivoracious cookbook that we gave away last month! Everyone else, thanks for playing along, and stay tuned for more fun throughout the month of July…

The name of this dish is actually “Caramel-Cooked Tofu” in Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious cookbook, but we had to call it “Semi Caramel…”

…not because we ordered Caramel Tofu take-out from our neighborhood Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant, poured it into a serving bowl, and garnished with green onions that we sliced ourselves thereby making it at least partially homemade (!), but because we made Herbivoracious’s recipe and cut the sugar in the recipe by half.

Besides that, we did everything the same, and the resulting dish, though likely not as sweet and caramelized as the original, was delicious. We served our tofu simply, with steamed quinoa (in place of steamed rice), and a little mess of wild arugula and sliced snap peas, whose bite and crunch were the perfect contrast to the sweet, soft tofu.

Caramel-Cooked Tofu

serves 2 to 4


¼ cup rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce (** TasteSpotting Kitchen note: we used wheat-free tamari)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
½ cup sugar (TasteSpotting note: we cut this in half and used ¼ cup)
1 pound extra-firm tofu, patted thoroughly dry and cut into 2 x 2 x 1⁄3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup thinly sliced white onion (this was half a large onion)
4 to 8 dried small red chiles (optional)
5 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced


Whisk together the rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Lay the tofu squares in the skillet in a single layer (or as close to a single layer as possible). Fry until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. (** TasteSpotting Kitchen note: it actually took closer to 6 minutes for our tofu to brown.)

Flip the tofu and immediately pour in the sauce; add the white onion and chiles, if using. The sauce will sputter and begin to caramelize. Keep a close eye on it, and move the tofu around a little bit to let the sauce get under it. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and becomes a fairly thick glaze coating the tofu, about 4 minutes more. (** TasteSpotting Kitchen note: it actually took 10 minutes for our sauce to thicken – probably because we used half the sugar.)

Serve immediately, topped with the scallions. (** TasteSpotting Kitchen note: we added fresh sliced chilies here as a garnish, too, instead of with the sauce into the pan!)

by Sarah J. Gim on July 5, 2012 · 5 comments

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny July 6, 2012 at 4:58 am

This looks lovely! It sounds like a good recipe book too.


Sarah July 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

jenny: thank you! and yes, Herbivoracious is an excellent cookbook!

ang August 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm

i’m not one to leave comments, but i just cooked this for my lunch tomorrow for work and have never been so excited. was a bit skeptical about the amount of sugar (cut down around 3 tbsl of sugar) but this. dish. is. amazing.


Abriete Medore February 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

I found it wasn’t that flavorful, greasy, and it burned before it carmelized. What did I do wrong?


Chelsea February 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I absolutely loved this recipe and my whole family of meat eaters did as well. It was sweet and spicy (I used double the amount of red Chili peppers as the recipe calls for). This has quickly become a family favorite.


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