Sweet and Sour Tofu

Sweet and sour tofu is a family favorite that can be made with chicken or tofu to suit your taste!

a cream colored plate with rice, tofu and pineapple stir fry on it

A lot of people really dislike tofu. But before you completely dismiss it, try my sweet and sour tofu recipe. This is a longtime family favorite, even amongst the tofu-haters.

When my daughter was in third grade I bought a recipe notebook from one of her fundraisers. It's one of those you can write your own recipes in. For the first two months, I thought it was genius and jotted down recipes from my grandma, and my own recipe tests and concoctions. My daughter is now and adult with her own children, so this book has made it through several moves, a fire, and lots of spills and smudges. One of our favorite recipes in this book is sweet and sour pineapple tofu.

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I have been making this for so long that it is actually written down as sweet and sour pineapple CHICKEN. I've been a vegetarian for 15 years, so you do the math. If chicken is more your jam than tofu, then feel free to submit and cook it in a Tablespoon or two of butter til it is browned.

How can I make tofu better?

Tofu is a product of soybeans, and is basically flavorless on its own. I think most people's dislike of tofu comes from the slimy texture that it often has in restaurant dishes. I am not a fan of slimy tofu, either, but I have learned a few tricks to make it "meatier" in texture. First, I take the unopened package of tofu and freeze it until it is solid. Then I let it thaw in the fridge, drain, and press it like normal. I'm not sure why, but this gives it a much meatier and less slimy texture.

Secondly, really take your time pressing the water out of the tofu. Tofu is sold and stored in water to retain the texture and keep it from drying out. The more water you can press out before marinating and cooking, the more flavor the tofu will take on and there better texture it will have.

The key to good tofu is pressing all of the water out of it. If you don't get enough of the water pressed out you'll be left with spongy, squishy, SLIMY tofu. I find a lot of the tofu I have had in restaurants falls under this category. No wonder people don't like it! But when tofu is properly prepared and cooked it has an appetizing texture - no slime in sight. I lightly squeeze it with my hands, then wrap it in a flour sack towel and sit something heavy, like a pan, on top of it. I will change the towel if it is too wet, and continue to press for a half hour or so. After dicing the tofu I will pat it with a paper towel to remove even more water.

Sweet and Sour Tofu

ingredients for sweet and sour tofu

Start by pressing the water out of a cube of tofu. Cube the tofu, then toss the cubes in 1 tablespoon of corn starch until lightly coated. This will help with the texture of the tofu. Add oil to the pan, then garlic and sauté til it is lightly browned. Then add the tofu and cook over low to medium heat til the tofu is lightly brown on all sides. Add the pineapple and mix together. Then add brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. Mix together and simmer. In a separate bowl mix a tablespoon of corn starch and a tablespoon of water. Slowly add to the pan and stir until the sauce has thickened. Serve over rice!

Substitutions and Tips

Like I said, this recipe originated as a chicken dish, so you can easily sub about 2 pounds of cubed chicken breast for the tofu. If you want crispier tofu, you could coat the cubes in corn starch, salt, and garlic powder and then toss it into the air fryer at 400º for 10 minutes. You could also sub some maple syrup or agave for the brown sugar, altho I think brown sugar gives the best flavor. You can add veggies to this dish for a sweet and sour stir fry. And, you can sub the rice for some noodles if you so desire. I have yet to make a version of this dish that wasn't delicious, so I hope you enjoy!

sweet and sour tofu

Sweet and Sour Tofu

Ingredients  

  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 8 oz can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil or butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 2 T soy sauce

Instructions 

  • Press water out of tofu and cube. Toss tofu with 1 T corn starch so it is lightly coated.
  • Add oil/butter to pan, then garlic and tofu. Cook over low to medium heat til tofu is lightly browned on all sides. Add pineapple and mix. Add brown sugar and vinegar, cook and mix until the sugar melts. Add soy sauce.
  • Mix 1 T corn starch and 1 T of water and pour into pan. Stir until sauce has thickened. Serve with rice.

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