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Make Sweet and Sour Tofu from the comfort of your own home in 30 minutes with just 9 ingredients and a homemade sweet and sour sauce. Gluten-free, oil-free option, refined sugar-free option.
This quick and easy Sweet and Sour Tofu is a plant-based twist on the classic pork recipe. Nothing’s better than crispy tofu cubes tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce and served over a bed of rice in a fresh pineapple. The whole family will love this one.
Table of Contents
The Transformation of Sweet and Sour Sauce
It is believed that the first sweet and sour sauce first originated in the Guangdong province of south China. Today, sweet and sour sauce is still a part of Chinese cuisine and used primarily as dipping sauces or in dishes like Goo lo yuk, which translates to sweet and sour pork in English.
The first versions of this traditional sauce were made with Chinese staple ingredients like shan zha sauce (Hawthorn berry), but overtime morphed into the westernized version we know in America that’s made with ketchup or tomato paste.
This version is by no means authentic Chinese cooking and instead more of a Chinese-American fusion dish, but it’s absolutely delicious and a great alternative to deep fried tofu.
What You Need for Sweet and Sour Tofu
If you’ve made my Teriyaki Tofu or Crispy Orange Tofu, you’ll know I’m a fan of making my own sauces from scratch. This recipe is no different. In addition to extra firm tofu, you’ll need just 12 simple ingredients. Here’s the gist:
- The tofu: We’re skipping the deep fry and baking our tofu in a simple coating of oil, soy sauce, and corn starch to add flavor, crispiness, and color.
- The sauce: The best sweet and sour sauce is well balanced. To achieve the perfect sweet and tangy flavor, I’ve combined ketchup, brown sugar (sweet) with Shaoxing wine and rice vinegar (sour). Shaoxing wine adds a complexity that you simply can’t achieve with another ingredient, but if needed, it can be substituted with additional rice vinegar.
- The veggies: Keeping with the classics and using yellow onion, green and red bell peppers, and cubed pineapple. Feel free to swap the peppers with another stir-fry favorite such as snap peas or even sliced carrots! And if you love pineapple in savory dishes, you have to try these vegan recipes: Vegan Tofu Pineapple Curry and BBQ Tempeh Tacos with Pineapple Coleslaw.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Cut the pressed tofu into cubes or rip it into bite sized pieces.
- Toss the tofu in the oil and soy sauce, then sprinkle with cornstarch and toss again. Bake in a single layer until golden brown and crispy.
- In a small bowl, whisk the sweet and sour sauce ingredients together and set aside.
- Sauté the aromatics then add the bell peppers and onion and cook until slightly softened.
- Add the pineapple, pour in the sweet and sour sauce and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the crispy tofu pieces, then serve warm as desired.
Caitlin’s Cooking Tips
- Invest in a tofu press. If you’re new to tofu and have had bad experiences with soft, soggy tofu, it’s possible you’re not pressing it well enough before incorporating it in various recipes. Using a tofu press is simply the best and easiest way to press tofu evenly and consistently every time. The first time you use one, you’ll be converted!
- Try freezing your tofu. This trick helps change the texture of tofu and makes it more sponge-like and chewy, similar to chicken. To do so, place your block of tofu in a freezer safe bag or airtight container and freeze overnight. Then remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature before blotting with a paper towel and pressing as usual.
- Adjust the sweetness of your sauce to taste. Depending on your taste buds, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar. If you prefer a more sour sweet and sour sauce, cut the sugar in half. For a sweet version, use the full 4 tablespoons (or more to taste!).
I love this sweet and sour tofu served over white rice with sesame seeds, green onions, and additional pineapple chunks, if desired. To make it extra fun, drizzle with a little extra sauce and serve in hollowed out pineapple halves for the ultimate presentation. Learn how to cut pineapple bowls in this easy tutorial.
How to Store Sweet and Sour Tofu
Leftover sweet and sour baked tofu will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freezing has not been tested and is not recommended at this time.
To reheat, place desired serving in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until warm. Alternatively, this dish can be reheated in a large wok or sauté pan.
Substitutions and Variations
- Gluten-free option: Use tamari or coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce and additional rice vinegar in place of the Shaoxing wine (Shaoxing is not typically gluten-free).
- Oil-free option: Omit the high-heat cooking oil when baking the tofu and replace the oil for sautéing with water or a low-sodium vegetable broth. This will yield a less crispy tofu, but still be flavorful.
- Refined sugar-free option: Replace the brown sugar with coconut sugar or a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup. You will also need to use a ketchup sweetened with dates or maple syrup. Primal Kitchen makes a good store-bought version, but you can also try a simple homemade ketchup recipe.
There are a number of tips and tricks to baking the best crunchy exterior on tofu, but I strongly recommend investing in a silicone baking mat if you haven’t already. It makes a big difference. For more tips, read these two popular posts: The EASIEST Crispy Tofu Recipe and A Guide to Tofu: Different Types + Recipe Ideas.
First and foremost, check the best by date on the packaging. If it is well past the recommended date, it is safest to compost and start with a fresh block. Another warning sign of spoiled tofu is a strong odor. Good tofu should not have much of a smell at all, so if it is sour smelling, discard!
Healthy is objective and differs person to person. If you have dietary restrictions, I highly recommend browsing my site by your personal preference. My gluten-free and oil-free recipes are very popular! Or, browse my Tofu archives for tons of other healthy tofu options you may enjoy!
Enjoy! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love it if you could leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thank you for the support 😊
Sweet and Sour Tofu
For the Tofu:
- 1 14 ounce extra firm tofu pressed
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or another high-heat cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
For the Sweet & Sour Sauce:
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or sub more vinegar
- 2-4 tablespoons brown sugar or cane sugar*
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water
For the Stir Fry:
- 1-2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1/2 yellow onion cut into 1” pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cut into 1” pieces
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 1” pieces
- 1 cup pineapple cubes fresh or canned
- Serving suggestions: cooked rice same seeds, chopped green onions
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Cut the tofu into 3/4” cubes (or tear into bite-sized pieces, if preferred)
- Tofu: Add the tofu to a medium bowl and add in the oil and soy sauce. Toss with a spatula until evenly coated, then sprinkle the cornstarch on top and toss again. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out the tofu pieces so they aren’t touching. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.
- Sauce: Whisk the ketchup, vinegar, Shaoxing wine, sugar, water, soy sauce, and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Whisk well until the cornstarch has dissolved, then add the water and mix again. Set aside.
- Stir-Fry: Warm the oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant. Add the onion and bell peppers to the wok and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the sauce again to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour it into the pan along with the pineapple. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. If the sauce gets too thick you can thin it out with additional water.
- Final Touches: Turn the heat to low, then stir in the baked tofu. Taste the sauce and add more soy sauce to taste, if necessary. Divide the tofu between serving bowls and serve warm over rice and with sesame seeds and green onions, or as desired. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Gluten-Free: use a gluten-free soy sauce or tamari to make this recipe gluten-free
- Sugar: Brown sugar can be swapped for cane sugar or another liquid sweetener. If you like your Sweet & Sour Tofu sweet, use the full 4 tablespoons of sugar. For a tangier version reduce to 2 or 3 tablespoons.