This delightfully vegan sweet and sour ‘pork’ is made from tofu that is prepped differently from my normal tofu dishes. Check out the key ingredients for this dish along with easy substitutions.
This dish is inspired by the Sweet and Sour pork ‘咕噜肉’ (gūlū ròu) which was one of my favorite dishes growing up. The sauce is light, refreshing and that citrus touch makes this dish so appetizing. Sweet and sour or ‘糖醋’ (táng cù) has two simple ingredients as the name implies, sugar (táng) and vinegar (cù). As soon as I tried the vegan version of this dish, it made me realized that it’s possible to live without eating meat.
As you know, I love tofu and this dish is made with a special method of prepping the tofu to get a spongy texture which turns out amazing when paired with the sauce.
How to prep the Tofu
I use firm tofu and drain out the liquid, place it onto a plate, and let it sit on the countertop for about 30 minutes. Then, I pat the tofu dry to remove excess water and freeze it in a block or divide it into 4 portions, then freeze until it hardens. If you freeze the whole block, you’ll need more time to thaw it the next day. When you are ready to cook, thaw the frozen tofu to room temperature, and squeeze out excess water. The tofu will have a spongy look at this point. You want to be gentle with this step as the ‘sponge’ is delicate. For more information how to freeze the tofu, check out this tofu article from Food52.
Vegan Sweet and Sour ‘Pork’ Steps
Step 1: First, prepare the tofu. Once you have completely thawed the tofu to room temperature and have squeezed out the excess water, break the tofu into smaller pieces using your fingers. Then, season with salt, pepper, and rub with the first coat of cornstarch.
Step 2: Then, heat 1 cup of oil in a small tall pot to about 375°F (190°C) or use the chopstick method to test the oil temperature. Coat tofu with another layer of cornstarch and slowly place them in the oil and fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove and set them on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Step 3: In a heated non-stick pan, add a drizzle of oil and sauté the veggies for one minute, then dish out and set aside.
Step 4: Add in the water, ketchup, sugar, vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt. Bring it the mixture to a boil while stirring continuously. Then, lower the heat and continue to simmer until the sauce is thickened.
Step 5: Add in the pineapple chunks and veggies back into the mixture. Cook for about 30 seconds to allow the veggies absorb some of the sauces.
Step 6: Finally, add the cooked tofu in the mixture and toss until well combined. Season if needed. Then, serve warm.
Vegan Sweet and Sour ‘Pork’ Key Ingredients
As the name implies, all you really need is a sweet and sour ingredient. I personally like to use a combination of different sour ingredients to give this sauce a bolder flavor.
- Sweet – either sugar or maple syrup or Thai sweet chili sauce will work great but do adjust the sweetness level accordingly to your preference.
- Sour – I used rice vinegar and lemon juice in this recipe. Tamarind juice or peel can be added as another layer of sourness if preferred.
- Ketchup – this is what my mom uses to give the dish some color. Some kinds of ketchup are sweeter or more sour than others, so taste test before adding more to the sauce. Soy sauce can also be added for color if a darker sauce is preferred.
- Pineapple – fresh or canned pineapple chunks work great and though I personally prefer fresh pineapple, I used canned pineapple in this recipe.
Common Tofu Prep FAQ
Can I bake the frozen-thawed tofu? Yes, sure! Follow the steps on ‘How to Prep tofu’, then break tofu into smaller pieces. Once they are seasoned with salt and pepper, coat tofu with a light layer of oil. Toss or rub tofu with cornstarch until there are no dry powder spots left. The tofu cubes should look moist but not too dry. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet pan. Bake until golden brown at 400°F (200°C) with flips in between for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Can I air-fry the frozen-thawed tofu? Yes! One of the easiest and no-mess methods is to air-fry. Simply follow the steps on ‘How to Prep tofu’, then break tofu into smaller pieces. Place tofu in the inner air-fryer rack and air fry at 390°F until golden brown with a shake in between, about 8 to 10 minutes. I normally use the ‘fries’ setting on my air-fryer which works perfectly for me for all things ‘fried’. If your air-fryer doesn’t come with a non-stick inner rack, you may brush a thin layer of oil before adding the tofu.
Can I use tofu as-is without freezing it? Sure, simply cut tofu in cubes and coat them with a thin layer of cornstarch and pan fry until golden brown in a non-stick pan.
Can I use soft or silken tofu? I love this type of tofu and found that to achieve a crispy layer, you’ll need to deep fry it. That said, soft or silken tofu is best for dishes like my Three-cup (San-Bei) Tofu – ‘三杯豆腐’.
This vegan Sweet and Sour ‘Pork’ is
- Delightful and Refreshing
- Flavorful and Easy
- Simple and Quick
- Gluten-free and Vegan
- Kids and Family approved
- Best for make-ahead meals
- & so TASTY!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Sweet and Sour ‘Pork’
- 14 oz [397g] firm tofu freeze and break into pieces
- 1/2 small red bell pepper
- 1/2 small green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
- 2 tablespoon chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1¼ cup water + 1½ teaspoon corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch plus more dusting
Prepare the Tofu
- Remove firm tofu from its package, then drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut into 4 slabs (optional step) and freeze until hardened. If you freeze the tofu in a large block, it'll require more time for it to thaw to room temperature.
- When ready to use, thaw tofu to room temperature, and squeeze out excess water. Be gentle with this step as the tofu 'sponge' can be quite delicate.
- Break the tofu into pieces, then season with salt, pepper and rub them with a tablespoon of cornstarch.
Cook the Tofu
- Heat 1 cup of oil in a small tall pot to about 375°F (190°C) or use the chopstick method to test the oil temperature.
- Coat tofu with another layer of cornstarch and slowly place in the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides.
- Remove and set them on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Put everything together
- In a heated non-stick pan, add 2 teaspoons of oil and sauté the onion and bell pepper for about a minute. Dish out and set aside.
- Using the same pan, add in the water with cornstarch, ketchup, rice vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt.
- Bring the mixture to a rolling boil while stirring continuously. Then, lower to simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Add the pineapple and sautéed veggies,stir to combine, then cook for about 30 seconds.
- Finally, place in the cooked tofu and toss everything together until well combined and season with salt.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm.