This Gochujang Tofu recipe is packed with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor, and it cooks up incredibly quickly in a skillet! The tofu is torn into small pieces before coating in cornstarch and pan-frying – the small size resulting in more surfaces to crisp up and coat in delicious sauce! The sweet and spicy sauce features a base of Gochujang, a fermented Korean chili paste that’s readily available in most grocery stores (which you’ll want to start adding to everything!).
I love serving this Gochujang tofu in a bowl with rice, sprinkled with green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds. It would also be great in a Korean-inspired taco situation!
This recipe couldn’t be easier, and it only takes about 20 minutes to make. It’s a delicious protein-packed plant-based meal (say that 10 times fast).
While tofu can be a bit bland and boring on its own, there are some tricks for making it super flavorful. Aside from coating in this delicious Gochujang sauce, for best results, I recommend freezing and defrosting the tofu before using. This gives it a more porous, chicken-like texture. Pressing the tofu to rid it of its liquid can also help the flavor and texture of tofu. I’ll explain all this in the post below!
Ingredients and Substitutions for Gochujang Tofu
- Firm tofu – or extra firm (though I like the texture of firm better).
- Gochujang – you may be able to use another spicy sauce here instead, like Sriracha or chili garlic sauce, but I recommend using less of those since they’re spicier.
- Cornstarch – arrowroot powder may work as well.
- Toasted Sesame Oil
- Minced fresh ginger – fresh is best, but powdered ginger may also be used in a lesser quantity
- Minced fresh garlic – again, fresh is best, but feel free to use dried ginger powder if you don’t have fresh.
- Soy Sauce – or an alternative such as Tamari or coconut aminos.
- Honey – or, for a vegan version, maple syrup or agave.
- Lime juice and zest – this is a twist on what normally would be mirin or rice vinegar, either of which could also be used!
- Green onions
- Cilantro – optional
Where can I buy Gochujang?
You can buy Gochujang at most grocery stores in the Asian section. It usually comes in a red rectangular package. You can also find Gochujang easily on Amazon, though I find it’s often cheaper at the grocery store. While the tub is rather large, it keeps for a very long time in the fridge since it’s fermented, which gives you a lot of time to use it up! I recommend making a Gochujang mayo as a roasted or grilled veggie accompaniment or sandwich spread.
How to make Spicy Gochujang Tofu
I recommend freezing, defrosting, and pressing your tofu (if you have the time – these steps are all optional! See more on this below.). Then, it takes only a few minutes to throw this Gochujang tofu recipe together. Just tear the tofu into pieces, and coat in cornstarch in a bowl. Then fry the tofu until crispy in a skillet (I prefer nonstick for this) in a neutral oil. While it’s cooking, mix together the Gochujang sauce. Turn off the heat on the skillet. then pour the sauce in to coat the tofu. The residual heat from the skillet will thicken the sauce nicely without burning it. Finally, stir in some cilantro and green onion!
Tips for cooking with tofu
Tofu is, in my opinion, an incredible ingredient. It’s amazing how meaty and tasty it can be if prepared properly. On it’s own, it’s a bland jiggly white blob, but give it some love and it can turn anyone into a tofu lover! Here are some tips for enhancing the texture and flavor of the tofu (though neither are 100% necessary, if you don’t have time for them!).
Freezing the tofu makes the texture more like chicken
When you bring your tofu home from the store, stick it in your freezer. Not only will it stay good for months, but freezing tofu changes the texture in such a great way!
When the tofu freezes, it expands, causing it to be more porous. Once it’s defrosted, it stays that way. The resulting texture is less smooth and silky, and more porous and spongy. Not only does this help with making the texture more meaty, but it allows flavors to penetrate more deeply. Give it a try next time you make a tofu recipe!
Note: This method is great for stir fry recipes like this with firm or extra-firm tofu, but not as good for recipes that use soft or silken tofu that rely on the silky texture, such as Japanese cold tofu.
Pressing the tofu increases flavor and crispiness
Tofu is packed in water, which is absorbed by the tofu in the packaging. Pressing the tofu is a gentle method of squeezing the water out. Drying it out a bit results in two things: 1) a crispier texture when cooked, and 2) more absorption of flavors in which the tofu is cooked.
To press your tofu, you can place paper towels on the bottom and top of the tofu block, and place that on a cutting board or plate. Then, put something heavy on top – I use a cast iron skillet – and let it sit for a while (ideally for at least 30 minutes). The towels will absorb the water that is squeezed out while it’s being pressed. For best results, replace the towels halfway through
Alternatively, you can buy a tofu press for this specific purpose, which may be a good investment if you cook with tofu a lot!
Other easy Asian-inspired recipes
If you liked this Gochujang tofu recipe, you’ll love these other easy East Asian-inspired recipes!
- Udon Noodle Stir Fry with Mushrooms
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Easy Beef and Broccoli
- Egg Roll in a Bowl
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Crispy Gochujang Tofu
- Large Skillet
- 1 lb. firm tofu pressed (see notes)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil of choice
- 2 tablespoons gochujang more or less depending on spice level preference
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, or agave
- juice and zest of one lime about 2 tablespoons juice and 2 teaspoons zest
- ½ cup sliced green onions
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro optional
- green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, lime wedges for serving, optional
- cooked white rice for serving, optional
- Tear the 1 lb. firm tofu into bite-sized pieces into a large bowl (I like to do smaller pieces, personally). Add the ¼ cup cornstarch to the bowl and toss gently to coat.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch coated tofu and coat in the oil, then cook until crispy, about 5-10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, mix the gochujang sauce – stir the 2 tablespoons gochujang, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 2 cloves garlic minced, ¼ cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons honey, and the juice and zest of one limetogether.
- Once the tofu is cooked and crispy, turn off the heat. Pour in the gochujang sauce and toss to coat – it's already a relatively thick sauce, and the residual heat from the skillet will cause the sauce to thicken fully. Add the ½ cup sliced green onions and ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro and stir together.
- Serve the tofu topped with extra green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, lime wedges, over cooked white rice.
- I recommend freezing the tofu and defrosting before cooking changes the texture to be a bit more porous and meaty, more similar to chicken.
- Pressing the tofu is a way of removing much of the soaking liquid from the packaging so the tofu is dryer, resulting in a crisper result, though it’s not 100% necessary if you are in a rush. Drain the liquid from the package, and place the tofu block on a cutting board or plate with or a clean kitchen towel on the bottom and top of the tofu, and place something heavy on top (I like using a cast iron skillet for this). Let it sit for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes. The towels will absorb quite a bit of moisture from the tofu. You can also use a tofu press for this task – if you cook with tofu a lot, it can be a good investment.
- The spicy tofu pairs well with a cool sesame cucumber salad as a veggie side dish.
- For a 100% vegan version, be sure to use maple syrup or agave instead of honey.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: